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Home School vs. Traditional School

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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.


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