High-performance coach Jim Harp has been around a few years, more than 30 to be exact, and he knows his stuff! He makes it his mission to learn something new every day so he can better coach the junior players under his care. He works with all levels of juniors – from the very beginners to the D-1 college bound and everything in between.
In this week’s podcast, Jim and I discuss his coaching philosophy as well as his new role as an advisor to TennisMentors.net. He has a lot of wisdom to impart to Tennis Parents and is more than happy to answer your questions if you’d like to reach out to him. You can find him online at HarpTennis.com or via email at Jim@harptennis.com
To learn more about Tennis Mentors, listen to last week’s podcast here.
It 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 . . .
We 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 each 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!
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 of 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 (email@example.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!
What happens when two top juniors get together to form a business while giving back to the sport they both love? TennisMentors.net!
I had the opportunity to chat with Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson the day before their week at Kalamazoo 2017 started. They took some time away from their tournament preparation to talk about their goals as tennis players as well as in business.
Trent and Patrick have wisely partnered with Jim Harp of Harp Performance Tennis Academy to market their mentoring service to young players around the US. Jim is an experienced coach based in the Metro Atlanta area and is a huge asset to this blossoming business.
The other two mentors on board so far are Gianni Ross and Sam Riffice. They hope to eventually include some female mentors, too.
Through their new venture, these young men hope to meet with and advise those coming up behind them. Whether it’s through an online chat, a phone call, or an in-person hitting session, they will work with a player on a one-to-one level with the aim of helping the younger players reach their own tennis goals.
Be sure to check out their website at http://tennismentors.net. Huge congratulations to Patrick on winning the Boys 18s singles (and for reaching the finals of the Boys 18s doubles) at Kalamazoo last week! Please join me in wishing him all the best as he puts his US Open Wildcard to use in a few weeks!
Note: We are currently seeking additional sponsors for the ParentingAces podcast. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I truly enjoyed my time going around to the best clubs in Boca Raton and Delray Beach watching some of my students compete in one of the most prestigious events that is played in my own backyard. It brought back memories of when I played the 18’s Clay Courts. It was also nice catching up with many of the men that I competed with throughout my junior, college, and professional tennis career, as well as, catching up with the college coaches that were coaching college tennis when I was in college. Most of these men who have stayed in the tennis business after their college or professional career became college coaches. I have noticed that not many have gone into junior development, but both jobs have their challenges.
What I would like to speak about is how your son or daughter is going to impress the college coaches so that they can attend one of these fine colleges and have a great four years as a student athlete. First, the college coaches were coming from junior Wimbledon so that already shows you that your son or daughter is competing against the best juniors in the world for these spots on college tennis teams. The reality of the situation is, and I am sorry to tell you, is that these coaches are not traveling to Europe to recruit American players. You may be thinking how can my child make it to one of these good universities and be a starter in the lineup, when they are competing with the best juniors in the world for these starting lineup spots.
Before I get into any discussion about hitting a tennis ball, let’s speak about movement and the physicality of what it takes to be successful, not only on a clay surface, but on any surface. I am seeing kids that do not have any understanding of how to move, court positioning, and use of their lower body to load and explode into a ground stroke. At this tournament, sliding into a shot so you can recover is imperative. Your child’s understanding of the difference between offense, neutral, and defensive positions is crucial to what shot they are going to hit to break down their opponent across the net. For example, if you are eight feet behind the baseline and you hit the ball like you do when you are three feet behind the baseline, the ball will land short and you will not get out of a defensive position. Most likely, you will be running at the fence because you defended poorly. A sign of a high level player is one that can be put on defense and turn that defense into offense during the point. This is what you are seeing with the best tennis players in the world on television, especially with the men’s game. The women’s game has some first strike players like Jelena Ostapenko who know they struggle with mobility so they have to get that first big strike in to start the point. Roger Federer, James Blake, Novak Djokovic, and Andre Agassi are some of the men that can or did take the ball so much earlier than any other players. If you think your son or daughter has this type of eye hand coordination and timing, they are a one in a million tennis player. We need more of these type players in the United States.
Is your son or daughter able to adapt their game to be able to play on the slow clay courts? I am seeing junior players not adapting their game styles and just banging a ball and running. They are also banging a ball at targets on the court that does not really do much. At this level, placement of a shot on a proper target with moderate pace is far more valuable than ripping a ball that hits a foot past the service line. If you watch closely, what targets are the juniors hitting and how many quality shots does it take for one of the players to be dominating the middle of the court because they have a short ball.
I would like to touch on what I am seeing with the junior tennis players as it pertains to their strokes. I am seeing tight and hitchy type strokes that have trouble generating power. It is unnatural. There is no feeling in the hands and wrists. The player should be able to swing and hit, but instead there are multiple complicated steps for hitting a groundstroke. To generate power, the power comes from your core and lower body, and wrist acceleration. Instead, I am seeing unnatural strokes, and chances are that your son or daughter have taken all these super complex tennis lessons and cannot produce a solid, powerfully hit tennis ball.
Lastly, many kids have only one game plan and if that plan is not working that day, they will have an unhappy car ride back to their hotel room. Great tennis players have multiple game plans based on how they are playing that day, plus they have to take into consideration how their opponent is playing that day. For example, in my quarterfinal match at the 18’s Clay Courts, I was playing a player who was ranked about 30 in the world in junior tennis. I started the match great and was hitting behind him a lot during the rallies because he had trouble moving on clay and was slipping and sliding all over the place. The second set came around and he started getting his footing and started dominating some of the rallies. We split sets and it rained. In the third set, I decided to start taking the ball a bit earlier and start taking time away and come into the net more. I took his second serve and hit the return and came into the net which I had practiced many times. I ended up winning the match and was fortunate enough to win the Super National Clay Courts Tournament a few days later, but the point to the story is that if you have a failing game plan, you must make adjustments to get through that day with a win. Now understanding when to change game plans is a different story and that is taught by an experienced and knowledgeable coach so you are able to have a complete game to get through a long tournament. Best of luck to your son or daughter the next time they play Super National Clays Courts or any other clay court tournament.
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!
A few days ago, I received an email from fellow Tennis Parent, Scott Colson, telling me about a new 10-and-under team event – the BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships – that was taking place in Atlanta as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open and asking if I could possibly come out to see the kids in action. Of course, that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!
Yesterday, I drove up to Lifetime Athletic & Tennis Club, a facility I have been to a million times to see my son play. It’s a gorgeous club with indoor and outdoor courts, including pickle ball courts, a pool, fitness center, cafe, and even classrooms for those academy kids wanting to participate in the virtual school program offered by certified teachers on site.
I was curious about this new U10 event being run by experienced Tournament Director Turhan Berne. When I looked on the TennisLink site, here’s what I found:
Mandatory check-in for the tournament will take place Friday, July 28, at 1:00 p.m. at Lifetime Athletic, 6350 Courtside Drive, Norcross, GA 30092. Players will receive a gift bag with their VIP credential, complimentary tickets, a jumbo-sized ball for autographs, and tournament information. Players must have a signed release and player conduct agreement form.
Friday July 28th:
1:00 Check-in meet team mates and coaches 1:30-5:30 EDC Camp Training 7:00 Watch matches at the BB&T tournament Saturday July 29th: 9:00 Team Singles matches begin 12:00 Lunch 1:30 Team Doubles matches begin 4:30 Break for day 6:00 Watch matches at BB&T tournament Sunday July 30th: 10:00 Team Playoff singles matches begin 12:30 Lunch 2:00 Doubles matches begin 3:30 Conclusion of Play and awards presented 5:00 Watch Singles final of BB&T Atlanta Open
PARTICIPATING STATES Alabama Georgia Mississippi South Carolina Tennessee
Each team match will consist of the following: 3 boys singles matches 3 girls singles matches 1 boys doubles match 1 girls doubles match 1 mixed doubles match
SCORING FORMAT For singles, scoring shall be the best of two short sets (first to four (4) and win by two), with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 4-4 in each set, and a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) for the third set. Doubles matches for 10 and under tournament play shall consist of a regular six (6) game set, with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 6-6. No-ad scoring will be used during all matches.
Some of the players also had the opportunity to come in a day early and meet with Dr. Neeru Jayanthi for evaluation. Dr. J works closely with the junior tennis program at Lifetime and is in the midst of a long-term study of injury in junior tennis players. He put the State Team Championships players through an extensive evaluation that tested their flexibility, agility, and stroke analysis. He also spent time with the parents to identify points of concern for future injury and will be sharing that information with the individual coaches. Dr. J even came back out to the event yesterday afternoon to watch the kids compete and offer further insights. According to Tennis Parent Scott Colson, “We plan to continue checking in with Dr. J periodically to monitor [our son’s] progress. Dr. J runs an amazing program and is highly recommended.”
Back to the event itself . . . I love the idea of bringing our youngest players from neighboring states together to train and compete with their own coaches as well as other USTA coaches on hand to help. I also love the idea of pairing the event with a pro tournament so the kids can, as Wayne Bryan loves to say, “take it in through their eyes and ears.” Y’all know how I feel about short sets and no-ad scoring, so I won’t comment on that again. The cherry on top of this particular team event was that BB&T Atlanta Open Quarterfinalist and Georgia Tech rising senior Chris Eubanks came out to visit with the kids yesterday morning, giving them a chance to ask him questions and take photos. How cool!
But, instead of just hearing my take on the State Team Championships, watch my Facebook Live video and hear from some of the parents themselves (click on the Full Screen option to enable the audio):
BB&T ATLANTA OPEN RESULTS – JULY 29, 2017
Men’s Singles – Semifinals
 J. Isner (USA) d  G. Muller (LUX) 6-4 6-2  R. Harrison (USA) d  K. Edmund (GBR) 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4
Men’s Doubles – Semifinals
 B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) 6-2 6-3 W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL) d  P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) 7-6(3) 6-4
ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2017
STADIUM COURT start 5:00 pm
 R. Harrison (USA) vs  J. Isner (USA)  B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) or [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)
I received the following via email from David Feldman, a Tennis Parent in the New England section. With David’s permission, I have also shared it with the folks behind the Match!Tennis App. Please have a look then let us know what you think about it in the Comments below. Thanks! Lisa
As I watch my son attempt to find a satisfying doubles partner for the upcoming 16L1 National Championships and the subsequent 16L1 National Doubles Tournament, it’s clear that this process is very trying for the players. As I’m sure you’ll agree, everybody wants the best partner they can get, many players aren’t sure who that is, and the discovery process is logistically and emotionally challenging for all involved.
I have a proposal: math! In particular, the economists and game theorists have long since studied this problem, and there’s a way to make everybody as happy as possible. It’s called the Stable Roommates Algorithm. Just substitute “doubles partner” for “roommate” and it’s a perfect fit for the doubles partner process. I suggest that USTA implement this algorithm on the TennisLink page for relevant tournaments.
Here’s how it would work:
1) Players admitted to an event would rank the partners they’d be willing to play with. A simple list, ordered from first preference to last preference, of the players accepted into the event. The list would be private; i.e. not shared with other players.
2) Just prior to the event, the Stable Roommates Algorithm would be run by the computer against all of the lists, and it would create doubles pairings. Those players would play with each other.
The best part is that this system would still allow any two players sure they wish to play with each other to do so: Any two players who put each other first on their respective lists are guaranteed to get matched to each other. In this way, this new system includes the current “mutual USTA #” method within it, making the transition comfortable.
Even better, it’d take pressure off of tournament directors to play the role of in-between, and free players (and parents) from the often agonizing parade of requests and rejections. I’m a computer science major and a tennis parent, I’d be happy to discuss this in more detail with USTA National or TennisLink. Best of all, this technique would be applicable to all doubles events across all divisions of USTA play.