Discussion about an ideal tennis academy

We continue a discussion about ideal tennis academy. Here is an opinion of Alex Yep 2, founder and Instructor of Physio Technical Tennis at Physio Technical Tennis:

“Yes, it is possible. A matter of fact , I think there is one out there that has a chance to become good. Located in Florida, It is the International Tennis Academy ( ITA ) run by Alan Ma if I’m accurate. I’ve traveled the ITF circuit and seen some of the players they have produced. He had also coached players like Peng Shuai which is rank top 40 WTA. I believe the academy is a live-in which include schooling.

Peng Shuai, tennis player
Well, like I said. It is very possible to develop an ideal academy; but even an ideal tennis  academy will have their own share of problems. To be an ideal academy, the academy must be gear towards the well being of the players. The tennis players should receive maximum benefit for their money. An ideal academy must steam from the creator of the academy which he or she must see to the players are receiving their maximum benefit. The creator must adhere to their marketing campaign pertaining to what they will offer to the players. It is not only for the money. My theory is to provide the best training possible and seeing the improvement on the players. Of course, money is also an issue, because it is a business. However, money should not be the main concern, it should be the tennis players. The tennis director and tennis coaches should always put the training and well being of the players first in order to be a success.”

Ideal tennis academy. Is it possible?

I decided to publish this reply from Mike Erwin as a separate post. Join the discussion and express your opinions.

I disagree with the idea that a great tennis player automatically makes a great coach. I do believe those ex-players have something to give back but playing alone doesn’t qualify them to develop the next generation of American tennis players. I have worked with many former touring pro’s who were bad coaches/teachers. They got into coaching for the money, attention an ex-pro gets, and sadly for some because it’s all they can do.

I have also witnessed many instances where the pro is trying to teach the student to play the way they played 20 years ago. The saying goes “experience is the best teacher’ not “the teacher with the experience is best’. I have also worked with Pro’s who were top players who are now top notch teachers and coaches. They use their experience playing to motivate their students but don’t promise to turn all of their students into the next superstar.

I am currently partnering with a coach who was top 5 in the world in the juniors, top ranked in college, and who toured professionally. He was a player. He is now a teacher of the game. Some of the best stories he has shared with me are from when he was 5 and crying because his dad wouldn’t let him hit with the big kids and of times he battled against other young players who turned out to be professional players. Those things have shaped his thinking about the game and are great for the kids to hear but they hold no promise other than that every player can enjoy the journey.

Jack Sock

As far as your question goes: How to create an ideal tennis academy? The answer is you won’t. The bigger question is can the collective “We” come up with a way to produce more Champions? Before I give my answer to that I’d like to give credit to the USTA for what they are doing to answer that big question.

The USTA is giving players/parents more opportunities than ever. Players have chances to train with other players and parents are getting access to experts in coaching, sports psychology, and sports science. Those things are happening at the sectional level regularly at no cost to the families. USTA is also providing coaches and players with clear parameters for technique, footwork, and tactical development.

The USTA gets a lot of grief but I must say that the clarity of their message and the delivery is much better than anything I’ve seen from either teaching pro organization. I have a few ideas for aiding in the development of future champions:

  • Train and certify tennis coaches using the USTA parameters. Give the coaches the information so they can teach the players the right things.
  • Require competition. The ratio of practice (lessons) to play in tennis is severely out of whack. I tell my players that you practice to play better so play!
  • Instill discipline and self reliance. Coaches work with the player NOT for the player. Parents, STOP carrying their bag and fetching everything they need. When your player or son/daughter is playing a tennis match and looks at you like they have no idea what do it’s because you’ve done everything for them.

The things I mentioned above are simple and have been said before. They don’t come with a guarantee of professional tennis success. What they would bring is a culture change. We would have generations of tennis players with technique that would allow them to develop to a game style based on them personally and not based on limited technical ability.

Our players would compete better. A lot can be said about strategy, but it still comes down to making more balls and winning more points than your opponent. You learn to compete by playing.

Last and most important we would develop excellent people. Tennis is a great training ground for the real world. NONE of us can guarantee Grand Slam success, but we can do a great job and definitely enjoy the ride.

How to Create an Ideal Tennis Academy?

Let’s continue to discuss tennis academies and development of strong tennis players. So, there are more than  40 tennis academies in USA that provide full time boarding for their students, from the giant Nick Bollettieri tennis academy with 500+ tennis players to small family-operated academies with 15-20 players. Almost all of them use modern marketing techniques and include in their messages words like “our unique program, method… we are not like others”, etc. I think that some of them are much better at marketing and sales than at tennis coaching.

The main competitors for all of these private tennis academies are the USTA Player Development Program centers. “The mission of the USTA Player Development Program is to develop world-class American players through a clearly defined training structure and competitive pathway as well as through the implementation of a comprehensive coaching philosophy and structure.” That’s what it says on their website.  I would like to see a list of these world-class American players, which were developed by USTA.  For me “world-class American players” means at least top 20 in the world.

Both the private tennis academies and the USTA Player Development Program claim that they have the best coaches, as well as everything that is needed to develop great players and future American champions. They have worked for many years and the only questions I have right now are:

Where are these new American tennis champions, where are the new Evert, King, Agassi and Sampras?

The best American tennis players right now, like Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick (if someone remembers that Roddick was #1 in the world?) aren’t very young and were developed many years ago. My personal opinion is that all of them are great players and they deserve full respect from the tennis community.

Andy Roddick

What about Ryan Harrison? He definitely has potential to become a top 10 player, but he needs to to grow emotionally. Steve Johnson and Jack Sock are another two players who have a lot of potential. They may reach the elite group in the tennis world, but maybe not.

In my opinion, this is a very modest result considering the thousands of tennis coaches, hundreds of tennis programs and tennis academies and the USTA Player Development Program.

Why did American tennis stop developing elite tennis players? I asked that question to many famous tennis coaches and specialists like Johan Kriek, John Evert, Taylor Dent and many others. All of them agree that tennis in the US is not very popular at the moment and global competition has increased.

But anyway, thousands and thousands of American junior tennis players compete in tournaments and train on regular basis at all these tennis academies and unique programs. Why are so few good players developed? Why are most good players in college tennis foreigners?

Oscar Wegner, author and creator of Modern Tennis Methodology told me that the reason is that:

“proper technical information is missing. There is too much false data out there, impeding real progress.”

Johan Kriek, two-times Australian Open champion thinks that American tennis academies almost do not develop world class tennis players:

“Because there are virtually NO former Grand Slam winners that even attempt to coach, they either are too rich, get involved with coaching a top end current player, or do not care or they just do not have the will to go into something that is actually very difficult to do well. Look around….is Agassi really doing it, Sampras, Courier, McEnroe..? Nobody is involved with daily coaching, every day!”

I asked Nick Saviano, a famous tennis coach and an author of the book “Maximum Tennis” whether he would be able to create an elite tennis academy that actually produces top 100 (or better) players consistently if he was given a $10 million grant (or whatever he needs). He answered “yes”.

So, maybe USTA should give money to coaches who proved their qualification instead of spending it on their program that has not produced elite tennis players for many years?

What do you think guys?

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2012 London Olympics, the future of American tennis, and discussing elite tennis academies with a tennis coach

We were watching tennis matches from 2012 London Olympics and talking about different issues in the tennis world. Here are some points that could be interesting for you.

Do you have the same favorites for Olympics like you had for Wimbledon? Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova?

Serena William’s dismantling of Vera Zvonareva and Vika Azarenka shows she remains in a class by herself. If she is on her game, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. I don’t think that Maria Sharapova has a chance in the finals.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova

On the men’s side, I still have to go with Roger Federer on grass in London. Andy Murray now is really a threat for him, but I have to bet on Federer again.

Roger Federer. London 2012

Why has Ryan Harrison, who is considered as a very prospective player by many American tennis coaches and specialists, not shown consistently good results yet?

I’m still looking for Ryan Harrison to grow emotionally so that his game matches his command of the court. He has the body to hit hard. I think some day he will.

 What do you think of Jack Sock’s chances to reach top 10 and become the next American star?

If I’m looking at another young American, I’d think of Steve Johnson. He’s a winner.

Some tennis parents and players are looking for elite tennis academies.  What do you think about that?

Plenty of academies will give player lots of court time, instruction, and physical training. They all claim to be elite. They can be a good deal for somebody who lives in Minnesota and has unlimited money. Since a four year full scholarship is worth about $240,000 the outlay may make sense. For someone living in California, Florida or Texas, where they can play elite tournaments every week, I don’t understand it. I still think it makes sense to pay more attention to education than to tennis.

Preparation for a tennis match

Let’s speak about a preparation for a tennis match. Here is a quote from Nick Saviano’s book Maximum tennis:

Nick Saviano and Sloane Stephens

“This is a day before the big match. If you can go to the tennis courts where you are playing and hit a few balls on the courts to get acclimated, it can really help. Don’t practice too long. Your goal is to maintain your skills. Today is the time to ease up and have a light practice. Keep in short and simple.

The primary objective is to have a short, positive workout, which leaves you feeling confident about your game as well as physically fresh. Don’t dwell on the upcoming tennis match or tournament. A lot of tennis pros will have a quiet dinner or take in a movie simply to get away from tennis and stay mentally fresh. Pack your bag so that all your equipment is ready.

Take extra tennis  rackets, an extra change of clothes, and a second pair of tennis shoes to be safe. Pack sweats or a warm up suit, even if it’s hot outside, because you may be inside an air-conditioned room sometime during the day and you don’t want to catch a chill. Also, be sure to have a water container, towel, practice balls, Band-Aids, athletic tape, sunscreen, a hat, and anything else you may need.

Make sure that you have your transportation taken care of, you have directions, and you know your starting time. Line up a warm up partner if you can. If you find that visualization works well for you, I also suggest that you spend some time visualizing yourself out on the court enjoying the competition and playing extremely well. You want positive anticipation about the tennis match. Set up your performance goals.

Remember, they should be things that you can control and that help you play up to your potential. Finally, get to bed early and get plenty or rest because tomorrow will be the big day – your tennis match day.”

So, you can compare these recommendations with your own routine, and if you like it make changes in your preparation for a tennis match.

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