Why Is Team Tennis Misunderstood?

Important facts to consider:

  • 2 Million kids tennis play ages 13- to 17-year-olds.
  • In high school age 184,000 girls play tennis and 157,000 boys play
  • There are 7.8 Million kids in High school sports
  • Tennis represents 4% of high school sports
  • Odds of playing DI tennis from high school 1.4%; DII 0.9%; DIII 1.9%
  • 1570 boys and 1840 girls will go to play DI tennis
  • 5 scholarships are available in DI and DII for men 1.5 of which are foreigners. That leaves 3 for USA
  • 8 scholarships are available for women DI and DII that leaves 4.5 scholarships for men
  • Common rate for drop out of sports is 75% by age 13.

Javier PalenqueI have been wanting to write about this subject for a very long time, unfortunately time is so precious I never got around it, but yesterday something happened that just made me find the time to write and share my opinion with everyone.

One of the kids we play and train moved from one part of the city to another forcing her parents to change coaches and academies. Then this parent friend of mine called me and told me that the coaches forbid her daughter from playing Team Tennis as it was a waste of time, and that her daughters’ strokes needed a complete fix. This of course means tons of private lessons in order to fix the supposed problem and by isolating the kid from Team Tennis depriving the child of the fun involved in the sport and much more.

My friend, who is a normal parent, knows very little about tennis and now does not know what to do. Most of the competitive coaches and academies in my area are horrible at understanding the facts and very good at selling hot air to uninformed parents who fall trap to the good salesmanship, where hundreds of parents fall into.

From the numbers above you can reach several conclusions’ let me share  with you mine, out of 2.2 million kids that play from an early age on, only 1.5 % will play High school tennis and of those only 0.0015% will play DI tennis. For those who can’t think in math terms, imagine a dollar bill, divide in one hundred pieces and take one of those pieces and divide that again by one hundred pieces and that little piece left divide it by 2. Those are your odds. Conclusion, it is extremely unlikely that you will play DI tennis.

So, what happens to the rest? The 1.8 Million who at some point loved the game are now lost the consumers, fans, athletes and parents.  All the coaches and academies I know fail to be fair and honest with their customers and rip them off, they steer away kids from Team Tennis under the false premise that they will reach higher levels by only playing USTA ranking tournaments and more private lessons. Unfortunately, the poor uniformed parents fall for it and we all lose as a whole as a country, as a tennis community as a group.

Parents never learn the proper value of team tennis as it is not supported by most of the academies and therefore the parents fail to support it as well based on the incorrect knowledge of its benefits.

Team tennis is the absolute best vehicle for the early part of the development of the kids which is the romantic stage from ages 5 to 12. It fosters, community, friendship, teambuilding, winning and losing in an individual sport. These are the stages of development that coaches fail to explain to parents:

Stage 1 ages 5-12   (Romantic – make kids love the game),
Stage 2 ages 12-16 (Technical – give them solid skills for highest achievement),
Stage 3 ages 16+    (Competitive – prepare them for as high level as they can achieve).

If you bypass these stages or accelerate them, you are really increasing the odds of the child quitting and leaving the sport all together or getting hurt.  Consider that for those kids that maybe slower in the skill acquisition area, competing
in Team Tennis is a perfect set up to compete in high school and improve the participation numbers in the sport for the benefit of all. Of course there are a few kids who are indeed extraordinary and this model does not apply to them, those are the stars who have maybe a chance at being professionals, but those odds are even more horrific if you care to study them.

So, let’s not focus on those elite players and talk about my friends kid (who is part of the original 2.2 million), who has now left Team Tennis and really has a minuscule chance at being a DI athlete and has been sold a fairy tail that does not exist by tennis coaches nearby. The trip to sectionals won’t happen, the doubles clinics won’t be attended led by a dad who loves tennis, the friendships of tennis loving kids will be strained and the opportunity to lead the team as the most skilled player will have been taken away from this kid. Now she will be training FH and BH day and night and spent weekends trying to improve rankings only to find that the price of doing so is giving away the fun.

You see while on our team, she was our star, we counted on her making the singles point and helping the less skilled kids improve their games, when we were on a tough spot, we could count on her resilience to help us all, and who can forget the great meals after a win or a loss. Not all kids want to play DI or can, but we need to make sure we keep playing as we need a base and fans and tennis consumers.

Those teammates that she has left are the future doctors and lawyers and business people that we need in a society and what better way of building friendship based on a common goal, the love for tennis. The worst part is that the USTA ranking tournaments and team Tennis are not mutually exclusive, yet it is the coaches who make it so.

When the kids get older and get their first job, they will learn the value of leadership, of being in a team, of needing to help, of carrying more than ones weight, they will learn that Team Tennis has taught them that and more. They will learn and know how to be cooperative, able, willing and being a contributor, they will learn that those skills are so needed in the marketplace and if you come to work with them they will have an advantage over the rest of their colleagues.

That resilience that she used to bring to court would be so much valued at work in any project. The ability to help others less skilled or less educated will come in so handy when managing people, and all that she  learned in Team Tennis. If by any chance this friend does get to college and play DI, those Team Tennis skills will be so valuable in bonding with the team and facing similar situations as we once did as a team. That college experience will be very manageable despite the newness given her Team Tennis experience.

Parents, and coaches, please understand the benefits of Team Tennis, is  not about the rankings, it is not about the wins and losses it is about the 1.8 Million left behind, the fans that tennis will no longer have, the consumers that the tennis industry needs, the customers that all of you coaches need. The future citizens, moms and dads who value sports and are active it is all so much more than tennis. Maybe my friends’ kids will come back, maybe not.

As long as I managed to persuade a couple of you, we can make up for the loss.  All I tried to accomplish through this article is to shed some light as to why we need to focus on where the future of the sport is, and it is not in one or two champions, it is in lots of us playing for a very long time. Support Team Tennis, it is what we need as a community, at the right time in the kids lives, as citizens of this great country we all love. Give it a thought.

I can be reached at @palenquej or jpalenque@yahoo.com

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Why Is Team Tennis Misunderstood? — 3 Comments

  1. Nice article, Javier. One correction, though: there are only 4.5 scholarships for men at D1 & 2 universities.

  2. I’m glad I came upon your post and read it! It was very enlightening! Tennis is a great sport and I wish I had started on the right foot when my daughter was young. She probably would have been really good at it instead of just making it a past time.