A Friendly Reminder to All Sports Parents

YOUTH SPORTS: A friendly reminder to all sports parents regards their kid’s development and the (un)importance of results:

youth sport

First things first, it’s important to stay patient. The most common mistake a lot of sports parents make is chopping and changing coaches the minute their kid doesn’t get the desired results. They talk a good game about understanding development and it takes time, blah, blah, blah. But the panic button gets hit the minute another kid in their group/level does better or the latest ranking sheet comes out.

For peat sake, stop the comparing. No, your kid is not the next Andre Agassi, Wayne Rooney or Martina Hingis at 16 or even 20 if you like. He or she is the next _______________ (your kid’s name).

I always tell parents, the best judgment of you kids progression is in these 5 things:
1. They have manners and are a good representation of you as a parent (Example: They ask me how I am, they are honest to line calls, they help clean up after practice, they say ‘thank you’).
2. They are showing progress in their technical skills.
3. They are showing progress in their athletic skills.
4. They understand that Effort and Attitude are the best route to getting results.
5. They are continually growing a love for the game.

Important to understand that all kids develop physically and psychologically at a different rate.
Stop comparing.

Remember: The goal should always be FUN, LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT. Results can wait. Rome was not built in a day, and neither was a successful athlete.

And by the way, maybe your kid doesn’t even want to be a professional athlete. Ever thought of that?

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The Madness of Tennis Math

Last month my son was playing a 10 and under tournament at Rick Macci’s academy and I had the pleasure to sit next to a fellow parent who was there watching a grandson play. So, we struck a conversation on the costs of learning to play tennis. The following article is basically a summary of our conversation.

Tennis Parent

The cost of a high performance tennis academy in South Florida is roughly $1,500.00 week, (Saviano, Sanchez Casal, Blackman ,USTA new PD head)  this is the equivalent of $6,000.00 month or on a school year $60,000.00. This includes schooling.  In order to make $60,000.00 after tax you need to make $90,000.00 before tax.  Just for the readers reference in order to have $90,000.00 disposable income for one kid you would need to be in the top 1% of income earners in this country. By the way the average household income in the state of Florida is  $54,000.00. Granted tennis is not an average person’s sport, so for argument sake let us triple the average income to $162,000.00 before taxes. After taxes this income is $113,400.00. So, certainly enrolling a kid to tennis boarding school is not possible since it would cost $60,000.00. So, as a parent, what is one supposed to do? Maybe take kids to tennis class twice a week. At a HP facility that is roughly $800.00 month or approximately $9,600.00 after taxes or $12,480.00 before taxes. We all know that twice a week is nowhere near the practice that a kid needs in addition to equipment and all the rest of expenses, hotels, equipment, gasoline etc.  So, lets say that the range of getting a HP tennis education is somewhere between $12,500.00 – $60,000.00 after taxes, this means  anywhere between $16,250.00 and $90,000.00 before taxes. On the low end this means $1,354.00 per month or $7,500.00 / month on the high end.

As a reference a 30 year loan on a $300,000.00 property is about $1,400.00 USD month.  Today’s prices for Florida State University are roughly $20,000.00 year Including tuition, room and board etc.

In order to develop a junior, one needs to work at least 8 years. So, if we calculate the lowest price range of $800.00 a month x  96 months = $76,800.00 USD after taxes or approximately $100,000.00 USD. As one can see, for sums that are so large that it is almost absurd to consider playing tennis. Why on earth would one wish to invest this much money this way?  So, here is the question parents in America face? Why would we invest the equivalent of a years of room and board and tuition, or the same amount of money as a home valued at $300,000.00, on a sport where the odds of being a pro and making a living are 1 in 20,000. To put some perspective on the odds, imagine working for 8 years, spending all the money described above, entering Arthur Ash stadium in NYC (which seats a little over 20K people) and hoping to get picked to be a pro. It simply is not happening.

There is a reason the fans in professional tournaments are never kids, mostly seniors. There is a reason why America does not have a number one, or wins Davis cups. The math simply does not make sense. Until it does, we will be enjoying watching foreigners play. By the way the countries where these foreigners come from have nowhere near the money we spend on trying to learn HP tennis.

So, what are we supposed to do if one cannot afford a high performance education.? Simply pick another sport.? This math is impossible to sustain.

Tennis needs kids, tennis needs fans, tennis needs to be redesigned from the ground up and of course we need our star. The current path makes no sense whatsoever. The math says so, the kids say so. It is simply madness. I am sure many people will disagree with me. Please consider that for the sport to produce results, it needs a mass of people to sustain it. One or two stars that the USTA may develop comes at what price?

I can be reached atjpalenque@yahoo.com or at twitter @palenquej.

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The Importance of Attitude in Sports Performance

Bad attitude athletes are like rotten apples. The actions you take as a coach say a lot about the standards you uphold:

rotten apples

A few coaches and parents get upset when I tell them it’s not my responsibility to bring my athlete’s effort, that’s on the athlete. Attitude is another thing that’s on the athlete. Bring these two things and I will provide the motivation and tools you need to succeed.

Coaches, let me ask you this: Do you expect your athletes to come to practice with a positive attitude in sports? If they don’t, is it your job to coach them into having one?

Most people will agree that successful coaches inspire and motivate their athletes. But we have all experienced the kid/s that come to practice with a poor attitude and low effort level. Is it your job as a coach to change that? And if so, how long do you put up with it until enough is enough.

You see, as coaches we have this ‘unwritten’ task of being “attitude changers” as well as X & O coaches.

Well, here’s some news for all you athletes out there: You have the freedom to choose and decide the attitude you want. But don’t expect to be chosen for the team (or a decent college or a great job) when that attitude is a poor one.

Coaches, allowing bad attitudes and negative behavior in your program only sends out one message: “We accept your poor behavior and attitude”.

What that does, is sends out a signal of disrespect and weakness in the leadership and to the rest of the team.

The persistent negativity of an athlete or athletes begins to drain the energy and morale of those who come to work with effort and discipline.

Here’s what I also believe: If you, the athlete, truly care about your program, then YOU won’t accept bad attitudes from fellow athletes. Why should it always be the coaches task? Who’s athletic career or future is it?

Do we all experience tough times, bad days and obstacles as athletes? – absolutely. But attitude is something that can be controlled. Do I expect a world-class performance every time my athletes step onto the court, field or into the gym to work with me or the team? – No. But, what I do expect is a good effort and positive attitude.

When an athlete has a persistent bad attitude, ‘feel sorry for me’ and negative attitude – I have zero time for that in my program.

In fact, I’ve kicked out a ‘star’ athlete out of my program many a time. Do they get another chance? – Sometimes, maybe one more, but that’s it. Try it again and your are on your way.

As coaches, we need to communicate, support, motivate and encourage our athletes through the rough times, but something that requires a little more of a firm stance is the eradication of the bad attitude virus. Remember that it takes just one rotten apple to spoil the fruit bowl eventually.

Allowing bad attitudes and negative behavior out of fear of ‘losing’ an athlete or player from your program is the biggest mistake you can make.

In fact, getting rid of a bad apple/s will eventually attract the multitude of good apples you desire and aspire to have.

The thing is that we need to expect a positive attitude and great effort – all the time! Don’t negotiate for it. Don’t apologize for it. Expect it.

Am I backing out of my duty as a coach by not fixing a bad attitude? Not at all, I have already made my message clear how it works around here:
Bring your best effort and attitude – that’s all.

Bring a bad attitude and effort to your match, what do you get? Yep, sent home with an “L’ (lose). That’s a life right lesson there.

Here’s another one. Walk into a multimillion dollar business or one of Donald’s Trump’s companies with a bad attitude and see how long you last.

Set the standards from day 1, make it clear to the athletes and staff what those standards are.

Make no apologies for high standards.

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Unilateral Strength Training for the Athlete

Sometimes the most effective forms of training an athlete are the simplest.

Walk into most gyms and sports performance centers and you will see majority of people doing leg exercises either seated (leg press), or with both feet on the ground (standard squat). It seems, no matter how much information comes out on the benefits of unilateral exercises (single leg training), there will always be those who persist on having both feet firmly placed on the ground.

Unilateral Strength

One of my favorite pastimes has been challenging the bigger stronger athletes or gym rats who squat or leg press ridiculous amounts of weight, to get onto one limb and try a single leg squat or split lunge. It’s usually proves for some good entertainment, because never mind the lack of balance or range of depth they try obtain, but the inability to even do a single leg squat their own body weight!

In my opinion, a male weighing 80kg weight who can squat double his bodyweight, but cannot effectively do a single leg squat (without any added weight) to 90 degree range or further, is not ‘strong’ or functional.

Why is it that you don’t see many people doing unilateral strength training? Well, the answer maybe boil’s down to the fact that firstly, it’s tough and secondly, It ain’t sexy if you ain’t good at it – simple.

Most of these ‘strong’ big guys in the gym will usually look at me doing a balance exercise on an Airex pad or half foam roller like I’m a ballerina or an injured athlete going through his rehab program. But then when I ask them to give it a try themselves, they get onto one leg, start to sway, then follow it with a one foot tap dance, desperately trying to maintain their balance.

The thing with bilateral exercises (ie: machines, traditional squats, leg press etc..) is that it has a shorter learning curve and requires less stability and core activation – Not ideal for an athlete who requires great movement skills and aims to stay injury free.

Unilateral exercises on the other hand are more joint friendly, demand more core activation and more stability – elements that are crucial for the healthy and wannabe faster athlete.

In my method of training (McCaw Method), I like to combine single leg strength work with single leg plyo work. The combination of the two help create a more stabile, stronger and explosive athlete.

In fact, a recent study (Carvalho A, et al – Journal of Human Kinetics) on the effects of strength training combined with plyometric exercises on athletes, proved that they not only increased lower limb strength, explosiveness and improved VJ performance, but also reduced body fat content. But my best evaluation and test of this, has been with the athletes I have worked with.

Some of the best uni-lateral exercises I use with my athletes include: Single leg squat on half foam roller, Split lunge squat, Dumbbell Lunge Variations, Single leg bounds, Single leg hurdle jumps, etc.

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A Letter from a Kid to Tennis Parents

As a de facto coach and tennis parent I always see crazy tennis parents behave in strange matters when their kids play. Yelling, calling balls out, trying to coach , not talking to others etc.

Parents, shut up

Last Sunday, I sat next to tennis parents who made me imagine, what if the kid could speak back to them in a way that he could make his or her points? What would the kid say? So, this is what I imagined…

Mon and Dad,

I want to tell you 10 things for you to consider:

1. Do you realize that tennis is one of the most unfair sports that there is? I mean we come
to a tournament and there is only one winner out of 32 people. My chance of winning is
1 in 32. Do the math, please.

2. In tennis the higher up I go, the more the entire outcome of the match is decided in a
few points. Do you realize how nerve racking this is? Yeah I’m nervous.

3. The pressure to win does not come from you if you want me to win. It comes from my
desire to be a champion from within. And none of your yelling or anyone’s can bring that
out. What if I don’t have it?

4. It is my desire to have fun, but you guys add pressure to win and remove the fun. What
is up with that? It’s the weekend.!

5. I am a kid, not a little person, I will make hundreds of silly mistakes. Why do I have
to hear about them from you after I did what I am supposed to, make mistakes. The
score tells me I made them. I am aware, seriously.

6. Have you even been subject to this much pressure, how would you react? because
your questions and body language tells me you have not. Otherwise you would back off.

7. After I win and lose, can we just not talk about it, I just wanted to play.

8. Please understand the score in tennis. It is the only sport in which you can be winning
the majority of the points in a game and still lose it. Get it?

9. I will double fault, because we simply don’t practice it enough.

10. I love you, but please this is just a game. Not a reflection of your income, your
frustrated dreams, your poor knowledge of the sport or anything else. It is a way to have
fun. Can you look that up please. Thank you.

From now on here are the rules: if I win I pick where we eat. If I lose you do. That is all I want, and spend the weekend with you.

I can be reached atjpalenque@yahoo.com or at twitter @palenquej.


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