There are two things you can do if you’re hot headed: you quit, you stop, but for me it was the opposite--I wanted to go on.
I started playing tennis when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old. My Dad was the one who taught me and my brother who is 2 years older than me. He was a regular club player in PCA. He wasn’t a coach and he didn’t join tournaments.
You have to react to what they are, provide the environment, and just wish they continue it.
I didn’t take to losing very well when I was young. Maybe up to now, hahaha! But I think I’ve tamed down. I only cried one time when I lost a match, and it was when I lost to my older brother. I couldn’t believe--not the fact that I lost--but why I was crying!
When I was still playing, I used to be really intense and hot headed. I would get into trouble with my parents if I break my racket. My older brother and I contrast--he’s mestizo, I’m dark. He was short, I was tall. He is very cool, and even on the court he would just be smiling, and I was so intense even as a child. So intense--in training, practice, and even in walling. I would be against a wall, literally, but I broke a lot of rackets doing that. I was hot-headed, but I never gave up.
As it went on, when I was playing, I would be losing already but I wouldn’t give up. There are two things you can do if you’re hot headed: you quit, you stop, but for me it was the opposite--I wanted to go on. That’s the silver lining I had, even if I was hot headed. But the good thing about this, looking back, is that I had no problem with being focused and doing my best, I just had to control it sometimes if it was too much.
I have a pregame superstitious ritual: I don’t step on the lines in between points! And I do 5 kangaroo jumps before the start of a match. I do it right before my first return--if my opponent serves first--or before I serve, if I am serving first. I do this to signal to myself that it's, “Game On,” and I make sure my opponent clearly sees it.
I like helping another coach make his player win, and for the coach to feel the success.
Now that I am a Coach, I want to make others win. I appreciate that more. Not my opponents, though! I like to see my team win because I want to see their overjoyed faces. I like helping another coach make his player win, and for the coach to feel the success. I think I’ve gone full circle. There’s nothing I did not do in tennis coaching, and I’m really grateful for that. Now, it’s about teaching other Coaches--that’s also what I like to do. Not just teaching, but growing the sport. It’s not about having a student who’s gonna be number 1. Of course I want that, but that’s not my main goal.
My main goal is making the sport bigger, helping Coaches, because I believe coaches will help make the sport bigger. When I see younger kids training in school, I see the impact of the coaches. Grade school and High School is more important than what I’m doing in College, because that’s where the molding is. I appreciate coaching a lot more now.
My best moment as a coach was when I was Team Captain for the first time for the Philippine Davis Cup Team. This was my goal. The best part is that the venue was in PCA, which is my homecourt where I started tennis and trained. So my whole family and close friends were there.
I believe coaches will help make the sport bigger.
Knowing what I know now, the advice I would have given my younger self would be, “Believe what your parents say.” I just listened and followed. My Dad’s a professor, so he had a way of disciplining us. Since I was a kid, no choice, I followed--which is a good thing. But I just followed because it was told to me, not really understanding the purpose of training really hard. I think that’s common in kids, but obviously now at the later part of my life, I understand that if you’re a kid and you really like it, and the coach or the parents make you like it to the point that you ask for it, understand it and you do it not because you are just “following,” but because you like what you’re doing. I really liked playing tennis also because my father was persistent that we do it. But the best scenario would be: somebody pushing me, myself being “pushed,” but inside I really like what I’m doing.
I’d like her to just play, so when she grows up I can play with her.
My biggest regret would probably be not going all out as a tennis player. Who would have known if I went full blast, maybe I could have gone to Wimbledon? You never know. But I wouldn’t have started coaching at 20 if I did play serious pro tennis. So no regrets, I guess.
I would like to be remembered as a person who brings out the best in you. My son started coming with me to summer camps as early as when he was about 5 or 6 years old, but just to play. That’s the reason I did summer camps--so my three kids can come with me. The younger two were not joining, they were just at the back, playing in the sand, playing at the back with the balls. When the kids who were part of the camp go on break, I couldn’t take a break because my two kids would run to me. Sometimes they’d want to hit. That’s how I did it--I didn’t force them to join the camp, they were just there.
Both of them still play today, especially my son, Gavin. He really, really loves it, and like I said earlier, I don’t want him to just follow me--I want to make him love it. That’s the advantage I have over my Dad because I’m really coaching. My Dad is a disciplinarian, and he led me there. Maybe what he didn’t realize was how to make the person like it, not you forcing it. You have to react to what they are, provide the environment, and just wish they continue it.
At the time, my eldest was the one joining the camp, she was about 8 or 9, and she was the one I really wanted to start. But now she doesn’t play anymore, so maybe that would be considered one of my biggest heartbreaks, haha. Not really a heartbreak, but just sad. The same goes for Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, two number 1 players, but their kids play baseball. It was a little painful, but I’ve learned to accept it.
Now my eldest plays badminton. I’m ok with any sport, I’ve already accepted it--it doesn’t have to be tennis as long as they’re surrounded by their friends in school or by family--but hopefully they play a sport. It keeps them healthy, busy, away from their gadgets. I adapt, I accept right away, even though I would love for them to play tennis, of course. I’m a Coach, my wife plays tennis, all our relatives play--so one would assume that she would also be into it. But if my eldest doesn’t want to play, I won’t force it.
I adapt, I accept right away...
My second one plays, and she’s really good, but she’s shy and I’m still waiting. She’s 13, and she doesn’t have to be a professional, but I’d like her to just play, so when she grows up I can play with her. I look forward to that. If my son wants to pursue it, I’ll help him with all that I know in coaching. If he doesn’t, then I’ll just cry, but that’s ok, haha.
As a father, I expose Gavin to my tennis outreach programs so that he can see the “real world.” Gavin’s lucky that he gets to train in Manila Polo Club because I teach there, and while he’s surrounded by a lot of good people, I want him to see the other side of it to make him grateful for what he has. And I can’t explain that, “You’re lucky, you get to train here, or you have a Dad who is a Coach.” I can’t just explain that.
Instead of going there to teach others, Gavin and I were the ones who learned.
When I do my outreach programs, like when I went to Ormoc about 3 years ago, I brought Gavin along. I had very little intentions to ‘expose’ him, I just wanted him to see what I was doing, that’s it. It wasn’t that deep yet. It’s when Gavin and I were there--I saw how he can’t even speak Tagalog, but he was talking to the kids, and the way they were treating him, they were trying to communicate with him. Gavin was eating with them--he saw guys without shoes, playing tennis barefoot, sharing a racket, things like that. That’s when I realized--I didn’t plan it--but when I was there, I found out that I was the one who learned something. Instead of going there to teach others, Gavin and I were the ones who learned.
I want him to see the other side of it to make him grateful for what he has.
After that, I became more aware. I really bring him with me, and even in our family we don’t do birthday parties--my wife does birthdays for other families, and we make sure our kids are there. Simple things like that. I want Gavin to make a difference in the lives of other people, and I want to show him that you can do it through something you love--which for me is tennis. I hope he gets that.
Story of Coach Roland Kraut