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.

Looking Beyond Results: 5 Tips to Help to Insure a Positive Relationship with Your Young Player

Photo courtesy of www.talentpoolcompany.com
Photo courtesy of www.talentpoolcompany.com

Because sometimes we can all use a reminder of what’s truly important . . . Today’s guest post is from Aaron Horwath. Aaron played varsity tennis at the University of Portland and has been coaching tennis for five years. He is currently a tennis coach, English tutor, and freelance writer living in Hong Kong. To see more of Aaron’s work, visit his travel blog, 12hourdifference.com

Also, be sure to nominate your favorite tournament director(s) for the inaugural Best Tournament Director Award. Deadline for entries is December 1st. Click here for the nomination form.

 

Between long road trips, driving to and from practice, and full days spent at tournament venues, our sport offers parents endless opportunities to cultivate positive relationships with their players that extend far beyond the tennis court, time that many other parents would love to have with their child. Below are 5 tips to help insure that as a tennis parent, you make the most of these opportunities.

#1: Remember What You Are Paying For

We all know how often tennis requires a parent to open their purse or wallet, and the financial sacrifice a tennis parent makes should not be overlooked. It is, however, important for parents to remember what it is they are paying for. Tennis makes your child happy. It allows them a chance to connect with other kids their age, experience success, stay fit, and increase their overall self-esteem. It is these benefits, along with numerous others, that a parent is paying for. It’s not about your child reaching the semifinals of the tournament next weekend or eventually receiving a college scholarship. The purpose behind the financial sacrifice of tennis is the same as any other sacrifice a parent makes for their child: to provide their child happiness. Paying for “results” or “production” places unfair pressure on your child and can cause frustration for you, both of which can be detrimental for the relationship you have with your young player. Pay for their enjoyment; great results are just a bonus.

#2: Communication is Key

An important question to continue to ask your player is: What do you want to get out of tennis? Do they want to strive to be high performance or play more casually? Do they enjoy tournaments and competing, or do they prefer just playing with their friends a few times a week? Are they okay traveling for long weekends away from their friends, or would they prefer to only play locally? Communication with your player allows them to define what tennis is to them; it is important they feel they have autonomy over their “career.” Being forced to play tennis, or being forced to play more than they are interested in playing, turns the sport into a chore and turns the parent into the dreaded tennis overlord, neither of which promotes a positive relationship between parent and player and negates all of the potentially great benefits the sport has to offer. The added bonus of open communication: nothing is more positively motivating for a player than knowing that they are on court because they want to be.

#3: Parents, Do What You Do Best: Be a Parent

As a parent, you can be the greatest source of comfort for a player after a loss, or a player’s worst nightmare. No one can make a player feel better than a parent who knows how to separate their own disappointment in their player’s result from their role as the player’s most important support system. Following a loss in a tournament (or even a tough practice), do your best to hold back any impulses you may have to analyze their play or provide your critique of what went wrong; even when intended to be helpful, no player wants to relive a loss they just experienced. Instead, do what you do best as a parent: provide your player with support and comfort. And ice cream, ice cream always helps.

#4: Look Beyond Just the Tennis

Your player, throughout their career, will do plenty of worrying about forehand net errors, first serve percentages and dropped match points. As a parent, take pride in having the wisdom to see the big picture. Our sport provides endless life lessons for a young player and it is the parent who has the perspective and wisdom to highlight these moments for a player to learn from. Facing and overcoming adversity, the art of hard work, handling disappointment, coping with pressure, developing goal setting skills, the ability to be successful on their own, the list is endless. Your child will never remember that first round loss when they were 13 at that local tournament, and neither will you. What they will remember is the lessons you helped to teach them through their experiences with tennis.

#5: Be Your Child’s Best Role Model

Standing around a tennis club on a Saturday during a tournament, it becomes painfully obvious that the tennis parent scene can be eerily similar to the tennis player scene: catty, political and mean. We’ve all heard the murmurs of “this player beat this player,” or “so-and-so cheats,” and “this person used to play here, now they play there.” While unfortunate, it provides a parent with a chance to showcase to their player how to rise above negative social dynamics and carry themselves maturely and respectfully. Explain to your player that it is important that they not get involved in these sorts of conversations because they can have a negative impact on others as well as themselves, and that is why you, the parent, choose to not get involved.