Checking in and catching up!

hhir-ketchup-catch-upI feel like it’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted anything of substance here, so I’m going to attempt to do a little catching up.  It’s been a crazy few weeks with the end of school, my Big Trip (see for my trip report and photos), our state qualifier, and our sectional closed.

First of all, I need to give a huge shout-out to Mark at Grand Slam Tennis Tours for getting us absolutely phenomenal tickets for the French Open!  If you are planning to go to any of the big pro tennis events, these folks are very reliable and very fun to work with – my first experience with them was at last year’s Indian Wells tournament, and I wound up sitting in the same row as Larry Ellison (just 2 sections over from him)!  Our seats at Roland Garros in the Chatrier stadium were great – we were in the 2nd row of the upper level at about the service line on the same side as the chair umpire.  We had a perfect view of the entire court plus some really fun folks sitting nearby.

Now, let me talk about the end of my kid’s school year – oy!  I think I’ve mentioned that my son views school as a necessary evil and simply tolerates being there each day.  I have come to accept the fact that he is a very different type of student than his sisters – they were always pretty self-motivated to perform at the highest level in school and continued to do so even in college.  My son, on the other hand, requires some “gentle” prodding as well as some external motivation to get the job done in terms of his grades.  After a lot of frustration on my part, I’ve come to accept that he will not be taking 4 AP classes each semester or striving to be part of the National Honor Society, and I’m okay with that.  He reached his goal of a 3.0 for this past semester but not without a ton of last-minute final exam stress, and I’m proud of him for meeting his goal.  Now, it’s summer vacation, so we all get a bit of a break from the daily worrying about school, thank goodness.

As soon as school finished, my husband and I left for Europe, so my son was home (with house-sitters) and training hard for our state qualifier in Macon.  I had arranged for his coach, Julius, to take him to the tournament, and I knew he was in great hands!  After a quality first-round victory in the main draw, my son lost an almost 3-hour 3-setter to a tough opponent and moved into the backdraw where he then faced his doubles partner.  They played the first set, which my son lost 6-4, then rain ended play for the remainder of the day.  The next morning in his warm-up, my son tweaked his shoulder and wound up having to serve underhanded for the 2nd set.  Despite that limitation (his serve is typically a big weapon), he managed to win 4 games but still lost the match 4 and 4.  Not the outcome he had expected or hoped for in this event.  Since the coaches had to stay at the tournament with the other players, my son snagged a ride home with a buddy and got to work preparing for our sectional closed in Mobile.

That’s where we’ve been for the past several days.  Down in Mobile in the extreme heat and humidity.  But, my son was prepared, physically and mentally, to do battle down there.  He had a tough but winnable first round match against a boy who will be playing for UNC-Asheville in the Fall.  They both fought hard, but my son went down 3 and 4 after about 2 hours.  His first backdraw match was tricky.  He had beaten the kid pretty handily earlier in the year and felt he could do the same this time.  My son won the first set quickly 6-0 but then went on what Darren Cahill calls a “walkabout” in the 2nd, barely holding on to take it 7-6 (7-2 in the tiebreaker).  That was it for Day 1, and we went back to the hotel for a shower and then grabbed dinner nearby.

The start of Day 2 went well with my son winning his next backdraw match 6-1, 6-1 pretty quickly against an opponent who is fairly inexperienced in sectional tournament play.  There was only one round of singles scheduled, but doubles started in the afternoon.  My son and his partner made quick work of their 2nd round opponents (they had a bye in the first round), winning 8-1.  Then, they faced a strong seeded pair from Atlanta and put up quite a fight before losing 8-4.  Since there is no backdraw in doubles, they were done.

Day 3 was Round 3 of the backdraw, and my son’s opponent was a friend from Atlanta who he hasn’t played since the 14s.  He knew he was in for a tough one, especially since his opponent had been playing so well going into this tournament.  They both started out pretty rough, breaking each other for most of the first set until the opponent held then broke my son’s serve to close it out 6-3.  The second set started the same way, with numerous breaks of serve.  My son got down 5-2 but found a way to get back to 5-4 before being broken in the final game.  It was a tough loss for him, for sure, and the ride home from Mobile was very quiet.

Now we’re back home and trying to figure out how my son will spend the rest of his summer, tennis-wise.  There have been some major changes at the academy where he trains and lots of rumors flying around the tournament scene about exactly what happened.  All I know is that his coach, Julius, is still there and still committed to working with him, so, for that, I am very grateful!


Trip Report


I’m back from an incredible 2-week adventure in Paris, Mallorca, and Barcelona, and I’ve started posting my travel journal (and photos) online.  If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it at  I’ll be adding more entries as time allows.

To get you started, here’s my first post:

A lot went on junior-tennis-wise around here while I was gone – I promise to update y’all in the next few days!  We’re heading to the Southern Closed in Mobile, Alabama tomorrow.  If all goes well, I’ll be broadcasting my radio show from there on Monday at 12 ET, so please tune in!

Europe was fabulous, but I’m glad to be back with you – I missed y’all!


Sixteen of the world’s top boys’ 12-and-under players battled for the title of 2013 Longines Future Tennis Aces champion last week, with Germany’s Rudolf Molleker finally taking home the championship in a dominating performance. For the first time, the tournament was played in front of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the center of Paris.

Molleker defeated Carlos Sanchez Jover of Spain 4-1, 4-0 in the final in the fourth annual tournament. Following the final match, the two had the opportunity to meet Longines Rising Tennis Stars Ryan Harrison [Note: I got to see Ryan’s match vs. John Isner at Roland Garros. More on that when I return to the States next week!] and Sabine Lisicki and teamed with Fabrice Santoro, patron of the 2013 edition of the Longines Future Tennis Aces, and former ATP star Arnaud Clément of France, friend of Longines, in an exhibition doubles match.

Molleker dropped just five games in four matches en route to the title. Both finalists won a Longines watch and will receive tennis equipment courtesy of Longines until their 16th birthday. Countries participating in Future Tennis Aces program included Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the U.S. The United States representative at the event was Adam Neff of Bradenton, Fla., who faced Molleker in the first round.

Longines has been the official Partner and Timekeeper of the French Open at Roland Garros since 2007. For the first time this year, the U.S. representative was selected by virtue of winning the USTA Boys’ 12s National Spring Championships played in Delray Beach, Fla., in April. The Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament is part of Longines’ global commitment to support and develop tennis’ superstars of tomorrow.

Longines has been based at Saint-Imier, Switzerland, since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to tradition, elegance and performance. It has generations of experience as the official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations. Over the years, the brand has built strong and long-lasting links with the equestrian sports. Longines is a member of The Swatch Group S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. With an excellent reputation for creating refined timepieces, the brand, whose emblem is the winged hourglass, has outlets in over 130 countries.

Getting to Know Longines Future Tennis Ace Adam Neff of Bradenton, Fla.

USTA Boys’ 12s Spring National Champion to Compete in Paris, France,
May 30-June 1 Against Qualifiers from 15 Countries Around the World

WEEHAWKEN, N.J., (May 25, 2013) – Eleven-year-old Adam Neff’s ultimate tennis goal is not unlike any other top-ranked junior tennis player: He wants to be No. 1 in the world someday.

Considered the No. 1 12-and-under player in the United States, Neff has the top USTA 12s ranking and a recent United States Tennis Association gold ball to prove it, having captured the USTA Boys’ 12s National Spring Championships presented by Longines last month in Delray Beach, Fla.

By virtue of his victory, the Alpha Omega Academy fifth-grader Neff will represent the U.S. in the fourth annual Longines Future Tennis Aces May 30-June 1 in Paris during the first week of the French Open. For the first time this year, the Longines Future Tennis Aces 16-player competition will take place in the center of Paris in front of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).

In addition to winning an all-expense-paid trip, Neff will compete for the chance to receive financing for his tennis equipment until his 16th birthday, courtesy of Longines. Neff will test his skills against and play against some of the best 12-and-under players in the world as countries such as Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom will all be sending their best for the chance to be named the 2013 Longines Future Tennis Aces champion.

“I want to turn pro and be No. 1,” Neff said before departing for Europe, where he will spend a week training on the red clay in Barcelona prior to the Future Tennis Aces tournament. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment. But when I finally reach my goal it will all be worth it.”

Before leaving for his European adventure, Neff, who is coached full-time by Lance Luciani, took a few minutes to answer some questions.

Question: How did you and Lance meet?

Neff: “I met Lance when I lived in Cincinnati. I met him through a friend of my dad who recommended him. His daughter played tennis too. I lived with him for a summer and now I train with him full-time.”

Q: What are you looking forward to most about your trip to Paris?

Neff: “Well, there won’t be a lot of time for sight-seeing, but just being there for the French Open is going to be amazing. And seeing all the best kids from the other countries will be cool too; to see how strong they are.”

Q: You’ve been featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in The Crowd” section, interviewed by newspapers and even appeared in-studio on a news-talk station in your hometown. Do you like all the attention you’ve received?

Neff: “It’s great. I love all the attention. It’s pretty cool to be interviewed and to have people ask you questions and see the story in the news.”

Q: What are some of your hobbies besides tennis?

Neff: “I like playing video games and jumping on a trampoline and when I have time I play laser tag.”

Q: How many hours a day to you spend training?

Neff: “I do two hours in the morning, two and a half hours in the afternoon and then an hour of fitness in the evening. So it’s about five and a half hours total.”

Q: Who is your favorite player? And why?

Neff: ”Rafael Nadal, of course. He’s got the most fight and he makes you want to go out and play!”

Q: What is your best shot? And what do you have to work on?

Neff: “My forehand is my weapon, but my backhand and serve are close behind.
Let’s say my drop shots are a work in progress.”

Q: How many words do you know in French?

Neff: “‘Bonjour’ is about it.

Q: Any last comments?

Neff: “I just want to thank Longines for all they’ve done and for putting on such a great event. I know Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf are the Longines spokespeople. I hope to meet them someday.”

Longines has been based at Saint-Imier, Switzerland, since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to tradition, elegance and performance. It has generations of experience as the official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations.

Longines is a member of The Swatch Group S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. With an excellent reputation for creating refined timepieces, the brand, whose emblem is the winged hourglass, has outlets in over 130 countries.

France & Spain

I am on vacay with my husband (and WITHOUT our children) for the next two weeks so won’t be posting here for a bit. I will, however, be tweeting regularly, especially from my time at the French Open, so please follow me @ParentingAces if you’re interested!

Have a great couple of weeks! Au revoir!

More Slashing of Opportunities

slashing swordIn case you haven’t heard (!), USTA changed the national junior competition schedule, effective January 1, 2014.  A big reason for the change, according to USTA, is to drive competition back to the sections instead of having so many big national tournaments requiring travel all over the country.

Those opposed to the changes, including Yours Truly, kept asking USTA what it was doing to ensure the sections would step up and fill in the gaps.  We never got a clear answer.

And, now, that which we feared – that sections would not take on that task but would actually slash competitive opportunities instead – has come to fruition.

I found out this week that the Southern California section is taking a big step in that direction (click here to read the information posted on its website which includes a link to a Comment form where you can share your opinion before the plan is finalized).  Traditionally, all SoCal “designated” tournaments (comparable to our Bullfrogs in the Southern section) have had open draws.  That is, any player who signed up got to play.  And many of the age groups wound up with 128 or 256 draws played over two consecutive weekends.  However, beginning January 1, 2014, Southern Cal will limit its designated draws to either 96 or 64 players (I’m still not clear on how they’ll make that decision for each event), in essence eliminating the opportunity to compete at that level for hundreds of juniors.

The reasons SCTA gives for the reduction in draw size have to do with weather delays (it rains, on average, 16 days a year in Southern California), lack of enough large facilities, and difficulty in completing the large draws over two weekends – all valid reasons. However, the fact that these reductions come at the very same time as the reduction in national play opportunities under the 2014 changes seems short-sighted.  Isn’t this the time that sections should be increasing opportunities to compensate for what’s happening at the national level?

Interesting to note is the fact that a member of the 2013-2014 National Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee (the one responsible for passing the new 2014 national schedule) also chairs the committee in the SoCal section responsible for these designated tournament draw reductions.  She obviously understands that the sections are supposed to be picking up the slack left by the national reductions; however, instead of making sure her section added competitive opportunities for its players, she pushed through this major slashing of opportunities in her own backyard.  I just don’t get it!

To put things in perspective, at this year’s Southern California Anaheim Designated, 166 boys and 105 girls would not have gotten to play if the SCTA had limited the tournament to a 64 draw.  And the Boys 16s are going to be hit the hardest since that is typically the group with the largest number of players. The 16s is usually the first age group where college coaches are watching players to scout out future recruits. What will these reductions do to the chances for the kids “on the bubble” in terms of being seen by these coaches?

Let’s also consider the issue of players who are trying to prepare for aging up to the next division.  I’ve been told that the SoCal section is trying to figure out how to accommodate juniors who are in that situation, but, for now, there is nothing on the SCTA website to indicate there will be spots in the draws for these players.  I hope that changes before the smaller draws take effect.

Inspiration vs. Motivation

Last week, David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life offered a free webinar entitled Solve the Mystery of Your Child’s Motivation and Distraction Issues.

During the 40 minutes or so that David spoke, he focused on the fact that inspiration and motivation are two very different animals – inspiration comes from the outside – for example, we might be inspired by reading a book about Nelson Mandela or watching the Olympics – while motivation is created internally as the pursuit to satisfy an unmet need.

Listening to David’s words took such a load off my mind!  I finally heard and understood why all my nagging and reminding and pushing falls on deaf ears.  There is nothing – not one thing – I can do to make my son take care of his responsibilities.  Not his school work.  Not his household chores.  Not his tennis training.  I can hold him accountable or punish him when he fails to do the things we expect of him.  And I can hope that the threat of holding him accountable or punishing him creates the internal need in him to keep his iPhone or use of the car or getting to travel to out-of-town tournaments which will, in turn, move him to action.  But, it all comes back to letting go, letting our children take on more responsibility as they mature, backing off from the nagging and reminding.  And it all comes down to our kids deciding how much they want to accomplish with their tennis (or other areas in their life) then deciding how hard they are willing to work – and how much they are willing to sacrifice – for those accomplishments.

So, while we can’t motivate our junior players, we can inspire them.  How?  Here’s what David advises:

  • Paint a picture of what you see in their immediate future
  • Tell stories of what others have overcome and accomplished
  • Help them see how far they’ve come on their journey
  • Help them learn a new skill
  • Celebrate progress

Okay, at least that’s something proactive that I can do, and, believe me, I have to have something to do!  It’s very hard for me to sit back and watch, to keep my mouth shut, to do nothing when I know my son could work harder, be more dedicated, sacrifice a little more.  But, this is his life, not mine.  I’m here to guide, to offer advice, to hold him accountable, and to love him no matter what.  So, I’ll take David’s advice and try to stop telling him what he should do and start doing more to inspire him to want to do more on his own.  I know, I’ve said that before.  I’m working on it.  I think I’m doing better than I was 18 months ago when I first started writing this blog.  I’m not sure my son agrees.

To watch a recording of David’s webinar, click here.  I have heard that the recording might not work on a Mac – my apologies for that!