A Tennis Academy. What Is It?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“An academy is an institution of higher learning, research, or honorary membership. In the western world academia is the commonly-used term for the collective institutions of higher learning”.

As we can see, the definition of an academy suggests that it provides the highest level of education, or when we talk about a tennis academy, the highest level of tennis coaching. Is this true? Not really. Most champions are developed through individualized programs.

Before final

I researched the Internet and easily found more than 100 tennis academies just in the US. I am guessing that the final figure may be much more.

I tried to classify them into groups. There are three main groups:

1. Tennis academies with a pretty long history that are well-known in the tennis world, like Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Nick Saviano Tennis Academy, Saddlebrook International Tennis Academy, Rick Macci Tennis Academy, Evert Tennis Academy and so on. All of these tennis academies have been around for a while and have proved themselves through years of success. Most of these tennis academies were founded by famous former pro players and coaches. Some of them are pretty big and train hundreds of players at the same time, while others only have a couple dozen players.

2. Tennis academies that were founded by players, coaches and entrepreneurs like many Californian tennis academies. They are not very big, and you hardly find famous names among their coaches, except for Dent and Gorin tennis academies.

3. There are actually individual coaches who proclaimed themselves as a “tennis academy”. They do not have boarding programs and use “tennis academy” like a common brand definition. But among them you can see famous coaches like Robert Van’t Hof’s Pacific Coast Tennis Academy.

By the way, there is a quote from the Zoo tennis website, talking about Robert Lansdorp.

“Lansdorp is not sold on academies, although he does concede their value as far as practice and competition, and had kind words for the atmosphere and opportunities at Bollettieri’s. He was very critical of all the “academies” that start as a coach and one or two good players and then suddenly have 30 juniors of varying levels doing nothing but drilling. Lansdorp believes one-on-one coaching is the foundation of development but although it may be tempting to reduce development principles, like I just have, into bite-size morsels, it’s ultimately misleading. “It’s not that simple,” he said. “It’s complicated.”

In my next post, I will talk about my advice for those who are looking for a tennis academy for a junior tennis player.

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Discussion of the post “How much should a junior tennis player train?”

I got a lot of replies on that post and would like to comment on some ones.

Alex Y. tennis professional: “It depends also on age and what are they training for. There is not one define answer. It also depends on how athletic the individual is”.

 Of course it depends on, Alex. But any organism has its own resource, right? I said that a lot of young tennis players especially in tennis academies train too much, sometimes show very good results and win those who train less. But a few of them play on pro level successively for a long time. Look at Agnieszka Radwanska, she has always cares about herself and she is #4 in the world now. Where all those extremely talented young players like Nicole Vaidišová or Tatiana Golovin who started to play pro level in 14 years old?

Nick  Muresan, tennis professional “I have 3 kids. All three kids played with scholarship at NCAA Div.I, two of them played pro circuits. I never train them more then 1 1/2h /day, except Sunday.I will say , 10 hours a week of intensive and quality practice, will be enough for a junior not to get burned out, and still to love tennis”.

Nick, you just confirmed the opinion that talented kids show very good results with 10 hours training a week of very qualitative training process. Good luck for your kids Nick.

Diana Chalikov, fitness professional: “I believe 15 hours a week combined with 5 hours a week of strength training off the court. Off court exercise is also very important to develop muscles that are otherwise not engaged during regular practice, but will be helpful during tournament play. Plus one day off to reboot”.

Diana one more time concentrates our attention on a very important factor in tennis player development – specialized tennis fitness. Thank you for your point.

Lester Yesnick, tennis professional   “It is the quality of training, not the amount that is most important”.

Lester has the same opinion as John Evert, who said in his interview “Quality over quantity”.

I am very thankful for your comments and hope that readers of the blog will find them helpful for organization training program of junior tennis players.

How Much Should Junior Tennis Players Train?

A couple of words from my personal experience. When I was attending high school and college in Russia I used to do track and field. My results were pretty good for a non-professional college level:  100 meter sprint – 11.5 seconds, the long jump – 7.1 meters.  I trained four times a week for two hours, for a total of 8 hours a week. I need to add that during most weekends, I was playing soccer in the summer and skiing in the winter. So I trained for about 12 hours a week.  I have never had injures and I am very thankful for all my track and field coaches.

Most sports scientists recommend that junior tennis players train for no more than 15 hours a week until 16 years old.  My kid, between the ages of 8 and 12, played tennis for no more than 6-8 hours a week plus 2 hours of special fitness training. He was a top 10 player in Belarus.

Maria_Kirilenko

Now see what modern sport tennis specialists advise. A common recommendation from International Tennis Federation (ITF) for junior tennis players:

  • For 6-8 years olds:  3-4 sessions a week, each session no longer than 45 minutes. Group lessons, practice on mini court. 50% tennis – 50% other sports. Soccer, handball, basketball, swimming, etc.
  • For 9-11 years olds: 1 hour, 3-4 times a week. 70% tennis – 30% other sport.
  • For 12-14 years olds: 2-3 hours a day, 4-5 times a week of group lessons. 85% tennis – 15% other sport.
  • For 15-16 year old (intermediate level): 3-4 hours of training a day, 4-5 times a week.
  • For 16-18 year old (advanced level): 3-4 hours a day, 5-6 times a week.

Approximate number of tournaments per year (singles & doubles): for intermediate players: 15 – 20, for advanced players: 20 – 25.  Rest for 1 – 2 days after each tournament.

The problem of some tennis parents (and coaches) is that they have never read any sports science recommendations. My personal opinion is if a junior tennis player has talent, then 15 hours a week tennis training + fitness and tournaments is more than enough for his development.

If a tennis player does not have enough talent to play on the pro level, why destroy the young athlete’s health with 30 hours of training a week? It is not a big secret that professional tennis does not make a person’s health better.

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Warm Up and Cool Down Are Vital Parts of Tennis Training

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Warm Up and Cool Down Are Vital Parts of Tennis Training

I am going to continue to write about some things that surprise me in American junior tennis. From what I’ve seen, most players don’t do a proper warm up and cool down, but I would like to believe that’s not the case everywhere.

I often see that at the beginning of a tennis session, players run for 3-5 minutes or less, and then do some dynamic stretching. Sometimes players just go directly on the court and begin to play tennis. Usually the total time for warm up takes about 10 minutes. That’s what I saw at some tennis academies. I once tried to discuss this matter with the coaches, but was told that they knew better what to do and how to train.

Common recommendation from ITF, or sports scientists, for junior advanced players who train for 2-3 hours, is that the warm up should take at least 30-45 minutes. This part of training consists of a general warm up and a specific warm up.

The purposes of the warm up are to prepare the body tissues to optimally respond to the exercises, to prepare, both physiologically and psychologically, the whole organism for the high load of the main part of practice, and to prevent injuries that come from improper condition of a player.

Before my kid goes to play a match or a private lesson, he always starts with slow running, followed by short sprints, and then proper dynamic stretching exercises. He never does static stretches before training because it can lead to injures. Only after that does he go on the court and begins the specific part of the warm up that takes 10-15 more minutes.

Frankly speaking, I don’t see often a junior tennis player that does proper general warm up before playing a tournament match. More often, players just sit around chatting with their friends.

It is an obligation of a tennis coach to teach his players about the importance of warming up and cooling down. Cool down is the final physical part of a tennis session. It starts with slow running, best done for about 5 minutes, followed by stretching exercises. Cool down is also very important because it helps the whole body condition to gradually return to normal and it prevents soreness and tightness. Very few players do a cool down after their tournament matches. Usually, they just grab their stuff and get in their car.

I think that is a good idea for  parents to more carefully watch how their tennis kids warm up and cool down, and to explain to them the absolutely necessity of these parts of the training process.

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Medical Control of Junior Tennis Players

Medical Control of Junior Tennis Players

One thing that surprised me after I came to America was the organization of medical control of junior tennis players.  During the entire time that my kid played tennis at different tennis academies, nobody asked me to provide any medical notes that he can play sports. The managers of those academies just asked me to pay money for training.

Only at school was that kind of medical note asked for to participate in physical education. In high school, it was also required in order to play for the school’s team.

Kirilenko Maria

I hope it’s interesting to know how medical control of young sportsmen is organized in other countries. For example, in  Belarus, if a kid plays any sport, he has to go through mandatory medical control of his health at specialized sports medical clinics two times a year. If a kid misses this procedure, he is not allowed to attend his work-outs or play tournaments until he does.

The whole process of medical control of a junior tennis player takes one or two days. It includes: blood and urinal test, visits to specialized doctors like the ophthalmologist, otolaryngologist, dentist, surgeon, and finally sports physician with many tests, such as the electrocardiogram, stress test on ergometer bike, measurement of blood pressure and heart rate before and after exercising, wrist power, volume of lungs and so on.

If the physician thinks that a junior sportsman needs more examination, he sends him to do other research, like cardiac ultrasound.

During all big tournaments, organizers have make sure that a doctor is present for emergency medical assistance for the players.

As far as I know, many European tennis academies and tennis centers have a sports medical doctor on board who organizes a consistent control of tennis players’ condition. It prevents overtraining and keeps kids in a good physical condition.

Parents, or players themselves, need to listen to player’s feelings during the workouts. Never forget about a proper warm up and cool down. If your kid tells you that he doesn’t feel good, just stop playing.

Do not force a young player to go through intense exercise when he is not in good condition. Learn how to measure blood pressure. Make a small experiment. Measure your kid’s blood pressure and heart rate immediately after workout and then in intervals of 5 and 15 minutes. It tells you how your kid’s organism restores after training.

Remember that if a junior tennis player trains for more than 15 hours a week, his training load is similar to that of an adult athlete. So be very careful and organize some kind of consistent medical control of your kid’s health condition.

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