Tennis Champions Are Responsible for their Success

How far an athlete gets in their career lies entirely in their hands. It has little to do with federations or coaching. Oh, the good old blame game…

The reasons why some don’t make it, blaming geographical position, tennis academies, federations, bad coaching, money, i can go on and on, all the reasons, all the excuses.

Understand that sport federations and tennis academies are for guidance, coaching, training and support. What they’re not responsible for is how far an athlete gets in their career.

In tennis, it seems to be around the ages of 15 that the blame game starts. Also the biggest stage of kids who drop out.

Yes, good coaching and money is needed to reach the top in a sport, but if you want it, you’ll find a way.

Fact: Every nation has ‘talent’, no matter how wealthy or poor they are.

It’s not the amount of cash in the federations bank, but the amount of ‘want’ in the athletes ‘tank’.

The biggest factor in an athlete reaching the top lies in the individuals hunger & passion. How much they are willing to work for it and live for it.

Did Grand Slam champions like Svetlana Kuznetsova or Novak Djokovic (photo – wall where he played as a kid) or Victoria Azarenka come from rich families, countries and federations?

No. What they did come from was a relentless mentality to reach the top. They hustled, took risks and moved to other countries to develop their careers.

Djokovic-practice-wall

Understand that tennis federations are there for support of athlete, not the responsibility of them winning majors or Grand Slams.

That responsibility lies entirely with the athlete, not a tennis academy, system or federation. Stop the blame game. Simply put, If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way, not an excuse!

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You can’t loose your focus!

Picture of Adam Blicher

Adam Blicher

It’s oftentimes said by spectators of tennis matches, coaches, parents and I’m by all means also guilty of having said this myself, that now a player “has lost his/her focus”. But what if you in reality can’t loose your focus, but only turn it towards something else.

Our focus can easily be compared to a shining torch. What oftentimes happens in matches is that players will shine their torch on something that are without their control e.g. the result of the match.

What is then important is to shine back that torch to something within your control that will give the players the biggest opportunity of executing their game plan and their shots to the best of their ability. Here it’s essential to help the players find what I call their Lead Domino’s.

A Lead Domino is the one thing that players focus on that will either make the rest of the cues in the specific situation irrelevant or less relevant. A Lead Domino could e.g. be in the second serve to push the ground away from yourself, using the butt cap to “film” the opponent on the finish of a groundstroke or hitting 1,5 meters above the net on defensive forehands.

Lead Domino’s are highly individual and can change over time. If the players are not aware and curious on what they need to redirect the shining torch to when they are disturbed during tennis matches, then they can seem mentally weak. Therefor we as tennis coaches needs to encourage the players to be curious on and help them find their Lead Domino’s in each specific situation so they have the best possible chance to be mentally resilient and maximize their performance on the match court.

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The Parent Is the Key to the Tennis Success of a Kid

The Parent Is the Key to the Tennis Success of a Kid

The key to the tennis success of a kid, is the parent, and I can tell you most are doing a poor job. In the triangle (coach, kid, parent) two of the three parts know their job, but the parent does not, that is the weakest link in the path for a child.

Tennis Parent

Parents make the first mistake by hiring the wrong coach, problem is they don’t know he/she is bad and also don’t learn or spend the time to know if he/she is bad. (By the way the majority of you will hire bad coaches and waste time in the process).

Then the poor kid enters a cycle in which if lucky you get a great coach if not you get a coach who likes to win a lot or is pressured to win. In my opinion a good coach understands the basic path for a tennis kid. The athlete comes before the tennis player.

What this means is the good coach encourages the athlete to be to spend more time developing the athlete ( that means less tennis lessons) so he can be a better tennis player, the bad coaches encourage 5-6 day practices and only are selling hype. Parents don’t know they are being sold hype and buy more hype not helping the kid.

Then the parents also fail to understand this basic concept, kids love to compete, parents love to compare, so in this second huge error of the parents is they create the “compare” mentality which of course hurts the child. There is always someone better than you. The rule for tennis is “if its not fun, don’t play”. But, parents fail to understand this as well.

Then the errors continue as the parents never bother to explain to the kids that it is a horrible business and feed dreams that will not happen. I am not saying don’t encourage a dream, I am saying “stop feeding the idea that they will be winning an Oscar, and spending money as if were going to happen” because most likely they will not.

The worst mistake parents make is pay for everything, new racquets, new shoes, academy lessons, trips to Spain, etc. This failure to understand that the secret sauce in tennis is “hunger” and the parents do everything to make sure the kids never feel the need to be hungry(for something).

Then, another gigantic mistake parents make is take them out of school, thinking that’s the way to get more practice, big mistake, if I told you that none of your kids will be pros, you then hurt the child even more as he will be an uneducated 20 year old, with very little chance of becoming a high earning individual, which is what we all want for our kids happiness.

The last big mistake they make is then hire these big name academy coaches, shelling out $250-$400 hr. for learning a forehand. Are you serious? If your kid is any good you as a parent will have made the right choices for them, for his coach, and for your own money, and all those involve making tennis fun, that is it. How many of you reading this can say, you are not making those mistakes?

Tennis is a game, and we play games to have fun. Parents please educate yourselves and learn that it is you who are making the biggest mistake in your kids tennis journey. Wake up! And help your own kids.

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How to Train Young Talented Kids

Every parent of a talented kid should read this: 70% of talented kids drop out of their sport before age 13.

Allistair McCaw 150x150 - How to Train Young Talented Kids

Allistair McCaw

The reality is, 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, and the number one reason they cite is that it is not fun anymore.

Personally, having been around the sports world for over 30 years now, growing up as a kid, competing professionally for 10 years, and now coaching, I have seen this first hand.

There can be a few reasons why kids drop out early:

1. Over zealous parents

Parents are fueled by their talented kid to spend all their time and money on pursuing the kids sports career. They feel the more, the better, when in fact it’s that continual push that can at most times send their kid over the edge.
They also seem to panic when other kids the same age as theirs might be winning or doing better, so they make changes in coaches (-also known as ‘coach hopping’) and add on more tournaments.

2. Too much competition at a young age

Burn out and over playing can occur at a very early age. Kid’s that compete too much and too early are in the 70% category of quitting a sport sooner than later.
Too much competition at a young age also means that they are not busy doing the things they should be doing more of, like athletic skill and technical development.

3. It’s not fun anymore

The kid doesn’t enjoy playing anymore due to the loss of fun. They are always practicing or playing matches. Also, the pressure and more attention to simply ‘winning’ applied by coach an/or parent. The fun is simply drained out of it because of ‘win at all cost’ coaches and over-pressuring parents.

Kids also start to see their friends having more fun having more balance in their lives, playing other sports and going to friends houses, fun activities etc..
Always remember what the number 1 reason was why kids started to play a particular sport – because it’s FUN.

4. Too high expectations

When a kid is extremely talented at a young age or showing great potential, a lot of parents will be constantly told how brilliant or great their kid is.

This is the mistake of society. Kids are put on pedestals way before they have earned it or should have.

Ridiculous as it may sound, but here in the United States, I have heard parents of kids under the age of 12 years talking to University and college coaches about getting their kid to go there!

A massive weight of expectation is placed on these kids shoulders the moment they win a tiny insignificant tournament or competition!

And while I’m on that subject, parents pulling their kids out of school before 14, what are you thinking? Give your kids Balance and Education for as long as possible!
It’s understandable that sometimes arrangements in time scheduling need to be made, but pulling a kid from the classroom permanently at these ages is more harm than good.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve had parents of immensely talented kids who they’ve pulled out of school, bring their kid to me, and what I mostly find is a kid who plays a sport pretty well, but hardly has any friends, balance in life or social skills!
I fear for the kid if they ‘don’t make it’ in tennis because it’s all they know.

Finally, the most important thing as a parent or coach, is too always make sure the kid is having fun.

I would recommend that both the parent and coach, provide the balance to this equation.
Parents, your role is simple: Just be there to lend unconditional love and support. Also, remember to let the coach, coach. Have some integrity and patience, stop the coach hopping and thinking the grass is always greener when another kid does well. Most of all – let you kid decide if they still find it fun. It should be their choice.

Coaches, make sure the vital stages of athlete/player development are adhered too. Don’t get caught up in the demands or pressures of the kid playing tournaments every weekend.

Remember: Develop the Athlete before the player. But most important of all, help develop their enjoyment for the game as well as life skills.

Stay the course. Enjoy the journey.

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Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

This article “College Tennis Spotlight: The Five Myths of College Recruiting” for New York Tennis Magazine was written by Eric Rebhuhn, Men’s Head Tennis Coach, St. John’s University. It is always useful to get information about college tennis from the university tennis coach.

usc m tennis champ - Myths and True about College Tennis Recruiting

1. Junior players should write long e-mails to college coaches

From the player’s perspective, he/she wants to introduce themselves to their prospective coach, and nowadays, it seems that e-mail is the easiest way to communicate with coaches. Long e-mails are considered more than three paragraphs.

The reality is that coaches are extremely busy, therefore, a short introductory e-mail is best with pertinent information, including name, rankings, GPA and SAT scores. After a month or so, then follow up with another e-mail. Then wait and see if you get a response. Keep in mind that many coaches are receiving in upwards of 50 e-mails per week from potential recruits.

2. Junior players need to focus on their rankings more than developing an all-court game

Many times, the top juniors focus so much of their energy attaining rankings believing the college coach is always looking for the highest ranked player. The truth is that coaches want players who are able to win in singles as well as doubles. Most college coaches want players who can play the net and have the ability to serve and volley. But most personal coaches, parents and players are too focused on the “win now” mentality, believing that the college coach only uses rankings as an indicator. Overall, college coaches take many variables into account when deciding on who they want to recruit.

3. Receiving a scholarship does not always indicate a full scholarship

Many times, juniors hear that a particular player received a scholarship to a particular university and the assumption is that it is a full scholarship. For Men’s Division I, the scholarship allotment is 4.5, which means that the coach usually divides that amount among the players on the team. But since there are usually eight players, each player receives a different amount; usually based on the number they play on the team. For Women’s Division I with eight full scholarships, the scholarships cannot be divided!

4. The most important ranking criteria is the USTA ranking, Tennis Recruiting, or ITF ranking?

One of the most important parts of the recruiting process is the ranking. Obviously, the ranking serves as a baseline measurement to a players ability. But is one ranking more important than another? When evaluating a player, the most valuable area is who the player beat and when they beat them. Some players play great locally but struggle nationally, while others thrive when they are playing away from home.

All of these factors are taken into consideration when recruiting a certain player. In addition, players who play in ITF events will give the coach another variable that will help in the recruiting process. Overall, all three types of rankings are used by the college coach in the recruiting process.

5. Junior players should not play on their high school team if there are conflicts with sectional, national or international tournaments

College coaches like players to play for their high school team to understand how the team dynamic works. Tennis is an individual sport, but in college, the team is where a player spends the most time and teams that come together are more likely to succeed than a bunch of individuals.

When the match is on the line, you want your teammate to fight for that point just as much as you would. The camaraderie that is established in a team environment is essential for all players to learn as early as possible. If a conflict occurs, try to work it out with the school so that not only is the player helping the team, but the school is helping the player succeed off the court.

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