Q&A: Stanford Coaching Legend Dick Gould

Dick Gould is a coaching Legend. Yes, that’s a capital L, and no, we don’t use the “L” word flippantly. He is a Legend as much for what he has achieved, as who he is, and what he believes in.

As the Stanford Head Men’s Tennis Coach he amassed 17 National Championships, 17 individual national championships, 50 All-Americans, 776-148 record, and over a a span of 35 years every 4 year member of the team won a National Championship.

He was ITA coach of the decade during the 1980’s & 1990’s and has been honoured with multiple Hall of Fame inductions. Dick was the college coach of 9 players who reached the top 15 in the world and 14 players who reached the top 10 in the world.

It’s easy to talk to his numbers but we think it actually undervalues his contributions to the sport, Stanford and coaching in general.

Dick Gould is not just a college tennis coach, he is a gravitational force of enthusiasm and experience. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting him you will understand the term ageless.


If you could go back and talk to the 20 year old Coach Gould about coaching and career advice, what would you tell him?

  • Be patient – I was frustrated because it took more than 5 years (7) to win a national team championship. This put undo pressure on my team!
  • Don’t let hardships or challenges deter you from your Vision – continue to believe in yourself!
  • Listen to others – players, parents, coaches, opponents – you don’t know it all -  all have something to offer!
  • Be flexible – things are never as cut and dry as they seem  - give young men and women some slack
  • Be yourself and have FUN!!
  • ALWAYS – strive to get better in all you do.
  • Recognize the importance of BALANCE in a driven lifestyle.
  • NEVER underestimate your players and what they can accomplish!
  • Players have enough pressure – don’t put more on them by YOU setting unrealistic goals – rather, set “stepping stone” goals, and when you reach them, re-set them. Goals should be more related to improving part of one’s game (technique OR tactics) – NOT on winning or losing!

RELATED: Tips When Starting A New Coaching Job


How did you overcome complacency in your coaching and continue the enormous winning streaks your teams experienced?

  • I was NEVER complacent – I ALWAYS felt I/we could do something a little better
  • I am reminded of a quote attributed to Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders the year following his football team won the Super Bowl – he was asked in the first Press Conference of the new year – “Al, you won it all last year. What must you do to repeat?” He answered by quoting from Alice in Wonderland, “It is like the Red Queen told Alice – you have to run as fast as you can to get somewhere, BUT once you get there, you must run twice as fast to stay there!” I was always “running scared”.
  • You only have to be really good on the last point of the match or the last match of the season! In other words, as long as there has been good preparation and effort, don’t be too concerned about a particular loss!

What makes a good coach?

  • Knowledge of the game and constantly working to improve such
  • Learning what buttons to push with each player to get the best result – remember, every player is a different person!
  • ALWAYS being POSITIVE and looking at the bright side – it is NOT whether a ball was missed, but rather what that player did right or better in the execution of that particular shot/strategy.
  • Each player must be made to “feel” he or she is “Getting Better”.
  • To peak at the right time, don’t over-practice – just use the time you have well and with meaning!
  • To teach player(s) and team to LOVE the Challenge – the opportunity to put it all on the line. There is nothing more rewarding that watching a player or team “rise to the occasion”.

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What were your practice and competition non-negotiables for players on your teams?

  • Really, not many:
  • ALWAYS – be on time!
  • If a practice is to be missed or a player will be late, let coach know ahead of time.
  • On and off the court, represent yourself, your family and your team/school well – don’t do anything to embarrass any of these constituencies.
  • Strive to always give your best (not always possible, BUT still try to do such)
  • Be positive and respect the game by your actions!

What’s the best way for a mentee coach to use their mentor?

  • NEVER be hesitant to ask questions?
  • Watch everything – on and off the court. Analyze what you might do differently and why. (Remember, you are two different people).
  • “Steal” the best traits of everyone.
  • ASK for feedback
  • Suggest a way to do something or what you feel needs to be done
  • Ask – would you hire this person? If so, why? If not, why?

RELATED: Finding A Mentor


Looking back what were your biggest mistakes as a coach?

  • At first, too caught up with “winning,” and as such, put too much pressure on my players – the process must be enjoyable and a comfortable challenge!
  • Otherwise, there is not much I would do differently
  • I tended to work more on correcting weaknesses than on making strengths stronger, but I would probably still do so today!

What are the pillars of your coaching philosophy?

  • Give people – players, coaches, opponents – the benefit of any doubt
  • Realize that it is more important to be honest than to be fair
  • Respect all; fear no one!
  • Project: “Getting better and better and better . . . “.
  • Have FUN!! Don’t take self too seriously.
  • In my day, EVERYONE I coached had to become proficient as a serve and volley player, and constantly be on the attack (serve returns, off the ground, etc.) – “relentless pressure!”
  • Compete with dignity, class and respect!
  • Complete distaste for procrastination and alibis.

MORE: Dear Coach Educator

What is one thing a coach could do today that would improve their team or individual?

  • Know your player (s) – weaknesses and strengths, both technically and tactically, and how to get him/her/them to “buy in” what you are trying to do.

In Addition - I guess my over-all philosophy of technique and tactics is best described by "Make it happen!" Don't wait for it to happen.

Dick Gould has a biography of achievements too long for these few lines. He currently holds the position of being The John L. Hinds Director of Tennis at Stanford University.


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