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

7 Comments on “Want Tennis Results? Educate the Parents”

  1. That is what tennis coaching should be: a partnership between coach, parents, and player. All must be involved and informed, or they are just individual pieces frequently operating at odds with each other.

    We only had four coaches for my player’s junior career. I choose carefully each time, and believed in the competencies for each. At the inception of the relationship, I sat with each and outlined a relationship where they would drive the train, but were to provide me with a quantifiable goal chart, and path to achieve it. This would consist of an initial analysis of strengths and weaknesses, methods to maximize strengths, remediate weaknesses, projected timelines to accomplish these goals, and a training/tournament schedule that would provide for development and match exposure. At set intervals, we were to sit down and discuss achievements, and revise the plan going forward… as a team.

    All of them said they would do it, and none did. They each had strengths to bring to the table, and were unwilling to consider the parent as a partner. Past experience had exposed them to unreasonable, psychotic tennis parents, and they were either unwilling to try again, or were worried that any disagreement would lose them a revenue stream.

    Mr. Giampaolo is doing exactly the right thing, and I would bet that if he encounters any intransigent parents, he simply lets them go. What he’s offering will achieve results. Not every player will be a champion, but it will get the most from all of them. He also seems focused on determining what strategy/tactic will maximize the individual player’s strength, instead of trying to force all of them into the same mold. That takes a lot more work, and most coaches won’t put in the time. Cookie-cutter training is a lot easier.

    Tough to try to mold a Radwanska when the player is all Cibulkova, but lots of coaches will try, and then blame the player when it doesn’t produce success.

  2. I think this tennis parent is going to be a real problem, does anyone think that feeding balls to their child for two hours a day (I am assuming that is outside other coaching/training sessions) is a good thing? Treating your 10 year old like they are going to be a champion sets up a lot of expectations and pressure for the child. Most tennis champions that were raised by crazy tennis parents (agassi, bartoli, dokic, capriati, pierce, lucic…) don’t end up with healthy relationship with those parents, and you don’t here about all those crazy tennis parents whose kids don’t end up goinig anywhere in tennis. A ten year old is going to have technical flaws that will not be fixed with a coaching change in two months. You need a long term development plan.

    If the parent doesn’t know tennis, then they should pick good coach and drive them to training and tournaments, and stay out of the way. You certainly want to look objectively if the child is improving, and decide if the child has outgrown the coach, but medling parents who can’t play above a 4.0 level need to let the coach be a coach.

    Sorry but this tennis parent seems to me like they need to get their own life and back off

  3. j bish – Maybe you’re right, but it’s impossible to tell that in a flyover, such as reading an article, or post. There are many tennis prodigies that weren’t subject to psychotic parenting, and are putting forth the effort to satisfy themselves, because they love the sport, competition, and achieving their best. For all those you cite as examples of poor parenting, there’s a Djokovic, Federer, Roddick, Murray, Raonic, McEnroe, Sampras, Evert, Austin, Davenport, etc.. where the player has excellent relations with their parents.

    If the child’s welfare and happiness is paramount in the equation, there is nothing wrong with the article’s intent, which is to build a synergy with the player, parent, and coach. When there is dissent between any two of them, the dynamic is much more likely to result in a poor outcome for the player. Until I see something to the contrary, I choose to believe they are doing the right thing by the child.

  4. The parents of those champions did not feed balls to their kids for 2 hours a day. My point is just that the if the parent is over involved in the child’s tennis things can go badly, even if not to the extreme like the cases mentioned above. I am blown away by parents at my club who watch tennis/swimming sessions for hours, go to the gym and workout for your self.

    There was a great article recently how Taylor Fritz fired his farther as his coach, was over the negativity. His farther was a qualified coach, but its a very hard balancing act to coach and be parent.

  5. All true. Again, it comes down to what works best for the child. A parent spends a lot more time with the player than the coach does, and is privy to insights that the coach will never see. Especially if the parent is the one who travels to tournaments.

    If the parent can remove themselves emotionally (as it pertains to the tennis portion) and speak with the coach about what they see, the coach can then determine if there is validity to the observation that could be influence the direction that training should take.

    I’m certainly not saying that all, or even most tennis parents are capable of this. Anyone who has been around junior tennis for any length of time, has several books worth of experience with the wrong type of parent, and coach. I’m just not willing to throw stones without some evidence that there is an issue.

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