BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships

State Team Championships
Image courtesy of Scott Colson

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
    South Carolina
  • 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
    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):



Men’s Singles – Semifinals

[2] J. Isner (USA) d [3] G. Muller (LUX) 6-4 6-2
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [5] K. Edmund (GBR) 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals

[1] 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 [4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) 7-6(3) 6-4


STADIUM COURT start 5:00 pm

[4] R. Harrison (USA) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) or [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Tickets available at

DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships

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Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at a very unique junior tennis event: the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships. Created by Brandon Feusner and run by Brandon and his IMG_6413wife, Nikki, since 2007, this event has grown to over 60 teams representing 14 states around the US. It moved from Kentucky to Tennessee two years ago, and with the incredible volunteer support it receives from the local tennis community, Brandon doesn’t see it leaving Chattanooga any time soon!IMG_6420 - Copy

I hope you’ll listen to the audio interviews below to get a true feel for how great this tournament is! Brandon is very focused on making sure the players and the coaches have an IMG_6421extraordinary experience, providing everything from a Players Party at the Tennessee Aquarium to a full-color tournament booklet, from complimentary snacks throughout each day to sponsor booths and giveaways, from educational sessions to off-court activities. I would love to see this tournament become a template for future events around the country!

Nikki & Brandon Feusner, Tournament Directors







Brandon Feusner Interview

Nikki Feusner Interview

It was very interesting to hear from the players regarding what they value about this tournament and tennis in general as well as their goals after high school:

Micha, Cherry Creek HS, Greenwood Village, CO
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Danny & Michael, Pensacola Catholic HS, Pensacola, FL
Caroline & Grace, Hutchison HS, Memphis, TN



Like the players themselves, the coaches also see the great value in this tournament. Here is Cherry Creek Girls Coach, Christin Jacob:

The parents I spoke with were more than happy to make the trip to Chattanooga for this event. Here is dad Peter Nowak from Pensacola, Florida talking about his daughter’s experience:

With so many junior players suffering from burnout and leaving the game by the age of 13, it’s time to think differently about junior competition. Offering more team-based events, like the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships, would be a step in the right direction. I know Brandon would be happy to speak with anyone interested in creating such a tournament (his contact information can be found here). IMG_6425Both local and sectional USTA offices have recognized the value in Brandon’s work, awarding his tournament two separate awards this past year as Nikki discussed in her interview above.

Thank you to Brandon, Nikki, and their incredible volunteers for stepping way outside the box to provide this unique and much-needed tournament to our kids!

One Family’s Zonals Experience


The following was written by fellow Georgia Tennis Parent, Brian Bowles, about his son’s experience at the 12s Zonals. For those of you who were at one of the Zonals in your area, please share your experience in the Comments below.

Recently my son had the opportunity to participate in Zonals in Sumter SC. We live in Georgia which is part of the Southern section. The Southern section takes the top 30 boys and girls who apply to participate. To qualify players had to play in either the January Southern Closed in Macon GA or the June Southern Closed in Cary NC.  Zonals started on July 3rd and lasted through July 7th. We arrived on July 2nd around mid-day. My son, Connor, had the opportunity to warm up with some friends on the day before play started. That evening all of the players, parents, and coaches were invited to a dinner where Mark Rearden, the tournament director, welcomed us to Sumter. We also got to listen to some wise words from legendary tennis coach Chuck Kriese.

Players were divided into teams of 6 boys and 6 girls from their section. The teams were determined by water-falling players based on sectional ranking and based on USTA National guidelines.  The matches were played against teams from the Southern, Mid Atlantic, Florida, and Caribbean sections. On Thursday- Sunday match start times alternated starting at either 8:00a.m. or 12:30p.m. The matches lasted about 6 hours each day. Each day, each player played an 8 game pro set of doubles first and then a 2 out of 3 set singles match with a full third set. On the last day players only played singles.

Normally tennis is an individual sport. At this event the opportunity to play on a team was really exciting for all of the players. We were the Southern “C”  team. Our players called themselves the “Cows” and they spent the whole weekend “Moooing” each other. Each team had a coach who was allowed to coach the players during changeovers. Our team had Rod Ray, the coach from Wofford College. His son, Ashe, played on our team. Rod did an excellent job of motivating the kids before match play and during the match. We were also very lucky to have an excellent group of players and parents. For the most part the team spent the entire day with each other. After each match they usually hung out and went to dinner together.

My only criticism is the price. The tournament was $253.00 to enter for each player. When you add that to 5 days of hotel it does not make for a cheap tournament. That said I would definitely do it again.  My son had a great time. He told me it was his new favorite tournament and he made many new friends. The tournament was run very well. Sandy Harris from the USTA was there on the first day. Mark Rearden, the tournament director, has many years of experience. He did an excellent job of organizing the event and quickly handling any issues as they came up. Zonals for the boys 12s will be held in Sumter next year as well. If you child has the opportunity to go I highly recommend you take advantage of it. I also would not hesitate to return to Sumter for a tournament during the year. The staff and the facility are top notch and court set up is great viewing of the matches for parents and coaches.


Quick Guide to the USTA Website

Even the Higher-Ups at USTA will admit that their website is difficult to navigate.  Well, really, that’s an understatement.  USTA has gone to great lengths to put some very helpful information on their site – the problem is that the average visitor can’t find it!  So, in the name of identify-problem-create-solution, below is a list of links to some of the information I’ve found to be useful in navigating the world of Junior Tennis.  You might want to print out this list and keep it handy then add to it as you discover more sub-pages.  If you have found any other useful articles at, please add them in the Comments section below.

USTA Section Pages:

Click on the Find Your Section box in the top right corner of the homepage to determine in which section you live, then click on the appropriate link below.  Your section page will likely have a tab at the top titled “Juniors” or “Junior Players” – click there to get information on Rules, Points Per Round (for ranking purposes), Tournament Schedules, Junior Team Tennis, and more.

USTA Junior Competition Page:

All of the information listed below can be found under the Players & Parents Link on the Junior Competition page:

  • Social Media:

Facebook: JrComp

Twitter: @USTAJrComp

USTA College Tennis page:

You can find the American college rankings at the bottom of this page—kind of fun to keep an eye on!

Going to College or Turning Pro: Making an Informed Decision (10/2010):

International Player Study & FAQ (4/2010):

      • Social Media:


Twitter: @ustacollege10s


An Inspiration

Today’s Q&A is with Jerry Hendrick.  For more than 20 years, Jerry has been a college professor, college tennis coach,  and father. He has three children and all of them have grown up on the court.  As a result of a family health crisis, Jerry is now also an author [please see I Love You (But You Should Have Won!)].

Jerry’s oldest child, Ashley, was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteo sarcoma) when she was 16, and this led to a year-long battle as an in-patient at DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids Michigan. As a result of her illness and the family’s desire to improve her likelihood of surviving, they chose to have Ashley’s left leg amputated above the knee.  Ashley ultimately survived this surgery and the treatment of her illness and has returned to tennis with a prosthetic leg. She is currently playing #3 doubles on her college team and has a winning record.

ParentingAces:  What is your background in terms of tennis and coaching, including your own tennis playing history as well as that of your kids?

Hendrick:  I played #1 singles and doubles for Spring Arbor University (class of 86). I have taught tennis at various private clubs/resorts and have also coached both boys and girls. My first coaching experience was when I was hired as the head girls tennis coach at Lumen Christi High School. I coached the girls varsity and JV team for two years and the varsity went undefeated both years. I have been the head coach at Aquinas College (men) for 21 seasons. Our teams have been ranked among the top 25 in the US (NAIA) each of the past 14 years. This year’s team stands at 21-1 and is ranked #13 in the US. Most remarkable is that our top six consists of entirely US players. My all-time record as a coach at Aquinas is 379-119. My wife Beth also played college tennis (Olivet Nazarene) and our three children all play as well. My daughter Ashley is about two weeks from graduation and will play her last match as a member of the Aquinas women’s team one week from Friday. After surviving cancer and the amputation of her left leg she was able to return to tennis and make it into her high school and college line-up using a prosthetic. My son Aaron was a Top 20 USTA Region player. He was also the Michigan High School State Champion at #1 singles. Last year as a freshman at Aquinas he played #1 singles and doubles and set a school record for wins in one season. Aaron was honored as an All-American and was voted the ITA National Rookie of the Year. He is now a sophomore and is ranked #23 in the nation in singles and #7 in doubles. My youngest son Austin is a sophomore in high school. He plays #1 singles for his team and was voted all-conference this past season.

PA:  In your book, you talk about The Beast.  Please tell me more about how you arrived at that description – was it something that happened to you personally or something you saw from other sports parents?

JH:  The Beast is something I know and experience personally but I have also witnessed it in many other tennis parents. It is essentially the pride we all have in our children that has been allowed to warp and distort our perspective. We begin to think about our child differently based on how he or she plays. We then find ourselves treating our child differently based on his or her last performance. In the beginning we want our kid to win for his or her sake. We assume the win will be good for their self-esteem and will provide a reward for their hard work and incentive to keep practicing. Over time however as our child moves up the ranks, we as the parent start to internalize the wins and losses and start seeing them as more of a reflection of ourselves. He’s my son (or daughter), and he’s making me look bad as his dad when he plays so poorly. That’s how the beast affects our thinking.

PA:  How do you keep your own Beast under control, both as a coach and as a parent?

JH:  It’s easier as a coach as I do not feel the same obligation to primarily love and support my player as I do as a father. As a coach we emphasize winning and most of what we do in practice and in our matches is intended to help the guys accomplish this task. While we do care about many of the same things a parent cares about with regard to our players, there is no doubt that the emphasis is different. With parenting it is harder. The article I sent you in my previous email [click here to read it] includes a few suggestions taken from my book for helping a parent tame their beast. Most successful strategies require at least some level of disengagement, or detachment on the parent’s part regarding their child’s competition.

PA:  How did your family’s experience dealing with the scare of Ashley’s cancer affect your behavior as both a sports parent and as a coach?

JH:  The year my family spent dealing with cancer was the most significant year of my life. Everything was changed on the day Ashley’s cancer diagnosis was made. None of us cared about tennis anymore, even though it had accounted for such a great portion of our lives. All we cared about was doing whatever we could to see our daughter live. We wanted her to get better. We wanted her to be healthy again. We wanted her to be happy. We hoped she’d get to live a long and wonderful life. Tennis never entered into the equation until we were out of treatment and able to start moving beyond all of those greater fears. It was then that we started thinking about helping her return to the courts. Once she made that decision, she went after it full time and the two of us began the slow and sometimes discouraging journey back. After she was able to return to her team the feelings were quite mixed to be honest. Sometimes when I watched her play I was moved at how far she had come and I felt an overwhelming thankfulness to God for bringing her so far. Other times when I watched her play I felt depressed and even angry. It hurt to see her struggle physically to get to balls. It also hurt to see how poorly she played and moved compared to how well she had played and moved before she was sick. These negative feelings and emotions have decreased a lot over the months and years since she completed her treatment, but I would be lying if I told you they have completely left me.

PA:  Finally, what should other parents and players take from Ashley’s experience?  What are you hoping your book will teach the rest of us?

JH:  My desire is to help parents appreciate their children more and to understand that their child’s athletic (or other) accomplishments are really not all that important in the greater scheme of life. I want to help parents better love and support their children so that they are able to cultivate a relationship that will last the rest of their lives as opposed to a relationship that is built upon a child’s athletic participation. I want to help parents learn some of the things that I have learned without having to go through everything I have gone through. That’s really all I want.

For more information on Jerry and his family’s experience, visit the following links:

WZZM Channel 13 News

Sports Illustrated

MLive Blog Post on Ashley Hendrick

MLive Blog Post on Small Colleges

“We” Won

I am very proud of my son.

In the Region 5AAAAA Final yesterday, my son’s team arrived at the courts ready to warm up with each other before playing their opponents.  The weather, however, had a different plan in mind, so the official asked both teams to go ahead and start their matches with a 5-minute warm-up in hopes of finishing before the thunderstorms arrived.

Our #1 singles player, Danny, had been sidelined most of the season with a neck and shoulder issue.  He had played the last couple of matches, but yesterday he had a follow-up appointment with his doctor and wasn’t yet at the courts.  So, the coach moved everyone up a spot in the lineup, putting my son in at #3 singles.

The boys went on court, began their warmup, then, before anyone played their first point, lightening struck.  Literally.

The rule in our county is that play must be suspended for 30 minutes following a lightening strike within 3 miles of the facility, so we all spent the next hour (yes, there was another strike just as they were heading back out to play!) huddled together inside one of the school buildings as we all checked the weather radar on our various smartphones, trying to predict whether the kids would actually get to play.

During the lightening delay, Danny arrived, reporting that he had been cleared by his doctor to play.  Since the matches hadn’t officially begun, our coach had the option of putting Danny back in the lineup . . . which he did.  That meant my son was going to be part of the cheering section instead of getting to play.  Disappointing, to be sure.

However, when the coach announced that Danny would be playing (and my son would not), my son just smiled and wished his teammates good luck.  He stood nearby and cheered for each and every match.  He encouraged the guys when they needed it and kept his game face on throughout the afternoon.  And, at the end of the day, when the final match was won and the championship trophy was in hand, he stood with his team, proud to share the victory (that’s him – with Danny’s hand around his shoulder – holding the trophy in the team picture above)!

My son, upon hearing he wouldn’t be playing in the championship match, could’ve argued with his coach.  He could’ve griped and sulked.  He could’ve stood alone.

But he didn’t.  He realized that it was in the best interest of the team to have their best player in the lineup at #1, even if it meant he didn’t get to play.  It was all about the “we” – there was no “I” out there.

I am very proud of my son.

There’s No “I” in T-E-A-M

UGA Men's Tennis Team - 2007 NCAA Champions

Jim Courier, Bob Bryan, John Isner, Mike Bryan, Ryan Harrison

I know I’ve written a lot lately about high school and college tennis, but it’s just where I am right now, so please indulge me one more time!

I watched this past weekend’s Davis Cup matches with great interest, not only because my childhood friend’s son was playing for the US but also because our #1 singles player, John Isner, was a 4-year member of the University of Georgia men’s tennis team (Go Dawgs!).

As I watched World #11 Isner play against World #6 Jo Wilfred Tsonga, in what turned out to be the clinching match, I couldn’t help but wonder how Isner’s experience at UGA shaped his ability to close out such a decisive match on Sunday or how it affected his ability to close versus Roger Federer in the previous Davis Cup tie.

In John Isner’s own words (via Twitter), “That’s the beauty of team tennis, Coach!! Lay it all out there!!!”

Laying it all out there is exactly what John did to help lead the US team to victory versus Switzerland then versus France, coming in as the underdogs in both ties, being forced to play on what has been considered the US team’s weakest surface, red clay.  But, as a Georgia Bulldog, John had lots of experience in coming from behind and using the sideline energy of his teammates to push him to victory.

UGA Head Coach, Manny Diaz, told me that John was always a great team player. “I believe that playing a team sport at an early age (basketball) plays a big part.”

Coach Diaz went on to say, “I think that we [UGA] emphasize the ‘team’ concept very strongly. I feel that it helps develop closeness and it teaches them that even when you do not feel your best you play a very important part of what happens each day in practice. It’s much easier to just go through the motions when you are tired. But if you have a close team, you do not want to let the others down.”

There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that high school tennis is a waste of time.  There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that college tennis is NOT the proper path to the pros.

According to Coach Diaz, Isner is one of the greatest competitors and leaders his UGA team has ever had. In college, he was always at his best when others were counting on him. He would never let down the team by giving less than 100%, and when his teammates needed a win from him, he would raise his level to meet that need.  Now that Isner is on the ATP tour and playing Davis Cup, he seems to have carried that never-say-die attitude with him and is quickly becoming the go-to guy for Davis Cup coach Jim Courier.

I do realize that John Isner is an exception, that as Andy Roddick said, “You can’t teach 6-9!”  But, I can’t help but feel that, but for Isner’s 4 years under the tutelage of Coach Manny Diaz, he might never have developed into the kind of player who can withstand and thrive under the pressure of Davis Cup, especially the “away” matches with thousands of fans cheering against him.  If you’ve ever had the chance to watch your favorite college team play live, you know the kind of noise the home team can make.  Davis Cup fans have NOTHIN’ on college fans, especially in the SEC!

Here’s the thing . . . the odds are stacked waaaay against any junior player hoping to find success at the professional level.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s just the way it is.  So, why not advise your child to take at least a year or two (or four!) to mature, develop, and educate before making the decision to go on the tour?  Your child could be the next Davis Cup hero!