Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TennisBro, Mar 22, 2014.
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We are in the I4 corridor in FL so I get it. My son plays in sarasota sometimes, which is super competitive. Lots of Russians and other euro, south americans etc... Prob not quite as bad as s. Fl though. I don't feel the boys go through this as much - the draws are too big, competition too fierce early on? And boys don't hit maturity as quicly. My son "started" tennis right before he turned 8 - as in rec tennis once a week. He didn't start a more competitive program until almost 9. One boy started much earlier and they are the same (except my son hits hard backhands instead of slicing it).FL is a crazy market for sure. I will say he has one female classmate (no we are not at a tennis academy - just coincidence she plays a lot of tennis too) who recently played a south fl designated 12s as a new 10 and did very well - she may be the real deal.
I would say you see it in boys more in late 14s and 16s, all of a sudden I see boys who were doing great in early 14s and 12s out in the first round where they are number one seed in a tournament. Then sometimes out in consolation as well. When you have a huge 14 year old he barely moves and just overpowers the opponent if he has good consistency. Some 14 year olds are 5 feet tall some are 6 feet tall, some weight 100 pounds some over 170 pounds. But, the small ones are running around and developing footwork just to try and keep up and the bigger kid doesn't have to run so he doesn't and his footwork is sloppy and often doesn't improve, IMO. But, I would say that starting early and not overdoing it, if you teach the kid proper technique might be good for muscle memory and they can concentrate on power and other things later on. Of course there are exceptions to the growth issue, some tall boys are great from beginning and will be great later on as well, this is the case with truly good players, I think.
The fact that most top players have started earlier than 8-9 ought to be a good enough indicator that 9 is too late to hope for the top one day. What this means is that aiming for the top requires a dedication, commitment and passion. Sure all that may translate to some as a craziness but to others as a true love for the sport. Can 5-6 year olds experience such feelings for sports, activities etc? Hard to imagine that. Most such little kids have plenty of interests. Parents job ought to be observing and guiding towards what is good for kids. If their children demonstrate talents in certain areas, parents should lead the way to hone their talented kids' skills in the very same fields then. If you ignore or can't see what your kid's good at, you're a bad parent. David Nalbandian's dad built a contrete court and wall in his backyard, when he saw his 5 year old son hitting the balls well; Maria Sharapova's dad worked his arse off to support her since even earlier than Nalbandians. Like I said, it's about dedication, commitment and passion; it's about love for the sport.
Last but not least, I doubt many such people as I have mentioned here have had much knowledge in either sports/tennis or education. They were impassioned, mesmerized, by the beauty of the sport and love for their kids which all drove them to the success. No scientific evidence, whether there was any or not, would have/could have deter them from what they did for their children.
Anyhow, to answer the question "what do I know", i'll say perhaps as much as David Nalbandian's or Maria Sharapova's dad. One thing I may know better is that aside my previous pro soccer experience, I am an educator and am well familiar with young learners and their cognitive capabilities unlike Maria's father who was a hard working dishwasher. What I can see around is a lot of scared coaches who do not want to take up such assignments as training 5-6 year olds. Many of them seem to somehow feel such a job as not dignifying enough. And, the ones who accept it aren't worth it. So, watch out for parents, not their coaches, that play a major role in the top tennis players lives. Not that my son and I are to hit Wimbledon courts in a decade or so; that might as well be a English Premier League or NASA space agency instead.
This may seem contradictory to what I wrote before, but I am a big supporter of parents coaching their kids in tennis, especially when they are little. I think you'll probably be a good coach to your son.
So, has the kid decided on his future yet?
TCF - I hope you're meaning that tennis training before age 8-9 is totally completely meaningless (which I don't necessarily agree with), instead of any training before 8-9 is meaningless?
There is an abundance of evidence to show that early experiences with physical activity help to shape neural and physical connections, which lead to enhanced/accelerated development as children get a little older. Tennis should be a late specialisation sport, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be any training - for example, I would love all kids I coach to have done ballet as tots, as those that have usually have a greater sense of priprioception.
Just wanted to clarify your point. Cheers
Angelique Kerber who is currently ranked #7 on the WTA tour says that she started playing tennis when she was 3. I highly doubt that she was training 5-6 hours a day at the age of 3. It's most likely when she first picked up a racquet and started hitting. The majority of the ATP stars were multi sport players (most notably soccer) so they weren't out on the courts when they were 5-6 years old dedicating their lives to tennis. They made the decision at older ages to concentrate on tennis. When people ask me at what age my kids started playing tennis I state the age that the took their first lesson. They played once a week for a year while also playing soccer. Then the lessons went to 2-3 times a week and after a year and a half they went to every day and we said goodbye to soccer. I think that is a more common scenario for the top European players. You hear about kids just hitting on the wall by themselves before they began any intensive daily training regimen.
The entire conversation of "how much how young" is so oversimplified as to be rendered nonsense. "There is no use training before 8-9" and "6 hours a day at 6 will produce a champion" are both straw men.
There is so much more. What type of training. What type of motivation. How's the diet. How tuned in are you to learning style. How do you manage skill building vs competition. There are literally 50 or more of those questions that beg to be asked all along the way. And make much more of a difference than any of our preconcieved notions based on instinct or experience.
You have to build a program, an environment, a daily philosophy that is focused on that particular child and your relationship. The rest of this is guesswork. And limiting.
One example. I have found that my 7 yr old will often pick up where she ended the training before. There are days where we "planned" to go hard for 2 hours. 20 min in, and shes crushing. Form is perfect. Angles are being hit, feet are flying. Etc. I'll pack it in. Go do something else. Anything else. Now she's set up for next time and she's left craving more. That works for her. Maybe not all. But you know you're kid. And the "how much how young" debate doesn't answer any real questions. IMHO.
ALL? That, to me, is a painful generalization. I wan't aware that they're so motivated there. Perhaps, i've been in China for too long, or perhaps I just cannot see for the smog that so much covers the skies here.
Those are quite some facts, I must say. Once some "scientific studies" claimed that Earth was flat too, although it wasn't suggested they said there was "not a dang thing" one could do about it.
The evidence to be easily seen is that the girls in case got their feet wet early, and so they picked up what was to be picked up real fast later. Further more, this would just contradict your previous disagreement with my suggestions that tennis coaches are unwilling to take the responsibilities for young kids. Contradicting contradictions
Sorry, perhaps those coaches you're refering to may have looked for some real youth talent which they did not see in those above girls. Having said this however, I've got to say that Sharapova was turned down a few times by pro coaching staff and schools for not only being incapable but also too young which brings me back to the point of reluctance to develop younger talent.
Anyhow, it would appear you're one of those unenthusiastic souls with a guide (book) in one hand and a tennis racket in the other. 20 years is a rather long time, and so I am yet again wondering about the creativity and talents that've come out of all your qualifications, knowledge and the experience in the field.
This exactly! Efficiency!
A moderate amount of tennis court time weekly fit to the kid's needs alongside with some other sports and appropriate daily diet is what I am looking for. The only thing I believe I lack is the professional tennis guidance for my kid, although I am guessing I may substitute that by downloading from the internet some tips/coaching lessons. Can't find anything useful in the local shops though.
Yep. There is no magic pill, no right answer. But you can gather a ton of info from lurking around here, YouTube, library. Its limitless. And you'll make tons of mistakes, and get tons right. And learn every time. Maybe get some outside help down the road. But its your guys journey. And its unique. No one will know your kid better. No one will protect them more. And in the end you'll have an amazing relationship. Have fun. Keep it focused and loose. I would highly recommend a TON of slow motion in the kitchen. Lol
Whoa! You planned to "go hard" in training for 2 hours with a 7 year old?!?!?
Absolutely. I mean go hard in a seven year old sense. But its easily 500-750 balls. Varying drills. Tons of footwork. Games she chooses. Everything from orange ball rallying to Spanish x. Every kid is different. You can give them everything they can handle. As long as they smile and have fun.
TCF - then many are stupid!
Pittsburg - yeah, I'm not really sure I know what "go hard in a 7 year old sense" means, but if you're training deliberate practice then 2 hours is way too long for a 7 year old. If, however, it's more similar to "mess around on a tennis court time", that's less of a worry to me. Have you looked into late specialisation LTAD models at all, if not I would strongly recommend you do so, I would also look into distributed practice models too.
I am long of the opinion that even high performance adults shouldn't structure deliberate practice sessions of longer than 30-45 minutes - cognitively (and should be a huge cognitive engagement in deliberate practice) it's very difficult to maintain focus and concentration for that length of time - that's why distributed practice is an excellent skill acquisition tool.
Not judging, just offering my experience, based on 15 years of high level coaching, 28 years of playing and a hell of a lot of research and study!
Absolutley Ash. I didn't take it as judging. At all. I've hung around here for years, indebted to the advice and insight if people like you.
Its more of work....hang...work...talk...eat a snack...work. The MOST important thing I've learned is to understand, respect, and utilize her focus. When I stay working inside the parameters of her focus the results are so much better. And it stays fun. Not to say I won't play with that focus by inventing drills. But never forcing.
I am familiar with those texts. I put a lot of value in them. That's why I'm washing ice hockey gear as we speak.
But tennis dads, especially first time through, all think its different and special in their cases. They will have to learn for themselves.[/QUOTE]
But it is different and special. Its their journey. Not the one you've seen so many times. And seem convinced is the only possible outcome of a dad and his kid grinding out fundamentals. The world is a bit more complicated. One thing I will always try to keep in mind is that I don't know everything. Its not that simple.
Ash can you expand on the idea of distributed practice? What would a day of training look like in that model for say, a 32 year old who wants to play men's nationals in 3 years
Essentially distributed practice takes the traditional practice model for skill based sports and flips it around. Traditionally skill based sports use a "mass blocked" practice model, whereby a single skill is repeated consistently for a large block of time. Distributed practice models split that into small blocks, repeated for less time or repetitions, but more frequently through the days training. As a live example, rather than spending an hour hitting serves in the morning, hit 3x20min blocks of serve distributed through the day/training session.
Practice variability is also shown to more effective long term for skill acquisition than mass blocked practice - variability meaning instead of just trying to hit one ball can for an hour, serve to multiple different targets, from multiple different positions, with chafing environmental factors (balance disk, on a knee etc etc)
Skill acquisition theory says (and is backed up by research) that distributed, variable practice is a key method for accelerating skill acquisition.
Hockey is great -- speed, movement, hand-eye, etc.
Throw a football (serve), hit baseballs, (FH, BH), baseball fielding (movement, hand-eye), play soccer (movement, footwork), play basketball ( explosive movement, anticipation, ball tracking), play board games and chess (strategy, concentration, competing, and learning to win and lose), even play video games and draw and color (fine motor).
Get solid fundamentals when playing tennis while young, and there are tons of activities which will help with tennis as well as many other facets of life.
Many great players played multiple sports up to early teens. Give them options and make them rounded people.
My gauge of whether a young player has a chance to be really good is if they will go and hit the backboard or find other ways to hit tennis balls without any parental involvement.
I just saw some evidence of this on a small scale recently. We got together socially with a couple of families we have met through our sons tennis. When it was time to go, we walk into the room where the boys are (4 of them, all the same age, all play tennis relatively the same amount) and two of them were playing X-Box and the other two were on the computer looking up amazing tennis highlights on YouTube. Not so coincidentally, the two looking up tennis highlights are the better players.
Thanks TCF. Appreciated. I'm very grateful for all the good tips I've been lifting off you guys for a couple years. Hugely helpful. Especially hearing all the different experiences in one place.
The points of views on this page are quite helpful and I am thankful for that.
The weather factor is an excellent point. When I played football (soccer in case you are a yankee), I could see/be with/play against some excellent competitors/teams. The game always changed plenty with the weather and so did some talented/skilful players' performance. With tennis, it's often under the sun and when it's hot the energy factor may, and I believe does a lot, kick in. Letting such young kids as 5, 6 or 8 years old practice on a hot sunny day for too long may not only be unreasonable but dangerous too. My 5 and a half year old son bikes and swims, so he may get used to the hot weather through varieties of exercises/activities as well. Swimming is most likely much better than biking under the scorching sun and so I plan for it more then. 2 hours of biking, for some reason, does not seem to be enough for my son though and I am not exaggerating.
Our group is really considering in going down there but we don't have a solid lead yet. Maybe you can help and point us in the right direction and give us a heads up. Just hit me up firstname.lastname@example.org
+1 (potentially) to the civilised count on TT
Federer started at 3.
Nadal started at 3.
Murray started at 3
Djokovic started tennis at 4. At six he was spotted ty a coach who said "this is the biggest talent I have seen since Monica Seles"
Then to say with certainty like TCF that early training has no impact is questionnable.
However, many top 100 started age 7-9. One top 100 started tennis at 14.
I think a good technical foundation before 10-12 yrs of age is important, a lot of physical activity and running, jumping, other sports from a few months old is necessary. Then you have a good platform
And then huge training between 15-22 yrs of age with tournaments.
I agree to this. And this is based of thourough knowledge of top professionals bios, and not too much on junior tennis in s Florida.
It is surprising, amazing how many top players would as young, even juniors in some cases, stay hitting a wall for hours. Not much smile or laughter, often completely alone. Focus, concentration, feel, rhythm....trying to improve, better and better.....
And interestingly, this is also contradicting many of the traditional concepts of training kids, that it MUST always be FUN (as by adults perception, including things such as lot of group play, cheering, laughter, smiles).
interesting. my son has hit off a wall for hours from when he first started. He still at 10 will do dummy slice drills to see how m any he can do. He's not a great academic student, w/ LDs just being honest, he was language delayed and I thought his hitting balls was a sign of autism (again total honesty here). When we took him to a top ranked pediatric specialist, he was no where close to the autism spectrum, maybe a little OCDD lol. He also is tall but skinny, has great footwork, I honestly have no idea what will happen to him. When we drive, he turns around backwards and tracks all the cars, no joke, he tells me when to merge. Sometimes he says he doesn't want to go to college at all (yes, he just turned 10, 2 weeks ago) he wants to work outside w/ boats as a mechanic etc ( we live in FL). Some days I really don't know why we do tennis other than he loves it, is really good at it, has good friends at groups, the weeks he doesn't go (rain or injuries) his grades are worse! He had heat exhaustion this weekend at a tournament (first time) and held onto the last point, there by making finals. He collapsed at the end to make it. I did not play, I don't always understand him, but try to support. Sorry, rambling, lots on my mind sometimes.
I can't think of better reasons to do anything. Keep it up!
Again, I agree, but be careful not to confuse the argument the other way and make a tennis dad think they can start at 12 and have a pro. Virtually all top players started early - some played other sports, some specialized early, but virtually all "started" early. Is there an exception or two, sure.
In the case of Fed, Nadal and Murrray, yes, they all played soccer at a high level, but by 12-14 they were also at the top of the junior tennis world. They had already put in serious tennis training. Also, they both come from pro athlete families and were groomed to be professional athletes from a very young age.
I think the real crux of the argument is early "start" vs early "specialization". The evidence in top players show that virtually all started early, but not all specialized early. Also, as none of us are experienced in developing pro athletes, we just don't know how much training top pros did at what age. What we do know is that virtually ALL had exceptional results by 12-14.
Yes, I tend to agree, but keep in mind that your experience may not apply when talking about a money making pro. We just don't have enough info on how the top players trained when they were children. A sentence or two in bio is not enough information.
But they were also elite tennis players by that age. We just don't know how they split their time. Sure, anyone can guess. My guess is that if Nadal won a European Championship at 12 and Murray won the Orange Bowl at 12 and Fed was #1 in his country by 11, chances are they were putting in some serious tennis training early on. How much, we just don't know.
The facts about the childhood of the current top tennis players does not make me think for one second that I should train my five and a half year old son 4 hours a day. My son also began at 3. Sitting on the floor by a wall, I fed my 3 year old boy with balls that he hit fantastically then. We did it 3 times weekly, about an hour each time. 2 and a half years later, we do pretty much the same amount of practice but on the tennis court. I'd feel guilty not doing it 'cause he is so good.
On the beginning of this thread, I have suggested other sports are great to play, and my son does many of them too. What we may not know, and it has also been mentioned here, is how much time those top tennis players have spent on each sport when they were little, however, Murray's mom may have indicated that Andy did not play as much tennis first.
I am not sure this is "apples and oranges". As the OP of this thread, I must remind you again to read the very first post. But I agree those dads that you are refering to may not be doing the right thing at all.
Too many assumptions here. We just don't know. No one said how many hours to train at 3-5 to make a pro. Common sense doesn't really work as these are uncommon situations and we can't apply our own experiences because we've never developed a pro. That's why I go by the evidence seen in top pros. Nadal was winning tournaments in the 12s by 8. How does that prove your point of starting at 8 would make him the same player? How can you say that starting at 3 made no different in these players... when they started in some form at 3?!? You can use "common sense" and say if they started at 8 they would have ended up the same, but you really have no way of knowing that. No one does. Because there is little to no evidence of it at the top level.
1) The argument about starting early is not just about will that time produce greater skill. By starting that early you have set a mind sight that might not even happen at 8-9. Things get a lot more distracting and busy. A bit of fun and early improvement might just be helping find the proper course. And its NEVER too young to learn proper work habits.
2) Its possible that a lot of the guys mentioned may have been very good at other sports at least partially because of their early tennis. Footwork, hand eye. All of it. Watch a very good 6-7 year old train on court for an hour. Then watch the nonsense that is most American youth soccer practice. Which one is helping the kid excel at athletics?
Separate names with a comma.