How to Train Young Talented Kids

Every parent of a talented kid should read this: 70% of talented kids drop out of their sport before age 13.

Allistair McCaw 150x150 - How to Train Young Talented Kids

Allistair McCaw

The reality is, 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, and the number one reason they cite is that it is not fun anymore.

Personally, having been around the sports world for over 30 years now, growing up as a kid, competing professionally for 10 years, and now coaching, I have seen this first hand.

There can be a few reasons why kids drop out early:

1. Over zealous parents

Parents are fueled by their talented kid to spend all their time and money on pursuing the kids sports career. They feel the more, the better, when in fact it’s that continual push that can at most times send their kid over the edge.
They also seem to panic when other kids the same age as theirs might be winning or doing better, so they make changes in coaches (-also known as ‘coach hopping’) and add on more tournaments.

2. Too much competition at a young age

Burn out and over playing can occur at a very early age. Kid’s that compete too much and too early are in the 70% category of quitting a sport sooner than later.
Too much competition at a young age also means that they are not busy doing the things they should be doing more of, like athletic skill and technical development.

3. It’s not fun anymore

The kid doesn’t enjoy playing anymore due to the loss of fun. They are always practicing or playing matches. Also, the pressure and more attention to simply ‘winning’ applied by coach an/or parent. The fun is simply drained out of it because of ‘win at all cost’ coaches and over-pressuring parents.

Kids also start to see their friends having more fun having more balance in their lives, playing other sports and going to friends houses, fun activities etc..
Always remember what the number 1 reason was why kids started to play a particular sport – because it’s FUN.

4. Too high expectations

When a kid is extremely talented at a young age or showing great potential, a lot of parents will be constantly told how brilliant or great their kid is.

This is the mistake of society. Kids are put on pedestals way before they have earned it or should have.

Ridiculous as it may sound, but here in the United States, I have heard parents of kids under the age of 12 years talking to University and college coaches about getting their kid to go there!

A massive weight of expectation is placed on these kids shoulders the moment they win a tiny insignificant tournament or competition!

And while I’m on that subject, parents pulling their kids out of school before 14, what are you thinking? Give your kids Balance and Education for as long as possible!
It’s understandable that sometimes arrangements in time scheduling need to be made, but pulling a kid from the classroom permanently at these ages is more harm than good.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve had parents of immensely talented kids who they’ve pulled out of school, bring their kid to me, and what I mostly find is a kid who plays a sport pretty well, but hardly has any friends, balance in life or social skills!
I fear for the kid if they ‘don’t make it’ in tennis because it’s all they know.

Finally, the most important thing as a parent or coach, is too always make sure the kid is having fun.

I would recommend that both the parent and coach, provide the balance to this equation.
Parents, your role is simple: Just be there to lend unconditional love and support. Also, remember to let the coach, coach. Have some integrity and patience, stop the coach hopping and thinking the grass is always greener when another kid does well. Most of all – let you kid decide if they still find it fun. It should be their choice.

Coaches, make sure the vital stages of athlete/player development are adhered too. Don’t get caught up in the demands or pressures of the kid playing tournaments every weekend.

Remember: Develop the Athlete before the player. But most important of all, help develop their enjoyment for the game as well as life skills.

Stay the course. Enjoy the journey.

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Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

This article “College Tennis Spotlight: The Five Myths of College Recruiting” for New York Tennis Magazine was written by Eric Rebhuhn, Men’s Head Tennis Coach, St. John’s University. It is always useful to get information about college tennis from the university tennis coach.

usc m tennis champ - Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

1. Junior players should write long e-mails to college coaches

From the player’s perspective, he/she wants to introduce themselves to their prospective coach, and nowadays, it seems that e-mail is the easiest way to communicate with coaches. Long e-mails are considered more than three paragraphs.

The reality is that coaches are extremely busy, therefore, a short introductory e-mail is best with pertinent information, including name, rankings, GPA and SAT scores. After a month or so, then follow up with another e-mail. Then wait and see if you get a response. Keep in mind that many coaches are receiving in upwards of 50 e-mails per week from potential recruits.

2. Junior players need to focus on their rankings more than developing an all-court game

Many times, the top juniors focus so much of their energy attaining rankings believing the college coach is always looking for the highest ranked player. The truth is that coaches want players who are able to win in singles as well as doubles. Most college coaches want players who can play the net and have the ability to serve and volley. But most personal coaches, parents and players are too focused on the “win now” mentality, believing that the college coach only uses rankings as an indicator. Overall, college coaches take many variables into account when deciding on who they want to recruit.

3. Receiving a scholarship does not always indicate a full scholarship

Many times, juniors hear that a particular player received a scholarship to a particular university and the assumption is that it is a full scholarship. For Men’s Division I, the scholarship allotment is 4.5, which means that the coach usually divides that amount among the players on the team. But since there are usually eight players, each player receives a different amount; usually based on the number they play on the team. For Women’s Division I with eight full scholarships, the scholarships cannot be divided!

4. The most important ranking criteria is the USTA ranking, Tennis Recruiting, or ITF ranking?

One of the most important parts of the recruiting process is the ranking. Obviously, the ranking serves as a baseline measurement to a players ability. But is one ranking more important than another? When evaluating a player, the most valuable area is who the player beat and when they beat them. Some players play great locally but struggle nationally, while others thrive when they are playing away from home.

All of these factors are taken into consideration when recruiting a certain player. In addition, players who play in ITF events will give the coach another variable that will help in the recruiting process. Overall, all three types of rankings are used by the college coach in the recruiting process.

5. Junior players should not play on their high school team if there are conflicts with sectional, national or international tournaments

College coaches like players to play for their high school team to understand how the team dynamic works. Tennis is an individual sport, but in college, the team is where a player spends the most time and teams that come together are more likely to succeed than a bunch of individuals.

When the match is on the line, you want your teammate to fight for that point just as much as you would. The camaraderie that is established in a team environment is essential for all players to learn as early as possible. If a conflict occurs, try to work it out with the school so that not only is the player helping the team, but the school is helping the player succeed off the court.

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How to Recognize Tennis Talent

How to Recognize Tennis Talent

I already wrote several posts about tennis talent identification. Here is one more. This article Talent Identification in Tennis was written by Dave Samuels. I hope you will find it interesting and useful.

Spotting talented junior athletes who might have an aptitude for tennis is part art and part science. In addition to speed, strength, power, coordination and balance, tennis players need a variety of mental skills. Understanding a few basics of talent spotting will help you determine if a child has the potential to succeed as a competitive tennis player.

Talent Categories

The International Tennis Federation’s Doug MacCurdy recommends six areas for coaches to consider when identifying tennis talent: physiological, physical, psychological, technical/tactical, results and intangibles. Physiological attributes include parameters such as height, weight and arm span.

To gauge physical attributes, MacCurdy suggests testing young tennis players in running, jumping, catching, throwing, coordination, agility, tennis-specific speed, power, endurance and flexibility. Psychological attributes include self-esteem, confidence and competitiveness, with an interest in playing tennis one of the most important factors in judging talent. To spot tactical talent, look for player’s ability to move the ball around the court and solve problems.



Dancers, skiers, skaters, gymnasts, soccer players and others who use balance and footwork to excel have an edge in tennis over those with lesser footwork. No matter how much power a tennis player has or what level of stroke technique, they won’t maximize the use of these if they are not in the correct position to hit the ball.


Tennis players not only play frequently, but also they must practice most days. If players love playing matches but do not enjoy practicing, that might be a sign they will be limited to playing at the recreational level. Look for players to ask to stay on the court after practice, or who practice on their own. Players who ask to add points or tasks to drills demonstrate a love of competition.

Multi-Sport Success

If children are successful at more than one sport, it’s an indication they have developed the fundamental physical skills necessary to become a top competitor. Single-sport players might be able to dominate their sport at an early age because they have a big serve, fastball or passing ability. Look for children who excel in multiple sports, especially those that require throwing, catching, running, kicking, hitting and jumping.

Avoid the Results Trap

Don’t use tennis rankings or other competition results in young players as a gauge of future success. Tennis players who dominate at the 12-and-under and 14-and-under age levels have learned to play like 12- and 14-year-olds, usually keeping the ball in play until opponents make mistakes, rather than developing an attacking game. Post-pubescent children may mature in ways that benefit their game as they take advantage of more height or muscle.

So, what do you think about finding tennis talent?

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What Are College Tennis Coaches Looking for?

What are college tennis coaches looking for?

Now let’s talk about how to play and what to pay attention to during the recording of your video for a college tennis coach. Most college tennis coaches will never sign a tennis player only from a video alone. They will still want to see you play in person.

And what are college tennis coaches looking for then? These tips will help you to behave the right way on the tennis court.

UCLA tennis - What Are College Tennis Coaches Looking for?

  • On-tennis court behavior. Attitude is crucial: is a tennis player looking upbeat and positive? Or is the player berating him/herself? Which would a tennis coach  want to deal with?
  • Footwork, effort, and short selection; the nuts and bolts of your game. College tennis coaches want to see if a player use his/her head out there and if the player can create points, or just “bang away”.
  • They prefer to see you lose. Watching a player losing and the adjustments that one must try to make to salvage the tennis match are revealing. The player may turn the match around (great result) or may at least show that they can handle a loss with dignity. Again, what type of person would a coach want?
  • Don’t be looking to the sidelines; play your match withing yourself. No need to look at mom or your coach who applaud and make everything OK. Be your own coach out there.

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How to Prepare Tennis Video for a College Tennis Coach

I already wrote about How to get athletic scholarship for a tennis player. Here I would like to talk about how to prepare tennis video for college tennis coaches. There are some advice how to make your best tennis video.

john isner paris - How to Prepare Tennis Video for a College Tennis Coach

Remember that you are not supposed automatically send your tennis video or link to your YouTube video to a college tennis coach; the coach will let you know if he/she has seen you play, wants to see you play, or want to start with your tennis video. That gives you a good reason to contact the tennis coach, so having the footage ready makes sense.

Tennis video should include following:

  • 10-15 minutes in total length. The college tennis coach usually watches only 3-5 minutes of the video. Be sure you start with your best footage.
  • Start with some match points. Points that make your footwork look great and points that are several shots long showing the development of a point.
  • Be sure to identify yourself in the clips – by using graphics explaining you are in the blue shirt on the far side, or with titles put on the clip. Also write it on the outside of the shirt so the coach knows which player is you. It is very important that this be clear, and that you are not selling one of your opponents to a coach instead of yourself.
  • The tennis match does not should be a tournament match, though it can be. You can set up a practice match at your club, and film it with one stationary camera. That would get you enough footage to put together ten minute product. A high school match is also very good – the uniforms make it easier to identify the players and it looks more “official”.
  • The editing does not need to be professional or slick. But t should be supervised/final edited by a tennis pro or good college level tennis player who can see if the clip makes your footwork and strokes look good, or not.
  • Get this video footage no later than the summer before your senior year. There are so many summer tournaments and opportunities to get this footage, that this would be the best way to find an appropriate match to highlight your best play.
  • A personal, short introduction of the tennis player speaking into the camera, smiling and showing positive attitude, is a nice touch. Player should state his/her name, city, state of residence, age and what match might be included in the footage.
  • Add titles with your name, phone, and email, year in school, and date that was made.

In the next post I will write about what college tennis coaches are looking for when they are considering players for their team.

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