Love of the Game

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Today’s post was written by Coach Ryan Segelke (yes, I’m sure this time!) of High Altitude Tennis. Enjoy!

This month’s article is a little different from my previous ones in that I am not really going to talk about fitness techniques, exercises or best practices.  I am going to talk a little bit about what I have seen in my own personal experience that truly separates the most successful athletes in the world from the rest of the pack.

Throughout my training career, I have had the opportunity to train many National and International level athletes in tennis, swimming and various other sports.  These include a 6’1” Chinese female tennis player that could do multiple sets of step-ups with a 50-pound dumbbells in each hand with ease, a Big 10 Freshman of the Year and contributing members of teams that have won 7 NCAA Titles as of the writing of this article.  I have also had a lot of athletes that may have been more talented physically or maybe were one of the premier athletes in the country at a young age that never reached their full potential.  Why not?

All of these athletes were obviously gifted with superior physical abilities that set them apart, but what was really the determining factor in their success was their passion for their sport.  If they truly loved their sport, their work ethics and competitiveness were off the chart and fueled by this passion.  It is important to note, developing this passion for tennis (or any sport) requires time and is different for every one.  Some have the passion at 10 years old, some do not truly begin to love something until years down the road.  It all depends on the student.

As many of you know, the #1 player in Peru, Marcos, just finished up his training block at High Altitude Tennis on Saturday to head back to Peru for his school year. One thing about Marcos that stands out is that he truly has a love for the game of tennis. When I took Marcos and two of our Full Time Students to a tournament a couple weekends ago, Marcos was so excited during the car ride up there, he could not contain himself: he was dancing, clapping and singing (shouting) along with every pop song on the radio.  There was nothing else he would rather be doing than get out on court and compete – this will make Marcos successful in the coming years as he gets closer to his goal of attending and playing for an American college.

My advice to you is this: come to practice everyday, truly listen to what is being taught to you, smile and give 100% in every drill, exercise, rep and set.  If you do that over a period of time, you will begin to love the daily grind and begin to truly enjoy what you are doing.  The most successful people in every category have a love for what they do and if you can develop this same love for tennis, you will be successful.


The 12’s and 14’s Tennis Superstar Curse

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Today’s Guest Post is written by Coach Todd Widom.

We have all seen it.  We go to a junior tennis tournament and there is a young kid playing and everyone is just in awe of this player.  They win so much and it seems like they are unbeatable at such a young age.  They may in fact be on a great path to becoming a great player or unfortunately they may not be.  Sometimes I even look at a particular young superstar and think when they get older, they are going to be in trouble, or I may think they are on the right path to do great things in tennis.  No one can really tell until the player is older; however, from a coaching perspective, a good coach can tell if they have the proper techniques, game style, brain, and physicality.  You can get away with many subpar attributes at a young age, but it will catch up to you if you are not doing things properly.  Remember that habits are formed very early on in the development process, so if the habits are not good habits, it is much tougher to fix them in the latter stages of the junior tennis players’ career.

For example, some children go through puberty at a younger age than others and they are so much more physically developed and can overpower their opponents.  This obviously will not last forever, as the late developing children will catch up with height and strength.  What you often see is that this strong young player struggles when they get older because they cannot overpower the players they used to overpower, and they only have that one dimension of power.  Their techniques may also be off because they could muscle the ball around the court instead of using the proper muscles to generate pace and heaviness on the ball.

Another type of player that falls under the category of someone who is a young cursed superstar is just a player who has been on a court at an earlier age than most and has gotten more repetitions in.  They are usually very seasoned and know how to win matches at an early age.  Once again, the competition catches up and they are usually scratching their heads and not handling the losses very well.  Burnout can also be a major factor as this type of child gets older.  There needs to be a very good balance of winning but also losing.  You learn a lot more when you lose.  If the player is winning too much in one division they should be moved up to the next division to have that balance of winning and losing.

The last case of a young player that may be in trouble in the latter years of their junior development is the moonballer or strictly defensive player that has no ambition to be aggressive and take the match to the other player.  Like I have said in  previous articles,  this type of player, coach, or parent are obviously very results based and not process based, which is going to destroy the players career, because you can only get so far playing the wrong way when the competition is training and developing their skills for the future.  Usually these types of players fizzle out when they realize that the 12’s and 14’s type game that they possess does not work in the 16’s and 18’s, where it matters most for college opportunities or the professional tour.

In conclusion, many of these 12’s and 14’s superstars are not developing their games for the future and are very short sighted.  In these younger divisions it is crucial to be learning all the basic fundamentals of technique, movement, strategy, how to train properly, and also how to compete properly.  If the main goal from either the player, parent, or coach is to win and dominate these divisions, the development of the player may take a backseat, and one day all you will talk about is what happened to that young superstar that you thought was a can’t miss prospect.

Specialists vs. Generalists

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Today’s Guest Post is written by Ryan Segelke of High-Altitude Tennis. Enjoy!

Throughout my training career, I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to work with many ambitious athletes that have gone on to achieve great things in their sport, not to mention their professional lives after they “retire.”  I periodically look back on some athletes that I knew, but did not have the opportunity to work with.  Some in particular, could have achieved more (at least in the athletic arena), but were hindered by a couple main things: lack of love for the game, or perhaps their program hindered their potential.

Does this mean I know everything and they would have been able to turn professional if they worked with me?  Certainly not.  But I cannot help to periodically think about these athletes that did not seem to reach their full potential and wonder “what if?”  Below is just one of my recommendations on how to allow your child to maximize their athletic potential:

Work With A Specialist

By working with a specialist, I mean find a complete program that has everything your child will need to have the best chance to achieve their athletic goals – and whose sole focus is just that.  If you program is not complete or is focused on many different things other than your child’s development, and you have to outsource aspects such as a fitness trainer, sports psychologist or nutritionist, make sure you do your do diligence and ensure they are a specialist in their field.

Far too often, I have seen families settle for a generalist rather than seeking out and working with a specialist.  At least in the fitness training realm, a generalist will typically work at a club and work with anyone that will pay them for their services.  They could train a 60 year old man with the goal of stress relief at 4 pm, a 45 year old woman that wants to lose 30 pounds at 5 pm, and then your child for tennis at 6 pm.  Does this make sense?  Is this trainer really specializing and devoting all of their time to developing the best tennis players?  Or are they just taking on any person that will pay them, regardless of that person’s goals?

When searching for a fitness trainer for your child’s tennis, I would suggest asking these questions (and similar ones) to ensure you are picking the best:

  • How long have they focused on training tennis players only?
  • What sort of education do they have? Do they have any tennis specific training education?
  • What are some of their results? Can they furnish exact results of what they have helped the athletes they train achieve?

Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions, challenge their assertions and take a hard look at your child’s program.  Realistically, your child only gets one opportunity to play tennis as a junior.  It would be a shame to look back and wonder, “what if?”

Are You A Parent Dream Killer?

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Today’s Guest Post is from Ryan Segelke, founder and CEO of High Altitude Tennis in Colorado.

Before we get to the story of a parent dream killer, let’s start with a challenge for all the parents who are reading this article: I invite each HAT family parent (current, past, potential) to open your mind and consider the fact that it’s easy to fall into some traps when supporting your child’s athletic dreams. However, that is 100 percent understandable because it comes from caring greatly about them. In addition, it may be that many parents can’t quite gauge how their actions affect their child or know how to fix issues that arise along the way.

I also encourage specific parent personality types who tend to “know it all” (I know you know who you are, and I can relate because my beautiful wife reminds me daily that I have this tendency) to stop and remember exactly what we teach our kiddos: the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. My aim in this article, then, is to ensure that each parent engages in the story below with a clear mind and takes away, at a minimum, one tool to help their child achieve their best. That’s why we are all here, right?

The Parent Dream Killer:
Tommy is four years old and is just beginning his very first swimming class. His parents Mary and Jerry signed him up a week earlier with the hope that Tommy might rave about the class on the way home and ask to come back for future sessions. The session begins and Mary and Jerry are watching though the window with no expectation of future Olympic gold, national titles or club championships. They are simply paying close attention to the teachers to ensure they are indeed specialists. They want him to start off with the best instruction in case he does take to the sport, as they know that “the art is where you start.” And, overall, they are just excited to see Tommy trying something new. Tommy indeed does leave the first session with a smile on his face, as he explains every new technique he learned. What a great experience for all!

Fast-forward several years. Tommy is now 15 years old and has been swimming for over 10 years. Tommy has loved swimming and has become one of the best swimmers in his state, but he has started to show signs of “burn out” in the past 12-18 months. It’s time for Monday practice and, on the ride to the pool, Mary begins lecturing Tommy about how much money they are putting into his swimming. They have spent more than their budget allows, and it has put a strain on the entire family. She tells him that if he doesn’t work harder in practice and perform better in competitions, they are going to pull him out of the great, specialized training that he has been a part of for the past 10+ years. Tommy sighs.

They arrive at practice and Jerry meets them there, as he just got off work. Jerry (a parent, co-coach who knows he has hired the best team of specialists around and loves the results) was a swimmer himself in high school and in college. But, he is still living his own dreams through Tommy and feels he needs to be the main coach as well. This adds unneeded conflict and stress to the situation. Jerry spends the first 15 minutes of practice telling the head coach what he thinks Tommy needs to work on and what competitions he should be signed-up for. Tommy sees this and knows that his father means well and is only trying to help him. However, he sighs again as his father and the swimming coach disagree about what he needs to be doing to improve in order to get ready for the upcoming nationals. How stressful!

On the way home, Mary and Jerry immediately begin bombarding Tommy about how his times aren’t good enough, and they compare him to his biggest rival on the team, Alex. Jerry says, “How come you can’t win as much as Alex? He is always going to Nationals and doing well!” Mary agrees and says, “With how much money we are putting into this, you had better do well at nationals this weekend!” Tommy sighs…again.

At the national tournament, Tommy improves his past times but does not live up to his parents’ expectations of winning the title, and he finishes 3rd. They don’t let him know, verbally, about their disappointment, but he can tell through their body language and by the way they are bickering with each other. Also during the trip, Jerry is approached by a coach who is smiling like a used-car salesman. And this coach proceeds to tell Jerry how great Tommy is and that if he were to join the coach’s general program, Tommy would win Nationals (no facts provided, just smiles). This excites Jerry despite the fact that Tommy has a 10-year relationship with his current program. Jerry is excited to add another program into the mix. It seems like a good, quick fix.

The following week, Tommy spends three days at his specialized program and two days with the new, general club program. At his trusty specialized program with the coaches he has grown to trust, there is a rigor that he likes and is use to. He can see himself improving incrementally, and the coaches always have reasons for what they do. But, the new, general program is more like the Wild West. Everyone does their own thing. Every coach is teaching a different philosophy, which confuses Tommy. And there is an overall lack of accountability. He can see how his discipline is slowly getting worse. After the third coach of the day comes up to Tommy and tells him how his technique on the breaststroke is wrong (“The specialists are teaching you incorrectly”), he gets out of the pool, walks to the locker room, changes, and finds his mother. She is upset that he quit. Mary says, “What was that Tommy? You must get back to practice so we can get ready for nationals next month!” Tommy replies, “I quit,” and he walks to the car. Mary knows he is serious and tries to remedy the situation. But, it’s too late. Tommy never returns to competitive swimming.

In conclusion, I am not suggesting there shouldn’t be accountability in training. I am, however, suggesting a few changes in approach:

If a student is “driving the bus” by requesting more of an activity, everyone is winning.
Stick to a budget; spend what you can to provide the best training for your child. Don’t take out a second mortgage on the house to fund your child’s dreams.

Don’t compare your child to other competitors/teammates. There is no other child in this universe like yours. Everyone learns differently and at different speeds. Comparing your child with others will backfire and will do the opposite of what you are intending.

Find the right, specialized program and be loyal. Not only does attending multiple programs frustrate your child and stagnate their learning, it also does not set a great example of loyalty to a team of coaches who have put in years of work with your child. By all means, if you are with a generalist who provides smiles without results, kick them to the curb. But if you have found a program that can help your child win in a specific activity and in life, stay the course!

Don’t co-coach. You have researched, found and been loyal to a specialized program for years because you know that as a parent you are not qualified in the specific venture your child has chosen on their own. You need to make a choice. You can either: 1) quit your job and spend countless years and 60-hour work weeks learning the craft your child has taken on (doesn’t seem too logical), or, 2) trust your coaching staff and ask for specific results and evidence to prove it is worth your investment.

Finally, let us know if this article made an impact on you. Did you find that you have some of the tendencies described above? Was it a helpful article? I want to hear about it and help in any way I can. Email me at!