I have this Junior

Clay Mize

Rookie
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
I had a friend like this in high school. She had a really powerful forehand which she could also place well in practice. But when official matches happened she lobbed both forehands and backhands a lot and rarely hit her aggressive forehand. I talked to her about it and she was just as frustrated about it as we (her friends and family) were when we watched her. She still won most of her matches but it didn't work against the really solid girls she'd play at states.

She described it as basically when she tried to hit aggressive forehands in matches she'd tighten up a lot and end up missing. Once she did this a few times in a match she found it really difficult to will herself to continue trying since obviously if you start missing you naturally want to adjust. Anyways, she went to a division 1 school so didn't play tennis after high school so not sure she ever dealt with it.

You might want to talk to her and see if something similar happens with her. Then work on ways to get her to loosen her grip, stay calm, etc.
 

LOBALOT

Hall of Fame
My suggestion would be to get her playing matches both USTA and on her own (Note: If she is in her high school season now local rules may preclude organized outside play until after the season.).

Playing matches should be second nature to her and if not she will lack confidence heading into playing matches when they count.

Having seen a lot of Junior tournament play it is very easy to identify a player that is tournament/match tested form one that isn't.

She will get there she just needs to play and play and play and play.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Have seen two junior girls over the years (and one I played with at her parents' request) who would start dinking second serves when the score got close (and still double faulting). Chipping everything is like the fear of the serving yips applied to groundstrokes.

But if she is winning, I wonder how to distinguish that from a deliberate strategy of playing very safely in order to reduce unforced errors? Would you correct Su-Wei Tsieh or Fabrice Santoro the magician?
 
Arrange some recreational matches against weaker opponents for her and ban her from chipping for the entire matches. Tell her that the goal of these matches is to improve her confidence to drive and not to win. As she experiences that she can win without chipping, she starts driving in serious matches. Chipping is a wonderful strategy, but chipping all the time makes her footwork lazy and is not good for her long-run growth.
 

zipplock

Hall of Fame
Ask her a simple question:

Do you play to win, or not to lose?

This will force her to think about it. We have this same kind of player at 2 boys singles at the HS. He had to respond with "not to lose", which led to an excellent conversation. We told him to stop worrying about winning or losing and play more assertive, accelerate an every shot. His game changed for the better almost immediately. He still reverts, we ask him the question and he fixes it.

Explain how the winning matches by playing "not to lose" is actually hurting their progress.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
It suggests a couple of things.

First, that training does not accurately recreate the experience/environment of competition. Now obviously I don't know what training looks like, or what principles of practice design are employed, but ultimately if you want players who make good decisions in high pressure in matches, they need to be making decisions in low pressure training. If there is no decision making in training, they're not going to be making good ones in competition.

Second, it suggests that she is placing a greater emphasis on results (not uncommon in many players and particularly in teenage girls where awareness of being judged is incredibly high). Therefore some work needs to be done to understand her thoughts in competition as thoughts->feelings->behaviours, so we need to know what are the thoughts that are trigger the end behaviours. Best guess would be something around being judged, not wanting to let the team down, what people will say if I lose etc, but I'm speculating - that conversation needs to take place. She could even keep a little thoughts log and make a not at each change of ends of anything she thought during the previous 2 games (crucial to make it clear you or anyone else are not judging what she's thinking, only that you are building a picture). From there you can understand why and from why you can move into what.

Hope that helps.
 

tlsmikey

Rookie
Having two daughters, I'm somewhat familiar with what you're describing. A couple thoughts:

The results will continue to encourage her to keep doing the same thing over and over. As long as she keeps having success, there will be no change. Get her to play some USTA matches. What you'll find with girls in particular is that 12s girls is all rally ball and pushers, 14s is a mix of aggressive point play and consistency. but once you get to 16s the kids who dink and push get absolutely stomped on the court. Have her play some higher level players in the 16s and she'll quickly realize that this style of play isn't going to work in the long run and talk about her long term goals. If she wants to play college and succeed in the higher levels this isn't scalable.

Just my 2 cents.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
I had a similar player to this. What worked well in our case was to have them chip, push and hustle to get a lead in the game, then use that lead for confidence to hit out more and play at a higher level with no fear of falling behind in the game. It worked well for keeping the opponents off balance too, and over the year, the player used the higher level hitting more and more.
 
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
It's obviously mental as she has the strokes in practice.

- She's afraid of losing
- She's afraid of disappointing her coach, parents, friends
- She has high expectations but low confidence. Ideally, she'd have zero expectations and high confidence.

Telling her to just "let go" is easy but actually doing it is tough. Maybe one way is amp up the pressure during practice to better simulate a match.

One way to feel little to no pressure is to play someone clearly better than her: if she's expected to get double bageled or double breadsticked, she has nothing to lose going out and swinging freely.


 
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Clay Mize

Rookie
Have seen two junior girls over the years (and one I played with at her parents' request) who would start dinking second serves when the score got close (and still double faulting). Chipping everything is like the fear of the serving yips applied to groundstrokes.

But if she is winning, I wonder how to distinguish that from a deliberate strategy of playing very safely in order to reduce unforced errors? Would you correct Su-Wei Tsieh or Fabrice Santoro the magician?
Well, it is a deliberate strategy, but for this junior it is fear based. The two players you mentioned do use variety as a strategy, but seem to be able to hit the other shots equally as well. I think the difference is the choose to make those shot as opposed afraid to hit their topspin shots.
 

socalmd123

Semi-Pro
“To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.” — Bruce Lee


teach your junior not to be afraid of losing. Fear causes the body to stiffen and worsens performance.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Do practice drills where the only way for her and her opponent to win points is to hit outright winners and the point starts with a hand feed. It is a fun drill that promotes hitting out and when I play with a player of equal level, it might take 15 minutes or longer to just win 5 points especially with old balls. Errors don’t count in this drill and you just feed again if one of the players makes an error.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
Arrange some recreational matches against weaker opponents for her and ban her from chipping for the entire matches. Tell her that the goal of these matches is to improve her confidence to drive and not to win. As she experiences that she can win without chipping, she starts driving in serious matches. Chipping is a wonderful strategy, but chipping all the time makes her footwork lazy and is not good for her long-run growth.
You are right about making the footwork lazy.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
It suggests a couple of things.

First, that training does not accurately recreate the experience/environment of competition. Now obviously I don't know what training looks like, or what principles of practice design are employed, but ultimately if you want players who make good decisions in high pressure in matches, they need to be making decisions in low pressure training. If there is no decision making in training, they're not going to be making good ones in competition.

Second, it suggests that she is placing a greater emphasis on results (not uncommon in many players and particularly in teenage girls where awareness of being judged is incredibly high). Therefore some work needs to be done to understand her thoughts in competition as thoughts->feelings->behaviours, so we need to know what are the thoughts that are trigger the end behaviours. Best guess would be something around being judged, not wanting to let the team down, what people will say if I lose etc, but I'm speculating - that conversation needs to take place. She could even keep a little thoughts log and make a not at each change of ends of anything she thought during the previous 2 games (crucial to make it clear you or anyone else are not judging what she's thinking, only that you are building a picture). From there you can understand why and from why you can move into what.

Hope that helps.
These are good suggestions. I will make her some discussion questions for our next session.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
Having two daughters, I'm somewhat familiar with what you're describing. A couple thoughts:

The results will continue to encourage her to keep doing the same thing over and over. As long as she keeps having success, there will be no change. Get her to play some USTA matches. What you'll find with girls in particular is that 12s girls is all rally ball and pushers, 14s is a mix of aggressive point play and consistency. but once you get to 16s the kids who dink and push get absolutely stomped on the court. Have her play some higher level players in the 16s and she'll quickly realize that this style of play isn't going to work in the long run and talk about her long term goals. If she wants to play college and succeed in the higher levels this isn't scalable.

Just my 2 cents.
Good reality check. Thanks.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
Do practice drills where the only way for her and her opponent to win points is to hit outright winners and the point starts with a hand feed. It is a fun drill that promotes hitting out and when I play with a player of equal level, it might take 15 minutes or longer to just win 5 points especially with old balls. Errors don’t count in this drill and you just feed again if one of the players makes an error.
I like the idea of this drill.
 
Not sure what you mean by this.
There is a tennis player that has played several matches on the Tennis Troll channel who is now a minor celebrity. He is known as GSG [Green Shirt Guy] or MEP [Most Exhausting Player]. if you look up either term on this forum, you'll find entire threads dedicated to him.
 
How about:
a) Breath?
b) Keep eyes at contact point through contact?
c) Shadow swing?
Yeah, relaxation is the end state but she needs to know how to get there. Suggestions like the above help because they give her something to focus on.

@Clay Mize: below is a list that a fan supposedly retrieved from the trash after Murray tossed it after a match.

- Be good to yourself
- Try your best
- Be intense with your legs
- Be proactive during points
- Focus on each point and the process
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
How about:
a) Breath?
b) Keep eyes at contact point through contact?
c) Shadow swing?
The first one is the key - under tension breathing is the first thing that changes - so if you are trying to help someone relax, helping them focus on breathing control is far more effective than saying "hey, just relax"
 

LOBALOT

Hall of Fame
The first one is the key - under tension breathing is the first thing that changes - so if you are trying to help someone relax, helping them focus on breathing control is far more effective than saying "hey, just relax"
I recall one of my son's first lessons when he was very young the coach talked to him about breathing when playing and spent quite a bit of time on that. I do not have a lot of formal training in tennis and found that interesting but having now watched my son's progression in the sport see the benefits of proper breathing during play.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
There is nothing wrong with her. She is ultra-competitive, and so she is wired to win ugly rather than lose pretty.

Keep drilling her beautiful strokes in practice. Do drills where the objective is to see how many balls in a row she can hit without resorting to chipping. Eventually, her ‘great strokes’ will reach the consistency level to meet her lofty reliability standards, and she’ll morph into a monster.
 

Fintft

Legend
Yeah, relaxation is the end state but she needs to know how to get there. Suggestions like the above help because they give her something to focus on.

@Clay Mize: below is a list that a fan supposedly retrieved from the trash after Murray tossed it after a match.

- Be good to yourself
- Try your best
- Be intense with your legs
- Be proactive during points
- Focus on each point and the process
I would summarize the first two and "the process": think long term and practice shot making.
 

srimes

Rookie
Every player deals with feeling tight under pressure. At that point you have 2 choices: get even tighter and "push" your strokes, or open up with full swings to break through to the other side. It's a leap of faith and she doesn't know that she can choose to take it. Tell her it can be a conscious choice and the more she makes that choice the easier it gets.

Set up practice matches with coaching to start doing this, then progress to higher pressure but "safe" situations (like req tournaments), then finally the real competition that she cares about.
 
There is nothing wrong with her. She is ultra-competitive, and so she is wired to win ugly rather than lose pretty.

Keep drilling her beautiful strokes in practice. Do drills where the objective is to see how many balls in a row she can hit without resorting to chipping. Eventually, her ‘great strokes’ will reach the consistency level to meet her lofty reliability standards, and she’ll morph into a monster.
Another possibility is that, due to mental weakness, she never reaches the stage where she feels comfortable "letting go", and she'll eventually run into players who aren't bothered by her pushing.

Her problem clearly is more mental than physical or technical. Working more on technique is not the best approach, IMO. I'd attack the weakest link first.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Another possibility is that, due to mental weakness, she never reaches the stage where she feels comfortable "letting go", and she'll eventually run into players who aren't bothered by her pushing.

Her problem clearly is more mental than physical or technical. Working more on technique is not the best approach, IMO. I'd attack the weakest link first.
We would need more info to assess her mental strength. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.
 

eah123

Rookie
I see this all the time - great in practice, tight in matches.

With my girl (age 12), the way I fixed her pushing in matches was to change her takeback on both the forehand and backhand to one that the elbow is very high. It basically becomes impossible to push with that kind of takeback. So instead of saying "don't push", I just say "remember to keep your elbow high on the takeback." Here is Jeff Salzenstein's video describing the takeback on the forehand:
 

eah123

Rookie
Sometimes a technical solution can be used to fix a mental problem. For example it generally doesn’t work to tell someone who is over weight to just eat less. But if you say “don’t eat anything white!” this makes the white color act as a visual cue to not eat something, with the added benefit that most white colored food contains refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Anyway, just saying what worked for my particular situation, perhaps something will be better for OP’s player.
 
Sometimes a technical solution can be used to fix a mental problem. For example it generally doesn’t work to tell someone who is over weight to just eat less. But if you say “don’t eat anything white!” this makes the white color act as a visual cue to not eat something, with the added benefit that most white colored food contains refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Anyway, just saying what worked for my particular situation, perhaps something will be better for OP’s player.
I don't doubt that your solution worked. However, it's specific to one shot: what happens if she pushes or plays tentatively on other shots? Do you have to come up with a different technical fix for every shot? Whereas if you could address the underlying mental issue, it could apply to every shot and things beyond technique.

So it seems like, while it could take longer and more work, addressing the underlying problem would pay more dividends.

Of course, nothing says you couldn't pursue both solutions in parallel.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
I recall one of my son's first lessons when he was very young the coach talked to him about breathing when playing and spent quite a bit of time on that. I do not have a lot of formal training in tennis and found that interesting but having now watched my son's progression in the sport see the benefits of proper breathing during play.
Curious about what your son's coach said about breathing during a match.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
There is nothing wrong with her. She is ultra-competitive, and so she is wired to win ugly rather than lose pretty.

Keep drilling her beautiful strokes in practice. Do drills where the objective is to see how many balls in a row she can hit without resorting to chipping. Eventually, her ‘great strokes’ will reach the consistency level to meet her lofty reliability standards, and she’ll morph into a monster.
I like your post and you sound very sure of your advice, but since I don't know you, what background do you have working with junior girls.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I like your post and you sound very sure of your advice, but since I don't know you, what background do you have working with junior girls.
I don’t have much background working with junior girls. But once upon a time, when I was a junior learning to play tennis, I was her.

I started playing competitive tennis late, at age 15. I didn’t have the strokes to beat people. But I hated losing. I would scratch and claw and push and do whatever it took to find a solution to win the point. I was very proud to finish my high school tennis career undefeated 30-0 in dual team matches over 3 years.

Eventually, by my senior year, I developed some weapons that allowed me to attack consistently and play offense. I developed a strong serve and a solid 2hb, and attacked the net well. But my best weapon remained that never-give-in competitive drive to get one more ball in the court than my opponent.

If your girl has that tool in her bag, she’ll be fine.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
I don’t have much background working with junior girls. But once upon a time, when I was a junior learning to play tennis, I was her.

I started playing competitive tennis late, at age 15. I didn’t have the strokes to beat people. But I hated losing. I would scratch and claw and push and do whatever it took to find a solution to win the point. I was very proud to finish my high school tennis career undefeated 30-0 in dual team matches over 3 years.

Eventually, by my senior year, I developed some weapons that allowed me to attack consistently and play offense. I developed a strong serve and a solid 2hb, and attacked the net well. But my best weapon remained that never-give-in competitive drive to get one more ball in the court than my opponent.

If your girl has that tool in her bag, she’ll be fine.
Problem is that she is 14 and has been taking lessons weekly since she was nine. Playing ugly and winning is not good at her stage of development. She should be winning at this point and not playing to let her opponent lose.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
She should be winning at this point and not playing to let her opponent lose.
There is no difference between the two and most competitors won’t care which is happening as they are going to be on the right side of the scoreboard in either case. In some cases, opponents implode faster if you ‘let them lose’ by making errors than if you are hitting winners all over the place. I empathize with your plight though and would encourage you to have her do the ‘only winners win points’ drill I suggested in post #14. She has to also learn how to win when she comes up against better opponents who won’t ‘let themselves lose’ though.
 

nyta2

Professional
I have this junior girl age 14 and a ninth grader. She is an excellent player and has great strokes...in practice that is. When she gets in a match she starts chipping everything and keeps much less skilled players in the match with her. She plays the number one spot and even with this chipping style can beat most players in her high school matches. It is like watching someone go down the interstate in second gear based on her skills.

Interested in your thoughts about how to what she needs to let go and play as she can.
sounds like she just needs to play more folks that force her to play differently..
if chipping is winning, stick with it...
now if the goal is to play U14 nationals, maybe chipping won't work (unless she's a hseih or niculescu)... and she'll need her hs matches as a practicing ground to beat the hard hitting tourney girls.
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
Every player deals with feeling tight under pressure. At that point you have 2 choices: get even tighter and "push" your strokes, or open up with full swings to break through to the other side. It's a leap of faith and she doesn't know that she can choose to take it. Tell her it can be a conscious choice and the more she makes that choice the easier it gets.

Set up practice matches with coaching to start doing this, then progress to higher pressure but "safe" situations (like req tournaments), then finally the real competition that she cares about.
I have read this several times and the more I read it the better I like it. Makes sense. Thanks
 

Clay Mize

Rookie
There is no difference between the two and most competitors won’t care which is happening as they are going to be on the right side of the scoreboard in either case. In some cases, opponents implode faster if you ‘let them lose’ by making errors than if you are hitting winners all over the place. I empathize with your plight though and would encourage you to have her do the ‘only winners win points’ drill I suggested in post #14. She has to also learn how to win when she comes up against better opponents who won’t ‘let themselves lose’ though.
I hear what you are saying, but I think there is a difference between winning and letting your opponent lose. I am not talking about hitting winners, I am talking about playing with freedom and joy instead of fear. One is so much more satisfying. I had rather lose and play with courage and freedom, than win ugly with fear. That is not to say that I wouldn't use some of the same ugly shots on occasion, but because I wanted to and not because I am compelled to. Does that make sense to you?
 

EP1998

Semi-Pro
Does she hit out and miss and then start chippping, or is she not hitting out from the start of the match? She may not feel confident if her opponents are giving her low pace balls. In training programs a lot of people hit the same and you get used to the height, speed and spins of the people you hit with but in high school matches, there is more variation. Wonder if she feels like she has to chip to keep it in the court. Sometimes telling yourself to block out everything, stay low on the ball and basically pretend you're doing a hand feed drill and it doesnt matter where you hit can really help.
 

Mountain Ghost

Professional
Does she play by "feel" ... or does she have a mindful (detail-based) "process" ... this usually relates to having been self-"taught" ... versus having had an intelligent intructructor.

While just hitting ... it's easy to be in the moment ... whereas in a match there's a temptation to let the mind wander to the score ... which is actually a quantification of past (and future) events ... and has absolutely NO place in what is happening during any real point.

Have her identify a few process details during practice ... could be her balance ... her preparation ... her positioning ... etc. Then ... have her focus on those SAME details during a match ... the goal being to always keep bringing her mind back into THIS moment ... and not let it wander to past or future results.

Those who focus on results ... tend to have a less mindful process ... and often do poorly ... whereas those who focus on process ... tend to deliver better results.

Bottom line ... how "WELL" you are doing (as in the score ... winning or losing) ... is a thought "TRAP" ... that requires diligent "focus-on-the-process" practice to avoid.

MG
 
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