New South Wales , 21 October 2020 | Vivienne Christie

With a desire to give back to the sport that delivered many rewards as a player, Jaslyn Hewitt-Shehadie takes both important lessons and valuable perspective into her role as the NSW National Development Squad Coach.

Tell us about your own start in tennis?

I began playing tennis at the age of four. We had a court in the backyard and my parents played socially.

What inspired you to become a tennis coach?

I actually just wanted to give back to the sport that gave me so much. I walked into Tennis SA after I stopped playing tennis professionally and offered to hit with the next generation of players. I had so many good people hit with me when I grew up. I just wanted to help the next generation of players as the likes of Luke Smith, Brett Smith and Louise Stacey had done for me.

What are some highlights of your coaching career?

Watching players I have worked with fulfill their goals and seeing their development over the years. One of those has been Gabriella Da Silva-Fick. She was 10 years old when we started working together and it’s been a pleasure to have her win Nationals numerous times and see her grow as a person, on and off the court. It was a hard decision not to keep working with her, but the role of a coach is to know when to step aside and have the player own their journey.

In 2019 I had the opportunity to coach at Roland Garros and the US Open with Annerly Poulos on a Tennis Australia tour. Annerly had an amazing result at Roland Garros defeating the No.2 seed, Diane Parry (a French player). It was a fantastic experience to return to the Grand Slams as a coach nearly 20 years after competing there myself as a junior.

Describe your role as a National Development Squad coach?

As the NSW National Development Squad Coach, my role is to work with our Talent Operations Manager Ben Pyne and collaborate with the private coaches in NSW. Our squad programs are designed to support players’ current training schedules with their private coaches.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

Finding a balance between work and family life. As we want to provide the best environment and culture for our players it goes well beyond a nine-to-five job.

What is the most rewarding part of your role as a coach?

Watching the players who have come through the NSW pathway succeed. Success looks different for many of our players. Yes, we are proud of Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth, Max Purcell and Alexei Popyrin for turning professional and becoming the players they are. However, we also take great pride in watching former players like Joey Swaysland relocate from a small country town to the city, then attend US college where he studied law and is now a solicitor is Sydney. It is watching 10-year-old Rinky Hijikata play Super 10’s and six years later, compete at the Australian Open. That is the most rewarding part of our jobs as coaches.

What’s a great day at the office?

Spending hours on court and watching players overcome challenges they thought were their own limitations. It’s enjoying sessions on court with players who have high energy and intensity during the sessions and want to learn and keep improving.

Describe your coaching philosophy.

Coach the person, not the player. I have a strong emphasis on building the player from the base up, however every player is different and as a coach we need to adapt to each player’s learning styles, personalities and strengths.

If you could name one lesson that’s most important, what would it be?

Love what you do. Whether you’re a coach or a player, you need to love what you do.

As a player, what was the best advice you ever received from a coach?

The most important thing for me was knowing my coach had my back. It wasn’t just one piece of advice, more that you knew they believed in you and your ability to succeed.

What do you love most about tennis?

The opportunities it offers. From travelling the world both as a player and coach, along with the people you meet and friendships you make.

Who is a professional player you love watching?

Currently I love watching Alex De Minaur and Jordan Thompson. Having them both come through our NSW program, and watching them develop from boys to men. It’s great to see they have taken the same traits from juniors into professional tennis. Additionally Alex reminds me a lot of Lleyton (Hewitt, Jaslyn’s older brother) with his competitiveness on court, which always brings back great memories.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?

I’m most looking forward to the world going back to some sort of normality. To watch our players compete in ITF events and Australian championships. Our players have had a seven-month training block and I want to watch them all succeed in their events when the world opens up again.

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