#theSol Baltimore

#theSolIt has taken me a few days to write this article because, honestly, I just haven’t been able to find the words to describe this past weekend in Baltimore at the 2017 #theSol.

I won’t go into my history with Sol Schwartz – you can read this article if you’re curious – but this tournament is about so much more than junior tennis or college tennis or anything having to do with hitting a yellow ball over a net. It is about honoring the legacy of a man who truly loved the game . . . LOVED the game . . . and devoted his adult life to fighting for its survival and the survival of its traditions.

That’s why #theSol participants play 2 out of 3 full sets. That’s why they play regular scoring (none of that no-ad stuff that makes me crazy). That’s why we empower the players with their own matches, trusting them to play by the rules and to exhibit impeccable sportsmanship without interference from officials. That’s why we encourage on-court coaching at side changes, helping players learn from each game and each match. That’s why we solicit quality sponsors and use the money (instead of charging high entry fees) to create the highest-quality tournament experience we can, providing goody bags filled with fun and useful items, creating a full-color Player Book (thank you to Sol’s niece, Ali, for the beautiful design!), serving lunch and drinks to players and parents, using the net proceeds to #SaveCollegeTennis through grants.

While last year’s Baltimore event found all of us who were close to Sol still feeling pretty raw – he had just passed away 5 months earlier – this year’s event felt more like a true celebration of his life. Sol’s wife, Ilene, did a great job of encouraging Sol’s friends and family to come out to watch the juniors and college kids compete, and, I swear, we had more fans in attendance than at many pro tournaments! I met people who had known Sol since childhood or who had played against him in the juniors or who had been coached by him or who had done business with him at Holabird Sports. The man knew everyone even remotely related to tennis in the mid-Atlantic section!

Now the details . . .

theSolWe wound up with 50 players ranging in age from 9 to 22 and ranging in UTR level from 1.0 (first tournament ever) to 9.85. Players came from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Tournament Director Scott Thornton divided them into 7 flights, some playing a round-robin format and others playing a compass draw, ensuring that everyone played 3 matches. Prizes were awarded based on the percentage of games won so that everyone had a chance at the awesome Wilson Prize Package and the 2-month Tennis Trunk subscription as well as other prizes donated by Solinco and the Bryan Brothers.

As I mentioned, the tournament provided lunch for the players and their families theSoleach day. During lunch on Day 1, NextGen star Noah Rubin joined us via FaceTime to chat with the players and answer their questions. He was prepping for his week at the Vancouver Challenger in Canada, so it was especially sweet of him to take some time to interact with us!

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Richard Herskovitz & Ilene Schwartz

During lunch on Day 2, I got the opportunity to hit a little with Standing Adaptive player Richard Herskovitz, a long-time friend of Sol’s who came out to support our tournament. He definitely put me through my paces on the Har-Tru courts! When we found out that one of our final-round players needed to withdraw, Richard graciously stepped in and played against one of our juniors, ensuring that she got her 3rd match for the tournament.

Thanks to their generosity and connection to Sol and his family, we had two photographers on site documenting the weekend. If you’d like to see and/or order any of the photos, click here. The net proceeds will go into our grant fund. There are more photos available to purchase here.

But, enough from me! I want you to hear from the players and parents themselves!

Allen Au, whose 3 sons all played in this year’s tournament, posted on our Facebook page at the end of Day 1. “Awesome First day…. Best junior event I have been to ever.. Everyone was nice and played tennis in the spirit of competition.” What a wonderful testament to the heart of this tournament!

Juan Borga’s 17-year-old daughter, Ana, also played in the tournament. Her older brother, Juan, was supposed to play as well, but unfortunately he injured himself on the practice court a few days beforehand. Here’s Juan Sr’s take on #theSol:

For Tiffany Livingstone’s daughter, Alexa, playing in a tennis tournament was something she had wanted to try but really didn’t know how to go about getting started. Because of their personal connection to Sol’s wife, Ilene, Tiffany signed Alexa up for #theSol this year, and she had a wonderful first tournament experience:

And now hear from two of our players, Anya and Julianne, about their experience:

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the incredible support theSolof our Presenting Sponsor 10sBalls.com; Title Sponsor Holabird Sports; Division I Sponsor Wilson Tennis; Division II Sponsors Kassimir Physical Therapy, Judie Schwartz, and Steven J. Schwartz, MD; Division III Sponsors Maller Wealth Advisors, Match!Tennis App, ParentingAces, Universal Tennis Academy, and UTR; Lunch Sponsors Michael Sellman and the Schwartz Family; Ball Sponsor Jewish Community Center of Baltimore; and In-Kind Sponsors The Bryan Brothers, Crown Trophy, David Brooks, Dunlop, Melanie Rubin, PNC Bank, Solinco, The Suburban Club, Marc Summerfield, Summit Group, Tennis Trunk, TournaGrip, Utz Chips, and Voss Water.

If you would like to get involved in either the Atlanta or Baltimore #theSol tournaments in 2018, please reach out to me via email (lisa@parentingaces.com) or in the Comments below. If you would like to make a donation to our grant fund to #SaveCollegeTennis, you can do so via Venmo or by mailing a check payable to The Sol – just email me for details. Your donation may be tax deductible.

Thank you to everyone who played, donated, volunteered, or came out to support the event! I look forward to seeing y’all again next year!

On the Court and Dreaming

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What a week! For those of you who don’t follow ParentingAces on Facebook or Twitter, let me fill you in . . .

When my son and I decided to spend his Fall Break in Southern California, it was really with the intent of taking follow-up visits to the colleges he’s interested in attending next year and getting in some training on the side. What we did in actuality was that and so much more.

The trip started with a great hit with Lucas Bellamy (Steve’s son) in the Pacific Palisades. The boys did some drills then played a set while I caught up on all the tennis news with Steve. After grabbing a quick lunch, we drove up the coast a bit to Malibu where my son had a hitting session with one of the Pepperdine players, Stefan Menichella. The boys hit and Stefan answered a lot of questions from my son about life at Pepperdine and how he came to play there. That night, we joined friend and coach Craig Cignarelli for an Italian dinner in Calabasas and caught up on all things tennis.

On Sunday, we drove back up the coast to Malibu for my son to hit with Stefan again. Afterward, we went to lunch nearby, and some of the other Pepperdine players joined us. It was a great opportunity for my son to gather even more information about the school and tennis program.

The next day, my son had a session with Craig Cignarelli at the Malibu Racquet Club. They did some drills and some talking while I did my radio show with Tim Mayotte – not a bad place to broadcast! We spent the rest of our Monday hanging out around Santa Monica then had dinner with most of the Bellamy clan (sons Robbie and Lincoln were unable to join us, unfortunately). Having no brothers himself, my son was very entertained by Lucas and Roscoe to say the least! I got to visit with Steve and Beth and pick their brains about raising 4 boys and balancing tennis and family obligations. I learned a lot!

Tuesday was another session with Craig alongside one of the pro players he’s training, Kevin Lynch. Afterward, we all went for a late lunch and did lots of talking. Kevin has a great story: he came to tennis pretty late, playing multiple sports in high school. When he was looking at colleges, he wandered over to the tennis facility at Seattle University, saw the team practicing with their coach, and had an AHA! moment. Kevin wound up playing #1 for Seattle by the end of his college tenure and decided to pursue a professional career in tennis. He told me his goal is to see how good he can get, how far up the rankings he can climb. His work ethic is impeccable, and his attitude both on and off the court reflects his desire and drive.

Mid-week, my son worked with Craig again, this time with both Kevin and Stefan. I wound up dropping him off at the Malibu Racquet Club that morning then hung out with my oldest daughter, Emma, for most of the afternoon. My son had a great day! After hitting with the guys, they went to lunch, then my son joined Stefan for an evening class at Pepperdine. It was the first time he had sat in on a college class, and he loved it! Stefan is majoring in Sports Administration – which is what my son is interested in studying – and the class they attended was a seminar on the business of sports taught by Pepperdine’s former Athletic Director. I highly recommend having your son or daughter sit in on a class at the various schools just to see what it’s all about. For my son it was so enlightening to see the difference between high school and college classes – not just in terms of the content but also in terms of the specificity of the subject matter and the way students engage with the professor.

On the first day of our trip, we found out there was going to be a Futures tournament in Irvine with the qualies starting on Friday. Though we had missed the entry deadline, we decided to drive down there on Thursday (it’s only an hour from Santa Monica) so my son could sign in as an on-site alternate just in case someone pulled out last minute. We spent most of Thursday at the Woodbridge Tennis Club so my son could train with our friend, Thomas Shubert, and one of the players he coaches. The boys were on court for about 3 hours, combining fitness, agility, and hitting drills while I watched from the sidelines. After their session, we went for a quick lunch then headed over to the Racquet Club of Irvine for the guys to sign into the tournament. We were so surprised by how many people we saw that we knew, both players and coaches! The tennis world is certainly a small one!

We had an early start on Friday so my son could warm up with some of the Futures players before their 9am matches. When we arrived at the club, we saw our old buddy, Lester Cook, who was there coaching two of the players – Kevin Lynch and Ryoto Tachi. My son hit with the 3 of them then waited to see if a qualies spot would open up for him. Meanwhile, we watched some great tennis with my son warming up yet another player later in the day. He also had the chance to watch one of UCSB’s (another school on my son’s list) players, Teague Hamilton, fight through a tough 3-setter in his first round match. My son sat next to Teague’s parents and had the chance to talk with them about their son’s experience in college. There were several UCSB players cheering on their team-mate, and my son met and chatted with them as well.

After the first round matches had all been played (my son didn’t make it in, unfortunately), Thomas took my son and his player Alec back to Woodbridge for another hitting/fitness session while Alec’s mom and I went for coffee nearby. Alec is also a senior in high school, so we moms had a lot to talk about! That evening, we all went for dinner in Irvine before my son and I made the trek back to Santa Monica.

While we were waiting for dinner, though, I got a text message asking if my son would be available as a hitting partner for Mike Bryan (yes, that Mike Bryan of the Bryan Brothers!) the next morning. Um, YES! So, on Saturday morning, we drove an hour up to Camarillo and the Spanish Hills Country Club for my son to have his very first experience as the hitting partner for a top-ranked professional player. What an incredible day! It all started with a warm-up on court with Mike while his parents, Wayne and Kathy, looked on. Then, Wayne hopped on court with the guys and started running drills. This went on for about 90 minutes followed by a set then some on-court stretching.

During one of their water breaks, my son mentioned his love of the Dave Matthews Band since he knew Mike was also a huge fan and friends with several of the musicians in the group. That led to a discussion of music and the fact that my son played drums from time to time. So, at the end of their tennis practice, Mike invited us back to his house so my son could play some music with him and Wayne. Are you kidding me???? I can’t tell you how excited we both were for my son to have this opportunity! I think my son was more nervous to play drums with Mike and Wayne than he was being on the tennis court with them! But, he took full advantage of the moment and held his own musically as well as tennis-wise.

 

 

Wayne invited us to join them for lunch before heading back to Santa Monica. My son took advantage of the opportunity to ask lots of questions of all the Bryans, including questions about UCSB, Wayne’s alma mater. Of course, we got into a discussion of what’s going on in college tennis with the format and scoring changes, but I digress . . .

It was the perfect ending to a perfect week! Each time we’ve gone to SoCal for my son’s tennis, he’s come away with more weapons in his arsenal, both on and off the court. He’s completely focused on his goal of playing college tennis and keeping up his GPA in order to keep his options open. He has signed up (before the deadline this time!) to play his first Futures tournament in a few weeks and has other junior tournaments on his schedule as well. The goal line is getting closer!

 

Wayne Bryan vs. USTA

For those of you trying to follow the extensive back-and-forth between Wayne Bryan, father of doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan, and Patrick McEnroe, Head of Player Development for the USTA, I have included links below to all of the communications I have seen to date.  If you know of additional letters and/or emails and/or articles, please post a link to them in the Comments box below.

I would like to point out that there have been some extremely well-though-out comments made to many of the original posts, so please do take the time to read through them as well.

If you are the parent or coach of an American junior tennis player, I think it is imperative that you educate yourself on what’s happening with our governing body and the criticisms which are now being launched against it.  Agree or disagree – that’s up to you.  But, please take the time to get informed!

Original email from Wayne Bryan to a USTA Exec

Tim Mayotte’s reply

Colette Lewis’ response

Wayne Bryan’s reply to Colette Lewis

Patrick McEnroe’s response

Wayne Bryan’s reply to Patrick McEnroe

Brian Parrott’s comments on the matter

Wayne Bryan’s letter to his sons

Exchange between Wayne Bryan & an unnamed high-performance coach

What Can We Learn From the Pros?

Going back to my last post on active viewing, I wanted to expand and talk a bit about what we – and our kids – can learn from watching the pros in action.

I have been spending a lot (understatement!) of time watching the Aussie Open this week.  I’ve seen some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff, all of which has taught me lessons that I can share with my son.

Did you see Marcos Baghdatis play Stan Wawrinka?  Did you see Marcos have a meltdown then start destroying his racquets on the changeover?  I’m okay with a player venting frustration – tennis is a very frustrating game, after all.  However, the fact that Marcos was only fined $800 (or $750 depending on which source you believe) for annihilating four perfectly good racquets is inexcusable to me.  What lesson does that teach our rising junior players?  That it’s okay to abuse expensive equipment?  That your anger and frustration warrant throwing money down the drain?  Interesting to read some of the comments by junior players on Facebook:

  • haha he got an $800 fine for it… thats just pocket change to them so it was completely worth it lol
  • Only $800?! That’s how much all four of those rackets cost…
  • yeah seriously…. Serena’s blowup at the uso was $2000 haha
  •  It’s completely pointless, what would REALLY get to them is a code violation. Junior refs seem to love to give those out.

While I was secretly entertained <shhhh!> by Baghdatis’ antics, I would NEVER tolerate that kind of blatant disregard for property from my son.  That said, my son has been known to smash a racquet on the ground in disgust.  However, our rule is:  you break it, you buy it.  He has had to dip into his savings account more than once to replace cracked frames – not something he enjoys doing!

And what about Andy Roddick’s match versus Lleyton Hewitt?  These two seasoned veterans (can you call a 29 year old and a 30 year old veterans?)  have been playing each other for years.  Roddick worked extremely hard in the short off-season to prepare for 2012, only to have his run at the AO cut short with a hamstring re-injury in the 2nd set.  How disappointing for Andy and for his fans!  But, Andy stuck it out through that 2nd set and the 3rd, finally retiring the match after losing the 3rd set 6-4.  He showed immense respect for his opponent while playing injured.  He didn’t milk the injury.  He didn’t hobble around the court or start whining about how badly his leg hurt.  He continued to compete.  He ran hard.  He served hard.  He played until he couldn’t play any more.  Say what you will about Roddick, but I was very impressed by his competitive spirit out there and would hope that my son would compete just as hard in that situation.

This morning, I heard American Vania King sing a capella after winning her match against 15 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Vania has a beautiful voice!  And, she’s not the only accomplished musician currently on the pro tour.  The Bryan Brothers have released a CD of their music, and former French pro, Yannick Noah, is a rock star in Europe.  It just goes to show that it is possible to be a top tennis professional and develop other skills and talents, too.  Life for these players isn’t only about tennis – they have found a way to round out their lives by pursuing other passions while still achieving the highest levels in their chosen sport.  It’s a great life lesson for our kids to learn – it doesn’t have to be all tennis all the time!

What lessons have you picked up from watching the pros at this year’s first Major event?  Please share them in the Comments box below.