5-Y-Old Great Player

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TennisBro, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. LakeSnake

    LakeSnake Semi-Pro

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    Certainly in classical music, another highly complex and technical field, the top performers tend to start quite early. Great players seem to start around 4. Of the really awesome guitar players I have seen, their technique seems to be more or less there at least by 12 or so.

    But you can be a late starter and still be good enough to play rock :)
     
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  2. TennisBro

    TennisBro New User

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    My son does not speak Cantonese but Mandarin and English, and I do know a few local tennis coaches around. Expats in Guangzhou, who are pros in this area, do not seem to have crossed paths with me. Many in this business that I know seem to mostly be interested in money rather than anything else and they have a rather limited knowledge in some areas of young learners' development. There's a primary school that specializes in tennis here in Guangzhou; however, at this point it is too early for my son to start the sport so seriously and in a boarding school.

    I really hope you don't have me for a troll and now an old grumpy one too. I 'd like to think there's no overparenting in my family as we just spend the time together. Selective as oppose to do anything you want my son is what we are attempting. In any case, my boy's crazy about biking, swimming and soccer; he takes me for a 3-5 mile bike ride sometimes, and he can really swim for while in 7 feet deep pool. Yes, you can call me crazy.

    Warm Regards,
    Bragging Bro
     
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  3. Ash_Smith

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  4. julian

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  5. mightyrick

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    Well, it probably isn't worth getting into an argument about complexity, technicality, and difficulty of music... but I'll make this statement...

    ... if a classical player works hard enough, they might be able to play jazz one day.

    Many of the world's greatest guitarists started after the age of 10. Even classical guitarists would have an incredibly difficult time (if not impossible) duplicating technique from many great jazz, fusion, or rock guitarists. I'm talking guys like Allan Holdsworth (who invents his own phrasing), Stanley Jordan, Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen, Hendrix, Malmsteen.

    Classical technique is far different than Jazz, Fusion, or Rock (Neoclassical Metal) technique. A classical guitarist would not be able to pick up an electric guitar and do what those guys do. It would take years of learning.

    All of the guitar styles are incredibly technical and complex and take years to master. I don't think learning at 4 or 14 makes much of a difference -- based on history.
     
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  6. LakeSnake

    LakeSnake Semi-Pro

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    For sure, that's a different instrument and CGers can't do that stuff.

    But _can_ you start CG after 10 and be a top player? Doesn't happen too much, just too complex and structured and technical. Rock and jazz technique is simpler and those disciplines rely more on soft skills, composing, creativity, personality, etc.

    Is tennis more about hard skills or soft skills?
     
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  7. BMC9670

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    Music, at least popular music, and tennis are not comparable as being a "good" musician is subjective and being a good tennis player is based on results. Heck, when U2 formed in middle school, they didn't even know how to play their instruments. Some consider The Edge one of the greatest of all time, while others think he's a hack. If a middle schooler takes up the guitar, he could hit it big. But if a tennis player starts this late, guess what, they will never reach the top of the game.

    Now, classical music might be more analogous as you have to reach a certain level of proficiency to compete, yes compete, for the limited number of opportunities as a professional classical performer. And guess what, it's nearly impossible to find a top classical, money making musician that did not start early and was a standout at an early age.

    Again, it's just the math. These things are so competitive for so few spots at the top.
     
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  8. PittsburghDad

    PittsburghDad Rookie

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    Maybe off topic. .. I've got a 7 yr old girl thats doing quite well for herself. Just grinding out fundamentals in a relaxed but technically sound setting. Even gotten some much appreciated help from a coach with experience guiding a current player from Grade school through WTA. There's good technique and potential. But she's 7. There is zero reason to hope for anything beyond potential fulfillment. Let it play out. If they are good enough you'll know.

    Off topic part...We. just had a boy. Of course people ask "When does he start playing tennis? " Honestly, not until he demands it. If. But at three he'll sure as heck be hitting soft toss left handed and getting grounders. If you're going to drill a skill set early for a boy sure seems like baseball over tennis.
     
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  9. PittsburghDad

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    One benefit to the early hard work...
    I'll concede that perhaps what a kid looks like at 789 has no bearing on 121314. You guys have way more experience than i do. You've seen it. But when a kid is that good that young , opportunitIes arise that you normally wouldn't have. Now if you're already a top notch junior coach or made of money, it probably doesn't matter. But if you're new to the game and middle class it does.
    There's no chance my daughter would be getting the opportunities she gets without the fact that she was going so hard at 5. It can really help when a kid is smooth, powerful and technically sound at so young an age.
    You also get an engagement and excitement level from top coaches that really helps. You get to pick and choose the right environment.
     
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  10. Chotobaka

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    You mean he doesn't have an iPhone? Child abuse! This kid is probably doomed based on Pop's vicarious obsession with his being "gifted".
     
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  11. TCF

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    If its totally FREE top coaching? Wow, thats great. But in the end whether they are technically sound at age 5 or sound at age 11, their tennis ceilings will end up in the same place. But if you are going to start early, make sure the fundamentals are solid from the start.
     
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  12. PittsburghDad

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    Ours is free. Had offers to have her travel paid for. There's no chance that happens without major work at an extremely young age. And IMHO, that's a ceiling changer.
    Doesn't mean you have to drill sergeant a four year old. But you can do a ton of fundamentals. In a very fun way. Its not hard to find 60-90 minutes a day at that age.
     
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  13. TCF

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    Good luck Pittsburgh. Just take it slow and easy though. I have seen a good number of kids told by coaches or parents they are special at age 4-5-6-7. They do have lots of early success as they simply have such a huge head start on kids their age and a little older even.

    But the day ALWAYS comes when they get caught by the other kids. Sometimes even passed, all depends on their tennis ceiling. By age 11-13, it just does not matter what they looked like at 5-7, they will fall where they fall in the tennis landscape.

    I wish it was different, but early work is just not a ceiling changer. There was a boy touted here years ago. Amazing by age 4, full time academy in France at age 5, predictions of greatness, personal trainer and massages, best training and equipment. The pack caught up by age 10. Same with a girl touted by Macci at age 4. Same deal, pack caught up. I coached a girl who was hitting from the baseline by age 3....yup 3. Still doing well but the pack is catching up.

    The pack always catches up no matter if a kid starts as a toddler or at age 9. The ceiling will not change. Greatness will emerge in an 18 year old whether they started at age 3 or age 9.

    Thats when it can be very rough. When you are used to being 'the prodigy, the best 5 year old, 6 year old'.....it is usually very tough for them to handle when the pack catches up to them. Many can not handle being much better than other 7 year olds, but being just another decent player by aged 12.

    Early success and attention from parents/coaches can be a blessing, or a giant curse down the line.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  14. LakeSnake

    LakeSnake Semi-Pro

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    Another data point: a classical guitarist friend of mine who taught youngsters thought that 7 was the best age to start guitar. He claimed that the ones who started younger didn't have any advantage and the "late starters" (who started at 7) tended to catch up.
    ..........
    Still, at the top levels, the best performers didn't start at 7, they started at 4ish.
     
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  15. BMC9670

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    I agree with you when "early success" is defined at 5-6-7, but the bold statement above is misleading IMO. If we're talking about "great" players - top money making pros, virtually all started earlier than 9 and showed exceptional success by 11-12.

    And yes, you're completely right that early success can be a blessing or a curse. However, it's a trait found in all great players, but the math means for most it will be a curse. Still waiting on an example of a kid that started late and didn't show success until later in the teens and has made it to the top of the game.

    I hear it a lot in junior tennis circles "the 12's and 14's are meaningless, it's about development". Why, then did virtually all top players have success in these age groups? I think it's simply parents trying hold out hope for something special or coaches trying to keep students. In reality, if a kid isn't showing something exceptional by 11-12, they may end up good, but will not reach the top levels of tennis.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  16. PittsburghDad

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    If done properly, I think it can actually be very beneficial to practice perfect technique, a lot, and very young. IF they always believe that its hard work that made them better. Not some vague idea of natural talent.
    That attention to detail, self confidence, and calm focus shows up everywhere. In school, in other sports, everywhere. Learning to read doesn't worry a kid that spent a couple hundred hours perfecting an inside out FH.
    I've nearly cried when I put the tape of M at 5 making contact 1/2 the time, next to her at 7 blistering heavy forehands past kids 11-12. Good players.
    Not because of how much she improved. But because of the magnificent beaming smile on her face. "I did that Daddy. I worked hard.". I could SEE the lesson of hard work setting in.
    Its never about beating people. Its about exploring what you can do with with hard work. That doesn't go wrong.
    I deeply believe in a whole lot of work. Early. If the motives stay sound.
     
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  17. TCF

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    BMC....I do not think we disagree at all. I am talking about extreme early work, ages 3-4-5-6. Talented athletes who start at age 8-9 catch up in a year or two.

    And you are correct, almost all top players were showing it by the 12s-14s. Its thinking that what they look like at age 4-5-6 matters that is not correct.

    Also, many of the top players also played soccer until ages 10-13. They may have picked up a racquet earlier than that, but they were not tennis only at age 4-5 like some think you need to be.
     
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  18. spun_out

    spun_out Rookie

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    Can the opposite be said to be true? Can we say that kids who don't show exceptional talent in tennis at 3-6 can blossom into talented tennis players at 9-12? If yes, then can the same be said for kids who do not know exceptional talent in any sport at 3-6?
     
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  19. TCF

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    I like that, it the motives and goal is simply competing with oneself and seeing how good she can get great. But someday she may want to test herself vs the best kids around.

    Down in SE FL. we now have the best junior tennis on earth. The past few years Russians have purchased resorts and filled them with talented kids ages 4-14. The Little Mo Internationals played in Palm Beach County in 2012 and 2013 have been huge successes and as a result the wealthy parents have stocked all the local academies and clubs with talented foreign kids.

    You enter a Level 7 down here 2 years ago, you might find half beginners, half pretty good kids. Now, just a few years later, level 7 and 6 tournaments can have the top player from Columbia, Australia, Egypt, Serbia, kids visiting who are full time IMG at age 5.

    Its scary how the talent level has jumped up so fast. Its the perfect storm as the Russian academies and the Little Mo International parents have used word of mouth to spread the news that you can get ITF level competition all within an hours drive almost every weekend.

    So what happens? Our 7-8 year old 'prodigies' who used to destroy 12 year olds now find themselves in a battle with other 7-9 year olds from around the world.

    So it is what it is....levels. No matter how great we think our kids are compared to others their age, their are many, many more just as good or better.

    I love that your kid gains confidence by having success vs older kids. That is great! But now the trick is that she keeps that same confidence once she travels to tennis hotbeds as realizes their are lots of others her age, a little older, a little younger, who are fierce fire breathing tennis dragons, attacking every ball like a rabid dog. Trust me....seen more of them the last year down here than I even thought existed!
     
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  20. TCF

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    Many times at ages 3-6 focus is misread as talent. Many kids just do not focus at that age so they have zero success hitting a ball. The ones who are rare and able to get themselves focused have great success.

    Thinking back, I have come across 4-5 kids I thought were epic future players because they could clobber ball after ball at age 3-5. Now that they are older, I can now see it was only because they developed the ability to focus at a very early age.

    But now that they are older, the ones that have slow legs have that issue, the ones that melt down every time they lose a point have that issue, etc.

    Their ceilings will end up where they would have despite the early success. And the kids who could not focus at age 5 can focus at age 9 and catch up quickly.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  21. BMC9670

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    Yes, we agree mostly. I do think that if a player has (or should I say if the parents have) pro aspirations, starting at 9 is too late. Maybe start competing at 9. And yes, many pros played soccer early on, but let's not kid ourselves, they were also putting in some serious tennis training by all standards.
     
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  22. PittsburghDad

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    The FL days are over. Kids will be popping up from all over. Suburban Kansas. Brooklyn. Whereever.
    Not in spite of not going FL route, but BECAUSE they didn't. They aren't fire breathing Russian dragons at 8. They are laid back. Spending relaxed hours feeling on deep athletic levels what their back leg feels like on that perfect shot.
    At least that sounds good when you're still shaking off snow. :).
    It doesn't hurt to have a top 50 player showing up and saying "Don't buy it. I never left."
     
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  23. TCF

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    Sloane Stephens started tennis at 9. She got beat in juniors the first 2 years by all those girls who started at ages 3-4-5-6....man did they beat up on her.

    And she left every single one of them in the dust by age 13....on her way to the top 20.
     
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  24. BMC9670

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    Good. OK. We have one, although that is WTA, not ATP.
     
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  25. Topspin Shot

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    In all fairness, Sloane has unbelievable athletic talent and parents who were top athletes.
     
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  26. TCF

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    We shall see. But I am an odds man. If I go through the bios of the top 500 WTA players I will see few with Riske's story and hundreds of others with a Russian background, and many more who trained at some point in FL.
     
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  27. TCF

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    Well I am going to trust the last 20 years of experience on this one. Seen countless kids start at age 3, seen countless others start at 8-9. In the end starting at age 3 or 8 makes zero difference. It simply doesn't. Between the ages from 8-11 a solid athlete improves at a scary rate and catches up very quickly.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  28. TCF

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    If Sloane was a bad athlete would starting at age 6 instead of 9 made her into a top 20 player?
     
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  29. Topspin Shot

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    If she were a bad athlete, she wouldn't be top 20 regardless. But most WTA pros didn't start as late as Sloane did; she's an outlier.
     
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  30. TCF

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    Oh I totally agree. But thats not really my point. What I am saying is it is not cause and effect. Starting at age 6 or 9 is not the thing that determines success.

    It just so happens that girls or parents go into tennis at a young age so the only pool of talent is mostly girls who started young. But I am convinced that every top 20 player could have started at 9 instead of 6 or 5 and it would not have changed a thing for them.

    There is nothing they learned at 4-8 that mattered. They would have learned the same from 8-11 and ended up exactly the same by age 12. They would have still had superior vision and timing and seeing the geometry of the court, and great reactions, whether they had started a few years later or not.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  31. TCF

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    Also, when you see 'started tennis at age 6' that could mean anything. It could mean they touched a racquet for the 1st time and played every now and then for a few years, then got serious....or it could mean they played 2 hours a day from the start. We have no idea.
     
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  32. LakeSnake

    LakeSnake Semi-Pro

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    Okay, you're going a little far here. Human beings are not little programmed robots that have their destinies set at birth. Not their tennis ability, their speed, their intelligence, their height, nothing. All the genetics interact with the environment to create the final product. These superathlete kids that start at 9 were doing things in the interim to develop their abilities, to a lesser or a greater degree. What I have seen is that parents tend to underemphasize the amount of training their child does so they seem more talented.
     
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  33. TCF

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    Not sure where any of that was from my post. No one said a thing about anyone being programmed at birth.

    The subject was about whether a kid training from 3-6 makes any difference. It does not. They can start at 8-9 and end up the same player either way.

    Top players have different attributes that combine with their training to produce great players. We all know that. We all get that they all do an intense amount of training to go along with any genetic advantages they may or may not have.

    Parents telling you their kid started at a later age or 'hardly trains at all' is typical silliness at every junior tournament. But that is besides the point of this thread. Its done by lower level juniors parents all the time, we all learn to take what tennis parents tell us with a grain of salt. Tennis dads are the most delusional creatures on the planet and always will be.

    But once a player becomes a money making pro no one underestimates anything anymore. They simply report for their bios what age they first touched a tennis racquet.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
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  34. TennisBro

    TennisBro New User

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    TCF, with all due respect, could you please provide some compelling evidence to your professional knowledge of young learners in the development of tennis and to your familiarity with the top 100 ATP players who have started at 9 or later?
     
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  35. PittsburghDad

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    So if Serena and Venus never touch a racket until 9 they end up in the same spot? Don't buy it.
     
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  36. wannabe good

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    It's strange that you chose Serena and Venus as examples to support your side, i.e. the need for early specialization. While we can't prove it, the idea of Serena becoming the GOAT that she is, no matter how she spent her early childhood, seems very plausible to me.
     
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  37. TCF

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    Never claimed to have any information, just expressed opinion. My opinion is based on my experiences. Go talk to local coaches and see what they think. Maybe call famous coaches like Macci and Saviano and Nick B. and see what they think.

    Its not rocket science to me. I have seen kids whose parents went tennis crazy at age 4. Some end up very good, some end up with genetically slow feet, some end up hard workers, some end up lazy, some end up D-1 players, some end up park players, some end up quitting tennis, some end up with amazing mental games, some end up melting down after every miss.

    And I have seen kids who started at age 9. Some end up very good, some end up with genetically slow feet, some end up hard workers, some end up lazy, some end up D-1 players, some end up park players, some end up quitting tennis, some end up with amazing mental games, some end up melting down after every miss.

    So I just have seen zero correlation between starting at age 4 or 6 or 8 or 9 making a lick of difference long term.

    Now starting after age 9? Now I would agree that would make a difference. Obviously at some age it will be too late to become the best player you could have become.

    Again...opinion...maybe someone has actually scientifically studied this, I have not.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  38. wannabe good

    wannabe good Rookie

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    What about you and your knowledge? Are you familiar with kids who looked extremely impressive at age six, just to regress to pathetic mediocrity by their teenage years? Are you aware how frequent these cases are and that they are more the rule than an exception?
     
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  39. wannabe good

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    Slightly off topic,what is "slow feet" to you? A player who under performs in sprints and spider drills? Is there more to it?
     
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  40. TCF

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    Spider drill times are a decent indicator of pure foot speed and change of direction ability. For juniors 7-11, under 20 seconds is pretty fast. Our fastest 10 year old does it in 18.5 and he is a very fast kid.

    Of course tennis speed is different. Anticipation, reading the opponent, understanding court geometry, etc. all go into how 'fast' a player is in match situations.
     
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  41. TCF

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    On this topic, I will offer a bit of science. There is a book entitled "Children and Sports Training" by Jozef Drabik, PhD.

    He did detailed studies of kids and outlines what he calls 'sensitive periods' for them to develop certain attributes such as coordination, speed, endurance, focus, etc. He also outlines when the majority of improvements occur. These sensitive periods and periods of the majority of improvement were all between ages 9-14 for girls and 9-21 for boys.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  42. BMC9670

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    I don't think anyone on the forum has particularly close insight into top 100 players' early development, so let's not get into the "what do you know?" argument and keep it amicable here.

    While I tend to agree that "success" or "results" prior to 8-9 isn't really an indicator of the future, the evidence in virtually all top players says that they "started early" (before 8-9) and had exceptional results by 12-14. Take from it what you will. Does that mean the started at 6 and were "naturals"? Does it mean they started at 6 and "stunk" but had the right resources and training? We really don't know. But we do know they were tearing it up by 12.

    TCF found Sloane Stephens on the WTA side as an exception on the women's side - and their may be other outliers as there are always exceptions. Don't know of any on the men's side.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  43. PittsburghDad

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    There is a major difference that's being blurred here. The difference between the results and the type of work.
    You can convince me what a kid kooks like and what kind if hardware they get young doesn't matter. Fair point.
    But you'll never convince me that the type of work and quality if practice doesn't matter at a very young age.
     
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  44. TCF

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    Agreed. Neither side can really prove their opinion.

    Like I said, from my experiences and the science in the Drabik book, I think the starting age being 5 or 8 has no bearing to how they are at age 12-13. The improvement of a kid would be identical from 8-12 as it would have been from 5-12.

    Just a lot faster and with less frustration!
     
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  45. Postpre

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    TCF, could you elaborate on what this drill specifically entails?

    BTW, Mary Pierce started tennis at age 10. Marcello Rios at 11.

    Drabik's work is important. Here is a nice short article on coordination and movement skill development which references Drabik.

    http://www.performbetter.com/webapp...51&catalogId=10751&languageId=-1&pagename=209

     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  46. TCF

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    Postpre, the spider drill requires 5 balls and a racquet. Place the racquet face on the hash mark on the baseline, handle towards the fence.

    Balls go on each sideline and baseline intersection left and right, corner of each service box and singles line, last ball on the T. So you will have 5 balls spread around those 5 spots.

    Go to the right first, then proceed clockwise, pick up each ball one by one and place each one at a time on the racquet. Player must slow down so each ball remains on the racquet strings and does not roll off.

    Kids will start around 23-25 seconds as they get the hang of it. The fastest time I came across was a D-1 guy who did it in I think 14.5 seconds.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
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  47. LeeD

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    Good stuff, that spider drill.
    Today I did it, just for fun. I"m 65, haven't run since 2007, hobbled by a couple torn tendons in my left ankle.
    Starting with a 76 resting heartbeat, no warmup, and 20.3 seconds later, 132 heartbeat.
    I mentioned in the fitness section that when I was 28, I should have easily broken 14 seconds. I was the quickest and fastest person in any sport I've participated in, including 3 years of varsity basketball, and 2 years of varsity football. Sophmore year, started both ways, JV's.
     
    #97
  48. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Should have? Well, did you or didn't you? If you didn't, maybe you should have warmed up.:)
     
    #98
  49. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

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    How about sending him on a course to empower 5 years olds facing pushy parents?
     
    #99
  50. ijgill

    ijgill New User

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2014
    Messages:
    54
    I have to agree w. TCF. We are new to this sport, so I am not an expert. My son is 10, my daughter is 12 (she does not play tennis, she does ballet). In both tennis and ballet, I have seen kids start "late" i.e. 8/9 and do great. We even have one girl in ballet that started at 13 and is passing many of the better dancers by. At tennis, I have started to see the girls who started very young, had early success, now they are in transition between 12/14s. Things aren't going their way. Some have quit, some are simply playing less than they used to. I don't see the advantage to super early (esp 6 and under training). Ballet instructor once described it as "herding cats" best laugh of the day.
     

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