Five Rules for Developing a Tennis Player Under 12 years

Five rules for developing a tennis player under 12 years

Allistair McCaw 150x150 - Five Rules for Developing a Tennis Player Under 12 years

Allistair McCaw

The biggest mistake made in developing an elite tennis player is that the fundamental and development years (8-12 years) are rushed the minute the kids gets a result or two.

In these years, competition can actually be more of a course than a blessing. Parents (and tennis coaches) get carried away that their kid is winning. It seems that patience and ego takes over the actual goal of the plan.

Let’s not forget that more than 70% of kids give up their sport before the age 13, mostly because of burnout and pressure – and without apology, I blame the parents for this.

Remember for junior tennis players under 12, they should:

  1. Stay the course, follow the long term development plan. If you don’t have one, then find a tennis coach who does.
  2. Focus on developing the athlete. They should be spending at least 40%-50% on other athletic skills and games.
  3. Compete, but the goal must be focused on working on the game (technique, tactics, mindset), not results.
  4. Limit competitions (no more than 30% per year)
  5. Best monitor of progression is what I like to call the ‘fun-o-meter’. Keep developing technique skills, as well as their athletic development for progress – and not a tennis ranking sheet.

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Does Your Kid Go to College to Get the Best Possible Education, or to Play Tennis?

Does Your Kid Go to College to Get the Best Possible Education, or to Play Tennis?

NCAA logo.svg  150x150 - Does Your Kid Go to College to Get the Best Possible Education, or to Play Tennis?From time to time readers of the blog asking advice about finding a right college for a tennis player. When those requests come from foreign players, I understand them. However, if American tennis players ask me, I am confused a bit because there are many resources on the Internet and you can use them.

You should know that all incoming freshman who plan on attending any NCAA Division I or II university must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, meet all academic and amateur requirements and be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Some useful resources are:,, and

Before you register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, you need to evaluate your level of play and understand which division is right to you. Then go on and research colleges. Division I is for good competitive players from 4 stars +.

However, if you think your actual level higher than it is on tennisrecruiting ranking, you can try to go to Division I; it is quite possible. One more thing, often be accepted to unranked college teams in Division I is easier than make top 20 Division II. Two stars players and lower have good chances to play in Division 3 and junior college teams.

Then, narrow your search for 50 colleges and start to prepare necessary information about your academic and tennis level, video, etc. Do not be afraid to email tennis coaches directly, you can find their emails on colleges’ websites. I know several players who successfully found right schools and received athletic scholarships without any intermediary.

If you are not sure about your ability to communicate effectively with coaches/admissions you may pay to recruiting agencies and they help you with choosing a right college. In that case, make sure that you understand what will be the result of their job.

When you communicate with coaches, who are interested in your player, be careful especially with some coaches from top universities in Division III. If some of them say, “You are on top of my recruiting list” it means nothing. You should ask the coach to write an official letter that you will be accepted to the college, make sure that the coach has right to promise you that and ask to give you confirmation from the admission office.

I write about that because last year a tennis coach from the top college convinced a player that he would be accepted to the college. As a result, the student applied to the college on early admission and was rejected. When the admission director was asked why it happened, he answered that the tennis coach should look for the best players for the team and encourages them to apply, but it cannot guarantee admission.

So, do not repeat this mistake. By the way, some other tennis coaches from top 10 colleges (Division III) honestly said that they could not influence admission departments’ decisions.

Finally, think twice about sending your kid to a college on athletic scholarship. For many families it works great, for example if your kid goes to Ivy League or another top 20 colleges. For other kids may be it is not very good. Yes, you can save good money but… ask yourself one more time “My kid goes to college to get the best possible education, or …my kid goes to play tennis for college?” That is a useful question.

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Tennis Fear

Picture of Ray Brown

Ray Brown

Recent research from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin shed some very interesting light on fear in tennis.

Tennis is an eye-to-eye combative sport. Unlike team sports or individual sports such as track and field, tennis is an one-on-one combative contest of wills, stamina and skill.

In this respect, tennis stimulates a part of the brain that is millions of years old and which evolved to ensure our survival in a primitive hostile environment.

The curious thing about this part of the brain, called the limbic system, is that it cannot make subtle distinctions between emotional threats and physical threats to our well being.

As a result, a tennis player may experience the same fear – tennis fear – of an emotional situation that they would normally fear in a life threatening situation.

For example, in simplistic terms, serving for a match can be as frightening as being a passenger in a plane that is going to crash land. The limbic systems cannot make the distinction.

The fear “build up” and subsequence increase in blood pressure and heart rate that can occur in tennis can be dissipated in a team sport by the presence of teammates. In track and field it can be dissipated by the fact that you do not have to face your opponent, and in golf it can be dissipated to some degree by the fact that your opponent cannot obstruct your actions or intimidate you. But in tennis, you face all of these “adversaries”.

What the recent research brings to the fore is that movement alone can be a source of fear. Millions of years of evolution have conditioned the limbic system to register any object moving toward you as a threat.

The research even used a computer simulation wherein the image “Aa” started out as small and then grew larger, giving the appearance of moving forward, to test a subjects response to movement. Even this simple “perceived” movement registered fear.

Now, let’s hit the courts. You are at the baseline and your opponent charges the net. This act will evoke a primitive fear response. Unless you are trained to deal with this response, you will likely make an unforced error simply as a result of experiencing primitive fear.

The reason is that the limbic system has direct “over ride” control of the motor systems and will interject a “tick” or jerk into your stroke causing it to go astray.

And that is not the only problem. You are in a baseline rally and the ball keeps coming back right at you. This alone can evoke a fear response that causes you to weaken a bit and begin hitting short, giving your opponent a significant advantage.

Tennis is continual movement and movement can evoke primitive fear. Unless you understand this and train to overcome this fear, you are likely to lose matches you should win.

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What is the Number One Thing in Coaching Young Tennis Players?

When it comes to coaching young tennis players, don’t lose track of what the number one thing is a tennis coaches responsibility isn’t just about the skills and drills.

N1 goal

With kids, It’s a responsibility of the tennis coach to be teaching the right things at the right time. It’s also a responsibility of the tennis coach to the child, that the number one thing is kept: the fun element.

Too much seriousness, result driven mindsets, lectures and drill like sessions only kills the joy and passion the kid has of the game. Like I only say, remember it’s not about you!

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Why Junior Players Should Stick to Closed Stance

My philosophy on why closed stance MUST be taught in juniors:

Let me start with this:

Before anyone accuses me of not being a ‘certified tennis coach’, well I am, for 13 years now. Not that it makes me ‘better’, but Anyhow, I will focus on my passion – movement & performance:

I teach footwork patterns that promote:

  1. Getting to ball early.
  2. Early = better preparation and time to step in.
  3. Stepping in = better weight transfer and energy transfer.
  4. Weight transfer = more power behind ball and less impact on shoulder, rotator and hip than staying open. Less injury risk.
  5. Stepping in or closed stance, teaches player to be ‘proactive’ in footwork and not reactive (staying open) and ‘lazy’.

Enough proof?

Nadal, closed stance

Most coaches like to argue the point that most of the best tennis players in the world stay open stance and I agree totally, however junior players are NOT the best players in the world, and are not yet fully physically and bio mechanically developed like the best tennis players in the world.

Ever wondered why there’s more shoulder and hip injuries in junior players than ever before? – playing open stance, forcing shoulder and upper torso to do ‘the work’, instead of ‘total body’.

It gets back to my point of some coaches watching professional players and trying to copy or imitate their techniques and training programs. Simply put, It is not realistic and conducive to a junior tennis player who is still growing and developing physically.

Coaches need to learn the pathways of the development of an ATHLETE, not a player.
You might know your X’s and O’s in coaching, but do you know how an Athlete develops???

I apologize if it might sound attacking, but I say it how it is.

I have seen the consequences in many junior tennis players, believe me – many that could have reached higher, but were injured too early.

In the word’s of a good friend and great coach, Kevin Braun: “The open stance chooses you, you don’t chose it”. In other word’s every ball you can step step into – period.

Remember my article “Don’t Train Like a Tennis Professional?” Well, don’t, rather develop the ethical way and then you can train like the tennis professionals.

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