Getting your body in peak shape for college with Dave Mullins

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Dave Mullins comes from an extensive tennis background, both as a player and as a coach. He is originally from Dublin, Ireland, and came to the US to play college tennis. He wound up in the world of college coaching, having a stellar career at the University of Oklahoma as the head women’s coach.

A couple of years ago, Dave retired from coaching and returned with his wife and two children to Dublin where he is now working at the same club where he grew up playing. He is also devoting a good amount of time to helping families navigate through the tennis development process.

In this week’s podcast, Dave and I talk about how rising college freshmen, as well as current college players, should be spending their summers. Should they be playing tournaments? Should they take an internship? Should they have a paying job? Should they take time off and relax?

Of course, there’s not one answer that is best for every player, but Dave backs up his answers with what he’s learned in his years as a player and as a coach. He shares very important information as we move into the summer season.

To find Dave online, visit his website at www.davemullinstennis.com. You can also reach him via email at davemullinstennis@gmail.com.

Entries for the 2nd annual Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tennis Tournament are now open. For the Atlanta tournament (July 17-19) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261/. For the Baltimore tournament (August 12-13) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/.

Also, registration for the ITA Summer Circuit is now open. Go to http://www.itatennis.com/Events/ITA_Summer_Circuit.htm for information.

Listen to our latest podcast episode here!

Why You Should Consider D3 College Tennis

D3 college tennis
Image courtesy of MI Prep Zone
Click on the player below to listen to the podcast:

Adam Van Zee played his college tennis at D3 Wabash College then coached both the men’s and women’s teams at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. He now works in development at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis while also writing and hosting his own podcast for Division3Tennis.com.

In this episode of the ParentingAces podcast, Adam and I discuss the ins and outs of playing a Division 3 sport. We talk about how to finance a D3 education when the NCAA does not allow for athletic scholarships, how the D3 recruiting and application process works, and how PSAs can use the D3 Recruiting Hub to narrow down their list of potential schools.

NOTE: According to the information I was able to find online, PSAs are allowed unlimited official visits to D3 colleges starting the first day of their senior year of high school. However, they are only allowed one official visit per college. In Divisions 1 and 2, PSAs are limited to 5 total unofficial visits.

If you have questions about choosing a D3 tennis program, you can reach Adam on Twitter @d3centraltennis or via email at acvanzee@gmail.com

For more information on Division 3 from the NCAA, click here and here.

If you enjoy the podcast, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes (click here for how-to’s). It helps a lot!

My apologies for the ad-lib from Sully mid-episode!

 

Mallorca, One Week In

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As predicted, I don’t have a whole lot of information to share about my son’s first week at Global Tennis Team in Mallorca.  I have successfully resisted the urge to contact anyone at Global to check in on him, and I have successfully resisted the urge to ask probing questions of my son when we text.  I figure (I hope!) he’ll eventually decide to share some of the details of his life in Spain.

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Mallorcan coastline

That said, it sounds like he’s working very hard and at a much higher intensity than he is used to at home.  He developed a pretty nasty blister on the palm of his right hand (he’s right-handed) about mid-week and texted me asking for advice.  I replied that there really wasn’t anything I could do from here and that he should ask the Global coaches for help.  Then, I didn’t mention it again. But, my husband found out from our son that one of the coaches picked up some treatments from the local pharmacy, and he figured out he needs to start wearing sweatbands to keep his hands dry while the blister heals. It must’ve worked because he played some sort of competitive match on Sunday at a facility about 30 minutes from Global  – I’m still not clear on what type of competition it was! – and was just fine.

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Salmon & Goat Cheese, Octopus & Potato

He has told me that the food is good (and he’s eating well – last night’s dinner included pasta with pesto and cheese, meat and potatoes, and yogurt with fruit), and he’s getting along well with his roommates. After tennis on Saturday, one of the coaches took 6 of the players to the beach then to a tapas restaurant for what looked like a really yummy lunch. Apparently, 2 Italian players arrived today, one older and one younger than my kid. I don’t know if they’re boys, girls, or one of each. Also today, after tennis, my son went to the supermarket and to some shop where he was able to buy more sweatbands. Oh, and he had some racquets re-strung.

That’s it!  That’s all I’ve got so far!

A fellow parent suggested I ask my son to tell me one non-tennis thing he does each day.  That may be asking too much.  I’ve asked for 3 times a week. We’ll see what I get.

More Changes in NorCal

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I was just informed today that the NorCal section has once again amended its rules regarding 12-and-under play (see my Vote On ROG article from a few weeks ago).

According to Summer Verhoeven, R.O.G. Development Coordinator for USTA NorCal, if a child does not want to play with the colored balls, they can now go directly to yellow ball tournaments by completing an online form no later than August 31, 2013 indicating their chosen “development pathway”.  Details about choosing a pathway are on the USTA NorCal website at http://www.norcal.usta.com/Juniors/determine_your_level/.

Basically, the player has to be a current USTA member and can then go to his/her player page on the USTA NorCal site to indicate which development pathway he/she would like to follow.

Before this latest change, the player/parent/coach had no say about which pathway to follow – it was based on the age of the player, period.  However, wisdom has prevailed and NorCal has amended the rule to allow for flexibility based on the player’s experience and readiness to play with a yellow ball.  This is a very good change, in my opinion.

Summer 2013 Version: The Ins & Outs of TennisRecruiting.Net

Below is a re-print of my June 13, 2012, article on TennisRecruiting.net.  Twice a year, TennisRecruiting.net updates its Top Prospect ratings – sometimes known as “The Stars”. The next update to the Top Prospects comes in September 2013.  This week, TRN announced a change to their ratings process – starting with this rating period, ratings will be based on a player’s second-highest rankings during the eight-week period from July 23 through September 11.  Why is TRN making this change?  According to their most recent newsletter, it is so they can avoid errors due to mis-reported scores or results.  Be sure to take a look at TRN’s new National Showcase Series of tournaments – these events may not count toward a player’s USTA ranking but will count toward his/her TRN ranking and rating.

By now, most of my readers are probably very familiar with the TennisRecruiting.net website.  Well, I recently discovered that the creators of the site, Julie and Doug Wrege, live about a mile and half from my house (!), so I figured I would pick their brains a bit about how the site came into existence as well as the way parents and players should be using the information available on the site to their best advantage.

The first thing to note is that Julie and Doug are not now, nor have they ever been, Tennis Parents; that is to say, none of their children played tournament tennis.  However, Julie is a very accomplished player and college coach in her own right – she started the very successful women’s tennis program at Georgia Tech – and Doug is an internet technology guru – he wrote the very first tennis-related software, Tournament Management System, in the 1980s and was the first to put tournament draws on the Web.  As a result of Julie’s extensive college coaching experience, she knew what the coaches needed to see in terms of player records and rankings, and she wanted to create something better for them to use.  In 2004, with Doug’s help, TennisRecruiting.net was born!

Now, the basics of TRN and its Star Rating System . . .

The TRN ratings, done by graduating class, go from Blue Chip (highest) to 1 star (lowest) as follows:

Blue Chip:  top 25 players in the class

5-Star:  players ranked 26-75

4-Star:  players ranked 76-200

3-Star:  players ranked 201-400

2-Star:  players ranked 401 up to a number based on a percentage of the size of that class

1-Star:  a player with any qualifying ranking

TRN looks at 6th graders through 12th graders and ranks 16,000 boys each year out of the approximately 34,000 male junior players currently playing and competing.  They rank about the same number of girls.  Therefore, even a 1-Star player is better than more than half the juniors currently playing tournaments.  Ratings are based solely upon a player’s position within his own high school graduating class year; for example, a 14-year-old high school freshman would be rated independently of a 14-year-old 8th grader even though they are both eligible to play in the 14-and-under age division.

In order to be ranked on TRN, a junior must play in a minimum of 3 TRN-eligible tournaments and win a minimum of 3 matches (2 of which must be over other eligible players). Ratings happen twice a year – at the end of February and the Tuesday after Labor Day in September. Ratings are preceded by an 8-week rating period. The player’s highest ranking during the 8-week rating period will determine that player’s Star Rating per the chart above*.

All matches from TRN-eligible events in a one year window are used to compute a player’s ranking, independent of age division or class of the players. In addition, TRN looks at a player’s 8 best wins during that period, averages them, then uses that as one of several complicated (understatement of the year!) mathematical components to determine the final ranking. Ratings, age, and graduation year of a player’s opponents are not used in the calculation. Previous rankings are not used to determine current rankings – TRN starts from scratch for each week’s ranking. It is important to note that wins never hurt a player’s ranking and losses never help it.  Also, “retirement” of a match counts as a loss but a “walkover” does not.

Matches are weighed according to when they were played.  A win today counts more than a win against the same opponent six months ago.  This is one way that TRN makes it very difficult to “play” their rating system or “buy” rankings.  For your player to improve his ranking on TRN, he should be sure to enter tournaments where he can win some matches but NOT where he is, by far, the best player in the draw.  As Doug says, “Winning makes you feel good.  Losing makes you learn something.”  Because of the extensive analysis that goes into the TRN rankings, college coaches consider them to be a better predictor of player quality and who’s going to beat whom in head-to-head competition.

How should players and parents use TRN?  During the Middle School years, TRN is just another tool at players’ fingertips to track their progress and that of their peers.  Parents should check their child’s profile using the Free Account option and make sure all the information is correct – if it’s not, then you can either make the corrections yourself or contact TRN if you have any questions or problems.  There are also some very useful articles on the TRN site written by experts in the junior tennis world – take advantage of this free tool to educate yourself and your child during these important developmental years.

Once a player enters High School, you might want to consider buying a TRN Recruiting Advantage membership so you can see which college coaches are looking at your child’s Player Profile.  The membership also allows you to upload gallery photos, videos, and article references mentioning your child.  It is well worth the $49.95 annual fee!  But, here’s a great tip from Doug:  if you have multiple tennis players in your family or are on a limited budget, pay only for a membership for your oldest child then use that account to do everything on the website for all of your children except see the coach visits and upload the photos, videos, and articles.  Once the oldest graduates high school, cancel the account and get one for the next child.  Another great tip from Doug is that you can buy a monthly membership (which renews automatically), load all the information you want during that first month, then cancel the account.  The information will stay on your child’s profile, but you will no longer be paying the monthly membership fee.  To cancel the account, simply click on the Member Services link at the top of the page then un-check the “Auto Renew” option.  Voila!

Given that Doug is giving away these money-saving tips, let me share how TennisRecruiting.net generates its revenue.  Initially, TRN’s biggest source of income came from players signing up for an enriched profile with the Recruiting Advantage membership.  On top of that, the college coaches pay TRN to have access to the player information.  Very recently, however, TRN started selling advertising on its website, which has now become its largest source of revenue.  If you’re a user of TRN, please consider using the advertiser links on the site in order to help TRN continue to offer its free services!

I want to emphasize that TRN is about much more than player rankings.  Doug and Julie are working tirelessly in the junior tennis community to ensure that more kids have the opportunity for cross-sectional play and that they have the opportunity to play college tennis if that’s their goal.  With the recent changes in the USTA National Tournament Schedule and smaller draw sizes, the Wreges have their work cut out for them.  They are currently working with tournament directors around the US to encourage more open events, even if it won’t impact the player’s USTA ranking, by designating tournaments as “Historically Strong” so that the players have an opportunity to improve their TRN ranking and become a TRN “National Player” (one who has won a match in a USTA National Level 1-3 event or other event that counts toward a USTA national ranking).  The upcoming Georgia State Junior Open will be the first of these tournaments – information on that tourney is online here.

This is a lot of information to digest – I know! – but please do yourself and your child a favor and do some poking around on the TRN site.  Familiarize yourself with their ratings and rankings.  Read the articles, especially the Q&As with the different college coaches if that’s your child’s goal.  Make sure your child’s information and player record are correct.  If your child is in high school, upgrade to the paid membership, at least for a period of time.  It will be time and money well-spent.

*UPDATE September 2014: TRN now takes a player’s top two weekly rankings during the bi-annual rating periods in order to determine Star Rating.

The More Things Change . . .

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While I was away on vacation, I received an email from the office manager at the club where my son trains.  It seems the head coach of the tennis program has sold his ownership in the club to my son’s primary coach and one of the other coaches there.  I assume he decided it was time to move on to the next phase of his life, to attend to some health matters, and to spend more of his time fishing and enjoying his grandchildren – after all, he has been at this tennis thing for many, many years, helping hundreds of young players reach their goals both on and off the court.  There may be more to the story than that, but, frankly, it’s of little consequence to anyone except those directly impacted.

But, this new wrinkle means it’s once again time to evaluate my son’s coaching and training situation, and, given the timing (summer vacation and all that), it seems the best course of action, at least for now, is to wait and see.  Wait and see where the other players land.  Wait and see what coaching staff is added (or not).  Wait and see what changes the new owners will implement.

My son is heading down to South Florida for a week of tennis camp after the July 4th holiday.  Then, it looks like more travel is in his immediate future (I’ll elaborate in a future post).  That means we don’t have to make any decisions right now.  We can let the dust settle a bit over these next several weeks, and, in the meantime, my son can keep hitting with his coach and the other players who are in town, continuing to work on his game and his fitness.

Once my son is back in town for a while, we’ll need to ask some tough questions of ourselves and of the coach.  I’m hoping that these next few weeks will give all of us time to devise those questions and come up with some answers.  We’re hoping the answers lead us right back to Olde Towne and Coach Julius – as I’ve written many times before, my son (and his parents) loves his current coach and would really like to keep things as they are now.  For those of you who have been through a recent coaching change with your child, I would love to hear the questions YOU asked – please share them in the Comments box below.

When College Coaches Are Watching

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As if competing in a tennis tournament weren’t tough enough, how does a junior player handle the added pressure of playing when he/she knows a college coach is watching?

Now that my son is finishing his sophomore year of high school, he’s going to be facing these situations the remainder of his junior tennis career.  Even if the coach is there to watch his opponent and not necessarily him, my son still needs to be prepared to handle that extra piece of the puzzle.  In hopes of giving him the tools he needs, I spoke with Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes and asked him to share his wisdom and knowledge about what coaches look for out there.  I also spoke with University of Maryland Baltimore County Head Tennis Coach, Rob Hubbard, to get information straight from the source (if you haven’t yet, be sure to listen to my radio show featuring Coach Hubbard – click here for the link to the podcast).

Ross and Coach Rob both told me that it’s about more than just forehands and backhands.  If a player has been accepted into a tournament where a coach is watching, then the coach already knows that player has the requisite tennis skills to compete at the collegiate level in some way, shape, or form.  Coaches are looking for more than simply whether your child uses a Continental or Semi-Western grip or whether he/she wins or loses a particular junior match.

It all starts before the match is even played.  Is your kid respectful of tournament officials, refs, and desk people?  Is he friendly with the other parents and players?  What is she doing to get ready for her match?  Is she jumping rope and getting focused or is she simply socializing and just hanging out but not really getting physically and mentally ready to compete?

And, parents, coaches are also watching us!  They want to see how involved we are in our kid’s pre- and post-match activities.  Do we get them ice, water, and energy bars or do we instruct our kid to take care of his/her own needs?  Do we carry their bag or water jug for them?  I have heard on several occasions that college coaches do NOT look favorably on these hovering-type behaviors.  Coaches want to see a self-sufficient kid, not one whose parents do everything for him.

Once your child is on the court, the coaches’ focus changes.  They are looking to see presence on the court – is the player having fun, smiling, fighting for every point OR moping, being negative, using negative self-talk, questioning every line call?  Coaches don’t want to see negative behavior or kids who look miserable.  And, according to Ross, kids just don’t seem to get that – that their non-tennis behavior on and off court are so important to coaches.

Coach Rob concurs.  “First and foremost I am watching to make sure the player has a passion for the game.  Win or lose are they willing to compete?  If they are not playing well or struggling with their match are they willing to fight to try and figure out a way to win?  Basically are they a competitor no matter the conditions?  Most coaches are aware that their appearance at a match may create a bit of nerves and look to see how the prospective student athlete responds.”

Other tennis-related things a coach might look for include the upside of the junior’s game and the potential his/her game may or may not have.  Does she have more than one dimension to her game?  That might include playing aggressive tennis, serving and volleying, attacking short balls, and fighting for every point.  Does he have experience in doubles?  If not, can his game transition to doubles?  Is she or he physically fit?

Ross goes on to say that kids need to look and act professional.  They need to “get a sweat on” before each match, stretch before & after the match, stay focused on the task before them.  Then, after a match, the player needs to thank the coach for watching and introduce him/herself – most kids don’t do that.  Either they’re scared or intimidated or their parents do it for them – but, it’s really important for the player to do it.  Kids, introduce yourself, shake the coach’s hand, and, for goodness sake, look them in the eye!

The reality is that the first official signing date is in November of a player’s senior year of high school, 14 months before they will ever play their first college dual match! College coaches have no idea how hard these kids work, they typically don’t know these kids other than via phone calls and emails, so it’s crucial for juniors to keep playing, keep improving, keep working on their game.

Coach Rob shares these words of wisdom:  “The prospective student-athlete has recorded a significant number of results leading up to the competition the coach is there to observe.  Those results usually bring the coach out, and the result that day most times does not affect any decisions.  Coaches are there to get a little better feel for the athlete, his personality, his passion for the game, and other competitive intangibles that can only come from a face to face exposure.”

Ross told me a story about one prospective college player – let’s call her Sarah just for the sake of ease! – he worked with last year.  There was a college coach watching Sarah play at a big event.  During her match, Sarah called her opponent’s ball out and was then immediately asked if she was sure.  Sarah confirmed her call but went on to tell her opponent, “If you think it was good and you’re absolutely sure about it, then take the point.”  The opponent said she was sure and did take the point.  Sarah then moved on, continued to play aggressively, but wound up losing the match.  The college coach who was there told Ross that Sarah had been his #5 recruit but just moved up to #1 on the list after that on-court performance.  The coach said he loved seeing that Sarah was out there for the love of the game, that she didn’t put too much importance on one single point, and that she was able to brush off the set-back and continue competing at a high level until the very last point.  It’s a great lesson for all our juniors to learn.

ADDENDUM (posted May 1, 2013 7:47pm)

Here is some additional information shared by other coaches, parents, and observers . . .

In terms of the player’s on- and off-court behavior at tournaments, this should be part of what the player is learning from the junior coach.  If the coach is not with the player at a tournament, the player should still know exactly what to do before, during, and after a match; and if the player doesn’t know, then she is not ready for match play.  It is the junior coach’s job to get the players ready for tournaments and make sure they know how to behave and prepare for each match.  As parents, we are responsible for teaching our children how to behave in general.  For junior coaches, the expectation is that they will be responsible for teaching our children how to behave tennis-wise.

Another point I neglected to include in the original article is that many of the coaches pay particular attention to the back draw and how a player performs there, sometimes even more than the main draw. It shows the player’s resolve, determination, and fight. How do they handle adversity? How do they bounce back from a defeat and disappointment? Even though back draw matches don’t award as many ranking points, the message a player sends to a coach by sticking with the back draw and performing well there is invaluable.  Ross Greenstein confirmed for me that coaches hate kids defaulting back draws – another match is another opportunity to get better.  Kids who do well in back draws show they are tough and want to get better.  As UGA Head Men’s Coach Manny Diaz told me, “It doesn’t make the main draw results any less important, but it certainly doesn’t give a good impression when you see so many kids walking out of the back draw. I can tell you for sure the kids that see it all the way through, giving it their all, earn some definite points.”  Ross goes on to say that the perception among coaches is that it also shows a complete lack of respect to the parents who pay all that money to go to the event and then the player is a little injured or tired or sore so they go home.  Perception isn’t always reality, but still . . .