Articles

Data Tells the Story

The following article was written by Javier Palenque and is reprinted here, unedited, with his permission.

In the past thirty years American tennis has seen a 73% decline in the amount of top 100 players in the ATP tour. This alarming number basically tells us that we lose every decade 25% of our players in the higher echelon of worlds’ tennis. What then will happen in the next ten years with the new massive investment by the USTA in Lake Nona and the new crop of American stars who seem to be on the rise? Will this change the clear trend line that the sport is basically slowly dying for America at the professional level? When you talk to the people at the USTA, they will tell you that things could not be better and that the new crop of players will reverse the disappearing number of Americans. Of the current top 100 stars, we will lose the older players and replace them with the younger players. Essentially this will mean that over a 40 year period we managed to keep our declining rate at 73%.

In my opinion here is how the top 100 will look like for the next decade.

We will lose the players in Yellow and replace them with the players in green. These new kids are truly remarkable as breaking the top 200 at such a young age, truly means that they are very, very talented. However the number of players in the top 100 still remains low, for the largest and richest country on earth. This makes me want to learn further more about the way these new group of young stars came up through the system here in the US?

So, I wanted to see if there is some sort of pattern to figure out of a career path that these guys have taken, so we can try to replicate it and have instead of 8 new stars 80.

The first thing that comes to mind as I read these names is how close to tennis (having a tennisfamily or coaches as parents, or ex. playersis so significant) Escobedo, Fritz, Koslov, Tiafoe, Mmoh, Rubin (father had tennis knowledge). This in essence means that of the eight future American stars 75% have a solid tennis family tradition. The reason this number is important is because then it stands to reason that if you as a current 18U player do not have this tradition, if you thought the odds of becoming a pro were low, I can tell you with a 75% chance of being right that in three out of four kids if your parents don’t have years of knowledge of the sport the chance for you to make it as a pro is even worse than you think. What about the other 25% the other two players? Reilly Opelka has the physical advantage of size (like Isner) and the last kid Jared Donaldson, took 2 years of training on clay in Argentina, a surface that here in America we don’t play in. Ok, got it so what does that mean to me as a parent? Why should I invest in this sport? The hours, the trips, the never ending tournaments, the rankings, the way the tournaments are governed and award points, the way the sport is targeted for who can afford it and not who is most likely to be a pro. While on the surface this looks like a great reversal of fortune of American tennis. In essence I think it reveals the exact opposite, I know, I will get a lot of mail, telling me how incorrect I am. But, follow me, I may be able to present my case to you. Who knows you may end up agreeing with me.

The data reveals three important things that are at the core of tennis in America that remain flawed and only enable the further destruction of American tennis supported by system in place and the governing body structure.

1) Tennis is simply not reaching the very people who will make it grow.

2) Coaches and academies in general must not be that good if for 75% of the future top players the coaches are the parents coaches of the stars who have years of knowledge of the sport by being regular coaches. The other 12.5% Opelka is a big guy who was coached very well, but his size is his differentiator (though he was lucky to train with a well-known coach) and Donaldson the other 12.5% trained for two years on clay. In summary, if you have a coach-parent you are most likely to be in the highway to become a pro, if you are not (which means 99.99 of the population, you are out of luck). Then your only option is to have good coaches around where you live, but who can tell if they are good or not if you don’t know tennis?

3) The tournament and competition structure does not bring up tennis stars. Let me show you my arguments for these three key issues:

TENNIS IS NOT REACHING THE MASS OF PEOPLE WHO CAN GROW THE GAME

There are roughly 9.9 Million (*) core tennis participants (that play more than 10 times a year in the US that is only 3.1% of the 318.9 million population. This number is extremely low if you consider that of 75% of our next stars come from people who played, coach or had been for a lifetime in tennis in this small group. Please realize that maybe there are 100,000 tennis coaches in the US (this number is very high only for calculation purposes). This number represents 1% of the tennis population. This effectively means that about 99.9% of the population remain separated from tennis and with no way of connecting, much less to aspire to be a professional athlete? As the pool of players is so small, the vast majority of possible tennis people is simply not reached. What is the USTA’s plan to reach 99.9% of the population if week in and week out, it plays under a competition system and ranking system that feeds the impossible numbers?

Within the US population there are ethnic groups that are growing at a faster rate than the rest; Hispanic and Asians. Yet these ethnic groups are not known for being physically big and the same USTA states that the future of tennis is for the bigger sized players given the new equipment and speed of courts. What to do?

Another aspect is the cost of playing as a junior. We all know that tennis is an elite sport, given its costs and years of training it requires. So, from a financial point of view tennis is not only played by only 3.1% of the population, it is so expensive that it excludes the masses of people who cannot afford it. Yet, the number of the future pros and their own financial backgrounds tell us that it not need be so expensive as for 6 of the 8 new players for the next decade come from modest background and modest income. Being a coach is not a high income profession.

A big part of being a pro prospect is about the proximity to good tennis knowledge, and passion for tennis.

What is the USTA doing to address this? What is the governing body doing to supply the market with exactly that: the proper tennis knowledge? This void and market reality clearly reveals that who tennis currently attracts and gets to travel and compete every week are the same very people that have the lowest chance of being a pro, even though they may be highly ranked, or under the current system attended a high number of tournaments and therefore acquired the rankings with cash. This makes no sense, yet the sense that the USTA conveys is as if these kids were under a pro path and nothing can back that up in the last twenty years. Nothing.

Finally, if we know that there is a direct correlation for 75% of the new stars of having a tennis coach and family, the key group to target then are adults ages 25 -40 who are the vehicle for growth of tennis in America. This means these are the parents to be that need the fun and excitement to enroll their kids in tennis. What is the USTA doing about them? Nothing.

THE KNOWLEDGE LEVEL OF THE AVERAGE COACH IN THE US IS UNABLE TO PRODUCE PRO- PROSPECTS

If you then consider that of the next stars: Fritz, Escobedo, Koslov, (all parent coaches), Mmoh (dad a pro), Tiafoe (he lived at the facility in Maryland- 24 hr. tennis exposure) and Rubin (McEnroe Academy and dad high school player). Where does that leave the vast amount of kids that are left along the way who with the best intentions and support but who are never with the proper professionals. Here the weakness of tennis in America is the poor level of coaching and the lack of a standard basic USTA driven certification system to validate coaches and facilities. For the 99.9% of parents who want the services, yet do not have the knowledge of who they are hiring. So, in a marketplace where it is driven by no standards, we have the suppliers of the service with no real knowledge of what is a world class forehand is and the country’s governing body certifies no facilities or coaches, So, ignorant parents (the core of the future for tennis ) waste time, money and dreams. The result, nothing is achieved. Nothing is tied together, the coaching, the kids, the USTA, the parents, each work on their own and everyone loses. Why would anyone in a leadership position at the USTA allow this? This weakness revealed and the initiatives the USTA takes show how it does not understand what are the root problems of tennis in America are and how it has no plan to address the problem. I live in Miami, sun 90% of the time, warm weather 95% of the time. Yet the providers of tennis services is extremely weak. Imagine how it is in other parts of the country where there is not a tennis court in every neighborhood or park or condo, or where the weather does not cooperate?. Unless something is done to address this, the next decade will produce the same poor results we have been for the last two decades even with all the investments, and hoopla. This is a tragedy and mismanagement of tennis.

TOURNAMENT STRUCTURE DOES NOT ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION

The current structure and system of competition makes the pool of participants smaller and smaller as the kids get older. All one has to do is see the pool of players from ages 8-12, 12-16, and 16+. Tennis needs to have a complete change of shape.

Do any of you reading this disagree with the suggestion?

The way to do this is to grow the game, to create competitive environments and competitions that are “out of the box”. Not the century old tournament structure and point allocation that is giving us results that are low under any parameter and only shrink the pool of players:

Suggestions:

  •  One day Tournaments Round Robin by level
  • USTA camps for the masses in each age group, not the top players. Good education.
  • Training for local coaches who may have great prospects but not a competitive program
  • Some form of match play for all
  • Promote competitive team tennis locally
  • Allow tournaments where coaching is allowed
  • Create a structure to increase the appeal of tennis as opposed to the current structure that only encourages individual participation. (remember this individual participation is boring, has produced the best results 30 years ago, it is dead, yet the structure and results we get continue to be the same)
  • Other ideas and input from players and parents
  • Pricing structure revisit, ex, two tournaments a month cost $100 for 4 matches. In other words to play a match in the US we need to pay $25.00. This is absurd. We need thousands of match play hours that need to be FREE, In South America and Europe kids play match play every day at no cost. Here in the richest country on earth that produces the least amount of tennis players and pays the most amount of money we have the fewest hours of match play? How does this make sense?
  • Working together is the key, we don’t as a common group work together as parents, kids and coaches.
It is the failure of vision and leadership at the USTA that creates this void and poor results.

Conclusions:

The next decade of men’s pro tennis has clear data as to where the kids will come from. They will come from tennis parents and coaches with kids. So, if you are a parent whose kids love tennis and you know little about it, you are out of luck. Why do we make this so hard, so exclusive of the very people who will grow the game and so expensive that it allows the people with hunger and attitude to be excluded and the people with resources and not attitude to endure the journey and both with poor results.

Why are we continually doing this? Who can answer that?

We need critical analytical thinking of business people for the benefit of tennis in America. The way it is, it is announcing its death. The worst part is that it will be our fault. We will have watched it die and changed nothing. We need fresh thinking from outside the walls of what now is the USTA. Count me in for help.

I wish the USTA leadership would open its mind and hear other perspectives because from where I stand I only see what will never happen, change. Expecting different results from doing the same things is the definition of insanity. Can anyone tell me why we put up with this?

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

Sweet Spot of Sport Parent Involvement

Coach John O’Sullivan of Changing the Game Project discusses transactional vs. transformational coaching (read more here) and why we parents need to seek out coaches who are truly invested in the development of the whole child, not just the tennis player. We also talk about the “sweet spot of involvement” for parents and how we parents need to adjust constantly throughout our child’s junior development. Lastly, we touch on the challenges of coaching your own child and how best to separate “coach” versus “parent” on and off the court.

You can find John’s podcast here – I encourage you to check it out! Coaches may be interested in the Way of Champions conference coming this summer to New Jersey. You can find out more here. To listen to John’s TED Talk, click here.

The Curtis Consolation Draw

It is mid-April, and I have just become aware of a change to the junior competition protocol for the Southern section that I want to share with the rest of you. Historically, the Southern section has been a testing ground for several rule changes in junior tennis, so even if your junior doesn’t live or compete in the South, you should familiarize yourself with this latest tweak. It’s probably coming to your section very soon!

The change I’m referring to is in the way the consolation draw is handled in Southern Level 2 events, specifically the addition of a second backdraw called the Curtis Draw. Here’s how it works . . .

If a player loses in the first or second round of a Southern L2 tournament (these tournaments use a 64-player draw), then they feed into the regular consolation draw. However, if a player loses in the Round of 16 or Quarterfinals, then they feed into the Curtis Draw. Neither of these two draws plays the Finals match though both draws do have matches on the final day of the tournament, typically Monday, requiring players to miss a day of school.

So why do the L2s need two separate consolation draws? According to USTA Southern, previously the Round of 16 losers on Sunday morning did not play again until Monday thus having only one match on Sunday.  Use of the Curtis consolation where the Round of 16 losers and Quarterfinal losers are in one draw provides for a consolation match on Sunday afternoon for the Round of 16 losers (the Quarterfinal losers will have played that Quarters match on Sunday afternoon) and then two more matches in that draw on Monday.

In theory, the Curtis draw looks good since it allows the regular consolation draw to continue moving without having to wait for R16 and QF players to feed in on Sunday. Ideally it will allow for faster play overall and not hamper the tournament director with timing challenges.

However, I am hearing some concern about the point tables for the L2 regular consolation draws in terms of the maximum number of ranking points available. If a player loses in either the first or 2nd round in the main draw, then the maximum number of points possible is either 100 or 135 depending on in which round the loss occurs. The small number of ranking points may not be worth the cost of sticking around the tournament – both in terms of money and missed school – for some families. USTA Southern assured me that they are evaluating the point table for the consolation draw to see if some adjustments are warranted.

NOTE from Maria Cercone at USTA Southern (April 20, 2017): Just wanted to let you know that the committee approved a point change for the Curtis Level 2 tournament. The 1st and 2nd rd losers (1st Consolation) will receive 40 points per win , instead of 25. We saw an issue and we fixed it! It will be retroactive for all the players that played last week.

In the most recent L2 held in Alabama, there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 14s and three in the Girls 14s while there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 18s and seven in the Girls 18s which would be expected in the older age group due to the fact that these players are typically in high school and missing school is much more significant at that age. (Whew! That was a long sentence – sorry!) Out of 32 players in a backdraw these are not huge numbers but still worth the USTA looking into moving forward.

In contrast to the regular consolation draw, the Curtis draw offers much more significant ranking points, 60 points for each match won in the Curtis draw versus 25 for each match won in the regular consies, again with neither draw playing out the Final round. In real terms, that means a player who loses in the R16 of the main draw still has the potential to earn a total of 324 ranking points, 360 if they lose in the Quarters. Again, to compare, a player who loses in the first round of the main draw then feeds into the regular backdraw has the potential to earn 100 ranking points, 135 points if they lose in the 2nd round. Just to reiterate, that means a player in the regular backdraw has the potential to earn only 50 additional ranking points by staying through Monday and missing an extra day of school (not to mention paying for an additional night in a hotel) while a player in the Curtis draw could earn 120 additional ranking points. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you look at the ranking lists and study the point spreads between the players.

Interestingly, this past weekend’s L2 was the first of 2017 to utilize the Curtis Draw even though there have already been two L2s this year. One parent told me they had no idea the new backdraw was being used until they arrived at the tournament. I looked at the tournament website on TennisLink, and there is no mention of the Curtis Draw in the Important Info area (click here).

I asked the folks at USTA Southern why they decided to change things mid-year and how they notified participants of the change. They told me that the changes had been discussed earlier but weren’t finalized until right before this latest L2. Participants were not notified directly (still one of my pet peeves since the tournament director collects email addresses for participants when they register for the tournament!) but the information was posted on the USTA Southern website (see links in the next paragraph). I think it was also supposed to be included on the tournament website as well though, as I mentioned above, I can’t find any mention of it there.

I do think the Curtis Draw has the potential to be a positive addition to the L2s and even some of the other higher-level tournaments. That said, there needs to be some tweaking, especially in the area of available points for each backdraw. It looks like USTA may agree and may be making those tweaks before the next Southern L2.

To read more about the Curtis Draw on the USTA Southern website click here and here.

Please let me know what you think of this latest change. If you were at the Southern L2 in Alabama, I would love to hear how it went for your player.

NOTE: I have added a page to this website with links and contact information for USTA staff and departments that are relevant to the Junior Tennis Journey. Click here or on the link in the menu bar on the left side of the page.

Showcases, Combines, & Camps . . .Oh, My!

If your junior has his or her sites set on playing college tennis, you’ve likely been investigating the various showcases, combines, and camps available for your child to get seen by a variety of college coaches. As summer approaches, there are quite a few of these events cropping up in the coming weeks, so let’s take a look at what’s available. Hopefully, this will help you choose the right event(s) and spend your money wisely.

USTA All-American Combine

The latest offering in the college exposure space is USTA’s All-American Combine (click here for the entry form on TennisLink). This first-time event will be held June 14-16, 2017 at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando. It is open to any American junior player age 13-18. The entry fee is $349.88 (food, lodging, and transportation not included).

Per the description from USTA, the All-American Combine is designed to give American juniors recruiting exposure and knowledge of college tennis programs around the nation. Participants will engage in a number of on- and off-court evaluations over the two days, including match play in front of college tennis coaches and presentations from industry experts such as Mark Kovacs. The players’ results will count toward each player’s Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). This event will be considered a Tennis Recruiting “National Showcase” for the purposes of ratings on Tennis Recruiting (TRN). At the conclusion of the event the overall boy’s and girl’s winner will receive a main draw wild card into a USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 event.

As of today’s date (April 14, 2017), I have not seen a list of attending colleges or coaches. Stephen Amritraj told me that as they get a finalized list of coaches in conjunction with the ITA, they will be posting it – I’m assuming it will be posted on both the USTA website as well as on the combine’s TennisLink page. I will update this article as more information becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to listen to my podcast with Stephen here.

Collegiate Exposure Camps

These privately-offered 3-, 4- or 5-day camps immerse prospective student-athletes into a simulated atmosphere of what it means to be a college tennis player, including on- and off-court training plus classroom time. They are geared toward players entering grades 8-12 and are held on college campuses staffed with variety of college coaches who work with the players in groups and individually. Participants can either come each day or stay overnight. The cost ranges from $850 to $1400 (plus an additional $100 for overnight campers) depending on the length of the camp. Enrollment is limited to a maximum of 5 players per court and is done on a first-come first-served basis. The 2017 dates are as follows:

  • June 16-19,  June 23-25, June 23-27 University of Pennsylvania
  • July 10-12 Yale University

Coaches attend from almost every level of college tennis who are not only there to help the campers but who are also looking to recruit players.  Since the recruiting process now starts as early as 9th grade, the opportunity to begin exploring and thinking about the college process and college tennis is invaluable for both older and younger players. The camp is a great tool for coaches to get to know your player’s personality, see how he/she interacts with peers, and how he/she trains and competes.

For more information, click here to go to the website and click here to listen to my podcast with the founder, Tarek Merchant – be sure to listen all the way to the end for a special discount offer on Collegiate Exposure Camps for the ParentingAces community!

Ed Krass Collegiate Exposure Camps

Another highly-recommended exposure camp is the series offered by Ed Krass (click here), now in its 29th year. These camps are open to players age 14-18 and are held at UVA, Lehigh, and Brandeis universities for 2017. If you register before April 30, the cost ranges from $645 to $3300 depending on the length of the camp. If you register after April 30, the price increases $50.

The Krass camps helps players:

  • Improve matchplay strategy, shot selection and shot placement
  • Achieve better results against higher ranked players
  • Improve footwork, speed and level of fitness
  • Learn about the college recruiting process and how it works
  • Learn how to conduct a college tennis search
  • Understand the various levels of college tennis
  • Identify the profiles of specific college tennis programs
  • Network with head college coaches from across the U.S.
Showcases

There are many options for college showcases around the US and abroad. The following is a list of showcases that parents have recommended along with links to their websites. Be sure to compare the dates, cost, and list of attending coaches/colleges when choosing the right showcase for your child.

  • Donovan Showcase: This year’s showcases are being held at Yale and Harvard with a showcase coming in January 2018 at the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. The cost ranges from $395 to $550 with a substantial discount for Donovan Recruiting clients. Click here to go to the website.
  • I’m Recruitable: This showcase is held between the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl tournaments in December in South Florida. For information on the 2017 showcase, click here.
  • ITA College Showcase: TennisRecruiting.net sponsored a showcase during the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida, in December 2016 (click here to read about it). Entry was limited to 32 boys and 32 girls currently in grades 9-12. According to TRN’s Julie Wrege, they are still in discussions with the ITA about doing another showcase in 2017, and I will post an update once I get more information. In the meantime, TRN is sponsoring a College Coaches Forum in conjunction with the Georgia Junior Open — the largest junior tournament in the state of Georgia – on Saturday, July 15th, at 7:30pm. This will be their 7th year conducting this forum.
  • TennisSmart: Former top British player, Sarah Borwell, offers a college showcase to her UK clients free of charge. If you live and train in the UK, you can get more information on TennisSmart by clicking here. You can also hear more from Sarah about her services in our podcast here.

If your child has already attended a camp or showcase, please share your experience in the Comments below.

Little Mo Announces K-Swiss As Official Shoe & Clothing Sponsor

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation announces K-Swiss as the “Official Apparel” and “Official Footwear” of the “Road to the Little Mo Nationals” in addition to the “Little Mo” Internationals in California, New York and Florida.

“K-Swiss is proud and excited to be the Official Apparel and Footwear partner for the ‘Little Mo’ and to be involved with the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation,” remarked Mike Miringoff, Global Director of K-Swiss Tennis. “Little Mo is well-respected and important as it is the first entry point for kids into tournament tennis building a foundation for their future and the sport. At K-Swiss, we are known as a strong tennis brand that is passionate about the sport and our product reflects this with its high quality and performance. We look forward to participating in the Little Mo and meeting the players and parents!”

“The Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation is absolutely delighted to have K-Swiss as our Official Apparel and Footwear Sponsor for our ‘Road to the Little Mo Nationals’ yearlong circuit and for our three international tournaments,” said Cindy Brinker Simmons, daughter of “Little Mo” and President of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation. “This stylish and iconic footwear company has been setting a standard of excellence in the tennis shoe and apparel industry for over 50 years. Just as our elite and talented young competitors are the future champions of tennis, our esteemed collaboration with K-Swiss continues to partner us with the best-in-class and most reputable sports brands in the world. We are just thrilled with our new relationship with K-Swiss!”

What does this mean for Little Mo players? According to Miringoff, starting at the end of April 2017, K-Swiss will be providing a player gift for each Little Mo Sectionals event. For the Regionals, Nationals, and Internationals K-Swiss will provide each player with a t-shirt. Also at the Regionals and Nationals K-Swiss will provide gifts to the Sportsmanship Award winners, most likely a pair of tennis shoes. An added bonus is that all Little Mo players will have the opportunity to buy K-Swiss clothing and shoes at a special discounted rate throughout the year.

Named in memory of tennis champion Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly, the “Little Mo” circuit of tournaments is the premier challenge for juniors ages 8-12 to compete against others who are the same age at the sectional, regional, national, and international level. The mission of the “Little Mo” tournaments is to further the development of junior tennis worldwide by providing players with an opportunity to: a) progress in tennis – a healthy sport for a lifetime; b) build strong values and character; c) learn good sportsmanship; and d) meet new friends from across the country and world. The youngest and brightest stars in junior tennis will be competing in the “Road to the Little Mo Nationals” and the “Little Mo” Internationals.

This year, MCB is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its “Road to the Little Mo Nationals”. It is a yearlong circuit that begins in the spring with “Little Mo” sectional tournaments held in 18 different cities throughout the United States. The quarterfinalists (top 8) from the sectional tournaments will advance to the four “Little Mo” regionals held in the summer. The semifinalists (top 4) from the regional tournaments will advance to the prestigious ‘Little Mo” Nationals, which features the top 160 boys and girls from across the United States competing at the Austin Tennis Academy in Austin, Texas from October 14-17.

The “Little Mo” Internationals were created in 2006 to allow young juniors to see different styles of play from around the world. The three international tournaments include the 4th Annual “Little Mo” Internationals in California to be hosted by the Tennis Club at Newport Beach Tennis Club (June 30-July 4), the 6th Annual “Little Mo” Internationals in New York to be held at the historic West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills (August 21-26) and the 10th Annual “Little Mo” Internationals in Florida to be held at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens (December 2-7), both of which are open to any player worldwide. Last year, 450 players from 50 different countries competed in the “Little Mo” Internationals in Florida. K-Swiss will have a presence at the “Little Mo” Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals, and Internationals where players and parents will be able to demo new K-Swiss apparel, footwear and other products.

For more information about the “Road to the Little Mo Nationals, please visit www.mcbtennis.org.
For more information about the “Little Mo” Internationals in California, please visit www.littlemosocal.com.
For more information about the “Little Mo” Internationals in New York, please visit www.littlemoforesthills.com.
For more information about the “Little Mo” Internationals in Florida, please visit www.littlemoflorida.com

If you have any questions, please email cartennis@aol.com.

ABOUT K-SWISS
K-Swiss is a heritage American tennis brand. During its 50-year history, the company has been making some of the most innovative, high quality, comfortable tennis footwear in the sport. K-Swiss is 100% invested in the sport of Tennis and committed to helping players play their very best and win at every level; from a competitive junior player or adult player, to the greatest doubles team of all-time, Mike and Bob Bryan.

ABOUT MCB
In 1953, Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly was the first woman to capture the elusive Grand Slam by winning the Australian Championships, the French Championships, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Championships in one calendar year. She is still the only American woman and the youngest person at age 18 to have accomplished this magnificent feat. Maureen was known as the incomparable “Little Mo.” Her powerful strokes were compared to the USS Missouri battleship nicknamed “Big Mo.” She won Wimbledon three years in a row (1952-54) and was voted “Woman Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press for three consecutive years (1951-53). In July 1954, “Little Mo’s” brilliant tennis career abruptly ended with a leg injury suffered from a horseback riding accident. Her competitive days now behind her, Maureen focused on promoting her beloved sport and, in 1968, she joined her dear friend Nancy Jeffett to establish the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968. Her untimely death to cancer occurred on the eve of Wimbledon in 1969. She was 34 years of age.

The “Little Mo” tournaments are sponsored by the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation in memory of its tennis champion namesake Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly. Known by her nickname “Little Mo”, she was the first woman to win the Grand Slam of tennis at only 18 years of age in 1953. Maureen Connolly is still the youngest and the only American woman to have accomplished this magnificent feat. Today, the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation continues to benefit talented boys and girls throughout the country and around the world. In its 49th year, the foundation is involved in a myriad of activities including, but not limited to, the “Little Mo” national and international tennis tournament circuit, the “Mini Mo,” (ages 5-8), the “Big Mo,” (ages 13 and 14), the National Junior Tennis League (inner-city youth program), wheelchair tennis, international team competitions, and distributing travel grants and sportsmanship awards to deserving players.

Building Tennis IQ

Coach Jorge Capestany does these amazing videos on his YouTube channel, many of which I’ve shared on the ParentingAces Facebook page over the years.

His latest video is actually a livestream presentation that Jorge gave at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Florida. Thankfully, the USTA recorded the stream and has posted it online for all of us to watch.

In this presentation, Jorge explains why simply having the best strokes doesn’t necessarily produce wins in tennis. It’s more important to understand where and how you’re hitting the ball and what your opponent is likely to do in return, much like playing a game of chess. Awareness is the key word here. Jorge illustrates how to teach these concepts by having 2 junior players demonstrate them throughout the presentation.

If you want to watch the Tennis IQ presentation please click here. Jorge says, ‘You should move forward in the video to the 11:30 mark because that is when we started!”

This is a great presentation for players and coaches, as well as Tennis Parents, to watch. Some coaches are actually carving out time during training to show it to their players as a group. You know how much I love that idea!

I hope you enjoy it. It’s almost 2 hours long (!), so find some time in your busy schedule and get started.

Again, thanks to the USTA for sharing the footage. Watch it HERE!

The Podcast

Photo courtesy of www.lifechurchlancaster.org

My main goal with ParentingAces has always been to help Tennis Parents avoid some of the pitfalls that my family encountered during the Junior Tennis Journey. In addition to the articles I post here, I am also constantly scouring the internet for information that will further the mission of ParentingAces then posting it on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ pages, so I hope you’re following ParentingAces on those platforms, too. Another good way to keep up with the happenings is to subscribe to our e-newsletter (click here to sign up) for updates that come right to your inbox.

Perhaps my favorite part of the ParentingAces online presence is our podcasts. I have interviewed some incredible people over the years, and I feel like that’s where I can really dig deep into what it means to be part of the junior and college tennis world. A huge thank-you goes out to our 2017 sponsor, 10sballs.com, for believing in the ParentingAces mission and giving us a boost so we can keep growing and improving!

If you haven’t ever heard one of my podcasts, I hope you’ll check them out then share them with your tennis community. There are several ways to listen, but perhaps the easiest way is via the iTunes Podcast app where you can download the episodes then listen at your convenience (click here to go to the iTunes podcast subscription page). One of my followers told me he listens during his daily commute to work; another listens while on the treadmill at the gym. However you choose to tune in, I would love to hear your feedback on the guests, the interviews, and who you’d like me to invite for future podcasts.

Of course, if you do like what you hear, I would greatly appreciate it if you would leave a review and rate the podcast on iTunes. Click here for a step-by-step of how to do that.

Thank you for continuing to help me promote ParentingAces to bring our content to a wider audience. The better educated we parents are, the better the tennis experience for our children. It’s a long, tough journey, but it can be a little less tough when we all work together.

Privates vs. Squads

The following article was written by Graeme Brimblecombe and is reprinted with permission from LifeTime Tennis of Australia’s website (you can find the original article here). I found it incredibly detailed and enlightening in regards to how junior players should be spending their on-court time and how we parents should be spending our training dollars. I hope you feel the same way. Enjoy!

Dear Parents and Players,

Over the past year there has been a significant spike in parents and players wanting more and more private lessons and after talking to parents and players about their reason I want to dispel a lot of the myths that surround an increased dependence that seems attached to having a “Private Coach”.

The first part of all this is that a private coach is necessary in terms of setting the scene for what players should be doing over the rest of the week or short term. There should be a discussion and work done on the areas of a player’s game that they should be working on over the next few days/ weeks. This “Private Lesson” should be as much a goal setting session as it is an on court session and in fact if the coach didn’t hit a ball or stood on the court the value should be no less.

In that lies the problem. Some players and parents are not willing to take responsibility in their own development and work on areas of their games in the other times they are on court. This means that the only time a player is likely to improve is when a coach is on court with them. If a player is unable to work and improve independently it is unlikely they will ascend to a very high level of the game and at times when things get a little harder to improve ( which happens to every player) they are likely to take the easy option and give up. They have not invested in their own development. Here’s a phrase I used to use a lot when I was working with TA and its various subsidiaries.

AS A PLAYER YOU MUST BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPATANT IN YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT.

Meaning that Players who want to be successful and play at a high standard have to be significantly more invested in their development than what a coach or parent is.

Here’s some simple tests. Ask yourself the following.

When was the last time my child asked me to:

  1. Get to training early so he / she could warm up and prepare before going on court.
  2. Asked if they could go to the courts and hit some serves.
  3. Rang another player and asked for a hit.
  4. Organised some practice sets.
  5. Did extra physical work at home. Stretching / running / movement / strength
  6. Watched tennis matches on TV
  7. Stayed behind after losing in a tournament to “Watch” more matches.
  8. Wrote down or did an evaluation of their tennis goals

Now ask yourself where the motivation is?

If it is not with the player there is only 2 other possible motivations. Either the parent or the coach. It should be neither.

THIS NEEDS TO BE PLAYER DRIVEN.

Here’s a few other attitudes to be aware of.

Does your child ever come off from training:

  1. Down in the dumps, whinging, sooking, looking for attention because they have lost or not played well.
  2. Do you or your child put more importance on performance or on results?
  3. Do you or your child place the blame for a loss on opponent, coach, parent or other outside factors for that outcome?
  4. Are you or your child more focused on who they are playing or training against than performance?
  5. Does your child train / play unconditionally no matter what else may be going on outside of tennis or do you / they make excuses for their performance?
  6. Does your child ask you not to watch their matches?
  7. How often do you or your child cancel a tennis session for an extra – curricular school activity?
  8. As a parent do I send my child off to a coach or squad because the person or players in the squad motivate him or her?
  9. Does my child motivate the other players he or she is training with?

Ask your child 1 simple question. WHO DO YOU REALLY PLAY FOR? Be careful parents the answer may be a bit of a surprise. If the answer is themselves, does their actions meet their answer.

I’ve been coaching for 30 years and have working with a world number 1 and various other top 10, grand slam, Davis and Fed cup players and managed / coached a Junior Davis Cup Championship Team. As time goes by more and more tennis parents and players are turning to the coaches to perform some kind of magic on their tennis careers.

From my experience you are all looking in the wrong place. Players need to take a look in the mirror. As that is where the magic is. It lies within and what you as a player is prepared to do.

If you think private lessons are the most important part of your players program you are facilitating the very attitude that that gives your child less chance and not more of being successful in this game.

The squad lessons need to be the single most important sessions each player participates in throughout a week. They offer an opportunity to work on so much of what tennis is really all about. However, often parents and players prefer to miss squads in preference of privates. This attitude feeds the beast that will prevent the most important learning opportunities being, accountability and ownership of their own development.

If players would like to be success at this game from the age of 12 they will need to be on court for the majority 5 – 6 days a week.

A balanced on court program will include all of the below.

  1. 1 Private lesson per week (preferable bi weekly) and doesn’t have to be hitting.
  2. 3 Squad sessions per week.
  3. 1 – 2 hitting session per week. – with a player of a similar standard
  4. 1 – 2 set play match play session per week – with a player of a similar standard

These sessions that are self – directed and offer self – ownership are the sessions that players need the most. Develop independence and ownership in your players.

Parents stay out of it, do not get involved in those sessions. They are not your training sessions.

The first part of this is to understand where the feeling or need for private lessons are driven from. After speaking to a number of parents and coaches these seem to be the main points.

From a parents perspective the following were common messages:

  1. There seems to be the desire to receive personal tuition and more focused lesson with the players
  2. The players received more technical attention.

From a coaches point of view:

  1. Coaches generally love private lessons because it fills up more on court time.
  2. To get over a technical hurdle that a player is struggling with
  3. Set the scene with players for the rest of the week

Think about this, if private lessons are so important why is it that the Tennis Australia National Academy programs consist almost entirely of squad lessons and they generally farm the private lessons back to the private enterprise coaches. If private lessons were so important why would they not want to do them themselves.

Over the past 30 years in the industry I can’t think back of a single successful player that I have worked with or seen working that has had a big focus on private lessons.

  • 5 years at Tennis QLD and barely conducted a one on one lesson, all squads.
  • 3 Years as AIS men’s coach and barely conducted a private lesson.
  • 2 Years as NSWIS and TNSW Head coach and didn’t do a private lesson.

These programs have all produced world class tennis players and yet private lessons were an absolute rarity.

Our best players for as long back as I can think did very little one on one lessons with a coach. However the players who have been successful have been those who have been able to put the time in on court throughout their developing years.

Parents I urge you to change your mind set in this space and look to balance out your child’s on court program.

Now the challenge is to get the children to be accountable by focussing on the things they are being asking to work on by the coach while they are not with a coach. When they start to do this then you may start to see where the magic really is.

From my point of view there are a range of benefits that squad session can give that private lessons do not.

  1. The simple volume of work players can get in squad.
  2. Players can and should be working on their technic at all times which should be reinforced by the coaches in squads.
  3. Players get the opportunity to work on more tactical outcomes which drive the technic they use.
  4. Players generally have to be more aware (and are aligned to the match play) of the decision making process and the way in which they cope with different situations.
  5. There are much more live ball activities teaching a greater variety of options and choices available.
  6. There is in most cases more movement and physical activities involved in squad sessions.
  7. There is much more Serve and ROS activities involved in squads again creating a more realistic outcome.

When you ask your coach to do more sessions and he says you are better off doing more squads and more hitting, set play or serves and ROS he is really someone who cares about you. The coach that says let’s do a private lesson or another private lesson is probably someone who cares more about himself.

We get a heck of a lot of people coming along talking about wanting their kids to become better tennis players. I can understand them pulling out if they are sick or injured however the majority of our squad cancellations are now other extra – curricular activities that have nothing to do with tennis.

The frustration for us is that the attitude is that we want you to make our kids better but they don’t want to make a commitment to that. They want to pick and choose and do a portion of the work required and still get a great outcome. I’m here to say parents that is not going to happen.

Have a think about it from this perspective. Why do kids go to school 5 days a week 38 – 40 weeks of the year and 12 years to develop the skills required for university or to go into the workforce?  Why do you think it is ok to look at tennis any different?

The MAGIC is in the dedication and discipline. They are the 2 most important personal qualities required to be successful. By the time your child is playing at a top 20 level in his or her age group in the state everyone playing at this level has talent. Talent WILL NOT be enough. What is going to give your child a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE from this point forward. I don’t think it exists in more private lessons. What do you think?

Nation’s Top High School Tennis Teams Compete for National Championship

The DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships is a national invitational high school tennis tournament hosted annually in Chattanooga, TN. The event, which originated in 2008 in Louisville, KY, has hosted thousands of student-athletes from more than 170 different high schools over the last nine years including 100 Team State Champions, 96 Individual State Champions, 59 High School All-Americans and over 150 players that have signed to play NCAA Division I tennis. I will be attending for the second year and will have the opportunity to interview players, parents, coaches, and others involved with this incredible event. Stay tuned for an update early next week!

The 2017 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships returns to Chattanooga, TN for its 10th Anniversary beginning this Friday. The national high school invitational tournament will feature its largest field in tournament history hosting 64 teams from 13 states. The event will host more than 1,000 matches at various facilities throughout Chattanooga on March 24-25th. The 2017 tournament field includes some of the nation’s top high school tennis programs with 16 defending team state champions and 12 defending state finalists participating in the event. The field also features three former high school tennis All-Americans and more than 30 seniors that have already committed to play collegiate tennis.

The Girls A Division features six defending state champions and a pair of former tournament champions. The field is led by top seed Walton, the 2015 Girls A Division Champions, which is coming off a Georgia Class 6A State Championship. The Raiders are led by 5-star recruit and James Madison University signee Liz Norman and sisters Emily and Grace Gaskins.. Defending Girls A Division Champion Baylor, the second seed in the event, is seeking their fifth tournament championship. The Red Raiders, defending Tennessee Division II Class AA State Champions, return five of their top six players from last season’s team including 2016 Tournament MVP Drew Hawkins, a Belmont signee. The third seed in the event is defending Tennessee Division II Class A State Champion Webb School of Knoxville. The Spartans are led by a trio of 3-star recruits in Lauren Yoon, Carina Dagotto and Audrey Yoon. The fourth seed is Jackson Academy, defending Mississippi Independent School Class 4A State Champions, led by TCU signee Meredith Roberts and 4-star junior Faatimah Bashir. Top players will include 5-star rated freshman Elizabet Verizova (North Gwinnett), 4-star recruit and Indiana signee Michelle McKamey (McCracken County) and Alabama signee and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Mallory Gilmer (Etowah).

The Girls B Division features the top three finishers from last year’s Girls B Division. The top seed will be defending Girls B Division Champion, Milton. The Eagles are led by 3-star freshman Juliana Mascagni. The second seed is Tennessee High which is led by 5-star junior Chloe Hamlin. The third seed is Starr’s Mill, 2016 Girls B Division Consolation Winner, led by junior Elena Wernecke. The fourth seed is Riverwood which is led by 4-star junior transfer Elizabeth Goines.

The Boys A Division features a loaded field with eight defending state champions and three former tournament champions. The top overall seed is Spartanburg, defending Boys A Division Champion and South Carolina Class 4A State Champions. The Vikings feature a loaded roster that includes Clemson commit and 2016 Tournament MVP Chambers Easterling and 4-star recruits Spencer Brown and Bryce Keim. The second overall seed is defending Georgia Class 6A State Champion Northview. Senior Jeremy Yuan, a Chicago signee, and high-rated sophomore Gavin Segraves lead the way for the Titans. The third seed is 2016 Boys A Division runner-up Saint Xavier. The defending Kentucky State Champions are led by the duo of Furman signee Drew Singerman and junior Alex Wesbrooks. The fourth seed is Southlake Carroll. The Dragons, led by junior 5-star recruit Arman Dave, finished the fall season ranked 4th in Class 6A in the Lone Star State. Top players will include 5-star junior Nicholas Watson (Catholic), Vanderbilt signee George Harwell (Montgomery Bell), 4-star junior Antonio Mora (Ransom Everglades), 5-star freshman Presley Thieneman (Trinity) and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Zachary Elliott (Hinsdale Central).

The Boys B Division is led by Georgia powerhouse Etowah. The Eagles are led by freshman blue-chip recruit Josh Raab and Appalachian State signee Cole Heller. The second seed is Milton led by the duo of juniors Justin Neibert and Benjamin Falk. The third seed is Georgia Class 4A state finalist Carrollton. The Trojans are led by 3-star senior Carver Arant. The fourth seed is Brookwood. The Broncos are led by senior Brooks Berry and sophomore Reuben Dayal. Top Players include 4-star junior Jefferson Hobbs (Niceville), 4-star senior Ryan Olps (North Gwinnett) and 4-star sophomore Cole Brainard (Dunwoody).

The Boys C Division is led by top seed and defending Boys C Division Champions George Washington. The Patriots are led by sophomore Anthony McIntosh. The second seed is DuPont Manual led by senior Erich Endres. Top players include 4-star junior Brooks Green (McGill-Toolen), sophomore Hussain Alzubaidi (Siegel) and 4-star 8th grader Walker Stearns (Saint George’s).

For more information visit the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships website at www.hstennischampionships.com.

Remembering Sol

Photo credit: Melanie Rubin

One year ago today, I got a phone call from my friend, Melanie. Usually, when Melanie calls, it’s to chat and catch up on our kids and our lives. Not this time. This time, Melanie called to deliver some devastating news: that our dear friend, Sol Schwartz, had died.

Sol’s sudden death took everyone by surprise. This man was the poster boy for fitness and healthy living. He worked out religiously, ate well, avoided drugs and alcohol completely, and was one of those people who spread good karma wherever he went. To say he was beloved is an understatement as evidenced by the SRO at his funeral and the fact that his long-time place of employment, Holabird Sports, actually closed shop for the day to honor his memory.

So, now a year has passed and a lot has happened. Sol’s daughter graduated from high school and started her first year in college. Sol’s son is thriving on his high school baseball team. Sol’s wife has surrounded herself with friends and family who are helping her live in a world without her husband. And, we, Sol’s friends, have found many ways to remember him and share his legacy.

For me, that way is #theSol junior tournament.

I won’t repost the details of our first #theSol event (you can click here to read about it), but I do want to talk about what the tournament looks like as we move into Year 2.

Because of the success of our first go ’round, we were able to secure additional sponsor money – HUGE thank you to 10sballs.com! – to kick off our next round of events. UTR is continuing to be a major part of the tournaments and has helped connect me with tournament directors in various cities who will be hosting their own #theSol tournaments in 2017.

The first confirmed event will be played at Georgia Gwinnett College just outside Atlanta July 17-19, 2017 with tournament director David Stolle running the show alongside GGC head coach Chase Hodges. David runs numerous UTR events throughout the year, so I feel good about putting #theSol in his very capable hands!

We are hoping to have Sol’s tournaments in the Baltimore area, one in Florida, and one in Texas, but those events are still in the negotiation phase as we work to secure venues and dates. Of course, as we nail down the details, I will share them here and on the ParentingAces social media outlets, so please keep these tournaments on your radar as you plan your junior player’s schedule for the remainder of 2017.

We are working to attract additional sponsors so we can continue to provide a top-notch tournament experience to the players and their families. My goal is to have #theSol be a true reflection of all that Sol wished for junior tennis. It’s a tall order, but I’m confident in our small but highly dedicated committee and the tournament directors who have expressed an interest in being part of this special series.

It looks like we have found a way to continue Sol’s work to #SaveCollegeTennis as well. We will be establishing a fund – using some of the sponsor dollars and net proceeds of the events – through a 501(c) non-profit organization that will award grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut. I was hoping to partner with the ITA on this part of things, but there are too many hurdles for that to happen this year. Maybe in future years we will be able to conquer those hurdles and work with the governing body of college tennis – I think it’s a partnership that makes perfect sense.

As is fitting, I spent my morning playing tennis, wearing my Holabird long-sleeve that Sol included as a little treat in an order he filled for my son shortly after we first met. For the record, I won my match which, I’m convinced, had as much to do with my Forever Cheerleader Sol as it did with any so-called skill I exhibited on the court. Like all who had the privilege of knowing Sol, I am missing my friend today.

In my religion, we remember and honor those who have left us on the anniversary of their death. It’s called observing yartzeit, a Yiddish word equivalent to yor year + tsayt time. Today, I am remembering and honoring Sol by sharing him with all of you. I hope you will help me continue to honor him by participating in #theSol events, either as a participant or sponsor or volunteer, and by supporting your local college tennis teams. I will be cheering on my favorite team this weekend and will know that Sol is smiling down as he watches his legacy live on.