Better to stay in your own age division until you age out or play up?

Discussion in 'Junior League & Tournament Talk' started by Litespeeds, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. Litespeeds

    Litespeeds New User

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    I am sure this has been discussed before but what do you think about this question? Keep your child in their own age group and play until he/she ages up or play in higher age groups sooner?

    I know if your child dominates their age group, it is time to move up. Have a friend that is playing their child that is only 14 years old with a losing record up in the 18's. He is not winning in his own age group and occasionally gets a lucky draw and wins a match in the higher age group.

    Is this playing up helping this child's tennis development or hurting it?
     
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  2. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Depends on how mentally tough he is. There is a lot to be learned from losing, but if all you do is lose...how will you learn to win?

    I believe in the 60% rule of thumb. If you are winning more than 60%, you can try playing up. If you're winning less than 60%, you probably need to play down. Apply this to any level of player.
     
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  3. OneTennisParent

    OneTennisParent New User

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    Kids that play up can feel lots of pressure to compete. I have heard parents say their player is more free to play because they're not expected to win so they aren't under pressure. I say "bunk". Kids always want to win, and will do whatever they can to do so. A coach once told me "winning is confusing". He meant that in the 10s - 12's players can win with terrible technique, but they do win. The problem comes in when they move into the 14s - 16s. Even if they are now being taught better technique and strategy, they won't change because they don't believe they have to. They were winning with poor strokes, and revert to them when under pressure because they are programmed to believe that is what wins.

    As previously stated, if you're winning a lot, play up; you need the challenge. If you aren't, you will sacrifice technique to compete.

    If you are winning easily, that is the time to work on what will get you to the next level. When you get up two breaks, go to net every chance you get, Serve/volley, hit aggressive underspin, attack opponent's weaker side continually and only go to the other side for winners, really go for your second serve trying to make it a weapon. If you lose a game, so what? You already know you will get it back.

    If you play up you never have those opportunities because even the average players in the older division are bigger, stronger, faster, so while you may win once in a while, you do so using your "A" game and never develop a "B" or "C" game.

    Cookie-cutter players are everywhere. Unless you are a 5' 10" girl or 6' 3" boy in the juniors, you will need more than a baseline banging style to get past those monsters. The players smart enough to work on alternate tactics will be able to compete when others are getting blown off the court.
     
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  4. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Hurting due to sheer lack of match play opportunities.
     
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  5. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Totally disagree, even if he is a mental titan. Tennis a game of losing. It is not something you do not need to supremely learn.
     
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  6. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Rather, learning to lose is rarely necessary in tennis. It is inherent or you quit.
     
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  7. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Tremendous!

    Close this thread. The question has now been answered!
     
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  8. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    I have no clue what you are saying. And even less of a clue as how it disagrees with my 60% rule of thumb.
     
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  9. matchplay

    matchplay Rookie

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    this is the answer, win/complete/practice everytime you can in your own age group, play the older kids too
     
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  10. tennisconsultcom

    tennisconsultcom Rookie

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    Your kid should play his level, not his age. As long as there are players around who can beat him, he is not ready to move up. What the player should do will depend on the competition around him.
     
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  11. tennis5

    tennis5 Professional

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    Obviously, if you are losing the majority of your matches, you would not age up.
    And if you are always in first place, you would age up.

    Perhaps, the poster is asking more of a direct question:
    What if you come in 3rd place at your sectionals, would you age up?
    You have won a fair amount of matches.......
    but there are a few kids who are still better than you in the age group.
     
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  12. SStrikerR

    SStrikerR Hall of Fame

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    If you are winning in your division and can keep matches at a higher level competitive, move up. But if you move up an age group or two and get killed everytime, obviously you aren't ready.
     
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  13. Misterbill

    Misterbill Semi-Pro

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    Lots of good advice in the thread.

    For anyone who still is not sure, I would say, if in doubt..............play up.
     
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  14. Litespeeds

    Litespeeds New User

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    My son is on a good progression as he has never dominated his age group. He does make it to the top 20 in the 12's and the 14's in NorCal. He is about to turn 15 and is already around 80 in 16's. Recently played him up in an 18 open because of smaller draw so he can finish the first weekend. He won 2 matches and lost in the finals where he split sets and lost 11-9 in the 10 point tie breaker.

    Should I prepare him to play more 18's instead of 16's? He has ambition to play college tennis but I am not expecting any scholarships. Not worried about D1, D2 or D3 as he will cross that path when the time comes.

    The reasoning behind playing up is if he played high school tennis as a Freshman, he will be competing against older kids who could be seniors that are almost 4 years older. When he goes to college, he will probably play against older kids as well.

    Staying in your own age group is good to chase points and try to see how you compete against others in your age group but reality is he might play older kids more often than his own age. If I don't care about his 16 rankings and just start working on his 18's ranking, wouldn't he get as good if not better match play experience to prepare him for college?

    Of course I will play him in both age groups to make sure he still has at least a 60% winning record.

    Appreciate your feedback as there is no one way to skin a cat.
     
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  15. ga tennis

    ga tennis Hall of Fame

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    I think playing up can be both good and bad.We have a girl at our academy who is 13 and playing in the 18s.I think that sometimes playing up against such a bigger ball it forces a young kid to play too much defense.Every kid is different there is no one size fits all way to do it.
     
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  16. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Hey NorCal dad, I have a question

    Has your son ever done a kick butt conditioning program with a trainer, say cross-fit? While your son has never dominated his age group (something I believe is worthwhile goal) he seems mighty mature in the wholistic sense. Since he is only 14, I would think a spring and summer focused on total conditioning transformation plus tennis would maximize what is going to be a totally cool and important summer for your son. Don't rule out a scholarship, try a summer of Clubber Lang type conditioning, it could be the thing that allows your son to dominate his age group or even more confidently compete up.

    I'm a NorCal dad also. You can find me on @MarTennis.
     
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  17. Mitch Bridge

    Mitch Bridge Rookie

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    The best development scenario is to have two divisions to compete in. If you are strong in your division, also blend in the next higher division to allow yourself more match opportunities and to play against more size and pace. However, too many players play up in their sections and stay up at the national level where they are not competitive. Try to go deep into national draws by staying in your age group, and compete in your age group and the next one up sectionally to help your level of play and add to your match experience. 60% to me is a minimum winning %, and great players are more likely to be at 80%.
     
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  18. Orange

    Orange Rookie

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    I've seen two recent instances where players must have heeded bad advice to play up.

    In one, the younger boy cried when my son beat him in 16s. The fact that the score was 7-6, 6-0 is further indication that he crumbled after losing the first set and was therefore not emotionally or mentally ready to play 16s.

    Another player is 13 or 14 and plays only 16s and 18s. He has one win in the past year, poor kid.
     
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  19. Mitch Bridge

    Mitch Bridge Rookie

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    You need to win more than you need to lose. Learn first what you do well under pressure, and then you can work on what you are not good at. The players that I have seen play way up in age groups and not win at their age group just keep on losing. This is what they know. Players have had some extremely talented role models-Williams sisters, Sampras-that played up, but these players played up because they were simply amazing! Learn how to win, and learn that you can make your second serve at 5-6, 30-40. What you do well wil give you a base to build on with your game and your self-confidence.
     
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  20. Rina

    Rina Rookie

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    Here is my opinion on playing up. It depends on a kid. We moved back to US when my son was 11 and had poweful forehand and great backhand, never moonballed ever, but had issues with his serve. So, he started playing in lower level tournies in a weak section and started to lose. Rather than keeping his game he started to change and "just return" in order to win, he didn't know how to deal with these situations and his game regressed! I tried to tell him he is better off losing and practicing his original game and not to just "return" the ball. Well, he wanted to win and sometimes his forehad when he hit it the way he used to would be just on the line, and kids called it out all the time(maybe not on purpose, just young kids). So, to avoid this he started to just return the ball.... I wonder now if in the long run he would have been better off playing in the 14s and losing but getting the opportunity to hit with stronger and cleaner hitters. This is the way he reacted and some other kids would've reacted differently to facing the same situation. He is still working on getting power back, which is frustrating and makes me think that clearly something was done wrong, either by me, him or the fact that he was without a coach for a few months during this transition.
     
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  21. watergirl

    watergirl New User

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    My son tends to play his section tournaments in his age division but 18's in opens. His coach is not thrilled but he is very competitive in the opens. With the exception of one loss the remaining losses have all been 3 sets. The same with the wins all but one he has won in 3 sets.

    I thought playing up would free him from some of the pressure and he would work on aspects of the game and not focus on the win/lost result. I think he did the first tournament but when he realized that he could actually be competitive in the higher age division that went out the window and he sees every match as an opportunity to win.
     
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  22. Mitch Bridge

    Mitch Bridge Rookie

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    This is a large part of why it is so critical to play in two divisions. Your son could learn how to set up points and finish in the 12s, and handle pace and play more defense in the 14s-both excellent learning opportunities and both vital to player development.
     
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  23. Rina

    Rina Rookie

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    Thanks Mitch Bridge for commenting, I wish we had a good coach during that moving period to advise the same.
     
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  24. Litespeeds

    Litespeeds New User

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    This tennis journey is a very long process and there really is no right or wrong way to reach your goal. The hardest challenge we have as parents is keeping our kids in the game. There are so many distractions these days. Dating, driving a car, social networks, etc. Many just give up the sport. You can see that by looking at the rankings for each age division. There seems to be a very large drop off in the 18's.
     
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  25. doubleshack

    doubleshack New User

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    Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for playing up or in your own division. Playing up, sometimes just teaches the child it is ok to lose (nice job, they are older, you did well). Playing in the age group can teach bad habits (all I have to do is hit high loopy balls and I eventually win the point).

    Rather then tournaments, how about a weekend of match play. Just get a whole bunch of kids together at one location. When you finish a match, go out and play someone else. At the end of the day, no one gets a trophy, but everyone has gained a ton of experience. The focus is on playing to get better. If the match is going to be lopsided, handicap it and give one of the kids a few games to start with.

    Junior tennis seems to be very results oriented instead of progression. Win or lose, you should walk off the court a better tennis player. However, with a tournament every weekend, kids are learning how to fight for a trophy today, rather then improve and become better players to have more wins tomorrow.
     
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  26. NoCalParent

    NoCalParent New User

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    Norcal Specifically...

    If your question about playing up is specific to B16 or B18 in Norcal, I'd encourage you to have your son play the B16s.

    The strength of that particular age group in Norcal is quite high, and there's plenty of competition in the upper level tournaments (Championship/Excellence/Sectionals). The group is also deep and if your son can penetrate the top 20 - 25 of the current group, he'll be doing well and should get good matches along the way.

    The #1 or #2 players of many of the local high school teams are actually in that age bracket. Furthermore, Norcal had a much larger contingent of B16 kids in the Easter Bowl than B18s, and most of those boys are still playing higher-level B16s in section to see if they can beat each other.

    On the flipside, many of Norcal's top B18 players are competing in national or men's open tournaments. You won't get a real sense of tougher B18s competition in one of the B18 open-level tournaments.
     
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  27. NoCalParent

    NoCalParent New User

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    Norcal Specifically...

    If your question about playing up is specific to B16 or B18 in Norcal, I'd encourage you to have your son play the B16s.

    The strength of that particular age group in Norcal is quite high right now, and there's plenty of competition in the upper level tournaments (Championship/Excellence/Sectionals). The group is also deep and if your son can penetrate the top 20 - 25 of the current group, he'll be doing well and should get good matches along the way.

    The #1 or #2 players of many of the local high school teams are actually in that age bracket. Furthermore, Norcal had a much larger contingent of B16 kids in the Easter Bowl than B18s. And, at least right now, most of those boys are still playing higher-level B16s in section to see if they can beat each other.

    On the flipside, many of Norcal's strongest B18 players are competing in national-level or men's open tournaments. You won't get a real sense of tougher B18s competition in one of the B18 open-level tournaments.
     
    #27

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