Make Your Recruiting Video Work for You!

When it comes to the college tennis recruiting process, and getting recruited to the college of your dreams, it is critical to make your recruiting video work for you.  Think about it, many times your video is the only time college coaches get to see you play.  Sadly, college recruiting budgets and staff are limited in many tennis programs, so seeing every prospective student-athlete play in person is not possible.  This makes it all the more critical that you make a recruiting video that is helpful to college coaches and markets you in a favorable way so you will get recruited.

jeff_the_recruiterIn fact, to give yourself the best chance to get recruited by the most schools, it is important to stand out from other recruits in the recruiting process.  This will give you the advantage of having multiple options, and even leverage in the negotiating process.  College Prospects of America excels in marketing our student athletes in a way that college coaches know and trust, and we are great at helping our student-athletes find the best college for them, at the best price!

College Prospects of America helps with every step of the process, including making a professional and effective recruiting video.  Some helpful pointers in making your recruiting video include:

  1. For all, or at least the majority of the footage, choose an angle that shows where the shots land.  For this you will likely need a video camera with a wide angle lens attachment, and you can take the video from behind the court.  College coaches don’t need a close up shot of the stroke in order to analyze technique, but coaches do need to see where the balls are landing to know how effective the strokes are.
  2. Don’t include a lot of warm up footage.  Most coaches don’t have a lot of time to watch videos, and watching warm up is not incredibly helpful in scouting a recruit.
  3. Make sure music is appropriate.
  4. It’s good to include a couple minutes on each stroke, but probably not more than that
  5. The most important thing is to show several minutes of live ball hitting, and or point play
  6. Make sure you are hitting with a strong opponent who is trying

The most common mistakes, and the worst mistakes to make, are ignoring the last 2 pointers on this list.  College coaches want to see how your strokes hold up in live ball hitting situations, when there is pressure on you.  Many people will make a video where they are primarily hitting off easy feeds, or against a weak opponent, or even against a strong opponent who is not trying hard.  College coaches notice these things and it ends up making your video work against you.  College coaches want to see how you perform in tough situations, under pressure, and on the move.  They want to see how you compete, hustle, and how smart and tough you are.  Most anyone can hit great strokes off easy feeds, and winners against an opponent who is not moving.  Showing those things will not get recruited!  Showcase your talent by playing a tough opponent, playing hard, hustling, and playing smart! 


College Prospects of America can help with making a video and with every step of the recruiting process.
  We can help you stand out from other recruits, and we can get you recruited to the school of your dreams!   CPOA has been trusted by college coaches for almost 30 years! If you would like to find out if you are on track in the recruiting process, or have any questions on how we can help, please contact me, Jeff Borengasser, jborengasser@mycpoa.com, (303)910-2329, and you can visit our website, www.cpoaworld.com

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The Most Important Shot in Tennis

On The Court with Coach Mazza

In my experience, it is not uncommon for a typical one hour general “club” tennis lesson to consist of 50 minutes of feeding and rallying from the baseline, then hitting 10 minutes of serves to finish while the “pro” nonchalantly stands next to the basket and shoots the breeze with their student.  If I had a nickel for every time I witnessed a pair or group of players go out and only rally from the baseline for the entirety of their practice, I could buy my own private island and retire today.

I am not denying that rallying from the baseline is an important skill for tennis players to possess – it absolutely is. A junior player, particularly in the beginning stages of their tennis career, must develop shot tolerance, consistency, patience, discipline, and a passion for “Tennis 101” – keep the ball in the court! However, I think there is commonly too much emphasis placed on just that skill alone, and other much more important shots and skills often get overlooked.

I recently came across an article from Craig O’ Shannessy which really hit the nail on the head and unveiled some key match statistics from the 2015 Australian Open Men’s and Women’s Main Singles Draws. I think many people will find several of the findings quite surprising. You can find the link to the entire articlehere:

RALLY LENGTH NICKNAME MEN WOMEN
0-4 Shots First Strike 70% 66%
5-8 Shots Patterns of Play 20% 23%
9+ Shots Extended Rallies 10% 11%

*Chart taken from Craig O’ Shannessy’s article entitled “The First Four Shots” from ausopen.org (Published on Jan. 15, 2016)

The best players in the world are the best for numerous reasons, one of which being that most of them can keep the ball in play all day, especially on the practice court. So why are these percentages of 0-4 shot points so high? One of the main reasons is their serve game is that good! They keep their first serve percentage up, win a large amount of their first serve points (often by ace, service winner, or forcing a weak return), and keep their double faults (and free points in general) to a minimum. John Isner led the ATP Tour in 2015 with a 91% serve hold rate, and there is a long list of players who aren’t very far behind that number.

I was curious myself as to how closely these statistical trends applied to the junior level. I proceeded to go and chart an evening’s worth of points played by some Colorado state level juniors. My initial thought was that it would probably be about the same, although for slightly different reasons than the grand slam level pros. Boy, was I wrong – the percentage of points that lasted between 0-4 shots was even higher (85%)! However, my thinking was accurate as to why I thought most of the junior points would last so briefly. Their serve game wasn’t a strength, but rather a liability. Low first serve percentages, high occurrences of double faults and careless errors on the first shots after the serve were pretty much the norm. Return games weren’t that much better – missed returns and careless first shot errors after the return were abundant as well.

A player who has serve troubles is like having a car without tires – they won’t get to where they want to go. At HAT, we realize how important these first initial shots of each point are and that is why we dedicate at least 45 minutes solely to the serve and return aspects of both singles and doubles to every 3-hour practice.

Drill Ideas:

  • 85% Singles Drill (Borrowed from Daniel Hangstefer, Metro State University Denver Men’s and Women’s Head Coach):
    • Player 1 serves and must make their second ball. Player 2 returns and must make their second ball. 4 shots total must be made – serve, return, 3rd ball, 4th ball. Stop the point after the 4th ball is made. Player 1 does 5 sets serving on both the deuce and ad side, then switch roles with Player 2. The goal for each player is to make 85% of their first two shots (17/20 total).
  • 85% Doubles Drill:
    • To become a good doubles player, one must be able to make their serve and 1st shot and their return and 1st shot, and execute them well and consistently.
    • A total of 4 shots must be made – serve, return, next 2 volleys. Stop the point after the returner’s 1st volley is made. Each player does 5 sets serving on both the deuce and ad side, and 5 sets returns on both the deuce and ad side. The goal for each player is to make 85% of their first two shots (17/20 total).

But What Does It Really MEAN?

I was talking with Mary (a HAT member) recently, and she was describing a great resort her family used to frequent in Canada. When she first found this gem of a vacation spot, it was 100 percent a small business and a darn good one at that. The resort was led by a professional, charismatic, and detail-oriented owner that believed every single interaction with a guest was a chance to develop a lifelong friendship and customer (in that order). The fish stinks from the head and, in this case, it stunk in a really good way! Each staff member believed this to be their own core statement and motto as well and gave Mary and her family a very personal experience. Mary said that she really liked knowing that the money they were spending was going to the very friendly staff members that they interacted with.

And then just like the dark side from Star Wars coming onto the scene (music playing – duh duh duh, duh duh duh, duh duh duh!) a large corporate company came in and made the small business owner an offer he couldn’t refuse. Mary described the changes that happened: the personal touches that initially made the small business so appealing and charming were demolished by higher prices, fees on every service imaginable, and the atmosphere changed to have the cold, stark feel of a cookie-cutter establishment. Needless to say, Mary has not returned to this resort.

I clearly remembered this conversation after reading an excerpt from the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. The book describes the main character on a motorcycle trip with his friends and his realization that technology and all the noise that it brings with it has made our lives so hectic that we have lost sight of what things actually MEAN. The items we purchase, the restaurants we go to, the plates we eat off of, the furniture we sit on, the clothes we wear – we tend to take these things at face value or as they ARE with very little thought about what they really MEAN or about who our money goes to. What do these companies stand for? Do their values align with our own individual values? You only really see these questions arise in the media when a company does something drastically obvious which offends a specific demographic (like Chick-Fil-A’s COO Dan Cathy and his public comments opposing Gay Marriage or Chipotle’s recent move to become the only chain to only use non-GMO ingredients).

So where are you spending your money? Do those establishments have similar core values to those you have? Do you know what they are?

These are very important questions because how we really vote in this country is with our money! Do you want to support big business and shareholders that you will never actually meet? Or would you rather support the local shop owner who provides the experience described at the beginning of this article – someplace where you can actually see your money being put into action? I don’t have an epiphany or statement that will shock you to your core, but I think that the actual big lesson is in the question itself and beginning to be present to the fact that where you spend your time and money is a direct reflection of who you are, what you support, and what you stand for.

So I leave you with this: I propose that the next time you are choosing where to go eat as a family, buy groceries, or purchase new clothes that you designate a family member to look up the that establishment and do a quick, five-minute Google search on what that company stands for. You might be surprised what you find (good and bad) and have a much better idea of what it really MEANS to eat and support that business.

Let me know how it goes!

By: Ryan Segelke
Grand Slam Level Coach, CEO and
CO-Founder of High Altitude Tennis Academy

ryan@highaltitudetennis.com

What HAT has achieved over the period of 5 years!

231 Tournament Championships, 20 L5 District Cup Championships, 4 Sectional Championships, 3 Sectional Sportsmanship Awards

1 National Championship, Most Tournament Championships:

Women: Meghna Chowdhury 17

Men: Ryan Neale 17

Players that have worked with the HAT staff have hailed from these countries and states:

China, Denmark, Australia, Costa Rica, Italy, Uganda, Peru

States:

Missouri, Florida, Illinois, California, Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado (of course)

Average GPA’s:

2013/2014: 3.89 ; 2014/2015: 3.93

Average Increase in Win Percentage: 22.29%

Highest Win/Loss Percentage In a Calendar Year (minimum 50 matches):

Eric Kwiatkowski: 67.74% (63-30) 2013; Samantha Moore-Thomson: 70.58% (36-15) 2014

Highest Career Win/Loss Percentage (minimum 100 matches):

Eric Kwiatkowski: 62.18% (171-104); Anshika Singh: 67.67% (90-43)

Students that have played at least 100 matches with HAT:

Carter Logan, Anshika Singh, Emily Untermeyer, Natalie Hagan, Maleeha Chowdhury, Caleb Aguirre, Vinay Merchant, Ryan Lahr, Andrew Seehausen, George Henry Hanzel

Students that have played 200+ matches with HAT:

Ryan Neale, Samantha Moore-Thomson, Meghna Chowdhury, Eric Kwiatkowski, Trace Collins, Ben Blea

Hat Fund Global Initiative: HABARI UGANDA

A group from the HAT FUND (HF) just returned from visiting Uganda and we can safely say that the trip was an eye-opener. We were amazed by the warmth in which we were welcomed in spite of the disparity in the life we lead in U.S. to the life that Africans lead.

Cover Shot-Without DateThe aspirations of the youth in Africa are no different from youth anywhere else in the world. Very simply, they seek to better their lives. According to a McKinsey Report “Finding opportunities for young people is a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population — more than 600 million young people — is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability.” (Source: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/)

Indeed the HF community is extremely motivated by the above and that’s because at HF, our credo has always been that when you open up a child’s world to knowledge, skill, and aspiration, you open up a world of opportunity for the child and that makes a better world for all of us.

There are many challenges in Africa and each of them needs to be tackled simultaneously in several ways by several. One proven way to tackle those challenges and promote development is through sports; the intensity with which any society engages itself in sport can be a measure of the society’s overall health and development. Even the United Nations has recognized that sports can be a tool of development. There is, in fact, a Special Adviser on Sport for Development in the Office of the UN’s Secretary-General.

So, what’s our action plan? It is commonly said that there are several ways to peel an orange, so we will do what we do best – we will use the sport of tennis as the medium to provide African youth with the window of opportunity to break-out from the cycles of generational poverty. However, because we only have a limited management bandwidth and financial means, we will begin in Uganda.

Our plan for Uganda is to engage ourselves at several levels. At one level, we will provide training to a greater number of deserving Ugandan children and at another level we will educate Ugandan tennis coaches so that they in turn may be better trained to coach their wards. For our proposed engagement in Africa, our inspiration and confidence is drawn largely from our hands-on experience in the life of a Ugandan youth, John Lutaaya, whom we have written about in one of our earlier Blogs (“Serve and Return”, January 2016)

This proposed initiative would see us engaged in Uganda in the following ways:

  •  Conduct coaching workshops and, youth clinics and certification courses for Ugandan tennis coaches
  •  Continue our on-site consulting and advisory services to add value to existing Youth Tennis Programs. Tena Academy, Kampala is our initial program partner
  • Popularize the sport of tennis and broadcast the benefits of playing the game in communities identified as needing a sport activity
  • Provide support, upgrades and sustenance to tennis programs already existing in the communities and add further playing capacity where possible. Support will include donating essential playing gear, consumables, transportation, school fee subsidies and advice on maintaining the gear and the courts

In our assessment, the training of coaches will be fundamental and of extremely strategic importance to the success of our mission. Our effort will be to identify coaches through tennis associations and federations, even if they possess only a semblance of knowledge of coaching tennis. We will share our knowledge (in tennis coaching) in order to bridge the deficiencies in their existing coaching methods. Just to give an example, it could be something as simple as teaching those coaches to use smaller courts and slower tennis balls with beginners. Our support will include help in preparing the right kind of courts, using the right kind of racquets, balls and coaching aids, athletic training, body conditioning and prevention of injuries commonly associated with playing tennis.

Parallel to building up coaching capacity, we will be equally focused on discovering Ugandan talent seeking to learn tennis. Each student will not only be taught how to correctly play tennis but more importantly they will be mentored on developing skills and imbibed with knowledge (for example: interpersonal and relationship management skills and responsible citizenship) that will bring them success even off the tennis-court.

As you can well imagine, creating this reservoir of human capital will need funds. Let us not kid ourselves into believing that Ugandans can afford to pay for all this learning. The World Bank estimates that 72% of the African youth population lives on less than $2 a day to help their families, 30% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work (Source: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/). Therefore unless there is a promise of decent living and meals-on-the-table, it would be foolishly ambitious of us to expect Ugandan youth to join our programs.

The children are living in such dire circumstances that it is not enough to simply convince them, and their parents, of the big picture of tomorrow but they require convincing that even their needs of today are provided for. It is therefore our mission at HAT FUND that every deserving child should be enabled to choose our program over the drudgery of working for a subsistence wage. We can only do this by ensuring that when a child chooses our tennis program over choosing to go elsewhere to work, that child’s living requirements are taken care of.

We have judged that by far the greatest value will be added to Ugandan communities if we focused our initiative in Ugandan soil itself rather than by embedding Ugandan youth in U.S. facilities. At the apex, the HAT FUND will partner with High Altitude Tennis, LLC in executing the various parts of this initiative. At the grassroots level, Hat Fund will partner with Ugandan coaching institutions (like Tena Academy and others) to bring the greatest good for tennis enthusiasts and novices alike. The ultimate aim is that the sport may provide joy, financial independence and recognition to the Ugandans.

To support this initiative, HF is already adequately prepared with motivated and trained tennis coaches to conduct train-the-trainer workshops and clinics. However to fund our initiative to build the coaching capacity (infrastructure and teaching resources) in Uganda as well as support the children’s basic needs (meals, transportation, and school fee subsidies) we will need the support of benefactors, sponsors and contributors. Therefore, over the next several months, we will be organizing fundraisers and working to develop partnerships to garner funds for our engagement in Uganda.

Contributed by A. Adeni with L. Segelke

* * * * *

To learn more about how you can help or to make a donation please contact us at

W: www.thehatfund.org

E: HFsponsor@thehatfund.org

P: (303) 968-7729


Twitter: @thehatfund

Facebook: The HAT FUND, Inc.

Top 5 Nutrition Tips That Get Great Results

Fitness with Farrington

By: Michael Farrington
GM of High Altitude Tennis Academy
Grand Slam Level Director of Fitness and Injury Prevention

Top 5 Nutrition Tips for Great Results (Short Term and Long Term)

Earlier this month, I was asked to speak on a Parenting Aces’ Radio Show about the importance of nutrition for Junior tennis players and some recommendations on how they can improve the most. This was a great opportunity to reach out to a lot of junior tennis parents around the world and I was honored to be able to offer my help to one of the most understood areas of today’s tennis game. Below are my top recommendations for understanding your nutrition and taking accountability for your habits.

You can find interview in its entirety here:


Educate Yourself and Plan Ahead:

There is a lot of grey area out there in the nutrition world because there is never one exact amount of calories, vitamins or minerals you should ingest on a day-to-day basis. At HAT, we recommend the students have 19-35% of their daily calories come from protein, 30-45% from carbohydrates and the rest from fat sources.

Additionally, it is important to educate yourself on supplements. Far too often, trainers recommend supplements with no regard for what is actually in them. The FDA does not regulate supplements, so the manufacturer can put whatever they want into the supplements, and sometimes they put in steroids or other anabolic agents to produce results. The reason why these supplements are sometimes recommended is because the trainer can be an “affiliate” of that company (or multiple companies) and earn commission on each product sold.

Nutrient / Hydration Timing Before, During and After Matches

For the sake of brevity for this article, specific amounts, recommendations and best practices, please email michael@highaltitudetennis.com if you would like to review my article on Hydration.

Do Not Forget The Importance Of Sodium Intake

For more specific details on the importance of sodium intake, how to avoid cramps and what sodium intake amounts you should ingest, please read through my article on Cramps In Tennis.

Lean Protein, Fruits and Vegetables Should Be The Core of Your Nutrition Program

Remember when your mother always hassled you to eat your vegetables? She was right! If you can help your child make it a priority to eat fruits, vegetables and lean protein with every meal, they will get all of the nutrients, vitamins and marco-nutrients they need on a daily basis. I am not saying to never eat bread, pasta, or rice (I LOVE pasta), but just know that grains contain very few vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables.

Prioritize Your Nutrition Now To Build The Habits of a Healthy Lifestyle

Most importantly, remember that if you are a parent, your kids are learning everything from you! If you provide poor choices now, your child is building poor habits for their long-term nutrition and health. I have my parents to thank for my (better than most) nutrition. I was never allowed to have sugary cereal, cookies or candy in the house (aside from Halloween), so now I rarely consume any of those items in my adult life. I feel no urge to consume them, nor do I like the taste when I do. Remember, a lifetime of great nutrition and health is much more important than tennis!

SERVE AND RETURN

In an earlier blog, I have spoken about how studying abroad shapes a person’s destiny. In this one I will speak about alumni “giving back” to their institution. I will speak with specific reference to student athletes, because they are a group that is close to my heart and to what we do at the HAT FUND.

Just as there are students who go abroad to pursue higher academic learning, there are student athletes who also go overseas to improve their game; it is critical for them to continue to maintain physical fitness and remain competitive even while pursuing academics away from the comfort-zone of home environs.

When a student has studied or an athlete has trained overseas, the intercultural benefits remain instilled in the person even long after returning to his/her home country. Athletes develop a special affinity too for the institution where they have learnt and improved their game. Therefore, when they have returned to their home country, they would make excellent ambassadors for the institution.

When alumni give back, they do so for several reasons — such as self-esteem (it feels good to be known as a donor), or it could be to make a difference in the lives of others, or simply to recognize the role the training institution has played in their personal growth. Giving back is the truest measure of loyalty to one’s alma mater. Institutions that have provided the highest level of personal development to their students and those that have provided the warmest environment for strong friendships to develop amongst classmates will most naturally and easily attract the highest level of loyalty from their alumni.

Though it may appear that big stars of sports live in the stratosphere surrounded by riches, it can be said that innumerable sports persons who have made it to the big leagues have very humble origins and never forget the early struggles to overcome the hardships and hurdles they have grown up with. The “giving-back” can take several forms. Some athletes make a financial contribution; some encourage other promising athletes to also enroll in the same institution, yet others travel back to the institution regularly to share experience and advice with younger athletes.

I am happy and proud to relate some examples from right here at HAT where we are driven by the zeal that no talent should be wasted.

Eric Kwiatkowski Alumni Eric chose to give back to HAT by returning as a student coach. He trains and inspires other students by relating his personal experiences on how training ethics have benefited him. He does not forget that when he joined HAT, he had no tournament experience and no ranking during his sophomore year of High School yet within 3 short years his national rankings skyrocketed to the top 400 and it earned him a D2 scholarship.

Trace Collins Since graduating from HAT Academy in 2015, Trace has returned several times to help the next generation of tennis students by sharing his life experiences with them. When he joined HAT as an 8th grader he was fighting to overcome health issues that were standing in the way of his becoming the player he aspired to be; with sheer perseverance he successfully fought his way up. He now returns as an inspirational role model.

Zoe Scandallis Zoe gives back to the HAT community by always taking time off from her busy schedule to either write inspirational emails or to engage in phone conversations or to participate in online town halls patiently responding to questions from anxious parents and eager players. Zoe enrolled in HAT’s visitor program in 2009 when she was still in High School but with the dream of playing at the University of Southern California. Her outstanding play earned her a full scholarship to USC and she went on to play #1 singles during her 4 years at college.

John Lutaaya No examples of HF alumni giving back to their alma mater would ever be complete without mentioning the example of John Lutaaya. While his association with tennis started with simply being a ball-boy in a tennis club in Kampala, he eventually rose to be ranked #3 in singles and #1 in doubles for 3 consecutive years (ITF, East Africa U-12). John is now returning to Kampala, Uganda and has accepted our offer to serve as HAT Fund’s Ambassador to Africa. By accepting this role, John has fully acknowledged and recognized the part played in his personal development throughout his life by several of his benefactors but none more so than HAT.

As a son of single parent impoverished family in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, right from his childhood, John was never sure where his next meal or the funds to pay for his education or the money to pay for his tennis would come from. That was the case for John until HAT Fund stepped in to assist with his travel, his visa, his tennis lessons and his living expenses while training and studying in the US. I will quote John’s description of his feelings about his time spent at the HAT Academy — “It is always more than tennis at HAT because I even learn stuff outside tennis and this creates success both off and on the court”.

Some choose to give back in a manner that can be described as an institutional way — they create a network through which they promote financial literacy. This is of immense help to younger athletes who, on their way up, may fritter away their earnings and thus lose their way. Financial literacy is, however, not about managing personal finances and wealth alone but is also about being aware of the benefits of philanthropy.

To continue their engagement, athletes, upon returning home after achieving personal and professional success, may like to establish training centers similar to the one to whom they owe their success. They reconnect with their former institution and seek collaboration to create similar facilities and implement similar training-management and business models. They can stretch the reconnect even further by choosing the same brand name (with appropriate permissions).

As a professional coach, there isn’t a payback that is richer to receive than to have a student athlete return to us filled with eagerness to give back to our Institution.

By HF Contributor

In an earlier blog, I have spoken about how studying abroad shapes a person’s destiny. In this one I will speak about alumni “giving back” to their institution. I will speak with specific reference to student athletes, because they are a group that is close to my heart and to what we do at the HAT FUND.

Just as there are students who go abroad to pursue higher academic learning, there are student athletes who also go overseas to improve their game; it is critical for them to continue to maintain physical fitness and remain competitive even while pursuing academics away from the comfort-zone of home environs.

When a student has studied or an athlete has trained overseas, the intercultural benefits remain instilled in the person even long after returning to his/her home country. Athletes develop a special affinity too for the institution where they have learnt and improved their game. Therefore, when they have returned to their home country, they would make excellent ambassadors for the institution.

When alumni give back, they do so for several reasons — such as self-esteem (it feels good to be known as a donor), or it could be to make a difference in the lives of others, or simply to recognize the role the training institution has played in their personal growth. Giving back is the truest measure of loyalty to one’s alma mater. Institutions that have provided the highest level of personal development to their students and those that have provided the warmest environment for strong friendships to develop amongst classmates will most naturally and easily attract the highest level of loyalty from their alumni.

Though it may appear that big stars of sports live in the stratosphere surrounded by riches, it can be said that innumerable sports persons who have made it to the big leagues have very humble origins and never forget the early struggles to overcome the hardships and hurdles they have grown up with. The “giving-back” can take several forms. Some athletes make a financial contribution; some encourage other promising athletes to also enroll in the same institution, yet others travel back to the institution regularly to share experience and advice with younger athletes.

I am happy and proud to relate some examples from right here at HAT where we are driven by the zeal that no talent should be wasted.

Eric Kwiatkowski Alumni Eric chose to give back to HAT by returning as a student coach. He trains and inspires other students by relating his personal experiences on how training ethics have benefited him. He does not forget that when he joined HAT, he had no tournament experience and no ranking during his sophomore year of High School yet within 3 short years his national rankings skyrocketed to the top 400 and it earned him a D2 scholarship.

Trace Collins Since graduating from HAT Academy in 2015, Trace has returned several times to help the next generation of tennis students by sharing his life experiences with them. When he joined HAT as an 8th grader he was fighting to overcome health issues that were standing in the way of his becoming the player he aspired to be; with sheer perseverance he successfully fought his way up. He now returns as an inspirational role model.

Zoe Scandallis Zoe gives back to the HAT community by always taking time off from her busy schedule to either write inspirational emails or to engage in phone conversations or to participate in online town halls patiently responding to questions from anxious parents and eager players. Zoe enrolled in HAT’s visitor program in 2009 when she was still in High School but with the dream of playing at the University of Southern California. Her outstanding play earned her a full scholarship to USC and she went on to play #1 singles during her 4 years at college.

John Lutaaya No examples of HF alumni giving back to their alma mater would ever be complete without mentioning the example of John Lutaaya. While his association with tennis started with simply being a ball-boy in a tennis club in Kampala, he eventually rose to be ranked #3 in singles and #1 in doubles for 3 consecutive years (ITF, East Africa U-12). John is now returning to Kampala, Uganda and has accepted our offer to serve as HAT Fund’s Ambassador to Africa. By accepting this role, John has fully acknowledged and recognized the part played in his personal development throughout his life by several of his benefactors but none more so than HAT.

As a son of single parent impoverished family in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, right from his childhood, John was never sure where his next meal or the funds to pay for his education or the money to pay for his tennis would come from. That was the case for John until HAT Fund stepped in to assist with his travel, his visa, his tennis lessons and his living expenses while training and studying in the US. I will quote John’s description of his feelings about his time spent at the HAT Academy — “It is always more than tennis at HAT because I even learn stuff outside tennis and this creates success both off and on the court”.

Some choose to give back in a manner that can be described as an institutional way — they create a network through which they promote financial literacy. This is of immense help to younger athletes who, on their way up, may fritter away their earnings and thus lose their way. Financial literacy is, however, not about managing personal finances and wealth alone but is also about being aware of the benefits of philanthropy.

To continue their engagement, athletes, upon returning home after achieving personal and professional success, may like to establish training centers similar to the one to whom they owe their success. They reconnect with their former institution and seek collaboration to create similar facilities and implement similar training-management and business models. They can stretch the reconnect even further by choosing the same brand name (with appropriate permissions).

As a professional coach, there isn’t a payback that is richer to receive than to have a student athlete return to us filled with eagerness to give back to our Institution.

By HF Contributor A Adeni

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

Commitment and Consistency, The reason behind America Struggling to develop great tennis players

I want to warn you that this month’s article is not about fitness (and may actually anger you), but it is very important nonetheless.  I wanted to share some experiences and thoughts from my personal athletic career (something I rarely do) as well as my own two cents on why America is struggling to develop great tennis players at the junior level, which in turn causes college coaches to recruit outside of the U.S.

 

For those of you that do not know, I actually grew up as a swimmer.  I swam during college at South Carolina and competed in the Southeastern Conference.  I had the opportunity to practice with Olympians and National Champions on my own team, and during conference dual meets, we competed against the likes of Ryan Lochte, Eric Shanteau, Kara Lynn Joyce and a host of others on a weekly basis.  Take a moment to Google those three; look at their world rankings and compare that to tennis.  It would be the equivalent of competing against Roger Federer or Nadal on a weekly basis – at the college level!

 

Over six years ago, I made the switch to solely focusing on training tennis players.  Yet, I have become increasingly concerned with the question of why the US is failing at developing World Champions consistently.  This problem seems so obvious to me but not to the rest of the tennis industry.  By the way, the last American man to win a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick in 2001.  The last American female to win a Grand Slam (aside from the Williams sisters) was Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

 

I have heard the excuse that tennis is now a world-wide sport, but this is not a legitimate excuse.  Look at swimming:  The U.S. has led the Olympic medal count in swimming over the past 50 years.  The U.S. has won 520 total swimming medals (220 are Gold).  The next closest country is Australia with 171 total medals.

 

Here’s another popular excuse: “All the good athletes are playing sports like football, basketball and baseball.”  This, again, is nothing but a cop-out.  U.S. Swimming is so deep with athletes (and we swept the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals so often) that we are only allowed to send two swimmers per individual event; the rest of the world gets to send three.  Just imagine: you are the third-fastest swimmer in the U.S. (which means you are probably third or fourth in the world), yet you cannot represent your country at the Olympics.

 

When comparing the success of U.S. Swimming (that gets virtually no media coverage aside from the Olympics) to the lack of success in U.S. Tennis, I have come up with two main conclusions:

 

1.) Commitment

Swimmers, from top to bottom, are flat-out more committed than American tennis players.  How many tennis players, honestly, would wake up at least three mornings a week and go to a 5 am practice for two hours and then go to another 2.5 – 3 hour practice every evening?  What about another 3-4 hour practice on Saturday morning?  Most swimmers that are Sectional-level and above practice at least 24 hours per week.  Most tennis players could not be bothered to play more than six hours per week.  I cannot tell you how many times juniors complain of having an 8 am match during tournament days – even at the Sectional level.

 

American tennis juniors also have a lack of commitment with their program.  (I will go into more detail on the power of a consistent message and training in a student’s program below.)  Oftentimes, when a tennis junior encounters a struggle that is a natural part of development in sport, they jump ship and head to another program.  In contrast, swimmers stay on their club team for years, through good times and bad.

 

2.) Consistency

One of the most clear-cut reasons that the U.S. is not developing great tennis players is the fact that it is extremely uncommon for a tennis player to be in one program for their entire development.  Typically, a tennis player will hit in multiple programs each week with different coaches who have different methodologies.  In my experience thus far, I would wager to say the vast majority of tennis players go to a minimum of six different programs during their junior careers.  In swimming, however, it is very uncommon for a swimmer to transfer to another club team.  The only way that this might happen is if a family is forced to move to a different part of the country or state.

 

The two swimmers listed below were both developed through my club team from the very beginning, and I had the opportunity to train with them daily for multiple years (both of these girls were Top 50 in the World in their respective events by the end of their careers):

Liz –

  • In high school, Liz was the #1 recruit (both male and female) in the country, 2x Missouri Swimmer of the Year, 2005 ESPY Athlete of the Year, and a 16x HS All-American
  • In college, Liz swam at Stanford University and was a 12x All-American and PAC 12 Individual Champion (among many other awards)

Jessi –

  • At the end of her high school career, Jessi was a Top 10 recruit nationally, placed 3rd in the 50 Free at the US Open and was a 3x HS All-American
  • Jessi was a member of the 2005 National Championship team at Georgia, team captain her senior year, an 11x All-American, a National Champion on a relay, and an American Record holder

I could list many more accomplished swimmers that came out of this same club team, but I am doing my best to keep this article brief.

 

One thing that I did not mention about the two girls above is that they are world-class swimmers in completely different events.  Not only did they swim for the same club team for 10+ years, they developed in different ways.  Liz could not be touched in the breaststroke or IM, while Jessi could burn everyone in freestyle events 200 yards or less.  Did Jessi get to train against the two girls that beat her in the U.S. Open on a daily basis?  No.  Did Liz have any girls during practice that could consistently help her raise her level in her events?  No.

 

How is this possible?  How did Liz and Jessi develop into world-class swimmers without getting to train daily alongside other swimmers who were faster than them?

Take another look at the honors listed above for the two girls.  Both are world-class swimmers and both got full scholarships to their respective colleges.  But did they get a scholarship during their high school years to continue swimming for the club team that they were developed through?  Absolutely not.

 

If they were tennis players, what would have happened when they achieved such enormous success during high school?  They would have been offered full scholarships to different academies and programs around the country that want to use them as marketing material to bring in lower-level players to fill slots.  These academies and programs did not develop them and likely would not further their game.  The academy or program giving them a scholarship would simply hope to keep the girls close to their current level so that, down the road, they could say that they developed the girls.

 

This is one of the biggest issues that tennis faces today. Everyone wants to go hit with the best people without doing any research regarding who truly developed those top players.

The simple fact is that most tennis players across the U.S. do not find a program that is effectively developing players and stick with it for years.  They tend to do little to no research, take the professionals at their word, and jump from program to program – following the “best” players and hoping that something will rub off.  This short-term thinking has not produced great American talent in some time.  And, if a change is not made, it will continue to be a struggle for the U.S. to develop top talent consistently.

So, how did Liz and Jessi continue to raise their level on a daily basis and eventually become world-class despite having no other world-class people training alongside?  The answer is simple: they had a great coaching staff who knew what they were doing (and had a proven track record of success); they had the support of their teammates; and, they focused on competing against themselves and getting better little by little each practice…..and they stuck with this program for their entire junior development.  They truly had commitment and consistency with their development.

 

This article is not meant to be depressing.  Rather, this is a HUGE opportunity for tennis players in the U.S. to change their future and the future of U.S. tennis.  But, they have to be willing to be the exception to the norm and do things differently.  It is a scary thing to truly go after your goals and hold nothing back.  After all, what happens if you give it everything you have and it is still not good enough?  A tennis player that finds the correct program (one that is actually developing players), believes in it and sticks to that program for years, and is willing to put in the hours and focus on improving every day, will play high-level college tennis.  No question about it.

 

The only question is: how many American tennis players are willing to be different?  How many are truly willing to sacrifice over the course of many years and put themselves through the long hours and the many ups and downs that are required to succeed at the highest levels?

 

From my personal experience, the sacrifice is well worth it. And I would do it all again without a moment’s hesitation.

By: Michael Farrington

Director of Fitness| Manager of Operations

Grand Slam Level Director of Fitness and Injury Prevention

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SERVE AND RETURN

In an earlier blog, I have spoken about how studying abroad shapes a person’s destiny. In this one I will speak about alumni “giving back” to their institution. I will speak with specific reference to student athletes, because they are a group that is close to my heart and to what we do at the HAT FUND.

Just as there are students who go abroad to pursue higher academic learning, there are student athletes who also go overseas to improve their game; it is critical for them to continue to maintain physical fitness and remain competitive even while pursuing academics away from the comfort-zone of home environs.

When a student has studied or an athlete has trained overseas, the intercultural benefits remain instilled in the person even long after returning to his/her home country. Athletes develop a special affinity too for the institution where they have learnt and improved their game. Therefore, when they have returned to their home country, they would make excellent ambassadors for the institution.

When alumni give back, they do so for several reasons — such as self-esteem (it feels good to be known as a donor), or it could be to make a difference in the lives of others, or simply to recognize the role the training institution has played in their personal growth. Giving back is the truest measure of loyalty to one’s alma mater. Institutions that have provided the highest level of personal development to their students and those that have provided the warmest environment for strong friendships to develop amongst classmates will most naturally and easily attract the highest level of loyalty from their alumni.

Though it may appear that big stars of sports live in the stratosphere surrounded by riches, it can be said that innumerable sports persons who have made it to the big leagues have very humble origins and never forget the early struggles to overcome the hardships and hurdles they have grown up with. The “giving-back” can take several forms. Some athletes make a financial contribution; some encourage other promising athletes to also enroll in the same institution, yet others travel back to the institution regularly to share experience and advice with younger athletes.

I am happy and proud to relate some examples from right here at HAT where we are driven by the zeal that no talent should be wasted.

Eric Kwiatkowski Alumni Eric chose to give back to HAT by returning as a student coach. He trains and inspires other students by relating his personal experiences on how training ethics have benefited him. He does not forget that when he joined HAT, he had no tournament experience and no ranking during his sophomore year of High School yet within 3 short years his national rankings skyrocketed to the top 400 and it earned him a D2 scholarship.

Trace Collins Since graduating from HAT Academy in 2015, Trace has returned several times to help the next generation of tennis students by sharing his life experiences with them. When he joined HAT as an 8th grader he was fighting to overcome health issues that were standing in the way of his becoming the player he aspired to be; with sheer perseverance he successfully fought his way up. He now returns as an inspirational role model.

Zoe Scandallis Zoe gives back to the HAT community by always taking time off from her busy schedule to either write inspirational emails or to engage in phone conversations or to participate in online town halls patiently responding to questions from anxious parents and eager players. Zoe enrolled in HAT’s visitor program in 2009 when she was still in High School but with the dream of playing at the University of Southern California. Her outstanding play earned her a full scholarship to USC and she went on to play #1 singles during her 4 years at college.

John Lutaaya No examples of HF alumni giving back to their alma mater would ever be complete without mentioning the example of John Lutaaya. While his association with tennis started with simply being a ball-boy in a tennis club in Kampala, he eventually rose to be ranked #3 in singles and #1 in doubles for 3 consecutive years (ITF, East Africa U-12). John is now returning to Kampala, Uganda and has accepted our offer to serve as HAT Fund’s Ambassador to Africa. By accepting this role, John has fully acknowledged and recognized the part played in his personal development throughout his life by several of his benefactors but none more so than HAT.

As a son of single parent impoverished family in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, right from his childhood, John was never sure where his next meal or the funds to pay for his education or the money to pay for his tennis would come from. That was the case for John until HAT Fund stepped in to assist with his travel, his visa, his tennis lessons and his living expenses while training and studying in the US. I will quote John’s description of his feelings about his time spent at the HAT Academy — “It is always more than tennis at HAT because I even learn stuff outside tennis and this creates success both off and on the court”.

Some choose to give back in a manner that can be described as an institutional way — they create a network through which they promote financial literacy. This is of immense help to younger athletes who, on their way up, may fritter away their earnings and thus lose their way. Financial literacy is, however, not about managing personal finances and wealth alone but is also about being aware of the benefits of philanthropy.

To continue their engagement, athletes, upon returning home after achieving personal and professional success, may like to establish training centers similar to the one to whom they owe their success. They reconnect with their former institution and seek collaboration to create similar facilities and implement similar training-management and business models. They can stretch the reconnect even further by choosing the same brand name (with appropriate permissions).

As a professional coach, there isn’t a payback that is richer to receive than to have a student athlete return to us filled with eagerness to give back to our Institution.

 

By HF Contributor A Adeni

Hey Guys! We are back with weekly scores for HAT Students

Here’s the results of all scholar athletes who played well this week and brought laurels to The HAT Family. Below are the results.
Meghna: Girls’ 14’s Singles Champion (beat the #4, #5, #7 and #9 seeds along the way), Doubles Semi-Finalist!
Samantha: Girls’ 14’s Singles Quarter-Finalist (beat a player ranked #47 Nationally along the way and her only losses came from the #1 and #3 seeds)!
Batman: Boys’ 12’s Consolation Semi-Finalist (Beat the #11 and #16 seeds)!
Maleeha: First Career Sectional Singles Victory!
Ryan Neale: Third round in the Boys’ 18’s Consolation and took the #9 seed to the brink in a 3 set match!

John Lutaaya- NOW is the START

When John was 9, he started as a ball boy at Lugogo Tennis Club in Kampala. It was a chance to earn some money and to be around what he loved… sport. The ITF Development Program that aims to ensure tennis at the highest level involves many nations. In 2009, an initiative focused on offering young people living amongst the ghettos in Kampala, Uganda, offered an unsuspecting young man the chance of a lifetime.

john mothers

One fateful day, Dr. Liz Odera, Director and Head Tennis Professional, Sadili Tennis Academy, selected him and 5 other students to play tennis. She encouraged John to focus on tennis and his education.

After a year of hard work and dedication to both sport and education, John was awarded a scholarship to the Sadili Tennis Academy, part of the Malezi School located in Kitui Ndogo Slum, Nairobi County.

Eventually, his hard work paid off and the East Africa ITF called on him to play tennis on behalf of Uganda in East Africa U12. “My first year I played nationals… I was ranked #3 in singles and #1 in doubles over the next three consecutive years!” John proudly recalls. He shone as a star in that tournament.

Unfortunately, Uganda was dropped from the ITF Development Program due to membership debts, leaving young aspiring players with a feeling of uncertainty and fear as they desperately attempted to cling to the fleeting opportunities available for a chance at a better life.

Despite such a predicament, John remained at Sadili Tennis Academy, and started looking for other sources of funding in Nairobi. His days there were very hard; his daily reality included a struggle to purchase food. He faced so much uncertainty for his future, and was only able to return home to visit with his family once each year due to the expenses. John needed ongoing support and reached out to John Nagenda, one of the advisors to the President of Uganda, and somehow convinced him to provide resources for his day-to-day needs. Mr. Nagenda became John’s savior during those times.

Although John now had his basic day-to-day subsistence needs met, he lacked assistance to continue his education. The average school fee for non-government secondary schools in Uganda is 300000UGX ($88USD) per term, a number unattainable by most of the poverty stricken families. However, in 2007, the Government of Uganda introduced free Secondary Education but the students would have to pay 100000UGX ($29USD) per term for basic amenities like uniforms, meals and stationery supplies. The unfortunate reality remains that the standard of education in government schools versus non-government schools differs vastly, and the majority of young people yearn to study in non- government programs.

Devastated by his circumstances, John was not able to find funds for school. He went to home schooling for 4 years after primary school because it was cheap and offered more time for tennis training. Teachers from Malezi School would come and teach students for 5 hours a day. Dr. Odera kindly sponsored John and several other students allowing them to share books. The long-term effects of this reality seemed insurmountable…

John was never able to take the exams required to continue his education at the university level in Uganda. Even if he had been able to take the exams, John knew the University fees were far too high for him to afford. On average, a student has to pay 4500000UGX ($1,315USD) per semester to enroll in University. John struggled for the 15000UGX ($4.5USD) needed everyday for his 3 meager meals and to pay for his transport to play tennis.

John’s mother always encouraged him to go to school and she urged him to create opportunities for his future because she was not able to provide for him, as she had wanted. She was not able to complete her secondary education. John’s father did indeed go to University but lived as a polygamist leaving his mother to raise John and his sister. While growing up, the family struggled day to day. John remembers Christmas day to be very special because his mom would save all year to provide John and his siblings with some new clothes.

He was given the opportunity to work part-time at Sadili Tennis Academy as a tennis coach, lifeguard, and on the maintenance staff in order to support himself and help to support his family. He would send close to half of his earnings, 100000UGX ($29USD) to his mother in Uganda. After taking care of his modest needs, he would save close to 50000UGX ($15USD) for his future.

John soon realized that one of the best things about Sadili Tennis Academy is that they have built relationships with coaches all over the world. With continued encouragement from his family, John pleaded with officials at Sadili Tennis Academy to help with any further opportunities for him, so that eventually he might travel to the United States and make a better future for himself and his community in Uganda. Sadili recommended him to a program in South Carolina.

William Blick, President of the Uganda Olympic Committee had taken notice of John and his talent. Mr. Blick set to work raising $1,000 for the travel expenses that would allow John to go to the United States to train. This experience would allow him to continue growing as a tennis player and pursue his academic goals. John eventually settled in South Carolina where Coach Jon Prenelle encouraged John to work hard and pursue his dream of going to college.

John indeed worked very hard to learn, improve and create new opportunities for himself. He trained day and night but unfortunately, not a single opportunity came to him in those three months in South Carolina. His training ended and he was to go back home to Uganda. In desperation he asked Coach Prenelle if it would be possible to extend his stay. Coach Prenelle called Ryan Segelke, his friend and CEO/Co-Founder of High Altitude Tennis, LLC in Colorado, and asked if he could help in any way. Later that evening, Ryan spoke to his wife, Leslie Segelke, Founder and Executive Director of The HAT FUND and just like that, John found himself on a plane to Colorado.

Training at High Altitude Tennis Academy provided another level of tennis training and experience for John. “This is the place where I have heard information that is not common to the many places I have been to. It is always more than tennis at HAT because I even learn stuff outside tennis and this creates success both off and on the court,” explains John.

Mr. and Mrs. Segelke worked with John to create an action plan that would lead to fulfillment of his dream. First of all, John needed to take the SAT exam, an essential step on his road to a college scholarship in the U.S. HAT arranged for John to work with a tutor and Susie Watts of College Connection donated her time end expertise to work with John.

John felt he was back in school again, as his tutors would direct him and lead him through his studies. Preparing for the SAT was not easy as the grammar taught in the United States was very different from that taught in Uganda. He indeed struggled with the studies but his tutors never gave up on him.

HAT arranged for John to visit several Colorado Universities. 
 Upon his visit to Colorado Christian University, John felt an
immediate connection. He felt like the environment at CCU was calling out to him and this was a huge motivation. With true enthusiasm he devoted more time and more focus toward his goals.

John was extremely excited to meet John Goodrich, the Head Tennis Coach at CCU. Coach Goodrich was the first college coach he had ever met and actually spoken to in person about the possibility of playing tennis on their team. He was glad that John found him. John regularly updated Coach Goodrich about his progress, as he was afraid he would change his mind about having him on the team. John had experienced many disappointments in his life but he was overjoyed by the coach’s reassurance.

HAT created a second family for John. His new teammates and their families in Colorado spent time with him on and off the court. He started to make friends in order to feel at home. He began opening up with them more and more, so that they could know him and he could know them. Being there never felt foreign to him, as he had the place to share his stories, and traditions from back home.

John’s dream became a great inspiration for the entire HAT family. They rallied around him offering support however and whenever they could. The HAT Staff made sure John had everything he needed to feel secure and be able to focus on his training and studies. Mr. Segelke worked closely with CCU to complete the requirements for admission. The HAT FUND provided John with the funds to travel back and forth to Uganda in order to satisfy all of the immigration requirements. Even Mr. Sadu, father of one of his teammates, after seeing him struggling with his preparation for the SAT offered to spend extra time working with John in his studies. A true team effort!

The road to his dream of a college education will continue to be difficult. However, John will not face these difficulties alone. The HAT FUND and its partners will continue to support John and the many other deserving young people struggling to change the course of their lives.

The HAT Fund has changed my life, I will be forever grateful,” says John. In the fall of 2016, John will hopefully be starting college. For his goal to be accomplished, he needs your support.

Join us in offering children the power to transform their lives through sport and education.

Learn more about John:

http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_28985827/world-away-from-home

http://www.thehatfund.org/tennis-phenoms-education-dream-hinges-on-test/

Be a support to John by becoming a part of John Lutaaya’s #GivingTuesday Campaign. Here’s the link, https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Hat-Fund

Program Plus-On Court with Coach Mazza

“Whoever hits the most tennis balls (the right way) wins”  –  The late Jimmy Evert, father of former world #1 Chris Evert

brentmazza2

We are very lucky to have such a great group of players (and families) who train with us here at HAT.  This month marks HAT’s 5 year anniversary, and I have been here since the very beginning.  It has been my experience that the players who stick with us the longest and train the most end up seeing the greatest improvement.  We have the stats to back it up too: HAT players who train consistently with us for at least two years improve their USTA national ranking 315 spots, on average.

If you are a HAT player who attends practice two days per week, is there a way for you to attend three days per week?  If you are a HAT player who already attends three days per week, how can you get to HAT for four days?  Here’s the bottom line: figure out ways to play more tennis!

On the other hand, it seems as though more and more junior tennis players are only practicing their tennis game with their coach on court.  While time on court with your program and coach is extremely important, make sure to expand your options; don’t limit yourself.  Become an ambitious and independent practice animal – practice before practice, then go to practice, and then practice after practice.  (If you need help finding the time, see my October newsletter article on time blocking to help organize your schedule and priorities.)

As we approach the colder, snowier, winter months here in Colorado, indoor tennis court time will become increasingly scarce.  As a result, it may become more challenging for motivated, goal-oriented players to practice as often as they would like (especially those who typically practice on outdoor courts).

There is no program in the country like HAT’s that will help you reach your high-level, ambitious goals.  It is “program plus” – a world-class, well-rounded program with proven results.  And remember: you don’t necessarily need a tennis court all the time to practice – be creative!  Below you will find some ideas to kick start your independent practice sessions at home or elsewhere.

Shadow Swings
There is a great quote from the movie Hoosiers, which goes: “Practice isn’t designed for your pleasure; it’s designed for your improvement.”  I will admit that shadow swings are not the most fun form of practice, but be engaged in the improvement process.  After all, the real gratification comes from improving, which leads to winning.  As Vic Braden said, “Winning comes from skills, and skills come from practice and know-how.”

In order to become a high-level player, one must have a solid technical stroke foundation.  Find a mirror at home, and perform rounds of shadow swings of the seven basic strokes (forehand volley, forehand groundstroke, backhand volley, backhand groundstroke, backhand slice, overhead, serve).  The best part about the mirror is that it will provide immediate feedback and give you insight into certain aspects of your strokes that you may not have been aware of.

  • Drill Ideas:
    • Start with static balance – don’t rush through it, and check the checkpoints.
    • Then, add in some dynamic practice with footwork.  You can alternate forehand and backhand volley, forehand and backhand groundstroke, and even alternate topspin and underspin.

Cone Hits
Athletes from virtually every other sport work on technique constantly.  However, most tennis players seem to miss this boat and think they “just need to play more matches.”  At HAT, we teach our players to not be too cool for school and to learn from other athletes.  Major League Baseball players are constantly working on their swing mechanics.  I have heard that Derek Jeter would pay someone $250,000 annually to watch him hit off a tee, and Manny Ramirez would bring his tee with him on road trips so that he could practice with it in his hotel room.  Here at HAT, we eliminate the guesswork.  We can break each stroke down step-by-step for our players using the word-picture method.

  • Drill Ideas:
    • Start with static balance by standing directly behind the cone, taking one step back then one step to your left to perform a forehand groundstroke (or one step to your right for a backhand groundstroke).
    • Then, similar to shadow swings, add in dynamic practice with footwork.

Toss and Catch
No one ascends alone.  Whether we realize it or not, we all need help to improve and ultimately achieve our goals.  Find anyone you can (sibling, friend, parent, etc.), and politely ask them to toss you some balls.  If you do this drill inside your house, I would recommend using a softer ball such as an orange or foam ball so as to not break any furniture or decorations.

  • Drill Ideas:
    • Static balance hit and hold (groundstrokes and volleys)
      • Have the tosser toss the ball onto your strings for a volley or have them toss it on one bounce about three steps away for a groundstroke.  Hit the ball back to the tosser and hold a balanced finish.
    • Hot potato (volleys)
      • Have the tosser toss the ball onto your strings for a volley.  The hitter should hit and then quickly reset right back to their perfect ready position.  Right when the tosser catches the ball, they should toss the ball again immediately (as if the ball were hot). The tosser should be holding at least a few balls as backup in case one drops.  The tosser can choose to feed all forehands, all backhands, alternating forehand and backhand, or a random combination of both.

Ball on a String Hanging from the Ceiling
Overheads are typically the least-practiced shot amongst tennis players, and the serve is the most important shot in tennis.  An overhead is actually an abbreviated serve, so working on either one can have a positive impact on both shots.  The consistency of the serve and overhead depends on the throwing motion, timing, and the contact point.  Program your swing to your toss on your serve; the more consistent your actual toss is, the more consistent your serve will be.

  • Drill Idea:
    • I would recommend hanging the ball so that it is as high as the sweet spot on the strings of the particular player’s racket.  Also, it may be necessary to choke up towards the top of the grip and/or sit in a chair if you are practicing on a ball hanging from a low ceiling.

Hit on the Wall/Backboard
In my personal experience, players who hit on a wall consistently throughout their junior career tend to end up playing at the college level.  Many current and former top players speak about their love of simply hitting tennis balls, and many of these players grew up hitting on a wall, backboard, or even their garage door.  When hitting against the wall, it is important to focus on quality as much as quantity.

Legend has it that Caroline Wozniacki’s father spent most of his time over a 4-year period giving his attention to Caroline’s older brother (who was better at the time) and told Caroline to go hit on the wall.  After improving to the point where she could beat her brother, her father shifted his focus to her.  Her brother quit tennis shortly thereafter (fun fact: he is now a professional soccer player).  Caroline went on to achieve a #1 world ranking in 2010.

On average, a player can hit six times as many balls per hour on the wall than with another person.  As a matter of fact, we have had one particular, long-time HAT player hit so many balls on the wall in his garage that he put a hole in it!

  • Drill Ideas
    • Groundstroke “Wall Challenge”
      • We have a hitting wall at our indoor facility here at HAT, and only a select handful of players have successfully completed the “wall challenge”.  It consists of two levels:
        • Level 1: Player must make 100, 500, and 1000 shots all in a row over the painted net line with a red ball, then repeat the same pattern with an orange ball and, finally, the same pattern with a regular ball (player may hit any stroke)
        • Level 2: Player must make 100, 500, and 1000 shots in a row with a regular ball on the forehand side, then repeat the same patterns on the backhand side
    • Play a set
      • To start the point, serve the ball into the wall over the painted net line, and then proceed to make eight groundstrokes in a row, alternating forehand and backhand.  You must make all eight shots to win the point.  Serve out the entire set, and the goal is to beat the wall 6-0!