What College Tennis Coaches Really Want to See in Your Recruiting Video

What college tennis coaches really want to see in your recruiting video

NNThis article was written by Nicolai Nonnenbroich, Assistant Men’s Tennis Coach at James Madison University.

Dear future players and parents,

Before I get into the subject of recruiting videos and what I think should be included in them, let me tell you that the video is really just a plus on your overall profile. For the most part we are interested in your tennis results and academics.

That being said, a good recruiting video can (and should) give us a solid impression of your abilities and is definitely beneficial to your success in being recruited by a strong program. I have watched hundreds of recruiting videos, and unfortunately only a very small fraction of them actually have the kind of content that we look for.

My very first advice to players, parents, and placement agencies: Do not copy what everybody else is doing! It’s easy to go on YouTube, look at all the different videos with great production value, and think that you have to do even better to get yourself noticed.

The truth is, you don’t. Around 90% of recruiting videos on YouTube look something like this: Short intro with facts about the player…music starts…10 minutes of drills from 10 different camera angles..2 minutes of actual match play.

Here is what happens when I watch it (and most other coaches that I have discussed this subject with): Music…MUTE..drills…SKIP…more drills..SKIP….still drilling…SKIP Watch one or two points because most of them are set up in a practice match and end up with an easy winner. Done.

This may sound harsh but you have to understand the coaches’ perspective. We basically watch a video with great production value but very little information about the player’s behavior in a real match situation. How well you can hit cross-court forehands for 10 minutes or that you can crush serves without the pressure of having a returner on the other side doesn’t matter.

Forget all the gimmicks. No player has ever been recruited based on that one slow-motion forehand filmed from the front in black and white (and believe me it’s out there). Here is my recommendation for content of a good recruiting video: – A short intro of yourself (optional, but often appreciated) – UNEDITED tournament match play in high quality from an angle that makes the entire court and both players visible. – Doubles play That’s it.

Tournament match play will give coaches the most important information they want to get out of your video; how you compete in a real match situation. Including doubles in your video is a very important, but almost completely overlooked element.

Knowing that most incoming freshman struggle with doubles when they first start out, demonstrating that you have well established doubles instincts can be a massive factor in your recruitment success, especially in D2 and D3.

Please remember that different coaches look for different things. I am giving you my perspective based on my own experience and many conversations I have had about this topic with other college coaches across all divisions.

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My Good Tennis Friend: Michael Russell

My Good Tennis Friend: Michael Russell

I hear it all the time from coaches that the player is too small or they do not possess a big enough weapon, so they have no chance of becoming a world class tennis player. I usually just nod my head in agreement and start naming names in my mind that would prove them wrong in an instant, but I am not the type of person to be confrontational. You cannot measure the size of the heart or the smarts that one player possesses.

Todd and Michael - Photo

Todd Widom and Michael Russell

My best friend on the ATP Tour was Michael Russell. This fellow Miami Hurricane held the number one ranking in the boys 16’s and 18’s in the United States. As a freshman at the University of Miami he played number one on the team, attained a top five national ranking, and was an All-American, which is the highest honor you can achieve in college tennis. After achieving all that success as an amateur, there is only one place to go to test your skills, and that is the ATP Tour.

Michael is 5’8” and does not possess a 140 mph serve. I am 5’10” and did not possess a 140 mph serve either.  The question is how do you earn a living and compete against the best tennis players in the world if you are quite a bit smaller than your competition? You must train harder and smarter than your competition. You need to be able to out think your opponents.  You need to have a bigger heart and more guts than your competition. You have to be fitter and be able to run all day and be extremely fast. You must also be able to train like a warrior, but never get injured, which is the key to being able to continue to progress through the rankings and to not take a couple of steps backwards, and lose ground to the thousands of tennis players trying to take your spot.

Michael and I both had numerous injuries that hampered our career on the ATP Tour. When you are smaller, your matches are much more grueling because you have to go out and earn the points.  You do not have the option to just hit a big serve and win the point.  You have to grind out matches, which takes a major toll on your body. Just ask Nadal.

Someone asked Michael what it is like to play tennis at the highest level, and his response was to go outside in the street and run short sprints and lateral movements as fast as you can plus swing a racket as fast as you can for 3-5 hours and let me know how that feels.  Now do it every day.

We used to share hotel rooms and practice together when we could on the road.  I knew Mike was someone I needed to get to know to enhance my knowledge of all aspects of the game whether it was tennis, strategy, nutrition, fitness, recovery, scheduling, and even what types of treatments to receive when I was injured.  Michael did not miss one detail about his tennis career.  He was very meticulous about what he did for his career on a daily basis.

You see, this is not a team sport and when you are injured, no one is there to help you find the right person to fix you, and there are many different people to see in the medical field to assist you with the healing process.  It is your job to find the right person and every week you take off, the whole world is gaining precious ranking points to further their career. What you learn about life and being on the ATP Tour is not something you learn in school.

There is no professor that can teach you about how to survive week in and week out as a professional tennis player. There are matches that you must win to be able to stay afloat and have your career progress. It is no different than owning your own company. You are either making it happen or you are going to lose money and have to shut down your business. That is reality on the professional tennis tour. There is no school that can prepare you for that.

What most people do not realize is that the vast majority of professional tennis players are starving for success. If you are not consistently in the main draw of the grand slam tournaments, you are not making a living. There are 100 special tennis players on the planet that are earning a living. Michael was one of these special players for the majority of his career and he got there based on quickness, guts, and work ethic. At 5’8” he had wins over Tomas Berdych, Ivo Karlovic, Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic, and Juan Martin Del Potro, who are all over 6’5”, plus he had many other great victories.

Over Michael’s seventeen year career, he played in 34 main draw grand slam singles tournaments, 115 ATP main draw singles tournaments, and he won 15 challenger titles which is the equivalent to triple A baseball. He just recently retired from the ATP Tour after making the third round of doubles at the 2015 US Open with his partner Donald Young. You see, people write off others because they do not fit the mold of the typical tennis player of 2015. Then you have the special athletes with heart and grit that love to prove the naysayers wrong. Congratulations Michael!

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The Importance of Developing Routines and Rituals for Your Athletes

The importance of developing routines and rituals for your athletes 

Allistair_McCawThere’s one thing in common with all the best athletes I’ve worked with, and that is that they all have set routines and rituals.

Routines enable the athlete to make their preparation more predictable by knowing they’re covering every area that will influence performance.

Routines enable athletes to be completely physically, technically, tactically, and mentally ready to perform their best. In fact, I don’t know a world-class athlete in any sport who does not use routines in some part of his or her competitive preparations.

When I start with a young athlete, one of the first things I do is give them set routines and rituals to follow.

If an athlete can reduce the things that can go wrong and be prepared for those things that do, they’ll be better able to stayed focused and relaxed before and during the competition.

Routines and rituals help you focus on the process and limit the mind from wandering.

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Novak Djokovic Wins US Open 2015

Novak Djokovic wins US Open 2015

Sad ending for a great Federer run at the Open! Of course I pull for the classy Federer, but I don’t feel too bad about the loss because I have a growing respect for Djokovic as a no-quit competitor and fine sportsman.

us-open-2015The match fits into what is starting to be a normal Federer-Djokovic format – split the first two sets in a closely-contested dog fight; then Federer loses the third in a close contest in which he has chances but can’t capitalize; and finally, Federer’s game drops off and Djokovic takes the fourth in a routine, anti-climatic set.

In the early going Federer kept Djokovic off-balance with sudden attacks and shortened points. But as the match progressed, Federer got into more and more long baseline exchanges, most of which ended badly for him. His backhand topspin has, for sure, gotten better. (note the great crosscourt backhand he hit to win the second set) But it is still not stable enough to stand in and trade backhands with Djokovic. And Djokovic was smart enough to hit a lot of backhand crosscourts when the opportunity arose, daring Fed to go down the line and open up his court.

In hindsight, I believe it would have been better for Federer to take his chances at the net sooner in the points, behind the first reasonable opportunity to hit an approach shot, even if he was likely to get passed more often.

It’s possible, however, that in 3 out of 5 sets Djokovic is now simply too good for Federer, regardless of tactics.

Dr. Allen Fox 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.”  His website is http://www.allenfoxtennis.net/

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Rafa Nadal Looks to Return to Slam Winning Form

Rafa Nadal looks to return to slam winning form

By his incredibly high standards, the last two years for Rafael Nadal have been somewhat of a disappointment although injuries have to be taken into account for large parts of it. 2014 was marked by losses to opponents he had dominated in the past, most notably Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final and David Ferrer in the Monte Carlo Masters, a tournament he had a record winning streak in.

When the French Open came round, plenty tipped Novak Djokovic to finally secure his first French Open title but once more Nadal came through in four sets, taking his ninth title in Paris. Injury following Wimbledon put paid to most of the rest of year save for China and Basel where he suffered disappointing losses to Martin Klizan, Feliciano Lopez and Borna Coric.

Given his injury record and incredibly physical style of play, those doubting Nadal have made the proclamation on a number of occasions that he would never be able to compete at slam winning level consistently upon recovery. On each time those people have been made to look foolish but on this occasion, his dip in level has been far more substantial than on any other occasion. Unless he wins the US Open, it will be the Spaniard’s first year without a slam title since 2004 – a year he ended ranked 51st in the world. However, with Federer and Djokovic on top form, we shall see what the Spaniard can come up with – keep up to date with all the results and betting predictions on Matchstat.com.

Even when Nadal had his bad runs on hard court, his clay safety net would see a return to form and a reappearance of the confidence that sees him be so difficult to beat. However, this year he won just one clay tournament (Buenos Aires), failing to pick up any of the European clay Masters 1000 events and losing in the French Open for the first time since 2009 to Novak Djokovic. While it seemed like Djokovic finally getting over the hump against Nadal in Paris was inevitable, his loss in the Madrid final to Andy Murray was a major shock. Nadal was never in it, losing 6-3 6-2.

He would find some success prior to Wimbledon, with the aid of much better serving, in Stuttgart but once at SW19, found himself taken out by another attacking player in the zone – Dustin Brown. Early losses to Feliciano Lopez and Kei Nishikori meant his US Open preparation was from ideal but he hasn’t been particularly troubled in the early rounds, beating Borna Coric in 4 sets and Diego Schwartzman in straight sets.

In the victory over Schwartzman, Nadal served 8 aces and commented post match that he was pleased with his serving. The diminutive Argentinian did have some luck on return despite this, breaking three times although he wouldn’t remain solid enough on serve throughout to be able to take a set. Schwartzman taking the match to Nadal left him uncomfortable at times and 23 forehand unforced errors in comparison to a total 17 winners on the forehand side.

It’s fair to say that Nadal is still tough enough to deal with the likes of his opening opponents comfortably, especially in the best of five format. However, his 2015 nemesis Fabio Fognini has troubled the Spaniard once more as he defeated him in round three in an epic five set battle. Despite being two sets and a break up against the Italian, Rafa struggled to close it out, which is very uncharacteristic for him.

Of the slams outside France, the US Open has been where Nadal has seen most success in recent years. Although skipping the event twice due to injury, he made the final on each of the occasions he has played since 2010, winning there and in 2013.

His fans worldwide believe that he can bounce back and get back to the winning form that has seen him capturing 14 Slam titles.

If you are interested in any previous results between any ATP and WTA players, you can look at the Head to Head comparison here.