Want Tennis Results? Educate the Parents

waringToday’s post comes from an email I received from Frank Giampaolo, author of The Tennis Parent’s Bible and creator of the Maximizing Tennis Potential website, and is reprinted here with his permission. It illustrates the incredible family commitment necessary to develop a young player who wants to be a top professional. I have been reading and hearing about Isa for several years now, so it’s interesting to read about the specifics involved in her training. Please understand: this is a child who has shown that she has the X Factor – I do not feel this type of lifestyle and training is necessary or even appropriate for the majority of junior players. Frank’s approach, on the other hand, can be valuable for any junior, regardless of his/her goals. Please go back and listen to some of my podcasts with various Tennis Parents (click here) for more insights. 

This special report from Barcelona, Spain is a must read.  Jana & Jordan Waring agreed to share with you their daughter, Isa’s, actual monthly progress report. Monthly accountability and guidance is an essential part of their developmental plan.

Two years ago, I traveled to Barcelona and worked with this wonderful family in developing a deliberate customized training plan. Working as a team, the parents decided to become educated about the process of raising a champion. Within two short years, Isa bypassed the masses and reached the top ten nationally.

“Parents educated about the athletic developmental process are the ship’s motor… Parents uneducated about the athletic developmental process are the ship’s anchor.”

The below email is a monthly report sent by Jana (Isa’s mom) regarding Isa’s current tennis efficiencies and deficiencies.

Parents, it would be wise if you’re truly interested in maximizing your child’s potential at the quickest rate, to begin with a detailed, customized evaluation session. I am home in Southern California two weeks a month in 2017.

Contact me direct at FGSA@earthlink.net  or (949)933-8163.

All the Best,

Frank Giampaolo

Subject: Hello from Barcelona
Isa’s Monthly Progress Report

Date: November 6, 2016

Age: 10 years old

Ranking: 8th Nationally in U10

We have been with her new coach for nearly three months. I am still aiding in the training regime with feeding balls for two hours each day, hiring/firing/supervising hitting partners, physio, fitness coaches, organizing practice matches, tournaments, driving, stretching, massaging, shopping ….

Like you said, it is no laughing matter being a tennis parent.

After a brief two months of fixing a LOT of technical flaws, which you have seen some videos, we are seeing some progress. The following is Isa’s Monthly Progress Report.

TECHNICAL:

  • Shortening the forehand back swing (lower, on the side side)
  • Starting from fantastic legs – keep low, stay low, move through each shot
  • Bounce-hit” – taking the ball on the rise
  • More closed stance, less open stance and if that is inevitable, load the outside leg and move through the shot
  • Loads more secondary shots (includes constant asking which shot does/did the moment demand)
  • Fixing her grip on first serve (more backhand) and second serve (more backhand), pinpointing, closing her hips and keeping sideways, more explosiveness, covering the top of the ball with nice racquet head acceleration
  • Adding a slider serve
  • Being able to serve reliable wide and T on both sides, also jam the returner (very handy as she has a mean jamming serve)
  • Cleaning up the volleys – proper grip, turn with the body, firm elbow, wrist low and move through diagonally 

TACTICAL:

  • Differentiate between a dangerous ball (learn to defend), neutral ball (open up the court) and attackable ball (don’t wait, go get it). This was tricky, the tendency is still to let the short balls drop (though not as much as they used to) and try to do something with a deep ball (I often tell her to just send it back where it came from with a nice acceleration)
  • Hit deep – number one cause of errors, wait for the right ball, we train her favorite three patterns (deep and attack, deep and cross-court low slice, deep and drop shot).
  • Train baseline patters – her favorite- use an inside out forehand to backhand deep, followed by an inside out forehand wide, and finish it off with either and inside in or backhand to the opposite side
  • Play behind – she loves this one
  • Train steady patterns for serve (out wide – opposite side, she can do this one on the dime
  • Attack second serves

 We spend a lot of time playing practice points, sets and matches with various people and analyze and plan and analyze some more… Very helpful!

MOVEMENT

  • Hired a fitness coach who trains explosive movements and overall general athleticism
  • Strengthen core
  • Loads and loads of injury prevention and stretching

MENTAL

After the last two months of cleaning up and no tournaments, she started competing again. Rough start, some of the routines were difficult to reincorporate for both of us. The training of the patterns and practice matches (rehearsals) help, but she still tends to deviate a bit.

This gets me to the last, and the trickiest …

EMOTIONAL: 

This goes hand in hand with nutrition, hydration, sleep, match preparation, and overall state of mind. I find that early morning matches are always more difficult for her, I believe the glycogen stores haven’t ben refilled and so the brain runs on fumes. She is not a morning person, so a match at 8am on an empty stomach equals flailing arms, choking, panicking, tapping a racquet and a far more difficult match than it should. I have recently started giving her some pure fructose to take on changeovers which does help IF she remembers to eat it.

She has been winning so much in the spring and summer that she only plays up now, which is trickier but she still keeps a good ratio. Oddly enough, it is it the weaker opponents that she has the hardest time with, it is almost as if she knew she should beat them easily and thus starting doing the “hotshot” tennis and then gets frustrated. In the evenly matched or outplayed matches she generally sticks to her patterns and performs much better. She is not such a head case as she used to be but she does panic and choke once in a while.

This is about it. Hope all is well and wishing you a lovely Sunday. Jana

Specialists vs. Generalists

Image courtesy of m3design.com
Image courtesy of m3design.com

 

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?”

Tennis Level Does Not Equal Tennis Level

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Today’s post is written by Coach Todd Widom. Enjoy!

I think there is a misconception in the tennis world that you need to be playing with higher level tennis players, junior or professional, in order to become a higher level tennis player. Level does not equal level. If you want to maximize your potential, you need to put your blue-collar work ethic on and get to business. This is something that should be done in a disciplined manner. The tennis player needs to understand how they are going to attain their dreams and goals. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this particular player, and what is the timeframe that the student and coach are dealing with so that this student can play either college tennis or professional tennis. Anyone can look at a certain player and figure out what they do well or not so well, but they need to think about how the student is going to progress and in what timeframe. This includes how many hours and repetitions it is going to take to get the player where they would like to be.

Tennis is not a team sport. Every tennis player at all different levels has certain things that they must improve upon to attain their goals. If you have a player who can stand in either the backhand or forehand corner of the court and can put the ball in the court, will greatly benefit you since you will be able to get a greater workout and work on the different aspects of the game that you need to work on. As a junior tennis player, I was exposed to all different types of tennis players to train with. I hit with adults, juniors, and on the rare occasion with professionals. My coach made it very clear to me that my job was to run for every ball whether it was in or out, and to focus on the aspects of the game that I was trying to get better at. If you would like to achieve your goals at tennis, it is a never-ending pursuit by trying to improve day in and day out.

During my professional tennis career, I was blessed to compete and train with some of the very best tennis players that the United States produced. On one instance, I was invited to train with one of the American professionals that was top twenty in the world. I was excited for this workout and two hours later when it was over, I left thinking that it was a waste of my time. Reading this you are thinking to yourself that how could this be possible? The drills we did had nothing to do with what I was trying to improve upon in my game. I would have been better off training with a high-level college player or a low level professional.

So remember that you need to have clear objectives about what you are working on and it does not really matter who is across the net. Tennis is not a team sport and it is all about you and how you are going to get to the next level to be able to achieve your goals and dreams. Stay focused, stay on track, and only be concerned with yourself and not who is across the net training with you.

Home School vs. Traditional School

Image courtesy of familyfrugalfun.com
Image courtesy of familyfrugalfun.com

 

Today’s guest post is the second from new ParentingAces contributor Todd Widom, a junior coach in South Florida. Todd competed in USTA junior tennis and reached a #5 ranking in US Boys 16s and held the # 1 ranking in US Boys 18s. That success earned him a full athletic scholarship from the University of Miami. After reaching the semifinals of the NCAA tournament in 2003, he decided to test himself on the pro tour. Due to multiple injuries, Todd’s career was cut short, and he retired from the tour following the 2010 Australian Open. He has been coaching ever since.

There is a new trend in tennis development with coaches convincing parents that pulling their child out of regular school and putting them into an online source of education is going to progress their child’s tennis at a more rapid rate. Tennis is a big business and more hours for your child on the court equates to more money for the coach or academy. However, more hours on the court does not mean that your child will progress faster or even progress at all, and it could even mean that your child regresses. It is all based upon the quality of the training.

I have parents call me often explaining how their child trains five to six hours a day, they are home schooled, and they are really struggling with results in their tournaments. I usually take a player like this on the court for an hour or so, and notice that they struggle to get through the hour training with me. The junior tennis player should be training to build up the mental and physical stamina in order to be able to handle all these hours if the training is to the utmost quality. If the player trains 25 to 30 hours a week and they cannot get through a normal hour of good training with me, and if they are running around with four to five other kids on a court, do yourself and your child a favor and keep them in school. You will save yourself a great deal of headache, money, and time if your child and their tennis training is not done properly.

My generation of tennis players, during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, that went on to become professionals or very high-level college players never had an online school option. We went to school and trained after school in a very disciplined environment for two to three hours. I understand that times have changed and online school can work if it is done properly. I also understand that many schools will not allow kids to miss enough days for when they are playing tournaments so the child is frequently forced into going the online route. If you are training in a very disciplined manner, in an excellent and well-formed system, and you are very disciplined with your school work, then the online program can work in the child’s favor. During my years in coaching, I have had students go to and play tennis at Ivy League schools with an online education.

I have seen where the online program can work with highly disciplined students and I have seen where the program is a disaster because there was no organization. It is the responsibility of both the student and parent to make sure that the school work is done in a timely fashion and done properly. I would not rely on the academy to make sure that your child is doing their work and doing their work up to par. No one cares for your child more than the parents.

When I was a junior tennis player, my vast improvements in development were in the summer when I could spend double the amount of time training and improving my skills. I was also trained by professionals that did not market and sell that they produced professionals in their system, even though they actually did produce very high-level college players and professionals. Therefore, the time spent on the court was always of the highest caliber and spending double the time on the court in the summer months were most beneficial. If you have the option for your child to be in a great training environment, they are serious about their tennis and seeing how far they can go in their tennis career, and they are disciplined and focused on being educated, I would probably take the online educational route. If the tennis system your child attends is not the best quality or they do not have a great desire to be the best they can be, then do yourself a favor and keep your child in school. If your child is a serious tennis player and has aspirations of being a high level college tennis player or a professional tennis player then you should consider online school and the best training system you can find for them to be successful and reach their best potential.

LiveBall in LA

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My son got to partake in a very unique type of drill session on Saturday morning (thank you, Steve!) at the Pacific Palisades Tennis Center in Pacific Palisades, California. It’s called LiveBall, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Here’s how it works . . . there are as many as 10 people on a court with one coach feeding balls to start each point. Two people are the “kings” working together as a doubles team on one side of the net. On the other side of the net are those players vying to take over the “king” position. The coach feeds a ball to one of the challengers who has to return it crosscourt. Then, players play out the point. As soon as the point ends, and I mean AS SOON AS (meaning split-second timing), the coach feeds another ball to the other challenger who can return it anywhere in the court. Play continues like this until either (A) the “kings” win 2 points or (B) the challengers win 4 points. If the challengers win 4 points before their opponents win 2, they then run like crazy to the other side of the net taking over the “king” spot. If the “kings” win 2 points first, then the challengers step off the court, and the next pair plays. It sounds confusing, but, believe me, players catch on pretty quickly, and the game goes on non-stop for 2 straight hours.

The session my son participated in was an Open LiveBall Session comprised of several former college players, a former tour player-turned-teaching-pro, a current tour player, and a college-bound freshman (among others). The tennis center also offers sessions based on NTRP rating for both men and women. The level of tennis and the speed at which it was played was dizzying! Talk about great training for doubles – wow! The players are using every trick in the book to score points on their opponents, including head fakes, no-look shots, tweeners, and spins like I’ve never seen before. The creativity was incredible, and the ball striking skills of these men and women was as good as I’ve seen at many professional events. My son came off the court so pumped for his doubles matches this coming weekend!

For the junior coaches out there, this is a great way for you to get several kids on the court simultaneously, building their doubles skills while improving their fitness levels, too. It’s fun, fast-paced, and the players visibly improve as the session progresses. I saw my son begin to incorporate more variety into his approach shots and volleys as he watched the other players have success with some non-traditional choices. And, since the players are with a mix of partners throughout the session, they learn to think on the fly and improvise as they try to gain/maintain “king” status. My son had a blast and came off the court at the end of the 2 hours sufficiently worked out.

Oh, and another perk for him . . . he made some incredible new tennis contacts for his next trip to SoCal!

Our Summer Is In Full Swing

Photo courtesy of www.thesweatshoppe.com
Photo courtesy of www.thesweatshoppe.com

 

Summer 2014 is in full swing at the Stone house. My son finished his junior year of high school as of May 20th, and immediately started training hard to get ready for the state qualifier to our sectional closed tournament. He had a very good tournament, playing seven (7) matches in 3 days, winning five of them, and ensuring entry into Southerns which begins this Saturday. Needless to say, his body needed a few days to recover after the Qualifier, but after taking time away from the court and the gym, he hit both hard to make sure he is in optimal condition (the humidity levels here are ridiculous!) for what will likely be the biggest tournament he plays this summer.

Southerns is sanctioned for 7 days, so, depending on how he does, we’ll come home for a day or two (hopefully, not more than that!) before heading to our state clay court open tournament. After that, we’re heading down to the Florida Gulf Coast with my extended family for a week of R&R for me and a mix of rest and tennis for my son. He’s bringing a tennis buddy with us to the beach so they can hit each day because we’re driving straight from the beach to Florida State University for his first ITA Summer Circuit tournament of the summer. We’ll combine the tournament with some campus visits around the area, too – we’re still mapping out our route through Florida – and will wind up in South Florida where, hopefully, my son will have a chance to play in the Qualies for the National Clay Court tournament in Delray Beach. If he doesn’t get into the Qualies, that’s okay because there are some schools he wants to see in that part of Florida, too, so we’ll make the most of the fact that we’ll have our own car and can go at our own pace.

After our Florida Tour, we’ll be home for a few days to regroup . . . and do laundry! Then, it’s off to the West Coast to celebrate my son’s birthday, do more college visits, play another ITA event, and train again with Craig Cignarelli, Lester Cook, and, hopefully, Amir Marandy, too. While my son is on the courts, my husband and I are hoping to steal a bit of beach and family time and to take advantage of all our favorite SoCal haunts. Unfortunately, our oldest daughter, Emma, who lives in Los Angeles, will be away while we’re there, but the plus side of that is we’ll have use of her cute little Mustang convertible – FUN!

At the end of almost two weeks in California, we’ll fly back home for a few days and keep our fingers crossed that we have a reason to head up to Kalamazoo for the National Hard Court Qualies. Because school starts so early here (August 4th this year – ugh!), if my son does happen to get into Kalamazoo, he will wind up missing the first few days of his senior year of high school, but I’m hoping his teachers will be understanding of his situation and cut him a bit of slack – we’ll see!

It’s hard to believe that this is my son’s last full year in the Juniors, but our journey is nearing its end. I feel very lucky to have the chance to spend so much time with him this summer as he continues to work toward his goal of playing college tennis. I realize these opportunities are going to be few and far between once he leaves the nest next Fall, and I’m savoring every single moment while I have the chance.

 

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.