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!

Make Your Recruiting Video Work for You!

Jeff The Recruiter

Jeff “The Recruiter” Borengasser
College Prospects of America
jborengasser@mycpoa.com
http://www.cpoaworld.com

jeff_the_recruiter

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.
In 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, Anchorand you can visit our website, www.cpoaworld.com

Influencing The Next Generation –What example are you setting?

One of my favorite activities is to share stories of the lessons that I have learned throughout my many years being involved with tennis. I love the game so much. In addition, teaching and helping others runs through my veins, so I hope you will enjoy and find value in the following story.

Right after high school, I went to train at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Carlsbad, California. I spent roughly six hours a day in training, not to mention the fact that I often left on trips to play pro tournaments throughout the U.S.  In addition to playing and training, I would help out as a student coach with the high school group in order to give back after my long hours of training.

One specific day, my coach at the time arranged for a few of the players from a local, California D2 team to attend and hit in with some of the better players in the high school group.  Included in the high school group was one standout 12-year-old girl named Pam that we knew would LOVE the experience.   And, it would provide the college players a chance to be mentors, a great example, and a potential inspiration, which could then raise Pam’s game to an even higher level. Boy, were we wrong!  (We will get back to Pam near the end of the story. Stay tuned.)

The College players arrived 10 minutes late and showed little effort or urgency in getting onto the court.  I looked over at the high school players (who were initially excited that they were coming) and literally every single student was watching the college players’ slow and lethargic movements.  I still remember how drastically the vibe changed. It went from excitement to the question of: “This is the work ethic that a top D2 player has?” Eventually, the college players got themselves ready, and the high school players were called over and warmups began.

It is always exciting for me as a coach to watch the dynamic between older and younger players (high school vs. college players).  The high school player sometimes puts so much pressure on themselves that they feel they need to constantly hit winners (and end up losing badly). But other times, they are fairly clueless about the gravity of the situation. And, they end up making it a heck of a match (a win in this case is not uncommon). The college player feels pressure from the first ball in warmup, as they do not for any reason want to lose to a young buck.

The matches started. There were three total matches, comprised of the top 1, 2 and 3 players from the college team and the top 1, 2 and 3 players from the high school group.  The number one match started off tight in each set. The college player, as expected, was able to win the key points and won the match 6-3, 6-3.  The number two match was about as tight as they come, with the college player winning the first set, the high school player winning the second, and they were deadlocked at 3-3 in the final set as time expired for the day.  The number three match was similar to the number one match, with one exception. The high school player took it to the college player and won 7-5, 6-2.  This college player was not pleased and showed it.

Did you think I forgot to tell you about Pam?  Now it was Pam’s turn!  She was so excited. I can still remember to this day the nervous smile on her face.  Pam jumped in and started a set against the number 3 college player.  This is the same college player who had just gotten beat by a 14-year-old and was now walking around with his sense of entitlement showing. He was rolling his eyes at having to hit with a 12-year-old girl, saying out loud to his teammates that it was “a waste of time”.  I glanced over at the high school players, and they all heard him loud and clear. We put a stop to the singles match quickly, as Pam’s eyes were beginning to well up with embarrassment. Even sadder was the reaction from his two other college teammates: they actually agreed with him! They even had the nerve to approach my coach at the time and describe how it was a waste of time. They felt they were being marketed because the parents were watching (I still have no idea what that means) and that the level of tennis was not high enough for them to attend in the future. I am not sure if there has ever been a more obvious case of entitlement in my experience!

I am still to this day horrified by how this scenario played out. And, to be honest, it is just one of the many experiences that has been frozen in my memory and which has helped shape the standards at High Altitude Tennis Academy.  Yes, we can prove that our modern developmental method works with actual data.  BUT, the biggest part of what we do is to show each student how much we care in order to earn their trust. That way, we can teach character, class, and championship leadership. We joke that we are the entitlement removal experts. But really, after retelling this story, it’s no joke.

So what is my main purpose in telling you this story?  My hope is that even one up-and-coming college athlete will spend the time to read this and realize how important their role is in the future of this great sport. Younger kids are watching your every move, and you are teaching them whether you like it or not.  What example do you want to set? What type of person do you want to be remembered as when this journey called life is all over? It’s one of the greatest gifts in life to be able to positively affect someone else’s life. Don’t take it for granted, and don’t miss an opportunity to be a big buddy to an aspiring future tennis star!

By: Ryan Segelke
Founder of High Altitude Tennis Academy.
Denver, Colorado, USA.

 

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Nicole Gibbs in this week #StudentSpotlight, Currently holding WTA 121 Singles Ranking

This week in #StudentSpotlight, Nicole Gibbs currently holding singles ranking of 121.

nicole gibbs

Born on 3rd Mar 1993 in Santa Monica, CA, USA introduced to tennis by her father who had her hitting in the driveway over two trash cans with a board across the top when she was 2 or 3.

She was the star from the college at Stanford University and turned pro after collecting prize money at Wimbledon in 2013.

She admired the Williams sisters from childhood and her favourite surface is hard and favourite shot is forehand. Her favourite tournaments are Stanford and US Open. Her biggest hobby is surfing.

Here is her career in brief since 2007 (data taken from wtatennis.com)

2014 – First Top 100 season; QF at Seoul (l. to Ka.Pliskova); made Top 100 debut afterwards on September 22 (rose from No.101 to No.92); reached 3r once (US Open) and 2r once; fell 1r three times and in qualifying eight times (incl. other three majors); won one singles title on ITF Circuit.

2013 – Reached 2r once; fell 1r once (US Open) and in qualifying five times (incl. Australian Open andWimbledon); won one singles title on ITF Circuit.

2012 – Played first four WTA main draws, reaching 2r twice and falling 1r twice (incl. US Open); also fell in qualifying once; won one singles title on ITF Circuit.

2011 – Fell in WTA qualifying twice (incl. US Open).

2010 – Fell in WTA qualifying twice (incl. US Open); won one doubles title on ITF Circuit.

2009 – Played first WTA qualifying at Los Angeles and US Open (both as WC).

2008 – Continued to play on ITF Circuit.

2007 – Played first events of career on ITF Circuit, winning one singles title.

Check out for HAT athletes who all be competing in different championship over this weekend. Wish them all good luck

ITA – WY District Cup – JR Indoor Championship

Boys’ 16 Singles:
-Andre (16 Doubles with Ryan L)
-Ryan L (16 Doubles with Andre)

Boys’ 18 Singles:

-Ryan N (18 Doubles as well)

Girls’ 12 Singles:

-#1 Seed Isabella (12 Doubles as well)

Girls’ 14 Singles:

-#1 Seed Sammy (14 Doubles as well)

Girls’ 16 Singles:

-Meghna (16 Doubles as well)

-Hana (16 Doubles as well)

Girls’ 18 Doubles:

-Maleeha (18 Doubles as well)

Major Mortgage Autumn Junior Classic Championship

Boys’ 16 Singles:

-Jackson C (16 Doubles as well)

-Gabe

Boys’ 18 Singles:

-Gabe

Flying Horse Clay Downs Championships

Boys’ 12 Singles:

-#1 Seed Batman

Boys’ 16 Singles:

-#3 Seed Andrew

Girls’ 10 Singles:

-Remy

Girls’ 16 Singles:

-Miki

-Megan

-Adriana

Perception vs. Reality, An Article by Ryan Segelke, CEO & CO-Founder, HAT

A Message from the Owners

I had an interaction recently that I want to share with you all – one that I think is relevant to any student who is part of a tennis team or adult who is part of a business team. At the local coffee shop, there is a regular who I come across nearly every time that I walk through the doors. She seems to be consistently in a bad mood and anti-social; every time I try to get her to smile by going out of my way to hold the door for her, she actually seems slightly more annoyed (I like a challenge – so I engage in a game called “can I make this person smile?”). One morning my “perceived” notion about her got even worse when she scolded the barista for not getting her coffee right.

Being engaged in this challenge/game of trying to get this grumpy woman to smile, I decided one day that I was just going to start talking with her in order to get to know her better. We were both standing in line, and I sparked a conversation. To my surprise, she engaged with me! I asked her, “How has your week been?” She replied, “Terrible”. Instead of stopping there and simply re-confirming my “perceived” opinion about her, I asked, “Why?” Over the next 10 minutes, I learned that she is a recent divorcee going through financial troubles and that she works at a hospice where she has to deal with terminally ill patients on a daily basis. At the end of the conversation, she thanked me for listening and we parted ways with a brief hug. Wait – what? I also found out that she is a tennis enthusiast and is interested in helping students in need to enjoy this great game! That’s not at all what I expected to happen when we started our conversation. I was expecting her to not respond to me at all or cuss me out for bothering her.

So what lessons did I learn here? It’s three-fold. I think it’s extremely easy and takes very little effort to look, point at, and judge others rather than take the time to really understand them on a deeper level (what’s really going on here?). When you do take the time to get to know someone on a deeper level, you will find out that the person is not anything similar to who you “perceived” them to be.

Secondly, when we are judging others, we are missing opportunities to improve ourselves and we are wasting our energy on things that we cannot control. Was it bettering me to judge this woman who I knew nothing about every time that I entered the local coffee shop? Couldn’t that energy have been better spent elsewhere to enhance my life or someone else’s who I care about? The answer is: absolutely! It is my experience that those individuals who are more concerned about why everyone else is not living up to their standards are actually the ones who are not happy and not achieving what they want. Those that are achieving great things don’t have time to waste on aimless rhetoric; they are too busy pursuing their own goals.

Lastly, life is all about relationships. Taking time to truly get to know people will no doubt get you closer to what you want in life. I realize that there are specific personalities (lone wolf types) who will fight this notion. For them, no one does things as good as they do, and they actually find working with others to be a nuisance. However, it is my experience that this specific personality type is ALWAYS underachieving because they ALWAYS end up being the bottle neck or reason for lack of growth within a group. It takes trust, a team, and strong relationships to make things move in a powerful and successful direction.

So, this week when you come across that person who rubs you the wrong way, engage them in a conversation. I bet you find out that they are not at all what you “perceived” them to be! And make sure to let me know how it goes.

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