Craig Boynton: Coaching Two Stars At Once
Long-time coach explains how he balances coaching two players
Craig Boynton has worked with a plethora of top players including former World No. 1 Jim Courier, Mardy Fish and John Isner. In 2016, the American began a new phase of his career, setting out on the ATP World Tour with two American stars — Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson — at the same time.
Both Querrey and Johnson have achieved career-high spots in the ATP Rankings under the tutelage of Boynton, with recent New York Open finalist Querrey climbing to No. 11 and Johnson reaching No. 21 in July 2016.
ATPWorldTour.com catches up with the American coach to learn how working with two players changes his routine, whether he uses a different approach with both players and more.
What is it like for you to balance coaching two elite players on the ATP World Tour?
It starts with organisation, making sure that the day is organised, making sure that I am 100 per cent able to be with Sam and Stevie when they’re practising and hitting. So I’ve got to be very organised. I also don’t like them practising together, so I have to make sure they each have the hits required for that next day and managing their needs so that they both are taken care of regardless if it’s match day or practice day.
How different is your approach to coaching both Sam and Steve?
It’s different. You look at Sam and Stevie and there are a lot of similarities, and you think that they’re a lot alike, but there are a lot of differences with the two. Being able to effectively communicate with each of them in a way that’s best for them. That just comes from getting to know them, and I know them for a long period of time and pushing the right buttons.
How did you start working with both of them? Was that your idea or their idea?
At the time I was coming off a private situation and Stevie and I had talked about getting back together because we originally had a year and a half working together when I was with USTA Player Development. Stevie was one of my players that I had my whole time there, so we had a history. So at that point, Sam was looking for someone and Sam went and talked to Stevie to make sure that it was in good graces with Stevie. They presented it to me, I thought it was a great idea and I thought I would have no problem being able to manage the two, because when I was with the USTA I always had two players (and at one tournament I had five). So I knew how to manage that situation. It was something that wasn’t new to me, and having the luxury of knowing Sam for probably 10 years — not working with him, but I knew him very well — we were both comfortable with each other. I had obviously worked with Stevie for a year and a half, and so it really wasn’t an adjustment at the beginning.
What is a day like for you? How hectic does it get?
The ATP has been really good, excellent about making sure they don’t play singles at the same time. So at that point it’s whoever plays first, making sure that they’re ready, the details, and it depends how much time I have in between. For instance if one plays first on and the other plays second on, then the pre-match speech for whoever plays second will generally happen before the first person goes on. But if there’s a match in between then I know there’s time in between and so then we’ll get our tactics and our speech done after the first match. So again, it’s just about seeing what the schedule has and organising accordingly.
When they have their morning hit, do you like them hitting together?
No, I like to keep them separate. Sometimes it happens where I’ll miss a warm-up. But Christian, the physio, is here. Christian will take them to the court. He can fill in that way. But the guys have been around long enough that they know what to do. They don’t necessarily need their hand held for warm-ups. But it’s always good to be able to go over tactics and the pre-match speech during warm-ups, so we do the best we can. But like I said, the ATP has been really, really good about making sure that they’re not playing at the same time and that there’s no overlap.
If one of the guys is having a great week but the other goes out early, how do you balance dealing with both situations?
Whoever is still in the tournament, the other works around their schedule. So the matches and the tournament are priority for whoever is still in it. They know that, so it’s just working around that. Often times for both, the one who’s out will probably go early and go to the next event to get ready and I can organise practices remotely, or the USTA will have coaches there and I’ll talk to them and they’ll keep an eye on them. I’ll stay with the one who’s still competing in the tournament.
What’s the most fun part of this all for you?
First of all, I love the guys. I absolutely love Sam and Stevie, they are tremendous guys, tremendous to work with. I just love these guys. I enjoy helping them. Aside from them, the most fun for me is watching what we work on and what we try to develop with them come good on match day. Have it help them win an important point, which is pivotal, and then winning a big match. That to me is so much fun.
Do they help each other with that? Does one of them see the other doing well and get motivated by that?
I think so. They’re very big supporters of each other. They both understand what it takes to be successful. The boys have had highs and lows and they both have been there for both highs and lows. They’re really good friends. Like I said, they’re great people, a lot of fun to work with, just because they’re wonderful people. These are two guys you want as neighbours, aside from tennis.