How to grow a super-athlete ?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BeachTennis, May 2, 2007.

  1. BeachTennis

    BeachTennis Semi-Pro

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    #1
  2. t.vo408

    t.vo408 New User

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    Good read, long but good.
     
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  3. fearless1

    fearless1 Rookie

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    Plant them in an area exposed to sunlight and water daily?
     
    #3
  4. Trinity TC

    Trinity TC Semi-Pro

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    ...and throw manure on them.
     
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  5. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    You don't grow super athletes, this is innate and part of their genetics. You can "cultivate" players to reach their potential and expose any super athleticism that might be reachable.

    But, in developing any player, especially those with the talent and potential, you must give them the right "Blueprint" to use those skills. Too often, kids are allowed to hit tennis balls anyway that 'feels' right to them. This teaching strategy is unique to tennis...at least in the conscious teaching arenas. No other sport encourages free-form, or avoiding challenging techniques that are part of the recognized skilled-patterns of the sport.

    Consider how many tennis books actually teach, "learn using the eastern grips first on the serve and volley...these are usually easier to first play tennis with for the child or adult...however, more advanced players will need to change to the more advanced grips."

    Can you imagine a basketball camp saying, "Hey, just throw the ball up there any way you want so you can make a basket." Or how about the baseball clinic that encourages youth to throw the ball whatever feels most comfortable...but in a few years, you can learn to throw correctly." Or the golf workshop: "Hold the club whatever feels most comfortable and stand in such a way that you can hit the ball a few dozen yards down the fairway...Hey, you're playing golf! Great job!"

    Tennis seems to be in this perpetual state of paranoia...one that avoids challenging kids and adults alike; one that fears losing players if we make tennis sound too hard. "Learn tennis FAST" is our national slogan for tennis welcome centers...how many good athletes are going to see tennis for more than they would backyard badminton or croquet!? No wonder our high schools across the country can't attract good athletes to tennis!

    Anyway, my thoughts on this topic...More than anyone wanted, I'm sure!
     
    #5
  6. power_play21

    power_play21 Semi-Pro

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    Hey Beachtennis,

    Are you by any chance in Florida? Are you part of the BEach Tennis that is gonna happen this weekend in south beach?
     
    #6
  7. YonexDude

    YonexDude Rookie

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    how are young children taught to play basketball? to they learn to dribble inbetween their legs and do crossovers when they're 7 years old? do they start shooting 3-pointers right off the bat? do they even use regulation height baskets when they first play!? NO.

    and what about golf? are children taught to hit 300-yard drives when they first play? are children learning how to use a sand wedge and are they hitting shots out of bunkers at age 4? NO.

    look at what you're saying
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2007
    #7
  8. SteamWhipper

    SteamWhipper New User

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    What do you mean by this?
     
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  9. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    Young children are taught to dribble the ball correctly, shoot correctly, and yes, use shorter hoops and smaller balls than the pros. They are not taught patterns that they will have to abandon later to get better!

    If I had said that seven year olds should be taught to hit tweeners, behind the back volleys, reverse twist serves and 120 mph serves, then I could see your point. However, I said that if you want to develop SKILLED juniors (or any age player for that matter), you will want to have them develop a "blueprint" to work on skilled strokes. (I never said trick shots or shots that they are physically incapable of hitting!)

    I not only KNOW what I am saying, I have been teaching successfully for 35 years doing exactly what I said.

    I do believe I made my points much more clear than you assume them to be. But, obviosly not clear enough.
     
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  10. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    Exactly what I said. Compared to football, baseball, and basketball for boys, and softball, track and perhaps swimming or other mainstream sports, the vast majority of high school tennis teams get only a handful of such athletes. How many of the boys football players or basketball players (assuming these are not the same season as tennis) go out for tennis? At least in the three states I have taught tennis in the numbers are very slim, if any at all.

    I would suspect that there are exceptions to this and certainly I would not assume that NO exceptional athletes go out for tennis at all schools. Yet, I stand by my statement from my three decades of coaching tennis at both the high school level as well as the club level, including training several dozen top state, national and a few world-ranked players.

    That answer the question?
     
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  11. YonexDude

    YonexDude Rookie

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    Then go to a young child from age 4-10 and teach them a semi-western forehand. also make sure all of your students execute a split step. If you do know what you're talking about, show me a 7 year old who can hit a slice and topspin backhand and forehand with the correct grip changes. while you're at it, have them learn a deep knee bend during their serve. these are all blueprints for solid techniques, and according to you, it's possible to learn them as a young child.

    the fact is, children are not able to do these things. because it IS physically impossible. stop contradicting yourself
     
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  12. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    Well, if you are that interested in knowing if I can teach a 7 year old these things, you might want to read my series on "Training an 8 year old" on TennisOne.com.

    My 8 year old daughter who has been playing for about 7 months indeed hits with many of the aspects you mentioned: In the last article she demonstrated in the video clips her open stance and closed stance forehands (with a slight semi-western grip, two handed), hits inside out and inside in forehands, hits both backhands and forehands with proper grips, swing paths, footwork and fairly heavy topspin. She is now hitting a little bit of a kick serve, hits a very nice slice serve all with the continental grip, is now learning to slice her backhand and forehand both as a drive and as a drop shot, and we are also working on returning typical moonballs that young children often see.

    Ironically, her develpment mirrors that of all of my juniors I have taught over the 35 years I have been teaching. I have many juniors with much better hand eye coordination than my daughter who are able to do even more than she can.

    By the way, a deep knee bend is not part of the foundation of a great serve. I demonstrate in clinics all the time of serving on the knees and being able to serve at 90+ mph with no legs at all and with half the reach of what I would be able to do standing. I have taught wheel chair players to serve with equal success...so, please, don't put your own spin on what I know is important and what isn't. Legs action is less than 10% of a great serve. And, while I do teach proper leg mechanics to my more advanced players, it is not part of the Advanced Foundation that I use as my teaching blueprint.

    If you say that children can't do these things, than, I'm sorry it is you that is sadly mistaken. (God, I hope you are not a teaching pro!)

    I have been working with several juniors in the 7 to 10 year old range with all of them able to do exactly what I explained about my daughter. So, unless you want to keep that chip on you shoulder, why don't you take a gander at the series of article of my training an 8 year old in doing every thing you say is impossible.
     
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  13. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    i have to agree with TennisMastery here. Purely from personal experience, I have seen with my own eyes girls aged around 8-12 years old who are already so good at the game, and doing it because they have the right mechanics,etc. they split step, they use sw grip, their serves have correct form,everything they are doing is being taught as if they are older. and not only that, but they are hitting with more consistency and power than a lot of adult/ high school players i have seen. but this is just my own oberservation. i am not saying this applies everywhere,but it can be done.
     
    #13
  14. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Didn't Hitler try something similar? :)

    Luckily, you don't have to be a super athlete to be a super-tennis player. Not the way you have to be a super athlete to be a safety or wide reciever in football. If you can get a racket into the hands of a kid, develop good fundamentals in that child before he turns 8, the tennis will be HARDWIRED into his/her brain, as opposed to a software installation when you're older, and they're potential will be way greater than a person who picks up a racket later in life. But it doesn't hurt if you're about 6'2" or so.
     
    #14
  15. speedmaster

    speedmaster New User

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    Actually, you do have to be a super-athlete to compete at the highest levels of tennis today.

    The athletic attribute called "speed" in tennis has become the most important physical attribute a true pro tennis prospect must have in excess whether it's foot speed or racket speed.

    Tennis requires super skill development for sure, but what creates separation for those who are the true contenders from the journeymen and the also-rans is the kind of exactly the level of athletic ability that we (read "Americans") think is limited to NBA and NFL players.
     
    #15
  16. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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  17. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Put the ATP top 10 against ten above average not even NFL, but college football safeties, wide receivers, or running backs, and you'll see that they're NOT super athletes.

    Blake is considered a tremendous athlete by ATP standards, but I've read where his trainer sheepishly admitted he's nowhere near the NFL and NBA guys he trains.

    No knock against tennis players, though. They're way more skilled than just about every other sportsman.
     
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  18. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    I wonder who has better eye-hand, actually. Pro baseball who hit a 90mph baseball with a stick, or pro tennis guys who move toward a 120mph tennis with a club.
     
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  19. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    And don't forget in baseball they have to throw it into your strike zone, which is a key difference also. If Roddick HAD to serve it directly into the receiver's forehand, it would make things a lot easier.

    But I think if you took a person who never played baseball or tennis, and had them either try to hit a baseball or return a serve, the person might get lucky with the baseball but probably not with the serve.
     
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  20. Swissv2

    Swissv2 Hall of Fame

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    Tennis Mastery has a great point. To add a bit of my own input: Every sport has a known efficient and most appropriate fundamental technique. All child prodigies are able to grasp the fundamental techniques, though others take time to learn it (in fact maybe half a life time).

    Teach a child the fundamental techniques, but allow them to become independent thinkers on style and their desire to learn the game.
     
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  21. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Sure if we are defining athleticsm ONLY by running and jumping ability.. That being said many tennis players are pretty athletic - they have at least "quarterback" level of athleticism - and that's more the kind of athleticsm you need for tennis anyway..

    Pete
     
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  22. Swissv2

    Swissv2 Hall of Fame

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    Top Atleticism is not determined entirely by strength and power.

    It is determined by the training of your body to do a particular sport better than 98% of the populous.
     
    #22
  23. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    i would say most people are more familiar with the idea of baseball,its mechanics,etc so that affects their chances.
     
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  24. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

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    the emphasis is a lot more technical for tennis players. nadal or federer might be pretty decent soccer players (at least on a club team). give ronaldhino a tennis racquet, and it'd be pretty bad, at least for the first few months.
     
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  25. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    That's true. Another way is to look at the issue purely from serve and return.

    Most ATP guys has to be able to regularly hit 110+ with placement and serve variation. And they have to be able to return 110+ with as much as 30mph variation and significant court coverage. The equivalent would be a baseball player who can pitch at least 82-85mph with at least 3-4 different pitched, and who can hit at least 270 against that kind of pitching. That's a unique skillset.
     
    #25
  26. x Southpaw x

    x Southpaw x Semi-Pro

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    I also totally agree with Tennismastery.

    I was so angry the day I learned that using a continental grip for my forehand was wrong. I wanted to kill my coach. Ever since that day I hated the way 'recreational' coaches teach.

    I witnessed the same group of junior tennis players zapvor saw. They were part of a Junior Champs program of a tennis center. These were tiny little kids between 6-14 that were playing at the highest levels of tennis. I can't even describe it. One of the 12 year-olds there could probably beat most high school teams.
     
    #26
  27. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    your coach taught you continental fh???
     
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  28. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    This is a good point. It is interesting that when you teach a hundred players the exact same proper fundamental techniques (those that are associated with advanced or skilled play) no two of those hundred students will play exactly the same as any of the others. This is because that when you teach those methods that DON'T have to change for skilled play to be achieved, the student then is free to evolve and embellish the skilled techniques to meet their sense of personality, preference of style, rhythm, etc. Those who learn methods that must change for skilled play to be achieved are not in control of this change...they MUST change or be fairly certain to stagnate at a particular level, usually one far below their potential.

    I have had the privilege of teaching over 3000 players and even as I use what I call my "Advanced Foundation" (see my book!), each of my students play very individual tennis...yet all play essentially at highly skilled levels. (There are exceptions to this statement...but mostly due to players not staying with the program or choosing to follow their own methods or follow the advice of someone else.)

    So, while there are many ways to hit tennis balls over the net, there are only a few ways that provide for more effective results and more consistency within this effective method. Yet, even if you teach every single player the exact same methods for every shot, no two of them will play alike.

    It is impossible to have all players play exactly alike. Every player will meld the style they learn into idiosyncracies that meet their perception of need.

    This is why no two pros hit exactly alike. Yet, they certainly don't play anything like the hackers down at the public courts who also play differently...but not very skillfully!
     
    #28
  29. baydad

    baydad New User

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    No wonder our high schools across the country can't attract good athletes to tennis!

    I think this has to do with the chance to play Pro.

    My son has played baseball for 5 years, no one mentions to me about playing Pro.
    But when my son starts to play tennis just 6 months ago, many people think he is going to
    try for Pro, even people who haven't seen him . So I got a culture shock...

    It looks like it is easy to play Pro tennis.

    I look up the numbers and find it is a total different story.

    You have to be among the top 100 in th world to make a living( in fact, just an ok living if you are just around 100). And there are only 10 American players among top 100, if not fewer.

    There are close to 900 MLB players. Majority of them are American players. Lets say, there are 500.

    Do you see the difference in the chance? 50:1.

    And the min. salary for a MLB player this year: over $380,000. You probably need to be
    a top 60 player in tennis to make that much money. I just counted, there are only 4 US players in
    ATP's top 60.

    Now tell me why would tennis attract good athletes?

    Don't tell me Roger Federer makes over $30m in less than 10 years. Barry Bond at age 42 still makes $18m a year. A-Rod? He averages just around $25m a year.

    In general, it doesn't make sense to play tennis if you are a very good athlete and have the potential to play professional sports. And this is why tennis could not attract good athletes.
     
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  30. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    You make some very good points, many of which I have addressed in a series of newsletters for TennisOne.com.

    While the number you mentioned are probably closer to accurate than not, there is one side note to consider. The number of kids that play baseball, football and basketball are hundreds to one compared to the number that pick up and play tennis at both young ages as well as in middle and high school. The competition to get those high wages is staggering. Look at minor league baseball. How many thousands of young guys are playing double A and triple A pro ball all hoping to get called up to the Big Show.

    But, I have to agree that unless you are in the top 200 or so of the ATP or WTA tours, you will make a marginal living at tennis.
     
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  31. BeachTennis

    BeachTennis Semi-Pro

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    There is more to the book then the cover!

    Feeding the cows, cleaning out the pigpen and weeding the potato beds — that's the routine Irina Zhbanova grew up with in Perkhlyai, a desolate village of 740 souls in the depressed Russian republic of Mordovia, 600 km southeast of Moscow. But for the past three years, Zhbanova, 14, has been following another daily routine: for two hours early in the morning and two more after school, she practices her aces and backhands, flat serves and chip shots, footwork and block volleys. "Trying harder makes up for my starting in tennis too late," she says. "All right, I won't jump as high as Elena Dementieva, but tennis is still my spring-board — the only one I have to take me out of here."

    Its all about hunger!

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,477901-1,00.html
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2007
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  32. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

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    This is the most important aspect to becoming great at anything. Great post.
     
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  33. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I'm defining athleticism here as raw physical ability. Like what intelligence (raw mental processing power) is to smarts (cognitive training).
    Depends on what type of quarterback you're comparing them to. Peyton Manning or Michael Vick?
     
    #33
  34. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Anyway, super athlete and tennis great, they are often mutually exclusive. Borg and Graf were super athletes, but the rest of the recent all time greats, none of them were elite world class athletes. Maybe Serena is, but in tennis, it's so psychological, that the intangibles that determine if a person is a champion are often imperceptible. This might all change if tennis wasn't so cost prohibitive that the best raw athletes don't have real access to the sport, but right now you don't really have to be an incredible athlete to succeed at tennis. Your athleticism has to be at a level where it doesn't HURT you, but you don't need to be blazing fast or super strong. You can be Todd Martin and still reach a slam final or two.
     
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