As success is pursued in each industry, people are constantly searching for the proper formulas to attain just that. Particularly in tennis, there's a tendency to mimic the titans of the sport. And it makes perfect sense given the accolades & achievements players like Roger Federer & Serena Williams have secured over their careers. But what if a different approach can actually provide a better chance at success? Coach Joseph Gilbert is putting that theory to the test, and his appearance on the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray explored the very notion that you don't have to be like everybody else to win.
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A New Coach Has Entered The Chat: Joseph Gilbert's Approach to Tennis & The Value In Being Different
The man behind Jenson Brooksby's ascent joins the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray to discuss why it's ok to go against the grain.
Published Jun 26, 2022
The origin of Joseph Gilbert's tennis story begins like that of many others. He played competitive tennis as a youth, the itch to belong in the game persisted, and he got into instructing/coaching. But that's where the traditional comparisons end. His viewpoints on tennis as a whole and the individual teaching process differ with what many would consider mainstream, something he's willing to lean into. He's a self professed "player development coach," one who wants to build a foundation with a young player and grow with them, as opposed to jumping from job to job. And look no further than his prized pupil, the fast rising American Jenson Brooksby.
Brooksby was just seven years old when Gilbert began working with him, and in fourteen years they have partnered in creating one of the most unconventional yet successful styles the ATP has laid its eyes on. Some call it quirky or even lucky, but the results are hard to argue. Gilbert's take is that uniqueness in tennis is a good thing, and far from a fluke. "If he wins a set, you can call it lucky. If he wins a match, you can say the guy tanked. But if he wins four matches at that level, well then you've got to look at it and go ok, what is he doing?" The coach cites Rafael Nadal as a prime example of being different, noting how the all-time men's major winner had his fair share of naysayers with the depth of his court positioning. Going against the grain propelled the Spaniard to the top his sport, and the new-school coach believes a similar mindset can do the same for players of all levels.
The coach is passionate about more than a few topics, one of which is that location is not all it's cracked up to be. Three of his students have won u18 major junior championships, no small feat for the northern California area that hadn't been considered a major hotbed for tennis. "When Collin (Altamirano) won Kalamazoo in 2013 they were like "what does this mean?" It means you don't have to fly to Florida to become a champion." Murray agreed completely with that sentiment, explaining how in the Midwest they deal with the same stigma. It can absolutely be beneficial to train in Florida or southern California, but it's not the only path to tennis stardom.
Gilbert weighs in on several intriguing topics, such as the struggles of life on tour. An avid sports fan himself, he remains fascinated with player interviews & press conference appearances, while noting how tough it is from the coaching side of things to manage that aspect of his athletes. He proposes the concept of allowing the coach to do press with the player sometimes, to serve as a crutch and lifeline if called upon. It's yet another different approach to a conventional industry, something that's clearly in the coach's DNA. Murray & Gilbert are two coaches with perspectives that don't necessarily fit the traditional mold. Maybe that's why they've achieved so much, and why they continue to strive for more.