Food for thought: More Practice matches.

Discussion in 'Junior League & Tournament Talk' started by tennis5, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. tennis5

    tennis5 Professional

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    Tennis Recruiting news article -

    http://www.tennisrecruiting.net/article.asp?id=1502

    500 Sets a Year

    by West Nott, USC Women's Tennis, 26 September 2012

    I tell parents all the time: take one private a week, and go play matches. Sometimes I tell parents to take one private every two weeks. It's just overkill to do anything more until you reach the higher stages of the game (i.e., professional tennis). Players need to be playing 8-10 sets a week - that's where the real learning happens.


    Tennis is a game of trial and error, not about feeding out of a basket and focusing on technique. Players need to learn how to compete and cope with stress. There is nothing stressful about doing crosscourts for an hour, it doesn't get to the essence of what tennis is... a nasty contest between two people where there is a winner and loser. Black and white. You are judged by the bottom line.

    Eight to ten sets a week is a great benchmark to set. Play with anyone who will play with you. I'm tired of players or parents saying "I won't play with so-and-so because they push... because they cheat... because they aren't good enough..." All are poor excuses. All you are doing is saving the player from the realities of the world. You will play pushers who will make life miserable, do you want me to ask them to stop missing? You will play cheaters who will cheat you on the biggest point of the match. You will play parents who cheer against your double faults. You will play hackers, net rushers, grinders, counterpunchers, flat hitters, dinkers, rabbits - you can't simulate this through drilling or feeding. Simply impossible.

    Take a look at the photo below on the left. ( couldn't post here) .
    Djokovic has angled his wrist and changed his grip slightly to somehow, someway, fight his tail off to get this ball back into the court. This can't be duplicated without competing and playing matches where your pride is on the line.


    There are no limits on who to play against. Whether you play someone you can defeat 0 and 0, see if you can beat them 0 and 0 coming to the net. Can you beat them 0 and 0 with just a slice? Can you beat them 0 and 0 if you spot them a 30-love lead? There are endless ways to skin a cat, but the point is to build some pressure into the matchplay to make it worthwhile. The reason people hate to compete is because people hate dealing with uncertainty - the small chance that they put their pride on the line and lose. Yes! You need to be able to handle that kind of pressure consistently and never let your guard down. It's an absolutely necessary skill.

    For the parents who protect their kids from playing people below them: your child will never reach his/her full potential.
    This is the same player who tanks against players equal to their ability. This is the same player who looks at the parent after every sign of poor play. This is the same player who pouts when a bad line call comes their way. The coddling needs to stop.

    Imagine if you played ten sets a week for 50 weeks a year? 500 sets! Now compare that to the kid who maybe plays one set a week? 50 sets a year. No comparison. I wonder who will win. It doesn't matter who your coach is. It doesn't matter if you have a world class trainer - or use the best string. It just won't matter. Get out there and compete - it's what makes tennis fun.
     
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  2. aced_Tezuka

    aced_Tezuka Rookie

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    Very interesting. I should play more sets. And my friends too especially before season starts.
     
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  3. hound 109

    hound 109 Rookie

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    Thanks for posting this. I tend to agree.

    My 13 y/o is playing a men's league match once a week (sometimes twice). You ought to see the fabulous junk these 4.5 guys throw at him. Lots of serve & volleys, one handed backhands, low deep slices, crazy *ss serves....it's great.

    One lesson & one little drill a week.... along with lots of match play (with weaker/stronger/boys/girls/men whatever) & a tournament every 2 weeks or so.

    Spending about 1/3 as much too. (which is a consideration as well)
     
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  4. ga tennis

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  6. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I'm a 4.5 guy with fabulous junk according to many I play.
     
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  7. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Totally agree. Kids need the right tools to compete. You can't learn a proper serve without a lot of repetition and oversight. Play with a pancake and no correction you end up with a junky adult player later on. You need the fundamentals that scale to higher levels of play. Practice and drill when young. After the proper habits are ingrained play more matches. Less matches at first focusing not on results but holes in technique. Use matches improve at first not win. Drill simulating match conditions as well as to groove strokes.
     
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  11. klu375

    klu375 Semi-Pro

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    For girls who are not amazing by 10-12 but plan to be amazing by 18 USTA tournaments are not waste of time and money - they are part of the development process. And are part of the Journey. For the vast majority of tennis juniors - Journey is the goal.
    But you two have amazing girls so go ahead and repeat Serena's path.:)
     
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  12. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    This statement is completely wrong.

    I tell parents all the time: take one private a week, and go play matches. Sometimes I tell parents to take one private every two weeks. It's just overkill to do anything more until you reach the higher stages of the game (i.e., professional tennis). Players need to be playing 8-10 sets a week - that's where the real learning happens.

    Developing young juniors need to have at least 1 lesson per week or better, 2 lessons.
    Developing juniors should only be concentrating on developing their strokes, foot work and conditioning.
    Practice sets should only be used to practice their strokes under pressure.

    That statement will only develop pushers with bad strokes.
     
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  13. tennis5

    tennis5 Professional

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    But, a lot of parents can not pay for 2 lessons a week.
    That is over 100 lessons a year.
     
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  14. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    I don't think there is one right answer here, every player is different. Some kids are naturals at some aspects of the game(maybe a natural swing, great feet), but not so much at others(strategy, decision making, shot selection). or visca-versa. Some kids need to work harder at different things than other kids.

    Playing a match and learning how to win is a skill in and of itself, and it comes more natural to some kids than others. Some kids need more matches/sets than others.
     
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  15. Ash_Smith

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    Interesting theory and there may be some merit to it... however, it doesn't match up to the most successful player development models of the last decade or so (spain, russia etc), where repetition of technical and physical skill comes first.
     
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  16. sundaypunch

    sundaypunch Hall of Fame

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    This is true, but you can say that about most any sport. You have a handful of standouts and many mediocre players.

    Many kids that play USTA are not looking to become a pro or get a scholarship. Some of them just want to play tennis and have no match play locally. Some just want a spot on their HS team. Some don't even like playing but have parents pushing them.

    I suppose it makes sense for some to sit out and just work on technique. For many, playing in the tournament is the end goal, not something grander.
     
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  17. ClarkC

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    I think that you are missing the point here. First of all, the boys have a different situation than the girls, so the same statements are not true of both. Second, not every playground basketball player is another Michael Jordan, but there are plenty of them who are good enough competition to develop your game even if you are at an elite level.

    Tennis has unique problems. There is no equivalent of the "pusher" in many sports. Girls in USTA tournaments do not have very many of the right kind of opponent to develop their games properly. That is not a statement about the elites being better than the average players, which is true of every sport. It is a statement about the available depth of talent, the steep rather than gradual drop-off as you move down the tennis ladder, and the unique nature of tennis tactics (e.g. the "pusher" phenomenon).
     
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  18. TCF

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  19. TCF

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  20. tennis5

    tennis5 Professional

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    Letter from Ross Greenstein

    Ross Greenstein · ( played for the Gators and now does Scholarship for Athletes)

    West Nott - Great article..

    I try and tell kids to do this all of the time and all I get is excuses from the parents and junior coaches..
    It is very simple. 4 players get 2 courts, they play a set of singles, winners play winners losers play losers, then they play a set of doubles..after each set they tell each other what they are doing well and what they need to improve..12 year old kids can do this..

    The parents will never make it happen and junior coaches have no reason to make it happen because they lose money..
    It is too bad for the kids..
     
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  21. klu375

    klu375 Semi-Pro

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    This is really bizarre statement - never noticed this problem. As long as the girl plays at the correct level maintaining around 2:1 win/loss ratio it all should be good for the development. Not everyone is a pusher - there is always variety of playing styles. Are you talking about moonballers? - go work on your swinging volleys and moving in and see if you can execute this in a real match - how can it be bad for the development? Girls (and their parents) are usually not open to play practice matches anyway so tournament may be the only option. Girls can play against boys of the same level (and some of them are pushers too) but it is not exactly the same experience above BG10. I agree that the girls field is relatively shallow but there is so much going on during girls tennis matches so it not just about who hits the better ball.
    PS. Watched Radwanska today doing successful drop shots on Kerber's second serve - so unfair. Kerber should have probably just picked her stuff up and leave.
     
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  22. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    Yes, remember in another thread you posted that picture of the girl who won the nat'l 12's with a extreme western grip.
     
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  23. floridatennisdude

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    In a young, developing player I would agree. The quote referenced was by a major D1 women's coach. From her perspective it is hard to argue with, as she is talking with families of highly competitive players (top .2%).

    Big difference when discussing a 17 y/o top 20 national player vs a TAUT rookie. USC doesn't need girls that look the part. They need girls that can compete.
     
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  24. TCF

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  25. TCF

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  26. tennisconsultcom

    tennisconsultcom Rookie

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    I don't know any pros who had 1 hour a week with a coach and became a pro. Here is interesting information from ITF. I am afraid, it does not confirm advices from that article.

    Piotr Unierzyski of Poland conducted research projects with junior players in Europe from 1994 to 2002. He interviewed and/or tested over 1000 players from some 50 countries. Some of the players included Roger Federer, Kim Clisters, Guillermo Coria, Justine Henin and many more of today’s top players. The players were 12 or 13 years old when tested or interviewed and are then ranked in the top 100 in the world.

    Among the interesting findings were:

    - The average starting age of tennis was six years old.
    - They started playing in tournaments at nine and started to play outside of their own country occasionally at age 11.
    - They played 45-50 singles matches per year plus 15 doubles matches which was below average for these ages.
    - They practiced around 10 hours per week, which was below the average for the group, and two to four hours less than the top 12/13 year-old players.
    - They were doing two hours more fitness training per week than the average. They were doing physical training approximately five to six hours per week.

    I have posted a lot of articles and interview with tennis coaches and tennis experts on my blog tennisconsult. I have never heard that 1 hour a week with a coach can produce pro level player.
     
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  27. hound 109

    hound 109 Rookie

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    I'm guessing that the USC tennis coach is giving suggestions on how an aspiring college player can be a better college player.....not a top 10 pro.

    I would also guess that an uber top 10 in the country player (hoping to go pro) is getting more than an hour a week of "lessons". Probably for free. (they're probably also getting plenty of match play).

    But most of us are parents of kids who aren't at Boca (or an uber kid). Don't have illusions of French Open victories. & some of us don't have unlimited funds.

    I agree with a couple of posters above that believe that the College Coach was not making suggestions for 7-10 y/o......nor was she suggesting more tournaments. I think she is suggesting that teens who have good strokes & a good foundation should go out & bump heads. Play girls (lots of different girls), play the up & coming kid an age group below you, play adults. Play a college kid who beats you 0,0. Play in a park, play at school courts.

    Yes, play your monthly ranking tournament the "proper way" with "proper strokes"....but also play matches that AREN'T tournaments. Play a kid two levels below you & hit your first serve on all serves, or take every ball out of the air that you can, or knock the snot out of every return of serve until you're down 0-40....then win the damn game. (or come up with a dozen other point, game or set scenarios)

    Maybe some academies are doing this. (i don't know) But the best basketball, football & baseball players learn alot of their game in pick up games (& some of our better tennis players are going this route as well). Maybe this is what the USC coach is suggesting?

    My observation is that (in our section) 3/4ths of the kids who are top 40 in the section are academy type kids who have great strokes (& the parents are spending $600- $1000 a month), but have little creativity. The others are junkyard dogs (some with good strokes & some with average strokes). Interestingly it seems that about half of the top 10 in 16s, 14s & 12s (boys in our section) are junkyard dogs. (Granted all had good foundation & all were good competitors at a young age, & most have crazy good footwork & are great defenders.) & the other top 5 are talented academy kids. But all the junkyard dogs are typically good students, aren't home schooled & don't have the time to do 4 - 5 hours a day at academys (& their parents either don't have the money or don't want to spend the money)

    Not sure why, but I rarely see girls doing this, & most of the top girls that I'm familiar with play VERY conventional games, banging away from the baseline. Ironically the best junkyard dog that I saw WAS a girl, took the ball out of the air (alot), finished alot of points at the net, jumped on lots of second serves & in the past year has won a L1, is top 3 on TRN & is (i think) now at Boca. She never trained at an academy. Played alot with her dad, played adults (& whuped my kid a couple of times). Sweet kid & definitely is an Uber now. I hope she makes it all the way & takes her Navralatova type game against the baseline bashing shriekers on the WTA.

    I'm selfishly glad most don't follow this path. Those sheltered kids with perfect strokes freak out or shut down when they play a junkyard dog with game. I see it every ranking tournament.
     
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  28. hound 109

    hound 109 Rookie

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    good post....especially the part about swinging volleys.....& the refreshingly rich & successful Aggie Rads.
     
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  29. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    You post this same info over an over again and it is still wrong.

    First, 45-60 "matches" per year is a pretty ridiculously low number. If a decent player plays one tournament a month, and wins one main draw match and one consolation matches, that's 48 "matches" per year. I suspect here is a translation error, maybe tournament = matches??, I don't know.

    Second, this discussion was about sets, not matches, and is to include official sanctioned matches, unsanctioned matches, getting together with a friend for a set, etc. The 500 sets was not intended to be the number of sets in sanctioned tournaments, far from it.

    And lastly, and most importantly, even if the studies number were valid(which I do not concede), you have a tendency to confuse correlation with causation. For example, if you do a study that identifies that 6'9 basketball players practice less than 5'6 basketball players, it is not logical to assume that if you practice less you will grow taller. The simple fact is, the best players, the RF's, the top 20, are naturally gifted. Yes they work hard, but as you yourself say, they are born, and then made. The rest have to work harder just to hope to get a shot on the futures tour, or just to get a D1 scholarship.

    I hope this is clear. To say it another way, there are prodigies, and some of prodigies don't have to work as hard as someone who is not as gifted. 7 year olds who play concertos at Lincoln center, 10 year olds who become chess masters, etc. But the fact that they studied/practiced less than other kids is not the cause of their success.
     
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  30. Ash_Smith

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    Slightly OT but this is an excellent point and I feel should be reiterated - learning to step inside the baseline and hit a drive volley from mid-court is absolutely essential for girls to be successful through 14's and beyond.

    Cheers
     
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  31. Ash_Smith

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    Ummm, nope! People are not born to become chess grandmasters or concert pianists or whatever - they work to become them (even at an early age - Mozart by age 6 had accumulated around 20000 hours of dedicated practice). Go and do a little research - read the Talent Code for example.

    I have read the studies by Piotr (pretty much all work on LTAD is based on his findings) and there are many interesting theories within, I don't recall reading the part about training volume - I will have to dig it out again. It may be that the training time was lower but the intensity/work volume was higher (greater focus on deliberate practice?). It may not be statistically significant, but it may be with more detail included.

    cheers
     
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  32. floridatennisdude

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    It's 500 sets per year. That's less than 10 sets per week.

    I'm an old fart and I'm playing a match today and a match tomorrow. That's 4-6 sets itself. These kids play week long tournaments where they can win and accumulate 18-24 sets in a week.

    The coach's point is that if you want to compete, you better learn how to compete. A basketball player may be able to win a 3 point contest, but sucks at basketball. Same with a tennis player who looks like a pro in warm ups, only to squander away key points and games.

    I don't think a college coach is saying "only practice one day a week". She is saying, "drill hard one day a week and compete hard another 4-5 days a week". It's not like a bad practice consists of an hour of hitting, followed by a couple sets, and a few tiebreakers. That would be an excellent practice.
     
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  33. TCF

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  34. sundaypunch

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    But this really is my point. Some kids aren't looking to develop their games. They just want to play and do as well as they can. The varied level of play of USTA kids is only a surprise if you assume that they all are trying to be elite players.


    And what you refer to as a "problem" is not something I see as a problem or phenomenon at all. Even elite players need to recognize that playing a pusher game is a perfectly legit. strategy. One that they will have to deal with at all levels of the game. At some people realize that you either get the ball back in play or you lose (hence, the junkyard dogs that Houndog 109 mentions).
     
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  35. TCF

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  36. sundaypunch

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    My point is that this shouldn't be a surprise. It is how the game has always been for juniors.
     
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  37. ClarkC

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    I was discussing the problems of an elite girl trying to play USTAs for continued development. With girls reaching physical maturity earlier than boys, an elite 14 year old can beat almost all of the 18 year olds. The only way she can maintain a 2:1 win/loss ratio is by playing elite international tournaments. E.g. the #1 10th grade girl, Gabrielle Andrews, has a 19-6 record in USTA events over the last year, a 3:1 ratio, even though she plays up in the 18s all the time. Only by playing in the U.S. Open and Australian Open juniors, the Yucatan Cup ITF, etc., does she struggle (4-4 record, and that is playing elite girls two years older most of the time). It costs some serious travel money to get a schedule that challenges someone at this level of girls' tennis.

    Playing styles (e.g. pushers) were not the point of my comment. They are a side issue that makes tennis a little different from some other sports, yes. Costly travel to find good level of competition was the main issue that I meant to emphasize.
     
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  38. InspectorRacquet

    InspectorRacquet Semi-Pro

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    Just to comment on the overall idea of practice sets: I completely agree.

    There's a local tennis academy that will frequently do drills and then set the kids up to play each other based on skill or the issues at hand. The coaches review the basics and monitor match play. They stop the match to correct the players at times, because the difference between the drill and the match means the player is doing something wrong if he's not doing what the drill had him do.

    It's a unique approach, because I saw a bigger player (and clearly older) play a younger kid, but the bigger player struggled in the practice set because the kid hit low balls. Lessons and practice sets at the same time seems to be a good idea.
     
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  39. klu375

    klu375 Semi-Pro

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    You did not mention "elite 14-18yo" in your statement. Fully agree that these players have to supplement USTA tournaments with junior and adult ITFs and they do. For example this month Amelia Island 10K had 3 14yo in the quarters. But why do you conclude that there is something systemically wrong with USTA tournaments based on this fact? I am sure any National tournament system has this issue for girls and this is why elite has to play international and pro tournaments. On top of that USA is very large and the field is relatively shallow. It seems USTA agrees with you and now they are trying to create special elite-only tournaments. I would leave USTA tournaments mostly for "recreational" players and add more junior and professional ITFs with qual for elites.
     
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  40. TCF

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  41. floridatennisdude

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    The less is more approach is good the higher level player you are dealing with. I look at the progression of a player's practice style as:

    Beginner: coach ball feed, 1 ball at a time. This player need to learn how to strike a ball properly. They can't successfully rally, so give them one at a time and make adjustments to ingrain technique.

    Intermediate: coach enters ball for rally with opponent. This player is getting used to footwork and needs to be put in some uncomfortable situations. The player can fight through mistakes, but still needs occasional corrections.

    Advanced: coach stands to the side and 2 players rally. At this point, the players need to get used to high level of play. A coach can provide feedback during breaks, but ultimately an advanced player understands their mistakes and can correct them on their own.

    It's the players at the intermediate and advanced (especially) that will benefit from playing lots of practice sets.
     
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  42. Ash_Smith

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    Agree, but the essential part is that the corrections are made and the technical continuity is enforced. Too much harm done when the coaches send kids off to play matches with no basis for efficient, repeatable technique and allow the technique to erode in matches to the point where you end up starting again each technical lesson, or the player never develops beyond basic 'bunting' the ball over the net.

    Cheers
     
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  43. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    Correct, know of kids that did well in USTA junior tournaments (high ranking) with basically flawed strokes, invited to USTA/High Performance, coaches tried to correct the flawed strokes, were not successful...
     
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  44. tennisconsultcom

    tennisconsultcom Rookie

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    I posted on my blog a very interesting comment on this article. It is too big to publish it here.
     
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  45. barringer97

    barringer97 Rookie

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    Personally, I think it's kind of a weird balance.

    I feel it's best to look at other sports. If you look at basketball, America's dominance has come from the inner city and pick up ball, not working on strokes, footwork, etc. But on the other hand, you need hours and hours of working on your shot (elbow in, rotation, free throws).

    Soccer? Way too structured and we suck (compare to Brazil, etc.).

    Baseball? Falling behind to small islands like the Dominican Republic, where they play ball in the "streets."

    We don't see that in tennis, it's actually a lot closer to soccer then basketball.
     
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  46. andfor

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    Agreed that an unstructured play/practice balance needs to occurs during a kids tennis development. Many, many of the sets need to be played by the kids on their own without mommy, daddy or a coach watching. Understandably this needs to happen on a scaled up basis as they get older. It's difficult for 10 and unders to play unstructured compared to 16-18 year olds who should be playing more and more on their own in practice matches.

    I know some kids parents that are at almost all their pracitces and matches. Evaluating every move. Kids need to have fun and have the game be their own. That's a little hard to do with someone watching over your shoulder every minute. Kids in the states rely to much on structured play.
     
    #46
  47. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
    #47
  48. coaching32yrs

    coaching32yrs Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    Messages:
    449
    Not convinced the way the foreign kids train is better. Maybe. In my limited view of the tennis world, foreign countries are getting bigger and better athletes into tennis. Just saw a D2 men's match. The team w/lot of Europeans and S. Americans had 4-5 inch per man height advantage over the team w/ all Americans. I agree that girls depth in USTA is very shallow. Boys much deeper. However, when I look at the top 30 boys in section, 18u, I don't see any elite athletes. All good tennis players but only a few good athletes. The starting 5 on my hs basketball team were better athletes.
     
    #48
  49. tennisconsultcom

    tennisconsultcom Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2012
    Messages:
    102
    It is quote from latest article on my blog.
    "...Every time you step on the court, there should be a purpose, whether it be with a coach, a ball machine or an opponent. One purpose has to be better strokes, and for this you need a coach. No one deliberately hits incorrect shots, so there’s no point in the player trying to make the correction on his own. It is easier to learn anything — a new stroke, or a new language, when you are young. Waiting until you are in college or on the tour is foolhardy, since without good strokes, you won’t get your college scholarship..."
     
    #49
  50. barringer97

    barringer97 Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2012
    Messages:
    377
    I don't know, look at Hoops, my nephew is a good player and, mainly because of AAU, plays at least 100 times a year.

    I just believe that I think playing points (or sets), not tournaments, is vitally important.

    Almost like pick up hoops.
     
    #50

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