December 8th, 2014

Coach Blog: Three Easy Things to Improve Jr. Tennis


tennis ball in netYesterday I was returning to Miami from a week-long business trip to Asia. Usually, one has plenty of time to talk to your neighboring passenger. This time I had no one near me, but, I imagined, I had next to me a U.S. tennis executive who asked me what I always want to be asked.

What can you suggest we do to improve tennis and our level as a tennis country?

Trying to be quick and succinct I quickly said: just three things, hoping he/she will remember them and actually do something about it!

1. Increase match play.
2. Have designated tournaments where coaching is allowed.
3. Promote team tennis. Not only as recreational, but as competitive.

Match Play
The psychology involved in match play is so different than the one found in tournaments, and kids need, depending on their level, a lot of both.

Just this evening as I try to register my son for a tournament, I actually wish I could register him for organized match play, and even though I live in Miami (which 98% of the time has great weather) it is NOWHERE to be found. In academies around the world and in the U.S., a great part of the learning comes from match play.

So, U.S. tennis executive? What are you going to do to make this happen? And truly understand that as a federation you drive the behavior of the parents and players? Why not drive them to have more match play, or in simpler terms increase the number of “hours of playing tennis, not in a tournament format”?

Coaching in Tournaments
As I am registering my son for a tournament, I also wish I could register him in a tournament where I could coach him, inside the court. He would then learn so much faster whatever he is trying to overcome or improve.

Why is this so foreign to us? How is it that we deprive our kids of this simple solution for their improvement? What is more important, why don’t we do it? Absolutely everyone would benefit from it, and by the way in Spain these are commonplace. Why don’t we do this here? How hard can it be?

Team Tennis
Every psychologist worth his muster will tell you, if kids are to succeed, they need to be “part of something.” It does not matter how many hours a kid trains, who the coach is or where he plays. The key question is: Does the kid feel part of something bigger than himself in an individualized sport?

The problem we face is that team tennis is not given the proper importance by the competitive coaches who FAIL, yes in capitals FAIL, to understand how team tennis is just as important as hitting a forehand for six hours a week. Why does the USTA not properly emphasize and refocus the great tool called team tennis?

Thank you for listening U.S. tennis executive, I truly wish you heard what I just said.