Playing Up, Is It Value?

We hear tennis coaches claim that playing up is a good learning experience; but, it is?

Ray Brown 150x150 - Playing Up, Is It Value?

Ray Brown

What one does not learn is technique because improving technique requires hitting thousands of the ”same” ball; this will not happen in any match; nor is conditioning improved because improving conditioning requires weeks to months of hard work which will not happen in a tennis match; on the contrary, tournament match play (not practice matches) places high demands on all parts of the body under duress and will result in extensive soreness of muscles and tendons.

Stress soreness is not related to conditioning soreness because stress soreness is due to the release of stress hormones into the blood stream which is very destructive if it continues over ten minutes. Hence stress soreness is completely unrelated to conditioning soreness. So playing tournament matches does not contribute to physical conditioning. Nor is consistency improved which requires thousands of balls to be hit.

Also the human short-term learning dynamic functions very poorly under stress. Instead of learning, the player may actually lose skill as demonstrated by psychology experiments in radical behaviorism. Even as bad is that the player may lose confidence in their ability. This is because young people make very odd self-effacing interpretations of failure that will damage their confidence unnecessarily and erroneously.

So far, everything mentioned applies to any tournament match. The real value of playing a tennis match is developing the discipline to perform under pressure; adapt to changing circumstances; learning how the opponent thinks; recognizing when an opponent is submitting, etc, the list is long but excludes the factors discussed at the outset of this article.

Skill and physical development do not occur during a match just as one does not learn calculus from taking a calculus test. Matches can expose areas of weakness which can be addressed during training. This includes technical, mental or physical. But, those weaknesses can be obscured by a lack of preparation and hence they become almost impossible to address during training.

Since most tennis matches are lost due to unforced errors, the mental discipline development is likely the most important value of a tournament match. However, playing up, as Robert Lansdorp notes, reduces pressure and thus obscures the mental issues, the one thing that is the most important value of tournament play.

In short, playing up is almost worthless UNLESS the tennis player is the best in their age group and is ready to advance to a higher age group. So long as the player is not the best in their group in the nation, playing up provides far less value than playing in one’s own age group. So one must ask, when considering having their student play up: Is this the best possible use of the time and resources that will be consumed by playing up?

No matter how talented or well conditioned a tennis player may be, if they cannot function under the pressure of facing and defeating their peers, they have a serous mental toughness deficiency that must be addressed if they are to ever become a champion. And playing up provides no solution to this problem and may even obscure the problem, deceiving the coach and player into thinking that no mental problem exists.

In short: play your age group unless you are the best in that group. P.S. if a tennis coach wants their player to play up, it may indicate that the coach has serious self doubt about their own ability to have his/her player face and defeat their peers.

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Youth Sport: Six Ways for Sports Parents to Set a Great Example

Youth Sport: Six Ways for Sports Parents to Set a Great Example

Let me start with this:
Kid’s look up to adults for the example. They learn self-control by watching you display self-control. Like a coach who remains calm and in control, sports parents who exhibit good sideline behavior provide young athletes with an appropriate role model for handling the emotional ups and downs of competition.

six sports

1. Don’t only support your child

Try support the entire group or team. Instead of only focusing on your own child, try cheer and compliment the entire team. When you do this, you not only create a positive and healthy environment for your child, but for all.

2. Practice good karma

 What goes around comes around. Unless you have something positive to say, don’t talk negatively about other players, parents or coaches in front of kids or others.

3. Don’t put your child on a pedestal

 Even if they are the star of the team, kids need to support one another and play as a team. Parents need to do the same. Encourage all, no matter what level they may be.

4. Applaud the other team too

Congratulate any good play. If kids see the adults applauding good plays made by the other team or child, they will be getting a very important message: that the game isn’t such a life-or death thing. It’s about FUN and effort remember?

5. Show Gratitude

 Thank everyone who contributed, especially the officials and coaches. Expressions of gratitude go a long way to motivating officials and coaches to continue doing the job they are doing.

6. Reward effort, not the result

 The fact your child is out there and doing it, should make you proud enough.

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How to Win a Tennis Tournament?

There is no better feeling than winning the tournament. When we win the last point in the final we start to respect our past work. We understand the reason of all hard practice sessions and we are happy that our internal motivation led us to this moment.

Picture of Marcin Bieniek

Marcin Bieniek

But getting the trophy is not an easy job. Only one person can win the tournament and be really happy. So is there a recipe to have bigger chances for beating all rivals during the competition?

Hard work. Everybody knows that to get better, improve own skills and make chances bigger for winning the tournament we have to put a lot of hard work for many weeks to prepare for this deciding moment. This is the basic that all players and coaches have to implement to think about big goals.

But unfortunately it is not enough. In a regular draw there are 32 players with similar abilities who work really hard day by day. They make sacrifices, they train on the court and in the gym, they spend a lot of money on their career so the competition is really high. Where is the difference? What is the difference? How to win the tournament?

As we know tennis is a complex sport. If you want to be the best you have to take care of technical, tactical, physical, mental, and nutritional aspects. If you have weakness in one of them it can be a deciding factor. Lack of solid backhand can be used by your opponent to put you in trouble. Wrong strategy can lead to unexpected loss.

Inability to control emotions can cost you important points during the final set. Poor stamina can result in many unforced errors while being tired. Eating unhealthy can get your body recover slowly so even you played great the first match the second one will be a nightmare because you won’t have an energy.

So it all comes down to preparation. You can’t win a tournament if you are not prepared. If you put a lot of hard work during preceding weeks you can be sure that you are on the right track to get the trophy. But it is not all. If you want to beat your rivals and be number one you should focus on these 3 things. If you apply these tips you will get enormous advantage over your opponents.


Mental aspect plays a crucial role in tennis. If you want to be a champion you have to think like a champion. A lot of times I see players who lack confidence because they don’t look at things as they really are. Athletes think that to win tournament they have to be better than 31 others athletes.

That is completely false. If there are 32 players in a draw you have to be better than 5 players to win the trophy. 1 in the first round. 1 in the second round. 1 in QF. 1 in SF and 1 in the final. That is the reality. There can be players who you always lose to but it doesn’t mean that you can’t win the tournament. Focus just on your opponent – not on others. If you beat one opponent at the time you have a big chance to finish as the best one.

 2. Physical preparation

Winning the tournament means getting through at least 5 matches. Additionally you will have to warm up every day and practice a little bit to stay in the top shape. Without proper physical level you won’t be able to achieve this task. There are a lot of players who play enormously well during first rounds just to play one of the worst matches in their careers while fighting for the final. It is nothing more than just poor physical skills.

To win the tournament you need constant solid performances so your body has to be ready for that. Make sure you put as much effort into your gym sessions as you do on the tennis court and winning the trophy will be your new reality.

 3. Recovery

Even the best athletes have limitations. Your body and mind have too. Only if you make smart decisions about your recovery you can be sure that you will be perfectly prepared for your next battle. If you think you are a machine you can pay a big price for that e.g during the semi-final. Players who wander all day around the courts are not the ones who lift trophy at the end of the week.

Your body and mind are under constant pressure so you have to implement recovery techniques to help them perform at the optimal level. Make sure you have plenty of rest between the matches, you drink enough liquids to replenish lost fluids and you sleep 7-8 hours to get the most of the best recovery for a human body.

Winning a tennis tournament doesn’t happen by a surprise. It is a planned mission that you can accomplish if you will implement given tips. Good luck on your next one!

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Telling a College Tennis Coach No Is Almost As Good As Yes

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David Mullins

“That Coach Mullins is so nice. He seems like a really good coach and he has been great to me throughout the recruiting process. He came and watched me play in Memphis, San Diego, Indianapolis and even did a home visit to meet my family and coach. I don’t know how I am going to tell him that I don’t want to go to his University.

I am sure he is going to be very mad and I hate that I have wasted so much of his time and energy. I just prefer the other University, and I know it is better fit for me. But how I am going to tell him. I think I am just going to put it off for another week or two.”

This is a conversation that is happening on in the heads of many players getting as they decide to make a decision as to which college to attend. They are in the final hours of the recruiting process. A process that, for some may have been years in the making. They have developed relationships with several head as well as assistant coaches and maybe even made some new friends on the teams of the potential colleges on their final list. But a final decision needs to be made.

Please understand that telling a college tennis coach NO is almost as good as YES, and here is why.

Coaches are recruiting several players at the same time similar to how you are looking at several college programs in which to take your talents. The coaches and players may have made you feel that you are special and their one and only, but they are making several other players feel the same way, probably right now as you are reading this!

It is not that they don’t like you or aren’t genuinely nice people but their world will move on whether you commit to their program or not. They absolutely do not take it personally when you tell them NO.

College coaches have suffered more rejection than someone trying to sell encyclopedia’s door to door these days. If they are not hearing the word NO and dealing with rejection on a very consistent basis then they are probably not trying very hard in recruiting.

If coaches do take it personally or are mad because you have chosen another University, then I assure you that you definitely made the right decision! If they take your decision personally then they are not cut out for the world of intercollegiate coaching. The vast majority of coaches will be slightly disappointed but wish you nothing but the best of luck with your college experience and life.

As the word NO is passing your lips, or you are beating around the bush with lines like “it is not you, it’s me”, the coach has already moved on and is thinking about their next recruiting move. There is no time to waste. Scholarships are precious, and getting more valuable by the year. Leaving a scholarship offer out there for too long can set a coach back in recruiting as the other players on their list start committing elsewhere.

Wherever you are at in the recruiting process – whether that it be a few phone calls, text messages or a home visit – if you have made up your mind as to where you want to go, or you know for sure where you definitely won’t be going, then tell the college tennis coach immediately that you are not interested. I know that most coaches will reciprocate, and let you know if they are moving on in recruiting and don’t have any scholarships left to offer.

Lastly, if a college tennis coach has invested a lot of time in recruiting you and you have taken a visit to the college or the coach has done a home visit with you, then have the courage and respect to pick up the phone yourself and let the coach know that you won’t be taking their scholarship offer. I know it may feel a little scary, but that is all the more reason to follow through with it.

DO NOT send a text message, a Snapchat video, a Facebook message, or the very worst of all, have your Mommy or Daddy break the bad news. It is YOUR decision so take responsibility for it. If you are in the fortunate position to have several offers, call the college tennis coach that you will be saying NO to first, and save the YES to last. This, in my opinion, is the correct protocol.

The best of luck with your decision and take moment to enjoy the fact that you are on the verge of becoming a collegiate athlete.

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Is Tennis Teaching Turning into Golf? Too Technical?

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Todd Widom

For some of you who follow me on social media, you know I have a passion for golf as well as tennis. I grew up playing golf with my father at six years old and have continued to play for fun. When I retired from the ATP Tour in 2010, I was able to compete with many high-level golf amateurs in my community, which raised my level further.

Some of the amateurs played on professional golf tours, so for me to be able to compete with them; I had to improve my skills. This was a chance to see how good I could become and have some fun in competitive games outside of tennis. When I was a child, golf was used as a way to spend some time with my father and to take my mind off tennis.

The basis of this article is to go over what I see all the time from junior tennis players and tennis coaches from a teaching perspective.

Has tennis turned into a highly technical sport like golf? I can tell you from experience that when you are playing golf whether you are hitting long shots or short game shots, if you are off by fractions of an inch, you are not going to hit a clean shot and you may be spraying golf balls all over the place.

This is not the case in tennis. Tennis is too fast to be thinking about whether this or that is in position properly to produce a solid hit tennis ball. I am seeing all these complicated steps to hit a forehand, backhand, or serve and the other shots in tennis. This merely produces more money for your child’s coach.

That is right! Your child is going to go through all these highly technical tennis lessons, the camera may even come out and you can hit balls for the hour trying to perfect a little technique. The next lesson will be the same and so on after that.

I have trained juniors that have been brought up this way by their former coach and I can tell you from experience that the kids look like a bunch of stiff technical robots. Every time they miss a ball they are not sure if it was the angle of their wrist, angle of their head, or even if their right foot pinky toe was pointed correctly.

Do you understand my point? Then, when they play a poor match, they come back to their coach and this or that was wrong technically and they go through the whole process again with all these super complex steps to hit a ball. This equated to more money for the coach.

What this produces is a dependence on the coach that is unhealthy, because every time they miss hit a ball or something goes wrong, they need a camera and a lesson to fix the issue and it becomes a never-ending cycle of highly complex tennis lessons.

This is exactly why I constantly see juniors that have hitchy and stiff strokes. The strokes are not natural and there are way too many thoughts going on in the junior’s brain to be playing tennis when a ball is coming at you at a fast speed.

When I start working with a player that has all these highly technical thoughts, it takes time to retool their brain. You need to teach them how simple the tennis strokes are but what you also must do is make sure they are not dependent on you. If your child cannot think and make corrections on their own, they are not going to have much success playing this great game.  It is only them who are going to be able to win and lose on their own.

My tennis upbringing was with highly physical tennis groups and lessons that taught you swings, grips and movement all at once. It was not a salesman type lesson that taught you one certain technique, and then the next lesson the same and so forth. These coaches were killing many birds with one stone, but they also produced champions.

The sole goal was not to make a bunch of tennis lesson money, but it was to produce high-level players. The money will come when you are producing great players at a rapid rate and not try to sell a bunch of gimmicks to some uneducated tennis parents.

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