How To Handle Nasty Opponents

Author: Jeff Borengasser, Senior Assistant, High Altitude Tennis, LLC.

In discussing the situation of playing opponents that use mental games or gamesmanship, I think it is important to start with something I strongly believe.  A player should always strive to walk off the court after a match with their character and reputation in tact. One can do this in victory or defeat if they played hard and if they played with fairness and good sportsmanship (even if their opponent did not). Winning a match is never more important than playing with fairness and sportsmanship.  As the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

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So how can you handle opponents that play with gamesmanship?  It is not easy, but it is simple. It starts with a point of emphasis that every coach I have known has attested to.  Focus on the things that are within your control. When you play an opponent that is obviously resorting to gamesmanship (for example constantly asking the score after you already said it, constantly hitting you the third ball when you don’t want/need it, asking you to wait when you are about to serve, never hitting the ball directly to you between points, constantly questioning obviously correct calls, loudly shuffling feet as a distraction when you are about to serve, playing really slow or really fast as a way to distract you, etc.), you have zero control over what they are doing.  I can tell you with 100% certainty that players that resort to these tactics are doing it to distract you from focusing on your game.

These opponents love it if you get frustrated, start arguing, start name calling, complaining etc.  This is their comfort zone, and they will perform well with the added tension and frustration coming from your side of the court.  The only way to handle this opponent is to ignore their tactics and focus on what you need to do to play your best tennis. What often happens is you might keep your composure for much of the match, and then lose emotional control at some critical part of the match, which is exactly what your opponent is going for.  Instead turn this into motivation by realizing they are resorting to these tactics because they do not think they can beat you. Constantly remind yourself to ignore your opponent and focus on your strategy. A last note, you can call a line judge on these players, but many of their tactics will continue in less obvious ways.  It ultimately falls on you not to try and stop them from doing these things, but to instead focus on playing your best anyway.

Part of what makes tennis great are the unique challenges it presents.  We have to compete one on one, and at the same time be our own coach and official.  Tennis can bring out the worst in people. But, over my years in the game, I have held onto memories of seeing fair play, good sportsmanship, and graciousness in defeat.  These moments are noteworthy and can have a positive impact on you and the people around you. I urge you to do all you can to create these positive memories from your time on the court and to always walk off the court with your head held high in victory or defeat!

Notice I didn’t mention bad line calls above.  I think this falls into a different category that I will look to address in the near future.

Are there other topics on your mind that you would like for me to address? Leave a comment below and I will possibly address it in a future post!

I will see you soon on the court!

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What Tennis Tournaments Should My Child Be Playing? (Including a complete roadmap to tournament success!)

Author: Brent Mazza, HAT Coach, USPTA, PTR and HAT Method Certified

Let’s work together to increase participation in this great game of tennis! I came across a few shocking junior tennis stats recently in relation to tournaments. According to the USTA, 38% of junior players drop out of tournaments after playing their very first tournament, 45% of players drop out after playing their second tournament, and 76% drop out after playing their fifth tournament. There are many possible explanations for these numbers. Perhaps the player has only played tennis at that point in their life, and hasn’t developed other all-around athletic skills from other sports, such as soccer and basketball, which in turn, may be hindering their tennis abilities. Or, maybe the player has a very poor technical stroke foundation, and they need to go back to the drawing board to clean up their fundamentals to eliminate unforced errors. Perhaps the player is not very mentally and physically tough, and they haven’t learned how to appropriately deal with adversity and losing, leading them to quit when things get challenging.

In my experience, one of the major reasons that players get discouraged and don’t play another tournament is that the player is registered for the inappropriate level of tournament in the first place, specifically if it is a regular yellow ball tournament. For example, I have seen numerous situations over the years when a new tournament player registers for a Level 5 or 6 tournament for their very first tournament. Unfortunately, they should be playing Level 7 and 8 tournaments at that point in their development. It is the responsibility of the parents and coaches to be correctly informed, and set their junior players up to have the best possible chance of having some success, build confidence, and establish enthusiasm and love for the lifelong game of tennis, especially from a young age.

I am a huge advocate and supporter of the new 2018 Player Progression Pathway, which now requires players ten years of age and younger to start in orange and green dot tournaments before advancing up to yellow ball. However, below I provide a continuation of that pathway, specifically focusing on the regular yellow ball tournaments. Please note that this pathway is simply meant to be a general guideline, and may need to be adjusted on an individual basis when necessary. Also note that a particular player who previously progressed to a higher phase at one age division may need to restart at a lower phase upon aging up into a new age division. Here at HAT, we recommend that players start to age up to the next division 4-6 months prior in order to get a “running head start” in that age group.

A Recommended Regular Yellow Ball Tournament Road Map for Junior Players

Phase 1 (Beginner Colorado State Level Player): L7

  • Rules to Graduate:
    • 66% rule (2/3 win/loss) demonstrates player is in the correct phase.
      • If winning percentage is higher than 66%, the player may move up to Phase 2.
      • If winning percentage is 33% (1/3 win/loss) or lower, the player may need to put in some additional work on strokes and tactics, as well as play some additional practice matches, to improve tournament performance.
    • Winner/Finalist in several L7’s (at least 3-4)

Phase 2 (Intermediate/Advanced Colorado State Level Player): L6

  • Rules to Graduate:
    • 66% rule (2/3 win/loss) demonstrates player is in the correct phase.
      • If winning percentage is higher than 66%, the player may move up to Phase 3.
      • If winning percentage is 33% (1/3 win/loss) or lower, the player may need to move back down to Phase 1.
    • Winner/Finalist in several L6’s (at least 3-4)

Phase 3 (Intermountain Sectional Level Player): Intermountain L5’s, L4’s, L3’s (and L6’s at both current age group and one age group up on an as need basis)

  • Rules to Graduate
    • 66% rule (2/3 win/loss) demonstrates a player is in the correct phase.
      • If winning percentage is higher than 66%, the player may move up to Phase 4.
      • If winning percentage is 33% (1/3 win/loss) or lower, the player may need to move back down to Phase 2.
    • Winner in a L5, Winner/Finalist in several L3’s and L4’s (at least 3-4)
    • L6’s are played in the current age division in this phase primarily to stay match tough, continue to learn winning habits and work on improvements learned in practice. L6’s may also be played at a higher age division (one age division up) to gain match play experience and points against older players.

Phase 4 (National Level Player): L3’s, L2’s and L1’s (and Intermountain L4’s, L3’s on an as need basis)

  • Rules to Graduate
    • 66% rule (2/3 win/loss) demonstrates you are in the correct phase.
      • If winning percentage is higher than 66%, the player may move up to Phase 5.
      • If winning percentage is 33% (1/3 win/loss) or lower, the player may need to move back down to Phase 3.
    • Winner/Finalist/Semifinalist in several L3’s, L2’s, and L1’s

Upon graduating from Phase 4, players enter Phase 5, and thus become international level players competing against other players from all over the world on the ITF Junior Circuit. In Phase 6, players then transition into becoming a world class professional player competing on the ITF Pro Circuit, while Phase 7 is the ATP/WTA Tour level.

My hope is that if more parents and coaches follow this pathway for the yellow ball tournaments, especially at the beginning of junior players’ tennis careers, the stats provided by the USTA with regards to tournament player retention will improve drastically over time. Please leave your questions and comments below, or you can always contact me directly at brent@highaltitudetennis.com. See you on the court (or at a tournament)!

Studying Abroad is not a Glorified Holiday

In the world that we live in today, there isn’t an aspect of our lives that has not been touched by globalization. What is globalization? Simply explained, it is a situation of nations being integrated across inter national boundaries in whatever we do; be it business and economics or political views or culture or the sharing of grief. No doubt, however, that “studying abroad” would top the list as the oldest example of globalization. Though studying overseas is very commonplace today, it still retains a charm that is not easily replicated.

Very easily the greatest charm in studying abroad is the impact that such education impacts the rest of a person’s life; it is a milestone event. Any list of the reasons for choosing to study abroad would include the following:

  • Improving academic caliber
  • Development of professional skills
  • Enhancing employability
  • Appreciation of cultural diversity
  • Value-addition to personal history

Every survey has shown that US universities are the most-favorite destination for students from all over the world. Besides being veritable reservoirs of knowledge, universities in US have also earned the reputation of being the most welcoming of institutions and of imparting the highest quality of education, when compared to any other in the world.

Why is the US the most sought-after destination for studying abroad? I will answer this question by elaborating on the 5 reasons listed above (for studying overseas).

Improving Academic Caliber

Every student, wishing to gain further knowledge in his chosen subject of study, can be sure that a university in the US will offer him the following — faculty who are the most learned and updated on the subject, the access to the most advanced and updated knowledge of the subject and a learning environment which is unique, very practical and very supportive. These are the heady mix of ingredients that every serious student aspires for.

Development of professional skills

Universities in the US are invariably equipped with modern equipment, tools and facilities for the highest level of professional studies. Therefore, students not only gain academic knowledge but also gain hands-on experience of working with the latest tools of the profession. Except in the area of Arts, for which the European universities are the premier ones, American universities are the leaders in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Medicine.

Enhancing Employability               

More and more employers are seeking to recruit those who have been educated abroad, particularly ones who have been educated in the US. Why is education in the US such a sought-after qualification? The answer lies in the fact that an employee who has studied in the US is sure to have been exposed to modern theories, methodologies and the latest equipment; these qualities are a boon to any employer.

Appreciation of cultural diversity            

Irrespective of one’s profession, being able to communicate effectively goes a long way in professional development. Nothing prepares a person better than life spent on a university campus in the US where there are students from all over the world and is therefore the perfect medium for breaking-down cultural barriers. The reality is that our workplace is more globalized than it was ever before, therefore, being able to communicate effectively across multiple cultures, without any inhibitions is a critical requisite for personal success.

Value-addition to personal history

No person can claim to a higher status in society than one who has studied abroad at an established seat of learning. Studying in the US is an eye-opener; it broadens the horizon of those arriving from less-developed countries. When one has studied in the US and returns to their home country, it is sure to make heads turn or draw second-looks in a social gathering!

Several of those who studied abroad have also gone ahead and sought and accepted US citizenship and have integrated well in American society and excelled in the profession of their choice. They have earned national and international recognition and have won laurels for their contributions. American society is an amalgam of several cultures created by waves of settlers originally from Europe but subsequently from nations around the world too.

In spite of the attractiveness of continuing to live abroad, after completing higher studies, many choose to return to their home country. The seemingly natural act of returning is loaded with advantages in favor of the home nation. It immediately increases the intellectual capital of the home nation. In the longer-term, the returnees carry forward business and professional relationships, which are effectively the seeds of collaboration and knowledge-sharing ventures.

Those who study abroad should not fail to give back to their home nation. Upon their return, they can do so by engaging themselves in 3 broad areas, namely politics (or public life), economics (or business) and social (education, health).

(a) Politics — I have mentioned earlier that studying abroad intrinsically enriches a person’s character. Alumni, therefore, are potentially capable of providing transformational leadership, which is commonly missing in less developed and under-developed nations.

(b) Economics — In the field of business and economics, because they have studied (lived) abroad they have experienced the comfort of modern and superior products and the power of technologically advanced methods of production; they are therefore very capable of managing the introduction of new products and modern production facilities.

(c) Social — In the field of education and health, because of their superior personal experiences (while studying/living abroad) they can introduce the best similar practices and mentor the next generation of youth and improve their standard of living.

There is yet another dimension of enrichment – it occurs when those who have studied abroad return to their home country and pursue their profession. The students group themselves and form alumni associations. Alumni associations are not merely for bragging rights but they continue the spirit of camaraderie and play an inspirational role for others to study too in the same institution. In sum, it is a continuation of the engagement with the alma mater by its students.

Alumni outreach events and programs are ideal platforms for saying thank-you to the university to which they owe their gratitude for success. They are best qualified to use the lessons learned from their experience of studying and living in the USA.

Institutions all around the world have a plan in place for engaging their alumni. Failure to have such a plan will mean missing out on opportunities of several kinds. Alumni, for example:

ü  Serve as ambassadors, advocates and mentors for the next generation of students to inspire them to study in the same institutions

ü  Pool financial resources for scholarships

ü  Donate to establish endowments for research projects, for amenities (example, library, study halls, auditoriums, sports arena, etc.)

ü  Create and fund faculty positions for research and teaching a super-specialized subject

A final word; studying abroad is a serious decision soaked in benefits which can last a life-time; it is not a matter to be dismissed as simply a glorified holiday.

By HF Contributor: A. Adeni