First let me start by saying that Emillio Sanchez and Luis Mediero put on a great conference filled with lots of detail and on court presentation. The slides were very informative and important. The on court drills, exercises and practice sessions were amazing. Luis was very passionate about his research and material. He is very dedicated to developing players. From the three days I was there I knew he was a man who is sincere and very proud of his work. The conference was held at the ClubMed Sandpipper resort where Gabe Jeramillo academy ( who worked at Bollitieri for over 30 years) is training his top Jr. The hosts were very welcoming and professional. There were many coachs attending from throughout the world, many from Argentina and France. It was nice to hear different opinions about developing Jrs from all these coaches.
I cannot give you all the details of the Spanish way to develop players because I will have to fill up many pages with many slides and I do not have the time. I recorded the on court presentation on my Ipad where Emilo later came up to me and wanted a copy. I promised not to put them up on youtube. The Spanish way to develop Jr is different than other systems say the French and the other organization like the USPTA where there is no common method of teaching a certain way. All RPT are trained the same way and Luis has a very big influence in driving this method. So when a new method comes along, the very passionate coaches who have been doing this for a very long time are not quick to change and I can understand why. It is rather important to note that Emillio and Luis agreed that recently when the French kids come to the sanchez academy they are well trained in technique and they are more conditioned in footwork and shot selection than the other kids that come from other countries. Later on this point will come into question as to why.
So rather than giving you what we all agree on (importance of technique, philosophy etc…) I will like to jump right into the controversy of developing Jr players, mainly the use of colored balls. Luis has no issue of using foam balls on the contrary he likes it very much. What he does not like is the balls the come after words( mainly red/orange/green) because he can teach Mini tennis using any kind of ball which he demonstrated and I was WOWED and convinced. At first he called the collared balls a cancer. The Spanish way is to quickly go from foam to yellow by say 7 to 8 with no junior competition until the later teens. Juniors are encouraged to play adults if they want to compete.
Anyway, Gabe was nice enough to let my 9 year old train with his academy kids. My son was on the last few courts and to my complete surprise I saw the kids training and using green dots. I quickly came over to Gabe and asked him about the green balls and he said he was 100% behind it.
I pointed to his blog where he talks about the importance of colored balls to the future of American players. http://www.gabejaramillo.com/2012/01...erican-tennis/
”Recently I read an article in NY Times newspaper written by Patrick McEnroe where he said that the solution to American tennis is “dirt” (which means clay courts). I believe that this is very far from the solution that we need in American tennis.
The best country in the world, in terms of junior players, is not Spain as McEnroe suggested. The best country today, without a doubt, is France. It is important to realize that only 20% of the courts in France are clay and 80% are hard courts. If that was the case, the USA would never have a prayer since less than 10% of the courts in this country are clay courts. The solution is very clear, it is not the surface that is going to make the difference it is the training. If you look at countries like Spain, France and Argentina, despite their smaller populations, they each have a very well defined program, philosophy and a unified teaching concept. You can go from one end of these countries to the other and you will see that everybody teaches the same- same terminology, strokes, philosophy and similar styles of play. What the USTA doesn’t have, is the courage to mandate that all high performance coaches, intermediate coaches and tennis teachers have uniform guidelines for instruction.
The USTA hires very good coaches for the upper level, pre-professional and professional player but they have yet to hire anybody who knows how to develop a player from the ground up.
For example, the 10 and under juniors, in most of the previously mentioned countries, use the play and stay ball. My team and I have hosted 3 Little Mo tournaments at Club Med Academies. Little Mo tournaments are USTA events which include players from around the globe. Unfortunately, the USTA is still running those tournaments with regular balls. Many players, coaches and parents find this very confusing and frustrating. I will be talking more about this topic in my next blog because I feel it is a very important to the future of tennis in this country.”
So, here is Gabe agreeing that the best Juniors are coming out of France and that they have been training with play and stay since 2005 which is similar to QS in a way. I asked Gabe that I am confused between what Luis was saying and what he was saying. My main point is since we all agreed that the Franch were producing the best Juniors and that France was using play and stay since 2005 it was common sense that this system has been proven effective. I raised this point to all the France and Argentinian coaches that were there and all had somewhat similar hypothesis/theory and stressed that similarity in teaching philosophy is important as well.
I saw Gabe and Luis talk to each other the following day and on the third day of the conference Gabe opened the conference saying that there is no right way nor wrong way to develop players. It is a difference of opinion and all systems are good as long there is consistency and uniformity in the methods of teaching and the importance of teaching the sameness from the ground up. Luis agreed and went on to say that he has no problems with kids competing in an early stage provided that the age groups are similar, all 5 year olds compete with 5, all six with six etc similar to little Mo.
Which brings me to my final conclusion and after remembering what TCF has said. That it is possible to combine Luis methods using colored balls ie mini tenis and QS. Teaching these techniques/ progressions is not easy to master. When Luis and I were returning the used yellow balls to the shed I pointed out that the used green dots were not that far off than the used yellow balls we just trained with. He said “that is fine” as he shrugged his shoulder which brought a smile to my face. That evening we all played a soccer match together. My son was playing on Emilios and luis team and I was playing on the French and Argentinian side. We all had fun and realized what a great time we all had together even though we had minor differences on opinion. I cannot wait to find out when the next conference will be. I do hope many coaches and parents attend. I have been playing and coaching tennis for over thirty years and I thought I knew it all until I attended this conference. There are always new things to learn that you are not aware of.