Ten Essential Things for a Young Athlete

Ten essential things that play a role in how far a young athlete progresses in their athletic career:

10 essential things Ten Essential Things for a Young Athlete

1. Quality of Coaching
2. Parental Support
3. Athletic skill level
4. Sport specific skill level
5. Geographical position
6. Financial support
7. Work ethic of Athlete
8. Passion & Desire of Athlete
9. Competitiveness of Athlete
10. Genetics


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The Future of American Tennis and The Role of USTA

I want to share with you my discussion with  Aaron Gross, Head Men’s Tennis Coach at University of Portland. We had a talk about the situation with American tennis and the article “McEnroe’s Successor at U.S.T.A. Needs to Hit the Court Running” in The New York Times.

McEnroe Higueras 300x173 The Future of American Tennis and The Role of USTA

Valery: Actually, no serious analysis was made why USTA PD with $17 million annual budget has failed in producing new American tennis stars.

I think that big salaries of Patrick McEnroe ($1million) and his staff definitely have discouraged them from taking risks.

They need to put a new USTA PD manager on $100K salary plus bonuses for developing top players. But I doubt that it will be done.

Aaron Gross: Why the pressure for champions to be “produced” by federations. Did the USTA really have much to do with Connors, McEnroe, Agassi, Sampras, Courier, Chang, Roddick, Williams Sisters, Davenport, etc, etc? Maybe a few little extra perks here and there, but 99% of the work was done by the players, parents, coaches of these players. Uncle Toni deserves credit for Rafa- not Spanish federation. The Djokovic family seemed to have sacrificed everything to help Novak make it- not the Serbian tennis federation. I guess we are all looking for the USTA to justify the money they blow through. But, really do we expect them to be producing these incredibly special players?

Valery: Remember, initially the name of USTA PD was Elite Player Development and goal was producing new American champions. And $17 million budget is more than enough for supporting 170 talented tennis players every year if count $100.000 for one junior player. The issue is that USTA does not know what to do and how to do. They have no plan and no ideas. So, they have chosen the easiest way: create one more bureaucracy with huge salaries and an incompetent boss.

Aaron Gross: I think we are saying the same thing basically. I don’t feel that money is justified in high performance player development. Take that $17 million and build some big outdoor facilities in LA, Miami, Houston, anywhere with good weather and lots of population. Don’t build these facilities out in the suburbs. Find a place close to the bulk of the population. Get as many kids possible playing tennis at an early age. The goal doesn’t have to be to make them champions. Just get them interested in tennis with a good experience with the game initially. Maybe they will decide to play HS tennis. Maybe someday they will have kids of their own and decide to push them towards some of the opportunities available for people that don’t have tons of money to maybe get them to a point where they can earn college scholarships. Imagine a serious grass roots initiative starting now and how important that could be for the game of tennis in 5, 10, 15, 20 years.

Instead of trying to find that “one” 6’5 fifteen year old with the 125 mph serve that may be an eventual top 100 tennis player. Lets try and get 10,000 new players from the age of 5-15 through affordable opportunities close their houses. It wouldn’t take long to pay off. Tennis equipment sales will blossom, TV ratings will go up, and as the generations grow through this love of tennis from the cradle- the sport will no longer be cyclical. There will be enough people in the US from 5-10 simple facilities with enough equipment to serve people that aren’t rich to the degree that they can learn the game correctly, possibly play some tournaments, and gain a fondness for the game that has not been accessible to them in the past. Scrap all of the high performance coaches and budgets. Put it all into growing this game to a robust, recession proof place. Forget about “American” tennis champions. Some will come and some will go, but most likely not produced by this initiative. How many people go to Giant Stadium to watch to soccer teams play against each other that aren’t even American. American’s like to watch great sports. It is a bonus if we are watching American’s when it comes to tennis. Give me Federer v Nadal any day over Isner v Johnson.

We just have to cultivate more people in this country that can appreciate the beauty of the sport- no matter what country the players are from. The 10,000 hard core tennis fans in the US probably watched Nishikori v Cilic. And the tennis fans that tune in for Fed, Rafa, Djokovic probably didn’t watch. Lets create an interest in tennis that teaches people how to play correctly from a young age, how to appreciate the dignity of the sport, the diversity of the sport, and an appreciation that no matter what a players race, creed, color, religion, economic standing- that he/she can make it. With tens of thousands of tennis enthusiasts “getting it” finally at that point- tennis will officially be back in the US- irregardless if there are US champions or not.

Valery: I like your vision much more than an idea of spending money for a few people – “champions”. But I doubt that it will be turned into reality.

Aaron Gross: I agree. Just a voice in the dark.

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Ten Guidelines to Better Youth Coaching

Are you following these 10 guidelines to better youth coaching?

10rulescoaching 300x200 Ten Guidelines to Better Youth Coaching

1. Reward hard work and effort.
2. Keep it fun.
3. Implement specific skills.
4. Implement general athleticism.
5. Keep instructions easy to understand.
6. Don’t compare the better kids to others.
7. Allow them to make mistakes.
8. Implement more games in your sessions.
9. Compliment in public, criticize in private.
10. Keep track of the time.

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Interview with Patrick Mouratoglou

This interview with with Patrick Mouratoglou was made by Jason Lampione.

Mouratoglou1 300x219 Interview with Patrick Mouratoglou

Patrick, how did you first become involved in the sport and what keeps your passion flourishing to this very day?

I started playing tennis at the age of six. Quite early, I became passionate about the game. I was playing a lot and became a good junior player. The Federation scouted me and I was practicing with them. My only goal was to become a professional tennis player but when I reached the age of 15, my parents had other plans for me and I had to stop in order to focus on my studies. But I was still so passionate about Tennis at that time and this passion hasn’t decreased with the time. This sport is so rich, complex that you can always learn and discover. There are so many aspects: technical, tactical, physical, mental. They are all linked together and they are constantly in movement.

I noticed that you have an academy called “Mouratoglou Tennis Academy,’ which is located in Paris, France; can you tell us more about it?

My tennis Academy was my main concern when I entered into the professional tennis world. I was interested and I am still, in scouting and coaching juniors, make them grow and develop great tennis skills in order to potentially become high ranked tennis players and future champions. Throughout the years, my players reached more than 10 Grand Slam finals, and three of our players became Junior World Champions. We are based in France, have three different programs: one that is a full year program including tennis and school with the goal either to become professional players or to get a level good enough to apply for scholarship in American universities. We have more than a hundred players in that program. Then we have players coming for one, two or three weeks for an intensive training program. And finally we have another program for professional players.

I see that you also train world class coaches who have passed through your system, which you’ve called the Mouratoglou Method! What is your coaching philosophy when you mentor other coaches in their development?

We do also have a program for coaches. First of all, for our Academy as coaches working with us have to know the Method and use it. Then we decided to open that to other coaches who are interested in learning our Method to help them bring their players to a higher level. My method consists in being able to connect with your player, analyze the needs, and build a winning strategy for each of them on measure.

Do you implement and utilize the same coaching practices with Serena Williams as you do with other top performing players on the ITF, ATP and WTA Tour?

The Method we are teaching is the Method I created and I use everyday since I am working on tour. I don’t believe in a Method that would fit everyone but more in one that is based on being able to build a personalized plan for each player that will lead him / her to success.

What is your long-term vision with MTA and how do you see that progressing over the next several years?

There is a first step that will be made very soon. We are moving to south of France, near Nice and Monte Carlo. Over there, you can play tennis outdoor all year and Cote d’Azur is a great place. The new future academy will be the best facility in Europe with a 4 stars 150 rooms hotel, a great Spa, rooms for seminars, Fitness, Medical Center, housing for players, school etc…We should physically be on site within two years.

On your platform (www.mouratoglou.com) you have coaches like Bob Brett, Martina Hingis, Peter Lundgren, Tony Roche and Peter McNamara; how do these unique individuals play a role with the vision you’ve created for MTA (Mouratoglou Tennis Academy)?

All of them played a big role by contributing to make our coaching methods grow with their knowledge and experience. They’ve coached players at my Academy and everyone could benefit from them.

Do you feel that most academies miss the mark with player development? If so, can you share some past experiences you’ve had through your journey?

I am not the one that will judge how the others are working. Everyone has his own way. I always use to say that results talk by themselves. That is the best way to have a feedback on people’s efficiency.

As a professional coach, what characteristics do you look for in a player that uniquely defines their ability and potential for the long-term?

That is a very interesting question. We all look at different details and this is also some kind of secret. The main thing I think is the real dedication, the will to work hard and the competitiveness. When a player can show all that qualities, he definitely can go a long way.

What is your outlook on Serena Williams winning another US Open either in 2014 or in the coming years?

Few weeks ago, it could look really complicated for her to win the US Open because she was far from her best level, but after the US Open series, she showed that she is back to playing and competing well. As we all know the Champion she is, I think she can make it.

When analyzing and breaking down a match whether it’s Serena Williams performance or someone you’ve worked with in the past; is there a specific pattern in a players game that you look for? If so, could you give us examples?

I don’t look for patterns. I respect every player’s difference and actually I really like the fact that they all have their own patterns and ways. My job is about adaptation and not about repeating a pattern. As a coach, you have to communicate differently with each of them, understand their learning process, enter into their psychology in order to know how to increase their competitiveness, analyze their game, how they build the points, win them, loose them, develop their strength, automatize their pattern of plays etc…

What is a typical day in the life of a player and coach at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy?

Everything starts for players with school in the morning from 8 to 12. Then they have a lunch all together at the player’s restaurant. After lunch they start their tennis program with a two hours practice. Fitness sessions come right after that. At then end of the day, they have the stretching and the massage for those who need it.

Have you thought about expanding your services to include online coaching through MTA?

I did think about it. Actually, I am working on an app that will allow people to have very meaningful stats on their matches. What is interesting in stats is to understand what makes the difference in your game. Where you can and have to make progresses. Figures don’t lie. The statistical approach is very interesting. That is the future of coaching. The second step will probably be an online coaching website.

I’m a firm believer that chance favors the prepared mind (and body), especially in an athlete that is well trained prior to competition. What has been your approach when communicating to your players?

My approach is to build the confidence of my athletes when we get closer to competition. The practice sessions have to be tough in order for them to know and feel how strong, solid, intense they can possibly be. They have to have convictions about their game, their strokes. Doubts are enemies and we are fighting them by bringing certainty. I think that the pre-match talk is also a decisive moment. That is the moment when you mentally prepare your player, you elaborate the winning strategy. At the end of it, your player knows exactly how he/she will win the match.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to either play or coach on the professional circuit, whether that would be the ATP or WTA Tour?

For a tennis player, my advise would be to find the right people. There are way too many changes in the player’s environment and I think it is not the right way to build something strong and durably successful. For tennis coaches, I would advise to be as open as possible to learn from everyone. Even from your player. He/she has so much to teach him/her about him/her.

In closing Patrick, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our audience?

I love that game so much that I constantly share with coaches, players and also through my commentaries or the articles/blogs that I write. Life is about passion and passion needs to be shared.

Thank you Patrick; it was a real pleasure having you and I wish you the very best in all that you do!

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The Big Surprises: Kei Nishikori to Face Marin Cilic in the U.S. Open Final

Wow! Kei Nishikori in the U.S. Open final!! How is he doing it? Not with a huge serve, obviously.

NIshikori USOpen 300x201 The Big Surprises: Kei Nishikori to Face Marin Cilic in the U.S. Open Final

Although there may be a back story that I’m not aware of, but it looks to me like the following:
I think Nishikori’s biggest edge is in intelligence. He seems to know where his opponent is going to hit his next shot better than his opponent knows where Kei Nishikori is going to hit his. He is diabolically cunning in his choice of shot and by the end it he gets his opponents jumpy and missing. It’s now happened with his last three opponents, all of whom, in the groundstroke exchanges, ended up making abnormal numbers of mistakes. It’s like he can read their minds but they can’t read his, and this eventually gets them off balance and out of synch.

Not only is he extraordinarily cunning, but Kei Nishikori is also particularly accurate. In the exchanges he hits closer to the lines than his opponents. His tennis shots are rather flat, sharp, and dart-like. Along with his clever shot selection, this helps him hurt his opponents when they try to trade with him off the ground. And he’s quick enough so they can’t just blow him out, at least not yet.

Sadly, I’ve never seen Roger Federer look as totally outclassed as he did against Marin Cilic! It looked like Cilic was superior in every aspect of the game, and there was nothing Federer could do about it. Very painful afternoon for us Federer fans.

Allen Fox, earned a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA. He wrote the tennis best sellers, “If I’m the Better Player, Why Can’t I Win?” and “Think to Win,” and most recently, “Tennis: Winning the Mental Match.” Allen Fox website: http://www.allenfoxtennis.net/

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