This Interview with Nick Jacques from Tennis New Zealand, was filmed at the Evolutionics 2018 International Coaches Symposium, where he talks about the CAR (competence, autonomy, relatedness) acronym and how he has adapted it to become the Learning CAP and how he has reflected on his own experiences to be a better coach.
The Thinking CAP
Mark Tennant (Director of i2c): I’m here with Nick Jacques in Florida at the Tennis Conference here in Orlando. Nick works for Tennis New Zealand, and I’ve just seen a great presentation that he did.
Just explain ”The Thinking C.A.P” to us. It was a really interesting concept.
Nick: Thanks, Mark. ”The Thinking C.A.P” evolved from a very similar philosophy that Paul Dent from the UK had which was the ”CAR journey”; Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. After years of thinking about this and how I could adapt my own, I came up with ”The Thinking C.A.P”.
Competence meaning the child’s ability to feel like they can do it whether it’s before the session, during, or after the session.
That would inspire them to go on and practice the skill or the drill, or whatever the exercise was. Not just wait for the session to happen. It also made them feel comfortable in their own skin and understanding competence and the different stages of competence where they go through different states until they reach a stage of– starting at unconscious incompetence and hopefully finishing with unconscious competence. That’s a big part of it.
The autonomy is a huge part of it as well. It’s based around giving responsibility and ownership to the child, so that they can create their own practices and feel like it’s their tennis, not the coach’s. They own their own tennis, not the coach, and they aren’t reliant on the coach.
Relatedness is very important, but in the world that I am living in and the experiences that I tend to get, I’ve found that a lot of the time, I was trying to – or not understanding – why the child was there. What was their motivation? So, what I was trying to get out and what the kid tried to get out was quite often different.
So, I decided to change the R to a P, where it’s more about purpose, why are they here. I recently created a tennis initiative that was based around cardio tennis for teenage girls. Looking at it, the girls wanted to have fun and they wanted to increase their fitness levels and they wanted to play with their friends.
The purpose for them was based around cardio tennis rather than the structural lessons. That worked really well, and we got funding through KiwiSport. That’s a good example of purpose, why they are here, not them trying to be the next world champion. Also, with some kids, they might want to play with friends, opposed to some other kids who might want to be a high performing tennis player at some point. Knowing that, I can then let them know that, “Okay, I’ll work with you up to 12 years old, and then when you reach 12, I’m probably no longer the coach for you because the purpose I can help you with is the development stage up to the age of 12, and then I’ll be looking for the next batch of kids to work with.” The purpose is not only the player, but also the coach as well.
Life Changing Moments
Mark: When we were talking earlier, you told me about something that dawned on you while you were working at Wimbledon. Can you tell us about that?
Nick: Well, it was even before that. I was very fortunate to be mentored by Paul Dent. I remember him asking me the question, “Nick, what do you stand for?” While that seems like a really simple question, I actually couldn’t really answer it. At the time, I thought I gave a decent answer, but on reflection, I know that I really couldn’t answer the simple question, ”What do you stand for?”
During my time at Wimbledon, we were going to 65 schools a year. When you visit 65 schools a year, you start to see that ability levels are quite often very, very low. Kids get to a good level through developing a love of the game and repetition of playing, so, that was a big sort of life-changing moment for me.
The other life-changing moment for me was – and I can’t remember who asked me this question – but they said, “Nick, what do you think tennis will be like in 15-20 years?” I thought I had a pretty good answer. I said, “It’s going to be big and fast and strong.” I can’t remember who this person was, but they said, “Well, do you have a crystal ball, Nick?” I said, “No.” They said, “Well, you don’t really know then, do you?” I was like, “No.”
I went away and thought more about that. Inevitably I thought, “What am I doing? What is my purpose?” Surely, I should be coaching kids to be adaptable in a high-level skill acquisition? So that when the game does change then these kids can potentially change with the game because I’ve helped them be adaptable. The keyword is ”Help,” not make them. I help them on the way to do that.
Mark: What is really interesting to me about this is that you’re an experienced coach. You’ve travelled around a lot. You’ve working in coaches education in New Zealand. Yet, some very simple questions – or what seem like very simple questions – are making you think so much about yourself as a person, as a coach, as a coach educator. What are your values? What do you stand for? I think it’s a really good that somebody as experienced as you, is still having to think about the absolute basics of why you’re there and what you’re doing and what your role is. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, Nick. Thank you.
Nick: That’s fine. Thank you very much.