Assessment Could Save Your Child’s Tennis


The following was written by Todd Widom and reprinted with his permission.

This article was prompted by an increasing number of parents over the years contacting me for a truthful assessment of their child’s tennis. It is not so easy to receive the truth for some so I am here to give you the truth. Many parents get very excited when their 12 or 14 year old is obtaining excellent results. Does it mean that the child will go on to do great things in tennis? Maybe, but in many cases the real answer is no. The strategy of spending money is easy, because as long as your child is winning everyone is happy. However, you may not be so happy in the later stages of your child’s junior career when they need to peak to get into a great school.

The essence of what I am getting at is if you think your child is having great results, be prepared that you are going to keep investing in his or her playing career. The issue is that you want your child to peak when he or she is 16 to 18 years old and what you must face is the reality that your child is going to require the necessary tools to attend a great university or maybe play professional tennis. Just because your child is winning, does not mean that they have the necessary foundation and tools to play great tennis in their last couple of years of junior tennis, which is when it matters most.

The younger divisions of junior tennis are for learning and developing your game for when you are older. What parents must understand, is that your child should be learning how to train, compete, construct points, have a great attitude, and be mentally prepared. There is no time to be trying various strategies, or going from academy to academy. You will lose precious time and no child has that luxury. Certainly, if an academy or coach is not working out then a change is required, but due diligence and research is required to find the right coach.

When a person gets an opinion from a doctor that they need surgery, they should get a second opinion. The same holds true in tennis. When a student is looking for a new coach or to improve on something in their game, they should interview coaches, obtain a second opinion, and select the one they feel like will get them to the best place in their game.

In addition, when your child is figuring out what college they would like to attend, they should have a list of schools, research them and visit them. I counsel many kids and their parents on these issues. You are making a financial investment in your child’s tennis, and your child is making a commitment to tennis. In addition, the coach is making an investment in your child and their tennis career. What I keep seeing over and over again are junior tennis players not peaking from sixteen to eighteen years old and this is not only a very significant problem, but this is also a costly mistake the parents absorb financially and the player absorbs physically, mentally and educationally. Even though each case is different, what I can tell you is that the majority of kids do not have the solid foundation required to play at higher levels of tennis. As a coach, mentor, friend, and teacher to my students, I make sure that all aspects of what creates a strong and solid foundation are set into motion from day one. This is the only way I know how to do it, and I am not merely a coach. My business actually started this way as parents were panicking that they have spent all this time, effort and money, and at the most important juncture of their child’s junior tennis career, their child is faltering, their foundation is cracking and their dreams are quickly dissolving into thin air. Do yourself a favor and get your child assessed by someone experienced so that you will save yourself major headaches in the upcoming years.

Are Junior Tennis Tournaments a Social Gathering?

The following article is the latest contribution from coach Todd Widom. Enjoy!

I find it quite amusing when I attend junior tennis tournaments and see the teenagers huddled around each other either socializing or trying to snap a photo to put on social media. Then all of a sudden, their name is called and they need to rush to the court to play a tennis match. They may win or lose, but if they do not perform up to their parent’s standard that they have set for their child, it will be a rough car ride home or back to the hotel. The “cool” kids that love tournaments so they can see their friends usually do not do well. Their mentality and preparation is wrong. For the serious kids, socializing is for outside the tennis facility. When you are at the tournament, the serious kids are there to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to win. Everything else is secondary.

For all the parents reading this article, the next time you attend a junior tennis event, just take a step back and see who is hanging around at the courts all day with no purpose. It is going to be the vast majority of kids, but also keep in mind that the vast majority of kids do not have goals and a purpose for why they play tennis. There will be a couple of kids sprinkled around the event away from everyone else warming up properly, stretching, re-gripping their rackets, and maybe listening to music in a quiet secluded setting. They are not around many other kids socializing and listening to all the noise around them. These teenagers are there at this event and they have a purpose.

For many of you who have read my previous articles, you know that my tennis background was training with a couple of Argentine disciplinarian coaches who produced some of the best amateurs and professionals in the United States. I trained with these phenomenal coaches from when I was 6 years old all the way to 26 years old. As I reflect on how I was and what went through my mind preparing for a tournament, it went something like this. Tennis for me was a blast from day one. I was obsessed with everything about it. I grew up and played with the best players in the country and in the world since I was 6 years old. I had two main coaches that truly cared for the students. They trained you multiple hours every day. You did not just take a lesson and then spend no time with them the following days. They were truly there for you to produce you into a champion. They were not running a lesson factory away from the other students. Tennis for me was a way to better my life. What this means is that if I could hit that tennis ball better than most, I could find a way to better my life in something I truly enjoyed doing. I felt the love from my coaches because they knew I would run through a wall to win a point or perform the drill properly. When there is this mutual desire by both parties to go the extra mile, there was no way I could not be a serious prepared tennis player at a tournament. To goof off at a tournament meant to me that I did not respect what they were doing for me, and what my mother was doing for me since there were tremendous sacrifices to see how good I could be. I was a reflection of their phenomenal teachings and I would not let them down if I could avoid it. You see, I was striving to be a top notch amateur and then professional, but I felt that they cared so much and wanted it for me as well, so we were in this process together working our tails off.

Playing junior tennis in Florida in my generation was very difficult. The talent pool was large. If you did not prepare well in practice or in the tournament arena for your matches, you were not going to be successful. I would watch some of the top players and I knew that to ever beat them, things had to be done properly. I was also a top-notch player, but I knew that if something was off, it would be a quick match and I would not win. These players would be away from the rest of the competition at events and you know they were getting ready for a prize fight. There was no socializing for these players. They were there for one reason and one reason only, and that was to win. I was not the only one trying to better my life by hitting a yellow ball better than the rest. When I went to tournaments, I rarely stayed at the tournament hotel because for me the competition took place on the courts and I did not want to spend time or socialize with the competition outside the “boxing arena.”

In closing, if you ever wonder how you fulfill your potential in this game, it is to perform many aspects of preparation well, but to have the proper guidance so that your goals can become a reality. I am not saying that your child should not socialize, but what I am saying is that the tennis facility is there for tennis. The socializing for the serious children is outside of the tennis facility. It is very easy to see who these focused children are at a tennis tournament. What many children and parents need to realize is that tennis can open countless doors and the skills they learn on the tennis court can be lifelong. Many of these skills are not taught by studying out of a book in school. From very early on, I had a dream of playing professionally, and I knew tennis was the one thing I was best at, so when you have those thoughts of bettering the future of your life through tennis, you are going to have to do things better than most people. There are kids all over the globe trying to get college scholarships or make it on the ATP Tour. What separates your child from the rest? Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.


Fitness During Tournaments for Tennis Players Trying to be Elite

Courtesy of Todd Widom
Courtesy of Todd Widom

Here is another helpful article from coach Todd Widom on one way elite players set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.

This past December I had a discussion with a young touring professional  who was having trouble sustaining his level of fitness during matches on the ATP tour.  He had some very good chances to win matches against good players, but he would run out of gas and not be able to sustain his level of play.  After telling me his physical issues during his matches, he asked me if he should be doing fitness during tournaments.  My quick response was of course.

The vast majority of your children are not going to do what this article is discussing.  To be elite in this sport, you have to be different than the rest, and it is the small things that make the biggest difference if you want to be special.  If you do not go above and beyond the call of duty, you will be like the rest.  It all depends what your child wants out of their tennis.

Included in this article is information on fitness for those who are trying to become elite junior tennis players.  The norm for a junior tennis player is to warm up for their match, play their match, maybe stretch 5 to10 minutes, get food, maybe play another match or go to the movies, or hang out with their tennis friends for the rest of the day.  If the junior tennis player trains well for a tournament, they should be physically fit entering each and every tournament.  The reality is that if this player does not keep up their level of fitness during tournaments, they will be out of shape when they come back to train once their tournament is complete.  For every day they skip doing some physical fitness during a tournament, they will lose a bit of their physical conditioning, which will have to be boosted up again when they come home to train.

Doing fitness during a tournament will help maintain one’s fitness level and it is not about becoming more fit or stronger.  You want to try your best to maintain your level of fitness so that when you get home to train, you are not starting from scratch, and you can keep progressing to becoming more fit and stronger.  From a parental perspective I know what you are thinking:  I do not want my child to be tired for their next match the next day, I want them fresh.  If your child has been training well and is fit, doing 30 minutes of exercises is going to keep them sharp, because they should be used to doing lots of tough physical work at home.  If your child has two tough matches in a day at a tournament, then doing anything strenuous is not too smart, but if your child has some easy matches or one easy match, I would highly recommend them doing some very sport specific exercises to keep them sharp at tournaments.

This comes down to common sense.  For example, if your child has an easy match or two in one day, they definitely should proceed to do fitness for at least 20 to30 minutes.  They should do tennis specific movements to keep their fast twitch muscles firing for the matches the next day.  They could also do some body weight exercises, core or band work for some upper body strength.  If your child had a brutal day at a tournament and is tired, they should have a very good cool down session and recover well for the next match.  This may consist of a light jog or bike ride to flush out all the lactic acid that developed in their muscles.  Then you need a great recovery plan to make sure your child wakes up the next day with a fresh body so that they are able to compete again.  I will discuss the recovery plan in a future article.

As I discussed earlier in the article, most kids are not going to do this without someone helping them, and if they do this on their own, you have a very special mature young person on your hands.  Tennis is becoming a more physical game and the ball is going faster generation after generation.  I can tell you that many injuries come from improper training.  Also, tennis players who have become out of shape and then trying to push their bodies to higher levels of fitness or tennis when their bodies cannot handle that type of training at that moment, is a recipe for injuries.  When a player is at a tournament, it is all about trying to maintain your level of fitness so that when you come home to train, you are not out of shape and having to start from zero.  I always tell the players I train on a daily basis, that if you think your matches at tennis tournaments are very tough physically, then you are not fit enough.  Your training should always be tougher physically than your tournament matches, and if this is not the case, then you need to train tougher physically.  Best of luck and remember that going to tournaments are fun, but you also need to keep up with your fitness if you want to keep progressing physically.

The Serbian Tennis Monster Janko Tipsarevic

TipsaravicHere is another contribution from Coach Todd Widom. Enjoy!

In 1999 I had a good Easter Bowl finish in the boys 16 and under division.  Due to my results, I was invited by the USTA to go on a trip for three weeks to Europe and play some of the best 16 and under European tournaments on red clay.  I was very excited to say the least.  These players in the draw of these three tournaments were mostly from Europe and they were very good, especially on red clay.  I thought I was great on clay because I grew up on clay in south Florida and I was coached by Argentine coaches my whole life.  Being good on green clay in the United States and being good on European red clay are two very different things.

Some of the kids that I saw on that trip would be my competition on the ATP Tour a couple of years later, but there was one kid who caught my eye at the first tournament in Torino, Italy.  I did not know who he was, but I knew that if I played him, I may not have gotten games off of him.  He was that good and not only that, he was a year younger than me.  This guy was built like a monster from his upper body to his legs and he was sliding on these red clay courts like no other fifteen year old I had ever seen.  I thought I was pretty good at sixteen years old.  I was top five in the United States in the 16 and under division and already had some low level professional experience.

The boy’s name was Janko Tipsarevic from Serbia and thank goodness I did not play him on this trip because I was very certain this guy was much better than me.  I ended up taking a beating my second week in Milan, Italy from a guy from Switzerland (not Roger).  I lost 6-1, 6-1 to this guy and I thought I played well.  I was sliding well on the red clay and ripping the ball heavy and I got a lesson in about an hour.  This was my “ah ha” moment, that I needed to become much better if I had any chance of playing against the best players in the world on the ATP Tour.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2001 and many tough hours of training later plus a semester of college tennis at the University of Miami.  I met Janko in the second round of the Orange Bowl boys 18 and under, played on Key Biscayne, where the Miami Open aka the Sony Ericsson professional tournament is played.  I knew who he was but he had no idea who I was.  He was the number two junior player in the world and at seventeen years old he already had extensive professional experience.  I had little to no world junior ranking because that was an area I never pursued.  I was one of the top juniors in the United States and I had a little bit of professional experience, but not much.  On paper, he should have smoked me and he probably believed that he should have.  We start our five minute warm-up and he is warming up with his shoes untied.  Talk about no respect for me!  I looked at his shoes and then him, and it gave me more determination to beat him, which I did in a long tough three set match.

The moral of the story is that you should never underestimate anyone, even if you have never heard of them or seen them.  There are players that are phenomenal all around the world and they are very good, but if you put in the extremely hard yards and train focused you could be a top player.  There is no one right way to get there except by training hard and with a purpose.  We had two totally different paths between our junior careers and professional careers, but I guarantee he was working his tail off in Serbia trying to make it on the ATP Tour.  I ended up playing Janko in a challenger in California when he was ranked around 140 on the ATP Tour and I beat him again.  His shoes were tied this time in the warm-up.

The Inside Look at an Elite Amateur Tennis Player

1 - Kyle Mautner Photo

With college kids heading back to campus, the timing of this piece is pretty stellar! It was written by Coach Todd Widom and reprinted with his permission:

Since there is so much information on the internet about how to perfect this or that tennis technique, I thought it would be very interesting for my audience to get an inside look at what really takes place in order to be an elite amateur in the United States.

I started working with Kyle Mautner just before he started his junior year of high school.  Kyle was about to go through some changes to his game by being more physical and agressive so he could attain his goals and dreams as a tennis player.  Based on each player’s long-term goals and dreams, I then work with them set a plan on how to achieve those goals.  This is not a short-term development plan.  It is a strategic, concise, involved long term planning effort.  Everything that a young athlete does is a habit and some habits are tough to break; however, if that young person wants to achieve their goals, they need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

From the start, Kyle bought into the plan that I thought would progress him to much higher levels of tennis, whether it was at University of Pennsylvania or on the professional tour.  So what did we work on for five hours a day during the week plus another couple of hours on Saturdays?  Kyle was an excellent competitor, yet needed to develop weapons off both the forehand and backhand swings, learn to play more like a left-handed tennis player, develop a much better transition game to the net, develop a much bigger serve, and become much stronger physically.  Given there was only two years left for him in junior tennis and he was also going back to the Northeast to play sectional tennis tournaments,  there was a lot to accomplish in a short timeframe so that he was ready to play a very high level of college tennis.  In Kyle’s last couple of years of junior tennis, he was one of the top players in the Eastern Section winning multiple sectional tournaments and finishing with a top twenty national ranking in the boys 18 and under division.

Kyle and I had many discussions about how he was in a very special position to excel.  He got to this place due to his improvements in tennis and hard work academically.  He was going to be exposed to people and opportunities that others only dream about.

Kyle just stayed at my house for a month of training preparing for his 2016-2017 tennis season at University of Pennsylvania.  This interview is about how he handled his freshman year at school playing number one singles, as well as getting through the rigors of the Wharton School of Business.

TW:     Why did you decide to pick University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School of Business?

KM:     I thought the University of Pennsylvania had the perfect balance of tennis and academics, as I could attend one of the premier schools in the country.  I want to pursue a career in business after tennis so studying at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania seemed like the best opportunity for me.  In terms of tennis, I loved Coach Geatz from when I first met him when I was 13.  I also thought that if I could keep developing, I would potentially have the chance to play number one singles as a freshman, which is a tremendous opportunity.

TW:     What is a normal day like for you at school?

KM:     A couple days during the week I go for extra training with the coaching staff at 7:00am.

I have class from 9:00am-12:00pm.

I also have class at night for 3 hours a few days a week.

Team practice is from 2:00pm-4:30pm, and I also try to get out an hour early to drill with the coaches.

Team gym workouts are twice a week plus I do one extra on my own.

I study for about 3-4 hours a night and go to sleep around midnight.

TW: What was your tennis season like?

KM:     My fall season started very well after training in Florida over the summer.  I made the semifinals of the top flight of the Princeton Invitational and the semifinals of the regional tennis tournament, beating some of the top players in the Northeast.  The rest of the fall was a lot of preparation for the spring season.  Over Christmas break, I was back in Florida training and living with you to get ready for the spring season.

During the regular season, I beat six players ranked in the top 100 in the country including the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, a senior at Dartmouth, 6-4 in the third set.  Some of my biggest wins were beating the number one player at Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn State, University of New Mexico and East Tennessee State University, among others.  Some of these players were ranked around 50-80 in the country.  Unfortunately, I came down with plantar fasciitis in February, which hampered my training and I was forced to cut down on the hours spent on court.

TW:     What were some of the aspects of your freshman year that caught you by surprise?

KM:     I was very surprised by how tough the academics are and I realized how much my time management needed to improve.  I needed to be very disciplined so I would not fall behind due to matches and training.  I learned quickly that tennis and academics were my top priorities, so the social scene took a back seat.  The academic environment is incredibly competitive, so I do feel like tennis helped me prepare for the rigors of being a student-athlete at University of Pennsylvania.  In the fall, I was surprised to see my fellow teammates and other Ivy League players studying before and after matches and I soon realized you cannot waste any time.  Having a balanced schedule of tennis and studying throughout each day is imperative.

TW:     What kind of stress or pressure did you feel not only playing number one singles on the team as a freshman, but also in the classroom?

KM:     From the very first match of the year I was incredibly nervous.  I played a poor match, but I was able to win.  Over the course of the season, I became more comfortable and motivated by the fact that I was playing the best player from each team.  The team environment is incredible and it is always fun pumping each other up before each match.  In the classroom it is always a struggle (as my friends know), but I would try to make the best of my resources like having regular tutoring sessions.  Having study hall two nights a week from 8-10pm was also a big benefit.

TW:     With the experience of playing some of the best players in the country, what are some of the keys to winning more matches on a consistent basis?

KM:     Staying physically fit and mentally fresh is crucial.  It becomes tough playing matches every weekend in the spring and traveling throughout the country, but the key to more success is in the preparation.  I feel like the plantar fasciitis hampered me, and in hindsight, I could have taken better care of my body.  I lost a few matches that could have gone the other way, especially ones that came down to the wire in the third set.  The margins in each match are so small so you need to bring your top level every time.

When Kyle started to live with me and my family in the beginning of his junior year of high school, it became a great situation.  I was given the green light from his father from day one to train him to the best of my knowledge in order to transform his game that would work at much higher levels of tennis.  Kyle matured in many ways tennis wise, physically, and emotionally.  Due to his desire to keep improving, he put himself in a position to have a very successful life after tennis.  As I keep seeing so many tennis videos on the Internet about this or that technique, there is one thing that you cannot measure and that is brains and heart.  Kyle has always worked extremely hard and always asks me to do extra time with him.  That is how you become a much better tennis player.  You do what others are not willing to do and that comes from both player and coach.

An Interview with Keith Parmenter: The Man in South Florida Who Keeps the Top Tennis Players Injury Free

Todd & Keith

Today’s post is another gem from coach Todd Widom. Enjoy!

I thought it would be very interesting for you to read about how athletes cure some ailments and how the bodywork specialists can get these athletes cured at an extremely fast rate compared to general medicine. Being the son of a foot and ankle surgeon, when I was younger I would watch ESPN SportsCenter before school and be amazed how quickly some of the athletes could recover from injuries that looked quite severe. While I was on the ATP Tour, I was often told by doctors to have an MRI, rest, ice, have injections, wear a boot on my foot, or have surgery. This advice was from the top surgeons in South Florida that see elite athletes in all sports. As a professional athlete, there is no time to waste guessing what an injury is and sitting at home resting while taking anti-inflammatory medications or having injections to mask the pain in hopes of recovering after a certain number of weeks. Unless you absolutely need surgery, I can tell you that there are solutions, and professionals can cure issues in a matter of minutes without surgery, injections, or pills.

This article is an interview with one of my very good friends who cures athletes’ ailments on a daily basis in South Florida. I was introduced to Keith Parmenter when I had a knee injury in 2005 that multiple orthopedic surgeons could not solve. I had multiple MRI’s and saw the best surgeons in South Florida and they all were baffled at what was wrong with me. It was time to think outside the box and see a bodywork specialist who deals in muscles and tissues. I was one of Keith’s first professional tennis players to have regular treatments and it really opened my eyes and taught me about the body and how to cure many issues that hamper athletes.

Keith was a top notch athlete himself growing up in South Florida as a highly competitive swimmer. He swam for 19 years and as a junior swimmer he was a record holder in multiple events in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and an All American in college. Having this background as a phenomenal athlete, he understands the mind and body relationship than just someone who learned the muscular skeletal system out of a book in school. On a daily basis, he sees all types of people ranging from a child to a geriatric and a world class athlete to a person who has a 9 – 5 job. He sees professional athletes in all major sports and has done so for 23 years. At any time, you could see these top notch athletes in his office receiving treatment so that they can return to their sport.

So what exactly does Keith Parmenter actually do on a daily basis that cures these athletes so quickly? Keith specializes in Rolfing. You then ask, what exactly is Rolfing? Rolfing is realigning the body by stripping muscle fibers and using cell memory to track with proper biomechanics. In other words, he is breaking down tissues to put them back in place because they have become misaligned over time. For example, when you look at an infant, they have perfect musculature as they do not have any muscles out of place. Over time, whether you are an athlete or not, the tissues can become misaligned which can cause pain and in some circumstances, severe pain. Keith will strip the muscle fibers so that the body is back in alignment. You are probably thinking that stripping muscle fibers sounds painful, and you are right, it can be very painful depending on the severity of the injury or the body part becoming realigned.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Keith Parmenter.

Todd Widom: What is Rolfing and why is it so beneficial for tennis players?

Keith Parmenter: Rolfing allows muscle memory to make the muscles track properly. It increases range of motion. 90% of the injuries are due to improper tracking. An example of this is Osgood-Schlatter disease which is due to improper tracking of the knee joint and it is usually caused by tight hamstrings.

TW: What are some of the common injuries that you see on a daily basis with tennis players?

KP: Most of the injuries I deal with are strains and sprains of the muscular system.

TW: What do you think is the reason tennis players come to see you?

KP: The reason I see not only a great deal of tennis players, but also many other athletes is that they have a lack of range of motion and flexibility.

TW: What can the players do to not have to come to see you?

KP: Athletes in all sports need to warm up properly, possess proper techniques, and recover from their workouts properly. This should include stretching, ice baths, and proper protein intake.

TW: What types of training causes injuries so that the tennis players need treatment from you?

KP: Many of the tennis players I see are overtraining, doing improper weight training, not warming up properly, and not cooling down properly. Many junior tennis players are wasting too many hours on the court overtraining.

TW: How can the athletes heal so quickly with your treatments compared to conventional medicine?

KP: Strains and sprains cause inflammation which is glue like for muscles and that causes muscles to stick together and that causes a decrease in range of motion. Rolfing breaks up the muscles so they can properly heal and track and the athlete then has proper range of motion and a decrease in inflammation.

TW: What is your philosophy behind strength training for young junior tennis players?

KP: I think it is absolutely worthless. If you take a look at Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, they have incredible power from range of motion, agility, and speed. A 15 year old will get much stronger by natural physiology by 18 years old. Stretch cord training is the optimum way to train for the kids. Weight training will close the growth plates before the natural time.

TW: What is your philosophy behind heavy strength training for young junior tennis players?

KP: Free weights or any weights at all will close the growth plates prematurely. That is why I believe in isometric training because that type of training will leave the growth plates open.

In closing, Keith has been a very close friend of mine for over a decade. He was instrumental to me going through bodywork school when I retired from the ATP Tour. Going through the schooling helped me understand the muscular system and how to minimize risk to any of the athletes I train on a daily basis. It is because of Keith’s persistence, I went to bodywork school and became one of the only tennis professionals in the world who is legally allowed to work on athletes and cure ailments that they may have. My tennis career was riddled with injuries and it is because of this that I take the health of the players I train very seriously. I am proud to say that I have never had any of my students have any type of serious injuries that have taken them off of the tennis court for any substantial amount of time. Proper technique, training methods, nutrition, and bodywork are essential for these athletes to stay healthy and continue to work at their craft. The vast majority of tennis players I have trained see Keith regularly to stay healthy because tennis is a very tough sport and the students I train put in some very tough hours on the court and in fitness drills. Many of you reading this article have children that have probably seen Keith and if you are a parent who is in south Florida with your junior tennis player, there is no one I would recommend more than Keith Parmenter for nonsurgical ailments.

Preseason Training For the Elite College Tennis Player


Here is another gem from coach Todd Widom. Tuck this one away and have your college player re-read it at the beginning of December as a reminder to stay in peak condition throughout that long winter break!

There is plenty of information on the internet about how an ATP or WTA professional prepares for their upcoming season, but there is minimal information about how high level college players prepare for their upcoming seasons. This past winter break I was very fortunate to have four very high level division 1 college players to train. Two of the players are tops in the Ivy League, one is a very solid SEC player, and the other player is one of the top players on his team locally here in South Florida.

These players were coming off of taking some grueling final exams and for a few weeks their training was minimal. If you have read one of my previous articles, no two tennis players at any level should be training the same way. I do not believe in the cookie cutter mold since each player has different body types, athleticism, techniques, etc. This situation is no different as each college player is treated differently in terms of how they are going to train and prepare in order to have a successful college tennis season. This winter break training time of a couple of weeks was spent cleaning up specific areas of each athletes game, getting into great physical condition, and also making sure they were playing the proper game and patterns which will work for each particular individual for when they are competing in their matches.

With the players taking some time off, they came back a bit out of shape; therefore, we started with some very grueling drills that tested their mental and physical strength. Each athlete can handle different levels of these grueling drills. It was between 80 and 90 degrees here in South Florida over the break so for some of the boys coming from indoor climates, in the beginning it was very difficult physically. These players can make plenty of shots, but they worked a lot on hitting specific targets. They hit many repetitions repeatedly and we made necessary adjustments technically to be able to do it more consistently ball after ball. During this time, we were not making major changes to technique, as there is not enough time to be able to make drastic changes to technique and have that become an ingrained habit before their season. With these repetitions, the players worked countless hours on mobility and being light on their feet. They also worked on court positioning and constantly moving in and out of the baseline, as they tend to crowd the baseline and struggle to maintain enough balls on the targets due to being out of position if someone hits a deep ball to them. This type of training is imperative to their success.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was invited to train with Andy Roddick after he had just made his first semifinal at the Australian Open. I had known Andy basically my whole life and had trained with him many times. One of the lessons I learned from him was about hitting specific targets. We were hitting cross court forehands and I was crushing the ball and rarely missing. After the drill was over, we spoke on the changeover, and he told me that I was a bit off the mark and that the mark I was hitting was for amateurs and not professionals. That was a good lesson for me as I had professional aspirations and so do some of the college players that I trained over the winter break. During this winter break, we worked on seeing how many balls they could maintain on a professional mark and not an amateur mark, which is not easy, as you need to be in perfect position and strike the ball consistently to be able to hit these professional marks on the court.

After a week or two working on specific areas, we then worked extensively on making sure these athletes were working on their game that would give them the most success during their season. The type of point construction that works for their body type, techniques and strategy are crucial for these players. They need to be using their strengths in the right way to be most successful. In college tennis, you can be very successful making lots of balls and running well because many players are not able to maintain enough tennis balls. You will win matches based upon the other person missing routine shots. If you want to be a very high level college player or even play on the professional tour, you need to be able to hit such quality shots that force your opponent into errors or at least get short balls where you can take the initiative and hurt your opponent. This is what you see the best tennis players in the world doing. If these college players are winning a sufficient amount of matches in college by making a bunch of balls, that is great, but I am not sure they are becoming better players. It all depends on what your long term goals are. In terms of these players, we worked a lot on them being aggressive and using their weapons in the right way so that they can keep progressing to higher levels of tennis.

Plenty of college players use their winter break to relax and spend time with their family and friends. These players I worked with over their winter break are molded differently. They have a passion to play and have a great desire to keep improving their skills. If you are a serious college tennis player, these weeks are the opportune time to be working on many different aspects and variables of your game, which will then carry over to your season. The college tennis season in the spring is not an easy time for these student athletes as they will be missing class time due to traveling, making up school work and tests, and they are expected to win their matches. During the season, the coaches are also preparing their teams to try to win the most amount of matches that they can, so many programs are working a lot on singles strategies and also doubles strategies. Many times, there just is not enough time to be working privately with each player to be able to work on their games. That is why the winter break can really help players get a significant jumpstart to the season, if you train properly.