Advice to Parents of Young Players

advice

Here is another article written by Andy Brandi for the USTA Player Development website and reprinted here with his permission. Coach Brandi served as a partner of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute since 2007 before joining the USTA staff in August 2010. From 2001-06, Brandi was Director of Tennis for IMG at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, and from 1984-2001, he was the head coach of the University of Florida women’s team. During his career, Brandi has worked with top professionals, including Elena Dementieva, Shahar Peer, Maria Kirilenko, Lisa Raymond, Ryan Sweeting and Jesse Levine. While at the University of Florida, he led the Gators to three NCAA Division I Team titles, coached four NCAA women’s singles champions and four NCAA doubles champions. Brandi will be returning to college tennis as the Head Coach of the LSU men’s team this Fall.

Consistency in coaching is essential. Avoiding going from one coach to another keeps the process and development going. There has to be trust amongst the team – player, coach and parent all have to be on the same page. Changing coaches is like restarting the process. Coaches have different styles, systems and philosophies. Your job is to find one that best fits your child.

Try any program for about a week before you commit to that program. Do research! Be sure there is a plan when you start. A developmental plan, two areas of focus and a tournament schedule is essential in the planning. The two areas of focus are to be evaluated every two months and then replaced if they have been achieved.

Be supportive and patient with the coach. If you have issues with him or her, discuss them without the child present. Understand where the coach is coming from and why he is doing things a certain way. Give the coach a chance.

Parents who are the coaches need to be patient and should not get so consumed that the child only lives, sleeps and eats tennis. Seek help in areas where you might feel you are weak in your knowledge or expertise. I coached my son until he was 15. At 15, I wanted to be his father and not his coach. My role was to give him advice and support when he was training under a new coach. His job was to learn to make decisions and be responsible and accountable for his tennis. Good tennis players are independent thinkers. He now asks, “Why did you not make me do this or that?” My answer is, “I gave you choices; you made the decisions.”

Tennis has to be left at the club or courts, not brought home every day. At home, let them have a normal life. They need friends. They need to develop their social skills. They need to build good character. They need to be good students in school. Provide a balance of tennis, a social life and academics. Remember, 99 percent of all players go to COLLEGE!!!! In the process, be sure you do not try to skip steps or cut corners. There are no shortcuts!!!! It takes time! It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice and dedication by you and them. Set goals and keep the training fresh to keep them engaged and to prevent burnout.

A few things to keep in mind:

Kids do not always need to practice with someone better. They do not always need to play up in age groups. The ratio of practice should be 25-50-25, meaning 25 percent with weaker players, 50 percent with players of their own ability and 25 percent with players better than them. Does Roger Federer practice with someone better than him all the time? No! He practices with young pros, juniors or college players!!!!!! And 50 percent of the time, they need to experience the pressure of playing with and against their own peers.

When choosing to play up, they need to have a 65 percent winning record or better in their age group to justify it. Keeping track of match counts is very important. We do not want them playing 130 matches a year at 12, 13 or 14! It is not the number of tournaments but the match count that matters! Burnout and injuries will occur if you overplay them.

One area that we tend to neglect in their training is off-season breaks. Pros take 4-6 weeks at the end of each year to set a fitness base and improve on specific areas. They will follow up with a couple of weeks off before the clay season and a couple of weeks off after Wimbledon. They build in regeneration, fitness, cleaning their games out to be sharp, fit and healthy. In the junior schedule, we could build this in after Winter Nationals, after Easter Bowl and finally after Hard Courts.

The pros in the off season at the end of the year do not touch their racquets for a couple of weeks. They focus on physical fitness and mental conditioning. Then comes the tennis. Our ‘99s recently did a six-week-off season where they did not play tennis for two weeks. Jez Green, who was Andy Murray’s fitness coach, supervised the six weeks. His comment was that our juniors are 16-18 months behind in fitness than the Europeans. Why? Because we do not do this! We have to play, play, play! We are very short-minded and short-sighted!

Give them responsibility and accountability in their game and preparation. Let them get their tennis bag organized. Let them get their own water, bars and snacks. Let them carry their own tennis bag! We want to facilitate, not incapacitate. Remember, they have to be able to be independent thinkers. They have to be able to take care of themselves out there. They have to learn to survive in the heat of battle. They have to learn to compete and love it. Doing minor tasks builds their confidence and self-esteem.

Lastly, be supportive. We tend to forget that they are the ones competing. We forget what it is like to compete. It is the team that gets them prepared, and they are the ones who are playing and competing. We are not playing! We are part of their support group.

When they play, we tend to get too emotionally involved. Stay calm and control your emotions. I got too nervous watching my son. My wife was the one who went to tournaments with him. As I used to tell my wife, figure it out. I can sit through a Grand Slam final and not get nervous but cannot stay calm watching him! They will react to you and how you react! They will feel your emotions and nervousness. Stay level-headed and even keel! Show them support, winning or losing.

It is easy to criticize from outside. Things are crystal clear when you are outside the ropes. Being in the heat of battle clouds your reasoning and how you perceive things. After matches, give them time to settle down, and yourself, too, before you start discussing the match. Ask questions. Point out things that they did well and things that they need to work on in future matches. Do not be just negative! Give them positive feedback! Let them give you their perspective of what happened out there. They have to be aware of what happened and how they can control that the next time. Win or lose, love them for who they are – your child!

Like building a house, we need a good foundation. You build the outside of the house, followed by the inside. It takes time to build a house. It takes a long time to develop a tennis player. Good luck with the journey!

USTA Website Gets Much-Needed Makeover

I received the latest e-newsletter from USTA Southwest this morning, and it contained some really useful information on the recent USTA website makeover. Take some time to click around the various links included below and see what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback in the Comments below. Thank you to Nicole Fintell and the rest of the USTA Southwest staff for the great work!

Couple of important points to note if you’re looking for Southwest (or any other section’s) Junior Information on the usta.com site:

1) Each time you visit the site, you MUST enable the location settings. Otherwise, if you do not enable the location, the information that you will see will be National-specific information.

2) Most, if not all of the junior information formerly contained on the old site, can be found by following this path: PLAY->PLAY AS A MEMBER->JUNIOR TOURNAMENTS

3) Also, much of the information is in the annual JUNIOR PLAYER HANDBOOK.

A new junior website has also been launched, called Net Generation. The website is located at https://netgeneration.usta.com/. This will be a new portal of all things junior tennis for junior players and parents.

Both sites have just recently launched, so take a little time and play around on the new sites.

Endorsement Information

‘Endorsement’ is the Section’s approval of a junior player to play National Events (such as team events and the Hard/Clay Court National Championships) based on a player’s ranking during a particular time period.

We (USTA Southwest) have spring, summer and winter endorsement periods. This may differ for other sections.

Endorsement information
Complete the Endorsement Info Sheet

USTA Player Development Library

Dartfish TVThe USTA Player Development Library is a repository of great information and resources for parents, coaches, and players including presentations, interviews, and drills.

Take a look and you just might take away some valuable information!

Visit the USTA Player Development Library HERE.

Don’t forget to follow them on Twitter and Instagram as well.

10 and Under Youth Tennis Progression

2017 tagged Youth Progression Tournaments

2017 Youth Progression Tournament Calendar

 

 

 

 

 

National Junior Tennis

And, I’ve posted this before, but here is the info on the National schedule for 2017:

2017 Junior Competitive Structure

2017 JR National tournament Schedule

Buddy the Ball Fun Days

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For those of you in the Las Vegas area, Buddy The Ball is coming back to Vegas and setting up for his residency of fun days! Every month Buddy will be hosting a Buddy Fun Day for children to learn to be healthy through the sport of tennis!

Buddy Fun Days will include games and activities, food, music, and fun! Professional tennis player Brandon Christopher provides a fun filled day of entertainment for kids of all ages!

Join Buddy and Brandon at Bally’s Las Vegas October 24th 1 pm to 3 pm!

For those interested in hosting a Buddy Fun Day or for sponsorship opportunities; please contact Nina Zavala Group at alexis@ninazavalagroup.com

About Buddy The Ball:

Buddy The Ball is the genius of professional tennis player Brandon Christopher, who was inspired by a young girl in the tennis community. Upon speaking with her at a tournament, he created this awesome character, Buddy! Brandon will be my guest on an upcoming episode of the ParentingAces radio show to talk more about his inspiration for Buddy. Buddy is here to inspire, educate, and activate the progression of the youth in sports, specifically tennis. Aside from teaching kids how to play tennis, Buddy is to be a role model showing that tennis can be rewarding!

Is There A Way to Make Junior Development Less Costly?

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We’ve all seen the estimates of how much it costs to take a junior player from beginner all the way to college or the pro tour (click here for a thorough breakdown). Upwards of $300,000. That’s insane!

What if there were a way to significantly reduce that number? After having gone through this journey myself, I have some concrete ideas that could make tennis more affordable without jeopardizing the quality of training and development. I welcome you to add your suggestions in the Comments below, too. Developing a junior tennis player should not – and need not – require an annual investment of what amounts to an average adult salary.

  • For a beginning player, invest in private lessons (once or twice a week depending on the age and interest level of the player) with a top developmental coach to instill technically-sound strokes and movement from the get-go. Balance the private lessons with group drills and/or hitting sessions to keep the game fun. How do you find a top developmental coach? Do your homework! Talk to parents of successful players, talk to the people in your local tennis shop, call your USTA section office and speak with the head of junior competition to ask for suggestions. It may take some work, but it will be worth it when your child winds up with technically-sound strokes and healthy movement on the court.
  • Hire a local college player to hit with your child between lessons or group drills. It’s a great way for your child to get turned onto college tennis, start to form relationships with local college programs, and get some great training at a much lower cost than academy coaches charge.
  • Take your child to watch local high school and college tennis matches. These matches are usually free of charge and are a great learning experience, especially for younger players.
  • Don’t let your child specialize in tennis too early. The science now supports waiting until age 13 or 14 to play a single sport, both in terms of developing the complete athlete and avoiding injury and burnout. Team sports, especially at the beginner level, tend to be less expensive, so let your child find a balance between tennis and the other sports he or she enjoys.
  • Parents, educate yourselves! Read Friend At Court  and make sure you have a working knowledge of all the sections that apply to junior tennis. Also, make sure your child knows the rules of the game before he or she starts playing tournaments. You want your child to play as many matches as available when you travel to a tournament. Don’t let your child lose a match simply because he or she doesn’t know the rules.
  • If you have a local tennis shop, get to know the salespeople and make sure you’re on any lists to be notified when there’s a sale on your child’s preferred clothing, shoes, and equipment. Take advantage of the many shoe warranty programs that exist so you’re not paying full price for new shoes every 6-8 weeks.
  • Invest in a quality stringing machine and teach your child how to string his or her own racquets (YouTube has some great how-to videos if you’d like to learn how to string). If you buy string by the reel then string yourself, you will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year depending on how often your child goes through strings. An average packet of string costs about $20. Add to that a $25 stringing fee, and you can see how quickly this line-item blows up over the course of a year. As your child becomes more proficient, he/she can start stringing racquets for friends to earn extra money and offset some of the costs of playing the game.
  • Talk to other Tennis Parents to find out about free or low-cost options for training opportunities. Form a network of tennis families and organize no-cost practice round-robins with kids of similar levels. For the older kids, encourage them to call or text each other to set up their own hitting sessions and practice matches. I’ve just created a Facebook group (click here) to help facilitate this type of play. Once the kids start playing tournaments, expand that network and trade off taking the kids to tournaments so you can share the cost of travel, hotel, etc. You can even form a hand-me-down network for outgrown shoes and clothing.
  • Speaking of tournaments, stick close to home until your child is beating everyone in the area. Follow the Wayne Bryan approach to competition: become the best on your block, then the best in your neighborhood, then the best in your town. Only then might it become necessary to travel for tournaments. But, even at that point, seek out older players – including college players – to play matches and save the cost of traveling for tournaments.
  • Once your child is ready to travel for competition, choose one or two hotel and rental car reward programs and build up your points so you can earn free travel benefits. Hint: the tournament hotels don’t always have the lowest room rates so shop around.
  • Instead of paying a coach to attend every tournament and watch every match, invest in a video camera and fence mount, tape your child’s matches, then offer to pay the coach to analyze the matches. That way, the coach is seeing your child in the stressful setting of match play and can adapt training to address those areas where your child needs to do better. You’ll still want the coach to be there in person at least once a quarter, but by using video you can still be sure the coach is on top of what’s happening in your child’s matches without relying solely on your subjective interpretation.
  • If your child is progressing and is ranked among the top players in your section, seek out sponsorships for free or discounted racquets, clothing, shoes, string, grips, and any other items your child uses on a regular basis.
  • Make sure your child’s coach understands and uses the concept of periodization in your child’s training. Over-training can lead to injuries which can be very costly. Those costs may include visits to a physician, X-rays or MRIs, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic care, and medication.
  • Don’t get sucked into the idea that your child has to play a tournament every week! Sit down with your child’s coach (or do it yourself if the coach isn’t willing or knowledgeable which may be a red flag that it’s time to find a new coach) at the beginning of each quarter or 6-month period and map out a schedule of tournaments. One coach told me he sits down with each player at the beginning of the school year and looks at the school calendar, the family’s holiday and social calendar, and the tournament calendar to create a schedule that will accommodate that player’s needs. Make sure to build in blocks of time for your child to work on any aspects of his/her game outside of tournament play that need attention. It’s very hard to groove a new forehand or cement a new tactic during the stress of a tournament. Let your child have plenty of time between events so that development continues to progress.

I’m sure y’all have some other great cost-saving ideas to share! I look forward to reading them as you post in the Comments below.

 

 

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

Photo courtesy of www.davidmles.com
Photo courtesy of www.davidmles.com

The day my middle daughter arrived at the barn for her very first horseback riding lesson, she (and I) thought she’d find her instructor, get on a pony, and start riding. Imagine our surprise when the instructor spent the majority of that first lesson-hour teaching my daughter about the various parts of a saddle, the names of all the pieces of tack required, how to care for the equipment, how to clean and care for the animal itself, and how to choose the proper bit and gently put it into the horse’s mouth. The instructor showed her one time then stood patiently by while my daughter struggled to ready the horse for riding.

My daughter was ten years old at the time, her head barely reaching the pony’s chest. It would’ve been so much simpler for the instructor to have the horse tacked up and ready to ride, but she knew that this first day was the right time to teach my daughter respect and care for the animal AND the equipment before she was allowed the reward of climbing into the saddle. These were the prerequisite basics of riding a horse, and the instructor was going to ensure my daughter was well-versed in them before taking the next step. At the end of the lesson, the instructor walked my daughter through untacking the pony, cleaning its hooves, brushing its coat, oiling the saddle and other equipment, and putting the pony in the pasture to graze.

It took several lessons for my daughter to master all these tasks, but once she did, she was able to perform them instinctively and without assistance from that point forward. To this day, when I see her ready a horse for riding, it’s like watching a well-choreographed dance – she knows each step like the back of her hand and executes it with extraordinary gracefulness.

What if it were de rigeur for tennis coaches to approach our game in a similar manner when they are presented with a new student? What if the very first lesson were about teaching a first-time player the dimensions of the court, the different parts of a racquet and how to choose an appropriate racquet/grip size/strings combination? Next, the instructor would move onto the different grips used in playing the game, the subtleties of a forehand and a backhand, and fun games to teach the intricate footwork used on the court. Of course, discussing the rules of tennis and requiring the student to read Friend At Court should be part of the learning process, too. Eventually, learning how to put on an overgrip and string a racquet should be included as well. And what about teaching the history of the game? Talking about some of the personalities that made tennis what it is today?

These are all facets of the game that will serve the player well through the juniors and into adulthood. They will give young players ownership in their sport, an inside knowledge of the workings of the game. I’m not saying these are all keys to creating better players – I certainly did okay never learning most of this stuff as a kid. But maybe they ARE keys to creating life-long players who love the game? What do y’all think?

Yes, it’s way more fun to show up for that first lesson and start hitting balls, technique be damned. When we’re talking about a group of 5 and 6 year olds, maybe that is the best approach. But at some point kids need to learn these other aspects of playing tennis, right? I’d love to hear from some developmental coaches about how they integrate these lessons into their overall gameplan.

 

 

Summer Tennis Camp

Image courtesy of puretennis.net
Image courtesy of puretennis.net

Summer tennis camp has played a huge role in my own kid’s junior tennis journey as evidenced by the opening line in TRN’s profile on him: “Going to University of Georgia Bulldog Tennis Camp for the first time at age nine was the catalyst behind Morgan Stone’s realization that he wanted to play college tennis one day.” If you’d like to read my past articles on the value of tennis camp, click here and here.

So, in hopes that other young players will be inspired as well, here is an alphabetical list of Summer Tennis Camps to check out. Many of them still have plenty of spots available for this summer. If you have a favorite camp that isn’t already on my list, please send it to me so I can add it.

Adidas Tennis Camps – various locations & dates

Bollettieri Tennis Camp – Bradenton FL, various dates

Brenda Shultz Tennis Camp – Blue Ridge Mountains, July 19-August 8

Coach Slezak’s Tennis Training Camp – Gibsonia PA, June 15-August 14

Navy Blue & Gold Tennis Camp – Annapolis MD, July 5-24

Nike Tennis Camps – various locations & dates

RAMP Tennis Camp – Carson CA, various dates

Saddlebrook Junior Tennis Camp – Tampa FL, various dates

Southern California Tennis Academy Camp – Long Beach CA, June 15-August 28

Steve Smith’s Great Base Tennis Camp – Raleigh NC, May 17-June 27

Van der Meer Tennis Camp – Hilton Head SC, June 1-August 29

Wilson Tennis Camps – various locations & dates

 

Expectations for Parent, Coach, & Player

Image courtesy of www.tennisconsult.com
Image courtesy of www.tennisconsult.com

For years, I have been practically begging junior tennis coaches to create a written set of guidelines for the families who hire them. I have posted various suggestions for what to include. I’ve even emailed coaches directly with ideas and examples of Agreements and Evaluations that my son has received. And, while I’ve heard of a few coaches who have adopted the practice of using this type of written “contract,” the majority still leave things totally up in the air when it comes to what they expect from the player and parents and what the player and parents can expect from them.

One coach, Steve Whelan (click here for Steve’s website), from the UK has created EXACTLY what I’ve been promoting. I’ve shared his work on the ParentingAces Facebook and Twitter feeds but got his permission to reprint it in its entirety here so you can share it with your child’s coach. To the coaches out there, Steve is happy for you to “borrow” his guidelines and tweak them to suit your needs. By the way, Steve will be the guest on my radio show on Tuesday, April 14th, in case you want to hear more about his coaching philosophy. Coach Steve, thank you!

Ten things we tell our parents who take their children to competitions

1. Try and travel with fellow players – it saves money and takes pressure of players who feel they are competing as a team.

2. If you can’t watch with out a poker face or your mouth closed – don’t watch.

3. If under 10 go grab a coffee and let them play. It’s about playing at this age, take pressure of players by watching from distance.

4. Make sure players have a list of SMART goals . These can be agreed with a coach before the event. 

5. Ensure players arrive at the event in good time and have a proper physical warm up with dynamic stretches, explosive footwork patterns and a full racket warm up . Arrange with a fellow player in advance to warm up . If you don’t know anybody in the draw ask the referee to send out your contact details and request a hitter.

6. Nutrition – make sure pre and post match meals are suitable as well as staying hydrated.

7. Learn how to match chart – match charting is simple and can provide a lot of ACTUAL feedback for your coach. Sometimes parental feedback is based on one or two good / bad points they remember. A match chart highlighting match flow or errors can help give your coach the bigger picture.

8. Make sure the player gets in a routine of packing their own bag pre event. Also players should carry their own bags too and from the car . Players need to learn how to be independent quickly in tennis – this is a good starting point at an early age.

9. Smile.

10. Don’t use ‘it’s not about winning’ garbage! Tennis is a sport , it’s competitive and we play to win . But winning comes in many forms not just winning the match. Winning may be completing your player goal of making a % of first serves, winning x amount of points of short balls. Use player goals to set realistic targets with a focus on performance and not outcome.

What you can expect from the coaches
1. Professional – Our coaches aim to be the very best in terms of their behaviour and appearance.

2. We are here for YOU – are goal is to make you better, your coach will work with you as an individual and help you achieve your goals.

3. Your coaches will be prepared and have the appropriate equipment and resources each session.

4. Every session will be planned, organised and delivered with the goal of making you a better player.

5. The coach will make it clear at the start of the lesson the learning objectives of each session and how you’re going to achieve them.

6. The coach will ensure each lesson is challenging enough so your progress but not too difficult so you lose confidence.

7. The coach will feed back to you your progress as and when appropriate. 

8. The coach will end each session with a recap of the learning objectives and what you have learnt.

9. The coach will keep you up to date with events, sessions and activities you may wish to take part in.

Ten things we expect from our players (As taken from our 2015 player syllabus)

1. Players arrive on time for lessons.

2. Players come with the correct equipment and clothing suitable for tennis. It is the player’s responsibility to be prepared.

3. Players are fully aware and clear of their own personal goals and targets set out for them in the program. This will come in the form of their player goal sheet.

4. Players step onto court with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and improve. This includes listening to demonstrations, asking appropriate questions, and trying to the best of their ability in each session.

5. Players enjoy playing the game and are able to react to the pressures of winning and losing in a positive manner. At Pro Tennis Academy we do not accept racket, ball or verbal abuse at any time.

6. Players are focused during lessons and activities.

7. Players are competitive and play to win or play to improve personal goals and targets. Winning is important, but winning comes in many forms not just winning a match.

8. Players are athletic, not only in performance but in terms of physical effort during activities.

9. We are a team here at Pro Tennis Academy, we help each other, support each other and encourage each other. T.E.A.M =TOGETHER , EVERYONE, ACHIEVES , MORE

10. Be the best you can be.