Slice of Life features the personalities of the Junior Tennis Champions Center and Tennis Center at College Park and will be a serial post on the ALL ACES blog.
His teaching and playing career personify a lunch pail attitude.
Tauheed Browning, or “Coach T” as he is known around the Junior Tennis Champions Center campus, is a recent addition to the teaching staff. The ALL ACES blog caught up with Coach T to discuss tennis idols, coaching tips and his playing career.
Q: Who did you idolize on the pro tour?
Coach T: My guy was Andre Agassi. I think he could have won a lot more in those early years but he was all about the image then. After reading Open, now we know some other things were going on. Without that knowledge, as a teenager, I was even thinking ‘He is showing off way too much and is tanking.’ But he got it together and had a great run. It is cliche but rings true with Agassi: It is not about how you start but how you finish. I was an Agassi fan and had the pleasure of going to a Bollettieri camp and looking through the red tarp to see him play. I modeled my forehand after his. In my day, there was not a lot of technical teaching so I used to do a lot of visual learning. I tried to have a big forehand. Currently, I follow Rafa. I love his hard work. I liken him to the Allen Iverson of tennis. But he practices more.
Q: How did you get into coaching?
Coach T: I started as a neighborhood coach. I wanted to give back to the community and I wanted to do what someone did for me. A guy named Bill Johnson sparked my interest in the game. He was a public bus driver and at five o’clock each day he would teach tennis. It was a change factor in my life when I started to play. It made me a better student. I went from an average student to straight A’s.
Q: What is your coaching philosophy?
Coach T: I believe in a holistic athletic development approach that includes footwork, stroke production, strategy, physical conditioning and sport psychology. It all boils down to working hard. Every time they step onto the court, they need to improve a little bit.
Q: What are some general tips that you provide your players?
Coach T: Positive self-talk. It should always be zero-zero in your mind. You may have your serve broken but it is not over. It takes someone two sets to win a match. Too many junior players who go down 0-1 or 0-2 early in the first, it is over for them at that juncture. It is part of the progression and they will acquire mental toughness down the road. You need positive body language too. Even if you lose, it sets the tone for the next time you play your opponent. I always tell my players it is crucial to recognize changes in court demeanor.
Q: What was the impetus for you to join the JTCC staff?
Coach T: I’ve been to several training academics and by far this is the best place. Under the leadership of Coach Vesa, who believes in the one-third system, this is a well-oiled machine. In a one-third system, a kid must play equal to, greater than and less than their talent. That is how you get better. When you go to a national tournament, there are 128 players and not everybody will be at your level.
Q: When did you start playing tennis?
Coach T: I started at 11. I was a pretty good basketball player. NJTL came to my neighborhood. I had a Billie Jean King racquet in my house, which I still have to this day. Tennis was something different so I wanted to try it. My buddies followed suit. Back to Mr. Johnson. I was only playing in the summers and I was winning solely based on my athleticism and work ethic. My stroke production was not there. Then a family member who was Bill Johnson’s friend asked me to play in the Fall under the tutelage of Mr. Johnson. I went to try out. The instructor fed a ball to me and I hit a forehand. After completing the motion, the racquet flew out of my hand. I was embarrassed. They knew right away which group I would be in. But in six months, through sheer perseverance and hitting relentlessly against the wall, I joined their national traveling team playing USTA Nationals and ATA tournaments. I stopped playing basketball. My buddies were very disgruntled.