Why don't tennis instructors really PROMOTE tournaments?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by fortissimo, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. fortissimo

    fortissimo New User

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    My kids have taken lessons from five different tennis instructors. [We stopped lessons with two because their progress stagnated. Two other instructors they were with (who we would have stayed with forever) moved away. Their current instructor we want to keep forever.]

    None of their past tennis instructors, even including their current instructor [who we adore beyond words], actively encourage students to enter USTA tournaments. I spoke to another parent of a tennis player yesterday at a USTA tournament, and she (a golf instructor) expressed the exact same mind-boggling confusion at teaching pros in the entire tennis community. Let me clarify what I mean by "actively encourage since I'd assume that all tennis instructors probably "passively encourage" students to enter tournaments, meaning they're happy to hear when a student goes into a tournament. Active encouragement goes beyond that.

    I'm a private music instructor. All of the good instructors I know of put their students into various recitals, festivals and competitions. The really good ones don't even ask the students about recitals and festivals - they just put them in. Most students love and expect this. A very, very small minority (like probably literally 2% of students) will request not to participate the next year for whatever reason. Without various events, there are no goals, the bar is set lower, and the vast majority of students don't develop nearly as well.

    If I were a tennis instructor instead of a music instructor, I'd do something similar, because I would consider my students' involvement in tournaments to be a critical part of my own "curriculum" I'm using with the student. I might e-mail all of my students once a month with a list of various upcoming tournaments and letting them decide. I might take a little time during their lessons to say, "Let's see what events you might enter for next month." Or maybe even just something as hands off as taking 15 minutes during their very first lesson: "Parent, let me train you on how to search for tournaments and enter into them. They will make a huge difference in your child's game." And then I would tell the parent when the child is even remotely ready to participate in various classes of tournaments. Any one of these things (or all of them) would be so easy to do.

    And who benefits? Not just the student, but also the teacher, big time. The student and parent spend their time, money and energy gaining all kinds of experience on the tennis court, the tennis instructor does almost nothing (especially if they take lesson time to do it!), and yet it is the tennis instructor's reputation that is furthered by the player's more rapid increase in skill. The instructor gets to take all the credit!

    But instead, it seems parents are just expected to figure everything out on their own, and I know for a fact that some are not lucky enough to ever do so. I just don't get it at all. If a pro approaches you for lessons and tells you exactly what they want out of lessons, that's one thing. But when someone with no clue about anything (which is a majority of students/parents) says, "We are signing up for tennis lessons. Tell us what to do," so many of them give them tips on technique/strategy and leave it at that, completely ignoring the off-court factors that can be as significant as on-court factors. Part of telling students what to do should be to point out to them all the ways available to get them valuable experience on the tennis court, right?

    Even if the instructor has to spend extra time outside of lessons searching on the USTA tennislink website (which again is very minimal - only takes a few minutes to see what's coming up in the local area over the next month), pretty much every teacher on Earth has "maintenance time" outside of their lessons, whether it's normal scheduling, office hours for school teachers, or repertoire selection / festival registration for music teachers.

    And let's not even get started about how this relates to tennis advocacy, furthering the popularity of the sport.

    Anyway, I'm really curious what various tennis instructors out there have to say about this. Why do you not promote more? If you do promote tournaments, why do you think this behavior among teaching pros is so rare? I'm really curious if there is some factor I'm overlooking here.
     
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  2. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Some coaches are afraid that parents will ask them to travel to tournaments. Even if paid, it is probably less money for same time (which includes travel) than teaching regular lessons.

    There may be exceptions - one tennis pro at my club actually has the junior tournament named after him - but most pros don't have time to track all the tournaments.

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  3. styksnstryngs

    styksnstryngs Professional

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    My coaches do.
     
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  4. sovertennis

    sovertennis Semi-Pro

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    The club where I most recently worked hosts a weekly tournament for kids of all levels. At least 10 courts were in play for 2-3 hours. We also encouraged our players to enter at least one tournament per month, even during their HS seasons.
     
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  5. sovertennis

    sovertennis Semi-Pro

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    I've never met a coach who was "afraid" of going to a tournament with a player, or of being asked to do so. Some coaches make that part of their deal with the parents: others don't. Some might go occasionally, some not at all; regardless, the parents and players know this in advance.
     
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  6. dsb

    dsb Rookie

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    Junior tennis is something of a mine field... Unless the kid wins the tournament outright, they got beat. Some have the emotional maturity to handle that, some don't, until they try you don't know how they'll cope, but a bad experience could well put them off tennis, possibly permanently. At what point does a kid have enough skill to do battle at a tournament? What if they do everything better than their opponent but still get crushed? What if they get cheated out of their match? What if they get intimidated by their opponent, or his/her parents?

    Granted, tournament savvy has to be learned at some point, but who decides when the kid is ready? The parents who probably know nothing of the pressures of a tournament? or the coach, who may not know the kid's emotional maturity well enough? Or perhaps just leave it up to the kid?

    The Williams sisters didn't play juniors...

    In martial arts, you used to have to be a black belt in order to compete...

    Perhaps, a more developed game/skill set and some maturity results in a more harmonious outcome...

    My $0.02...

    Dave (USTA Juniors from 10U to 18's)
     
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  7. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    Sh#t happens: all of these things could occur, and not just to a junior but to anyone. But does the possibility of something bad happening mean to not play tournaments?

    Kids need to learn about how to deal with defeat as well as victory. And maybe the emphasis shouldn't be so much on winning but the process of improvement.

    I would think the majority of kids would be OK; kids are fairly resilient. A few might be extremely fearful so the coach/parents have to be aware of that.

    How about all 3 get together and discuss it?

    Probably because one errant punch could hospitalize the opponent. One bad line call isn't [hopefully] as damaging.
     
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  8. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Hall of Fame

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    Tournaments are fine. That said, keep in mind that often when learning new strokes, it may take you one step back in the short term. That does not typically happen with music lessons. Tournament results are not necessarily a reflection of the coaching and, for various reasons, are not for everyone. As other post mentioned, Williams sisters apparently skipped junior tournaments.
     
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  9. WesternCK

    WesternCK Rookie

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    It depends on the goal of the student. When a child signs up for tennis lessons, I wouldn’t make playing tennis tournaments their immediate priority. If they are starting from scratch, it can take awhile to develop strokes in a practice atmosphere, let alone a competitive one. You’ve stated all the benefits kids can achieve by playing tournaments but not everyone would benefit from playing them. Some kids will be fine playing in high school and then later as adults and others will be fine just having some physical activity as part as their weekly routine. Not every child has to be a competitor.

    From a personal standpoint, many of the kids I teach are under 10 years of age and regardless if they are older actually, many of them enjoy tennis as they know it, which is taking a lesson for one or two hours a week with me. When I see talent, of course I would start to think that perhaps they should consider playing some USTA tournaments, but once again on a personal level, I have never felt as though this is something that I should force on the child myself. It’s been more common for a parent to ask me about their child entering tournaments than it has been for a child to come out on his own and ask me about how things work.

    If a player is pushed too hard down that route either by a parent or a coach, without having wanted to do so themselves, it’s only a matter of time before they burn out in one way or another.

    I can only think about myself when I was a child and how I was the one who would look in our community’s tennis magazine for all the upcoming tournaments that I would be eligible to play in. I would then plead with my parents to have me enter as many tournaments as possible. I never had to have a coach tell me that I should play those tournaments, and it wasn’t too complicated to figure out how to join the tournaments.

    Teaching pros also have students of all ages and so the majority of their students won’t be tournament players. It’s going to happen, but unless one’s program is focused on developing competitive juniors, the amount of players who should be receiving suggestions to play said tournaments will be a very small subset of their clientele. I have a few who do play USTA tournaments, and I’ve been a big part of that process however I’ve also taught students for 5 consecutive years who never wanted to go down that route.
     
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  10. Dan Huben

    Dan Huben Rookie

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    Why is the conversation limited to juniors? I'm an adult and not one coach has recommended tourneys. All of them like to hear.

    I agree with the op, tourneys for me unlike flex or greater degree team tennis really expose my many weaknesses. It's nice to go to a lesson and discuss a training regimen to fix one.

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  11. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    1. If you win a 4.0 tournament and do mention to everyone that you have a coach, he still won't get any extra business as no one cares.
    2. He knows adult tournaments are mostly low level.
    3. He wants you to pay for a lesson instead of playing.
    4. He is afraid you will find other coaches if you expand your circle.
     
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  12. Dan Huben

    Dan Huben Rookie

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    That’s probably true. But even so, coaches have to get tired of the oprah book club crowd and want someone to talk to, even if it’s 20% about a tourney and 79% about racket back early, that still leaves 1% for chicks guns and fire trucks. That has to be more fun than parents from Pittsburgh ramming how good their kids are down their throat.


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  13. WesternCK

    WesternCK Rookie

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    When you introduce yourself to the coach in the first meeting, what do you tell them your goal is? Do they ask? I've been fully supportive and even excited to coach any adults who play or wish to play tournaments but many of my adult students also play tennis solely for a workout. The coach's job is to understand the player's goals and perform based on that knowledge. I don't see it as their job to necessarily state "you know what, you definitely need to go out there and play tournaments!" Even then, the only ones who actually will, are likely the ones who would have really wanted to anyway. My program is a little different though, in that I have a monthly round robin where all my students are welcome to join. I'd say about 25-50% of them do and the rest lack mostly self-confidence (bad coach!) or the drive to play tennis in what they assume will be a competitive atmosphere.
     
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  14. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Reality is, it is a profession and you do what you have to. Having raised a kid through school, I know that most teachers and counselors are not into pushing the kids into Science Olympiad, Math Olympiad, Spelling Bees, etc. Some do, e.g., in Robotics, when it is politically expedient for the school to get some more funds, etc. But, by and large, they just teach and go home.

    Even high school tennis coaches don't seem to follow what private lessons or tournaments their students go to, except for asking for proof in order to give the PE time waivers.

    Same thing for coaches of adult students whose lifetime max is a potential 4.5, and only 1% will make it.
     
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  15. WesternCK

    WesternCK Rookie

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    There’s also a million different variations in the student-coach relationship but in many instances I think it can be tough for a coach to see improvement in certain areas as quickly when a student has a 1-1 ratio or worse between lessons/practice time and tournaments. If a student is going to take one lesson and then play 2 ladder matches and 1 tournament in the same week, one can be sure that the relaxed follow trough they worked on the prior week will be non-existent even one month later.

    It takes discipline to either focus a prolonged amount of time on a specific aspect during that one hour lesson by both the coach and player, and it would take discipline on the student’s behalf to either set aside one of those ladder matches to actually practice what was taught in that one hour lesson or even take two lessons versus two match days instead of 1 versus 3. I’m not the type of coach to ever force someone to take lessons. I just know this recipe would be better for someone who looks to play so many matches, all the while also taking lessons in order to improve their game in the longterm. Practicing specific tasks on their own could be just as beneficial, but how likely is that to happen? That’s up to the player.

    Coaches are also almost obviously going to unlikely be able to travel with their adult player to their tournaments and so even strategies have to be generalized within the organized lesson. There’s a bit of a disconnect there.
     
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  16. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    ^^^ Exactly why I mentioned the travel issue earlier.
     
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  17. OnTheLine

    OnTheLine Hall of Fame

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    I'll just throw in a thought .... where can a junior over the age of 12 get into a tournament where they will have a positive experience? (a competitive match even if a loss). My daughter at 14 had only been playing 2 years ... entered a level 8 and ended up facing girls who were regularly going deep in level 3s and winning level 5s and 6s. It was a horrid experience. Her opponents were not even pleasant or kind.

    The concept of a level 8 should be to gain a positive experience, instead of just getting humiliated and end up dealing with some nasty parents.

    I think kids in this situation are best off avoiding tournaments and trying to set up their own matches against other kids in their same level of progress.
     
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  18. dsb

    dsb Rookie

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    This should be where UTR comes in... Albeit they may play someone considerably older or younger, which may or may not make the result harder to deal with.
     
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  19. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    Parents can delude themselves about how good their child is. But a tournament can be a brutal 'wake up call''.

    For an example of how delusional parents can be, remember this scene from the Music Man, where they want to see how the 'thinkmethod' works?
     
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  20. OnTheLine

    OnTheLine Hall of Fame

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    I agree, or have the better kids taught how to be respectful/kind to a player of lower ability ... oh but wait, that means that the parents aren't a-holes and that won't happen.
     
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  21. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    What do you have in mind regarding respectful and kind? I am called upon to volunteer for a couple of junior tournaments every year, and most matches end with a handshake and nothing else, unless the kids know each other from before.

    Is there any particular requirement that a player should satisfy other than following the rules (which include not cursing or shouting or distracting)?
     
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  22. Traffic

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    I've been starting to pay attention to girl's entry for tournaments these days. It does seem that girls enter every tournament available even if they are intermediate-advanced skill levels. That leaves someone like my 11y/o daughter that has participated in group classes for the past 3yrs and has started to develop consistent strokes and serves.

    We got her working with a regular coach in the hopes of cleaning up her form so she can start to play competitively.

    There seems to be a huge jump from Entry level tourament participants and Intermediate. I see all the same girls in Intermediate as I see in Advanced. I don't mind my daughter losing in tournaments. But I don't know how much she would benefit from getting crushed?
     
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  23. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    Just like with any player, adult or junior, it depends on personality: can she take a loss as feedback on things to work on or does it cause her to break down because she's concerned about disappointing others?

    How much will she grow if she sticks to Entry? She will do a lot better than in Intermediate but will it inhibit improvement?

    This has some similarity with the numerous threads on sandbagging: there are those [like myself and @nytennisaddict] who welcome the chance to play someone significantly better even though we're going to get crushed and there are others who want to avoid that at all costs.

    Note that if I were getting crushed regularly, whether by sandbaggers or not, I'm in the wrong NTRP and should be bumped down. But I only get crushed occasionally.
     
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  24. OnTheLine

    OnTheLine Hall of Fame

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    Okay ... .should a player tell a weaker player in their first tournament that they should quit the sport because they suck so much? or should they tell them that they are nothing but a waste of time and space? By the "rules" player did not curse, shout, or distract.

    This is the reason that my daughter who played on the HS team her freshman and sophomore years (not a starter but 2nd string and had a few wins) has never picked up her racquet again after this tournament.
     
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  25. Notirouswithag

    Notirouswithag Semi-Pro

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    Im an instructor and I always try to encourage the juniors(who play usta or not) to ventire out and play tournaments for fun or for ranking if they are.

    In my area we have JTT in fall and winter so I always wncourage my juniors to join and play on a team as well as to look into other tournaments in the area that I’m aware of
     
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  26. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Actually it is against the rules. I witnessed a situation once where a USTA roaming umpire had to ask a parent to stop intimidating a junior opponent before a match with her daughter

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  27. Crocodile

    Crocodile Hall of Fame

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    I don't believe that tournaments should be the first point of competition for children getting involved in tennis and having tennis lessons, that's a bad thing. Lots of kids drop out of tennis because of this. Don't forget it's quite expensive to enter ( it is here in Australia) and then there is the travel and it's very time consuming. Imagine if you travel say 80k to play an event at 8am, you arrive there at 7.45 and the tournament adviser tells you they are running an hour late. So you get to play 9am and get beaten 6/0 6/1 in 32minutes and then drive home or wait for a consolation draw which will be on at 3pm when a storm is due. That's what it's like for many kids who play tournaments unless they are the best or they are complete tennis enthusiasts who like this sought of thing. Most kids struggle in this format.
    A far better option is to have the club/coach organise internal competitions that the kids can play and then enter into their local district competition and district championships. Once these kids reach the top here in their age group, then go tournaments.
    Lots of coaches would prefer to go this way. The goal of many coaches us to encourage their students to love the game and keep playing. If you have a look at the evidence you find that the tournament draws for boys and girls between the 10's and 12,s are very big and then they halve in each age group in the 14's and 16's and this figure is even worse for the girls and that's not a good outcome for tennis.
    It would be interesting to get feedback how each country addresses this situation and how successful they are. I definately feel that tennis in the 80's was much more social and community based even with the professional game.
     
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  28. Crocodile

    Crocodile Hall of Fame

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    This is a bad situation in tennis and must stop because it's killing the game for the juniors.
     
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  29. Crocodile

    Crocodile Hall of Fame

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    This is a big problem and worst outcome for tennis that needs to be addressed right now. I'm very concerned about the attitude of some kids and their parents who behave like this. I bet Roger Federer didn't say this to the many players he has wipped over the years, it's just poor form.
    The goal is to get everyone loving tennis and playing it for life.
     
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  30. Crocodile

    Crocodile Hall of Fame

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    I think everyone has a duty to uphold good standards of sportsmanship. One has to say that it's the adults that need to set the standard including parents, coaches, officials and sports stars. There is no need for bad behaviour in sport.
     
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  31. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    That may be your goal [it's mine as well] but it's likely not the goal of the jerk parents and offspring; they want to win.
     
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