We talked to accomplished ATP Tour coach Craig Boynton and ended up so inspired and informed that we will be featuring his insights in three successive blog posts. The first deals with how sports have impacted his life, how he balances being an elite, globe-trotting coach with being a father and husband, and how good communication can be a real advantage.
As context, Boynton has worked with players such as World Number 1 Jim Courier, Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Steve Johnson. He is currently coaching Poland’s Hubert (Hubi) Hurkacz who is ranked 29th in the world. Coaching those kinds of players and the toll of worldwide travel and competition would take a toll on most families. Here’s what Craig had to say about how sport fuels his life.
“Sports is my life,” he said. Everything I have in my life is directly or indirectly because of coaching. If it weren’t for tennis, I would never have met my wife Terry, a former collegiate tennis player at Stanford who holds the record for dual match percentage while she played on the tour.” They have three children ranging in age from 17 to 25.
“I’m very fortunate and lucky that my wife understands the demands of touring,” he said. “Her support has made it easier for my family to function and maintain their sense of normalcy while I’m on the road.”
Sports is clearly a family affair. Their two daughters are home from college due to COVID-19 restrictions. Both played softball in high school. Their son is a junior in high school, plays baseball, and hopes to do that in college. They all play tennis socially.
Boynton noted that his oldest daughter is passionate about two things— sports and fashion. She has helped guide some of his wardrobe choices, specifically colors and combinations from the SOLINCO line that Boynton represents—another way to stay connected. “So when she watches a match on television, she knows she picked out the clothes I’m wearing,” he said, noting she also likes watching matches from wherever he is in the world—even it means setting alarms at odd times to watch a match in Australia.
He’s talked to his kids about their perspective on his career. They assured him “we love what you do.” He communicates with them a couple of times a day and said modern technology helps.
Strong communication is a key tenet for Boynton’s family and for his coaching: “It’s important to be able to translate information that’s pertinent to the individual. I’m always trying to understand who I’m coaching more clearly and know the right buttons that need to be pushed, when to push, when to pull back, etc.”
“When I have that clear understanding, I can package my information more clearly,” he said. “That’s going to help them become a better version of themselves as a tennis player and as a person.”
Advocating for mental toughness is a big part of the game, according to Boynton. “There's been a shift in the last 10 years or so to take a more holistic approach with players. I've always found it successful to find out who the people are, and then turn focus to tennis. I always encourage everyone that I work with to understand their personality type is, what motivates them to make decisions, and why they react to adversity the way they do.”
This type of self-awareness that makes a big difference in competitive play. “When we understand why we behave the way we do, we can better understand who we are in competition, and work toward building skills for the game. For example, with uncertainty comes a lack of control and with a lack of control comes doubt. I feel that the coaches and the players that are tuned into this awareness have a bit of a leg up going forward in terms of providing a program and a platform from which to build.”
He says that each person’s individual engine is customized and warns against tapping into negativity to find your greatness. “If you understand your engine and you understand the gas that needs to go into the engine, you’ll be better off. For example, if you need to tap into a certain anger to play, I think your shelf life play is going to be shorter because anger takes such an emotional toll. Players like Roger Federer are about as opposite of angry as can be, and he can play forever because he’s playing with such freedom.”
In next week’s post, learn about what Boynton calls the “freak factors” of various champions and why this makes them so invincible.