The Plight of College Tennis

Discussion in 'College Tennis Talk' started by gino, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Hey TT Community,

    I'm writing from the perspective of a second-year collegiate tennis player at a Division III private school. I have noticed something that has really weighed on my mind the past couple weeks.

    Feel free to weigh in and give some input (college player or not).

    I have been a tennis player for 10 years. I have spent hours on a tennis court cultivating my game and identity as a player. I love the game more than anything. I love the winners, the errors, the emotions, the physicality, the wins, the losses, etc etc....

    Coming to college to play I had hoped that my journey as a player would reach it's peak and my happiness on court would be at an all time high. I worked so hard to get here and be in this position. Something I didn't understand was how cut-throat the college tennis system can be and how brutal and devastating results and expectations are.

    It seems to me that the plight of the college tennis player is to avoid failure. Now, I know that many division I players were stellar juniors with professional aspirations and they most likely are not apart of this discussion, but as a college player I see myself and my peers just looking to avoid failure. The stress, pressure, and anxiety that are apart of the process lead players to change their game styles, lose the passion to play, and untimely hate the sport. How many players to we see now-a-days who conform this mold and camp out on the baseline with some variant of a Babolat racket spinning groundstrokes over the net until the opposition crumbles.

    To me that isn't tennis. Tennis should be a poetic expression of talent - most definitely at a more elite level. That being said, consistency is apart of our sport no matter what, but why do I feel like players in college turn into robots? Those who aren't suited to change their identity may feel the need to quit and give up on the sport they love.

    Thanks for listening to me, this place is awesome.
     
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  2. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    It's not the racquet. It's the physicality, and the gradual slowing down of the balls and the courts. Though the defensive game has been around for a long time, I agree, the game has changed. Not just college tennis. Tennis.
     
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  3. SoCal10s

    SoCal10s Hall of Fame

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    I have seen this too.. college tennis has turned most players into ''grinders'' ,because grinding wins more matches at this level .. this is in part the maybe real reason why we have less Americans turning pros ... college play now-a-days produce less of an individualistic type of player ,as you say.. the true artistic players are just washed away because they don't win enough .. but college coaches have their jobs to protect so players better win or else .. coaches are not going to care if a great player makes it or not make it to a the next level ,off coarse everyone wishes that,but bottom line,they care very little.. college coaches are not going to improve a player's game,thus sacrificing his agenda,it's just the nature of this animal.. pretty sad to think about it..
     
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  4. coaching32yrs

    coaching32yrs Semi-Pro

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    I hear what you are saying. I am very familiar with Division 3 tennis. No doubt, a grinding style of play where players camp out at the baseline hitting one ball after another high over the net wins. There are few players at the D3 level that can play quality offense on a consistent basis so the game becomes one of avoiding mistakes. That being said I preach to my players, one of whom is currently playing D3, you have to play more and better defense and more and better offense at the same time. They usually don't understand. But the point is yes, play great defensive grinding tennis. But when you get a ball you can handle- play offense. Attack. Move forward. That is a winning combination. I just told my player last night- the easiest thing in the world is to become a great doubles player, yet so few juniors and college players play doubles well. All you have to do is learn the correct positioning, and perfect your volleys. Not all that hard.
     
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  5. lstewart

    lstewart Rookie

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    Gino, I also agree that you just described tennis in general, and not just college tennis. I've got a 16 year old son that plays tournaments and hopes to play in college. The game you described is what has developed over the years with poly string, grip changes for more extreme topspin, racket development, etc. When i played college and open tennis 30 plus years ago, most of the elite players I went up against were serve and volley, get to the net as quick as you can. These guys came in on every first and second serve. I was more of a grinder then, so I was having to hit a good return and then a passing shot on the second ball, every point, all day. I agree that to many players the serve and volley is a lost art, but it is tough to handle the monster spin dipping returns. Doubles is the place to show more of the touch and variation you mentioned. You can chip, lob, attack, all the things that are difficult in singles. I have found that alot of the modern players have problems with my more classic game. I hit hard low biting slice backhands and approaches. The topspin group can struggle with these shots it they are hit at sharp angles and stay low. But at any time, no mater what the style of play, doing what it takes to do to win has been the goal. You can choose to play a style you prefer, but ultimately if you are not winning, you may not be in the line-up. I played for a strong NAIA program in the day, and I usually felt more pressure to win all the challenge matches on the team than the actual dual matches. We had lots of very good players not getting to play, so our off days from actual events, we had to compete for our spots with teammates. Just play a style you enjoy, do your best, and have fun. Whatever issues you have now, 30 years from now you will probably remember these days as great fun.
     
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  6. EP1998

    EP1998 Semi-Pro

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    I graduated in early 90s and it was the same then. The women's team had a good coach that tried to help players but she left to play European club tennis. Her replacement was what many schools see as the ideal, an average player who won't make any waves but doesn't help you either. He changed one girl from a take the ball early player to a push. I thought it was isolated but then I heard from a player at the div 1 champion school say that they told her to never go near the net! Maybe it started in 90s, not sure. Try to be true to yourself as much as you can. See if there is some way to make this a positive experience.

    How do I get rid of that icon in my post - sorry!
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2012
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  7. Satsuma Illini

    Satsuma Illini Semi-Pro

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    I always remember the how Martina Navratilova talked about how she used to get beatdown by Chris Evert during the earlier stages of their rivalry but once her serve and volley game was established, she was near unbeatable. It takes longer for a serve and volleyer to develop so maybe that's why college coaches don't bother with it much. Takes too much time to develop and the benefits come way too late when they are under pressure to produce results NOW.
     
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  8. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    I played D1 tennis from 1979 - 1984 and "grinders" were everywhere - yes due to the way we had all been taught for the most part there was more S&V but camping out at the baseline was just as common. Much of it is on the coach as well, does he or she spend time developing players or just have the team play ladders against each other over and over. My son and daughter also both played (1 still plays) D1 tennis and it was a huge issue for us on choosing the right program - bottom line is the coach is under tremendous pressure to win and in most cases does not have the time (sometimes a lack of desire as there are plenty of lazy coaches out there) to help develop players.
     
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  9. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

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    My biggest issue over the last 20 years has been the seemingly greater instances of bad calls and general cheating. the defensive cant lose mindset has to add to that.
     
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  10. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    Reason the defensive players prosper in D3 or D2 level is lack of top level talent. Especially in singles, unless you are elite level D1 talent, it is very difficult to play power attacking game and be consistant enough to win day in day out. and you have to serve in 120's with good placement consistantly to get 1 or 2 cheap points in your service game.
    How many D3 guys do you know that can do that ?

    Willing to hit all day and chase down everything is show of mental strength and conditioning. Look at it that way.

    I know guys in college want to play Jame Blake type of tennis, flashy and powerful. It is fun. but then remember, he is top ATP level talent, and you could see that when he was playing for Harvard, way back when.
     
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  11. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    You may wish to shift your focus to schoolwork. It's "do", not "to", and you can write "nowadays" without the dashes. "Conform to" perhaps, I don't know, don't skip too many classes...;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2012
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  12. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    right, classroom work always come 1st. then tennis. you will be surprised to see that you can do both. besides, girls will still dig you even if you are just on the team.
     
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  13. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    You are right - if he can marry rich without a prenup now, there isn't much of a point in classwork or tennis. He can always get back to those after the divorce.
     
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  14. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Responses

    Thanks for the input, very true.

    Let me start with the Babolat statement. I was attempting to make a generalization about the oversized rackets that have infiltrated the game. Especially the college game. I know Agassi used one, I know other players have used them for ages, but it is eerie and almost disturbing to me the amount of players who buy rackets to stay in points longer. Choosing a racket should be able the quality of shots you hit, not the quantity.

    On a separate note, I agree that the game is slowing down and movement is becoming a weapon for many players.

    Thanks for the feedback, I agree with so much that you're saying SoCal10s... Most of which I highlighted

    The grinder mentality is great. In it's correct role. Fighting for every point, putting 100+% effort into the match, and busting your guts to win for your school are all awesome things. However, I see your point. Staying in points longer and maybe frustrating opponents with a technical advantage can win you matches easily, and is the popular way to play. I would rather see a 6-0 6-0 rout by a player with beautiful strokes, than a 5-hour battle between two guys who are scared of the service line.

    Great point about coaches. Coaches, especially at the Division III level, that don't have much invested into individual players after they leave school are thinking very short term. They want wins and they want them Freshman year. In my opinion, college coaches should take on players during their senior year of high school and work with them more technically.

    Thanks for the feedback, couldn't agree more with you on this.

    I see the lack of offensive development as a huge issue. I don't know about you all, but I would much rather hit 5 winners than wait for 5 errors 10+ feet behind the baseline. The problem is, I am 400+ miles away from my private coach, and developing without working together on court is so hard. I can hear one thing and understand it, but application is an entirely different battle.

    Awesome advice, I appreciate this.

    Tennis is indeed changing at every level and most likely instruction is changing with the modern game. I think the reason I am referring to the college tennis arena is because that is where I am at in my playing career. But I also believe in the junior game and on the adult circuit that there is more variety, and I did come from a very strong section of our country. At the junior level a coach can acknowledge strength and weakness and formulate playing styles based on these indicators. Furthermore, I also think that there is much more opportunity for a player to have freedom in their tennis outside of the college setting.

    No matter what, tennis in college is about winning. Winning is huge - and maybe I got away with not winning all the time in the juniors because my game looks pretty. But, it's not about strokes looking great, it's about the score looking great. I think I can leverage some of the things I do well (like you talk about biting slices) against opponents who like to play stereotypical college ball, but I also think that mentally I am not strong enough to do this consistently. It's pretty damn difficult to hit 30 quality balls, but I think that's a good thing for me to work on as a player. Who knows, maybe in my late 20's I'll be really good at playing a more defensive player.

    Again, thanks for the advice. It means a lot to me. I will be working on just playing tennis the way I like it. Hopefully that will yield some W'S.
     
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  15. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Responses Pt. 2

    Thanks for your response - I agree that coaching is huge. The NCAA, NAIA, etc sets up coaching tennis like coaching all other sports. Win, win, win - don't worry about the ones that can't win. I think that tennis is about being true to your self and not letting others influence your experience as a player.

    Thanks for the input - I agree it takes longer for an aggressive stylistic approach to develop. It is technically more challenging, but maybe not as physically taxing. The pressure part is big too, each shot for an aggressive player carries more weight. The ball that makes you win/lose a point could be your second shot. All I know is that I can't change my whole approach to tennis and my game style to fit the college player stereotype - I simply won't be able to win that way. So all I can do is keep trying to improve.

    Thanks for sharing your experience - I guess for me, I chose my school because Division I tennis programs I would be able to play at were not feasible for my academic needs. If I had the option to shop around, maybe my experience would be better. But now that I am half-way into my Sophomore year with network of friends, fraternity brothers, a comfortable community, and academic development - do I transfer and change schools with no top 6 matches played in order to be a happier person at the end of the day? Tennis is very important to me, and I want to enjoy it - not resent it.

    Thanks again to everyone
     
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  16. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    interesting and smart metaphors, sobad. didn't know you had it in you. i think you are smarter than i given you credit for.
     
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  17. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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    Gino, i talked with this guy that won the D3 championships few years back. and he told me he really did nothing special. All he did was just hit crosscourt with good depth and decent spin. and just ran down everything and put everything in play.
    unfortunately, this is the style that wins in D2 or D3 tennis.
     
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  18. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Responses Pt. 3

    I appreciate this, thanks for your advice. I didn't even think about how good you have to be offensively to win cheap points against college level players. I do see your point and I agree. Willingness to stay alive in a point and show determination is great, but it also may not be my game?

    Thanks again

    Thanks my friend! hahaha

    Unfortunately for aggressive guys like me, that may indeed be true!!!
     
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  19. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    College tennis is in the sewerage, but Gino is moving on, thanks to TTW. He is going to hit tennis balls, write brilliant papers, and kiss rich girls and smart guys, for the next two and a half years.
     
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  20. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

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  21. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Love it. I'll make you proud SoBad

    Just took a look, seems you're right. I just feel like I am changing my game to be like them, but if thats the only option, then so be it.
     
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  22. SoCal10s

    SoCal10s Hall of Fame

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    gino: you don't know that most coaches cannot teach tennis ? they are just court motivators .. I haven't met too many college coaches that can correct a technical flaw and make a player better from that standpoint ..
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
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  23. monomer

    monomer Rookie

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    Thanks to the OP for a very interesting thread. The points above sum up my views.

    My kids (16 & 12) play USTA and love tennis. With hard work my 16-yo could play DIII tennis and would have an outside chance at DII. She is a "regular" kid though - we do not spend all of our time and money on tennis.

    There aren't enough hours in the day for her to develop a successful all-court, offensive game. There are too many skills to master and the learning curve is too long. Being an aggressive grinder is the realistic option for her to see success. The time, effort and expense required to play D1 tennis does not make sense for most juniors.

    The big picture is that tennis is a game of managing expectations. Aside from a handful of people in the world you are always at some level below the better players. You have to try to enjoy it wherever you fit.
     
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  24. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    Thanks Gino - you hit those balls and keeps us posted...:lol::lol:
     
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  25. coaching32yrs

    coaching32yrs Semi-Pro

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    One of the main differences between D1 men and D3 is doubles. In D1 the 3 doubs matches count for 1 point. In D3 3 points. Because of this doubs much more important in D3. D3 is desperate for good attacking players who have doubles skills.
     
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  26. monomer

    monomer Rookie

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    This is good info. I didn't realize that they weighted doubles more heavily in D3.
     
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