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Entries in Parenting (48)


McEnroe: Lost A Whole Generation of Players Who Should Have Gone To College


According to Patrick McEnroe: "We in the USTA maybe made a little mistake in pushing some of our junior prospects to go straight to the pros in the past. I think we lost a group who, if they had gone to college and had a chance to mature in every category, would still have had a chance to be a high-level professional....Only a small percentage of people playing college tennis will go pro, but if we can get a few into the top 100 we will be pleased... It can only increase our chances of producing a grand slam winner."

Also: "We're making more of an effort to encourage kids to go to college, or to stay in school once they get there. If you get someone as talented as Andy Roddick or Sam Querrey, it's pretty clear they're going to make a move to the pros, and rightly so. But over the last 15 years, I think we probably lost about a hundred potential top-100 players because they went pro too early. They were too young for a life on the road, they were lonely, and they got crushed by the competition. Next thing you know, they're completely out of the game. The reality is that college tennis is like Double-A ball, for the most part...You won't see many players who are going to wind up in the Top 10. But here in America, we could use more people in the top 30-50. We're really hurting in that department. In a lot of cases, I don't feel a player would lose any ground by playing in college. I'd be happy to see more of our young players take this road. It's a smart decision for tennis reasons, and also for life reasons."

There are, of course, two wrinkles with these assertions: (1) Which college should one attend for tennis given that, between 1971-2011, 580 tennis programs (not just D-1; not just men's tennis) were eliminated (see ITA-compile table, below); and (2) Who does the US college system benefit given the breakdown between US and foreign players (particularly in Division 1 - the most competitive league)?





1971 – 1980



1981 – 1991



1992 – 2002



2003 – 2010



Year Unknown






NOTE: Per the ITA (whom we thank for providing this information) - "From 1971 – 2011 (to date), 360 men’s programs and 220 women’s have been eliminated.   Men’s programs comprise 60% of the dropped programs which may lead many people to blame the unintended consequences of Title IX as the sole reason.  However, the statistics show that 40% of the dropped programs have been women’s teams.  Our research has found that other factors, including escalating costs, shrinking budgets, and reallocation of valuable real estate on which tennis courts sit, have contributed to the demise of collegiate programs." In other words, since Mr. McEnroe graduated from Stanford in 1988, over 200 programs have been lost...that's over ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED playing spots that no longer exist...per year. Imagine how many players could have kept playing after college had they had the opportunity to play college tennis to begin with? How many more up-and-coming juniors could they have positively influenced through their playing and experiences? Here's a break-down by region and division. Note the programs lost from tennis powerhouse sections such as Southern California, Eastern, Midwest, texas and Southern. 


USTA Section

Division I

M          W

Division II

M          W

Division III

M          W


M          W

Junior College

M          W



0            0

1            1

0            0

0              0

0              0



4            2

4            2

15          5

0              0

6              4



1            0

1            0

0            0

0              0

9              5


Hawaii Pacific

0            0

0            0

0            0

0              0

0              0



3            0

3            4

0            0

0              1

1              1



5            1

2            1

3            1

2              2

7              5


Middle States

3            0

7            3

4            6

1              0

10          10



15          2

6            3

12           4

5              4

12            8


Missouri Valley

7            1

7            4

2             1

15          15

7              6


New England

8            6

2            1

11           6

1              2

3              0



0            0

7            2

1            1

3              3

4              2


No. California

1            0

4            3

0            1

0              0

13            9


Pacific NW

2            0

3            3

0            1

1              1

0              0



10           1

15          7

0            0

10            9

26          13


So. California

3            0

  7           3

1            0

3              3

7            13



1            0

  1           0

0            0

0              0

2              2



6            0

  6           6

1            1

1              1

18          15










69        13

76         43

50        28

42          41

125         93


The tables below (teams ranked in top 75 at the end of the 2010 season) outline the breakdown of male US players in Division 1 rosters (2011-2012 season). Figures were compiled from the respective team websites as the ITA purports to not to track this type of data. We have requested this information from the ITA as it would be interesting to evaluate the fluctuations of percentages from year-to-year (particularly since 1988 going forward - since there's a possibility that Mr. McEnroe's outlook is shaped by that particular framework).

At first blush, things don't appear all that bleak for American players. After all, the majority of players are in fact American. However, the figures may be somewhat slanted in that if a foreign player comes to a US university, he does so with the intention of actually playing (i.e., these players are, for the most part, "starters"). They are not as enamored with merely attending (but not playing for) a particular school as a home-grown talent might be. Furthermore, a foreign starter is likely to command a larger scholarship percentage (unless they are financially "well off", they are probably not going to come from across the globe AND pay for college, are they). After adjusting the figures to account for these two factors, it is a distinct possibility that not only do the foreign players actually get the majority of the overall tennis experience afforded by the US college system (the % of matches played can be determined at the end of the season), but they also get the majority of the money allocated to the scholarships (closely guarded secret).

Wayne Bryan is a big advocate in putting a limit on foreign scholarships.  However, to be competitive in the NCAA Team rankings, coaches have to protect themselves by going foreign. After the top 20 Americans, it would be foolish to bypass on a world class foreigner to get a lower ranked American.  Coaches need to win to keep their jobs and tennis programs need to produce to justify the drain on the Athletic Department budgets. Until the rules change, college tennis will be heavily developing not only US players, but also our competition around the world (ie: Somdev Devvarman).

Patrick McEnroe is correct when he says we have lost a whole generation of players who should have went to college.  First of all, these players would have made college tennis more competitive, decreased the number of foreigners on high-end tennis programs, and increased the odds of more kids able to reach the top 100 through an old-fashioned maturation process.  

One of the new developments is the enlargement of the USTA Summer Collegiate Team.  Each player gets a $3,000 grant, a week of training with the USTA, and 2 USTA selected collegiate coaches at certain events.  When college players graduate, this is when they need the support the most.  Their parents who have supported them from 8-18 are mentally tired and financially tired. College programs can no longer provide coaching or support.  The kid is left alone to his own devices.  

According to Tim Russell of the USTA, the average age of men in the top 200 is 25 and women is 24. Tim shines light that the average player spends $143,000 to chase the dream per year.  Read the article here.  $3,000 grant is clearly not enough, but atleast college programs can fill the gap between 18-21 in offsetting costs and helping with the maturation process. 

In the near future, we will show the percentage of foreigners vs American born players for top 50 D1 teams over time.  



Junior Development: $475,776 Price Tag

For all the money consumed in junior player development, why aren’t there tennis financial advisors? Has anyone taken the time to calculate the present value of future cash flows needed to develop an average national caliber junior from beginning to end? With so much uncertainty involved, probably not.

The available information is anecdotal at best. CAtennis.com comes to the rescue with a rough financial analysis of the costs associated with nurturing and maximizing talent from start to finish. Of course every family and child are unique and particular circumstances may differ (for example, living in Southern California and having access to outdoor facilities year-around versus the Midwest; playing at public courts v. having to join a private club; etc.). Therefore, a few assumptions are necessary before conducting the research: 

  • 8 year old boy with average tennis skills on a national level (this means that that player is no bigger or smaller than the rest of the kids and average in athleticism and other physical characteristics).
  • Player comes from a upper middle-class family in the Los Angeles area (approximately $150,000 in combined income)
  • Child and parent share a long-term intention of attending a top D1 tennis school (in other words, this is not just one of the many activities that the player will be involved in; this is the main, if not one and only, extra-curricular activity)
  • Ultimate goal is to pursue a career in professional tennis 

With these initial assumptions out of the way, it is time for some number crunching on a detailed annual basis starting with 2012. The proposed figures are purely hypothetical and should be analyzed through the lens of the picture painted above. The guestimation begins and all numbers are based on 2011 prices. Furthermore, this is a family that is totally committed to tennis (i.e., everyone is operating under the assumption that the child will pursue a serious tennis career which will include high-level college tennis and, perhaps, a shot at “the tour”).

2012 - Age 8

  • Equipment - $400 (rackets, shoes, newest tennis clothes - gotta wear what Rafa/Roger wear, right?!)
  • Group Lessons - $2,880 = 12 x $240 per month (3hrs x week @ $20 per group) 
  • Private Lessons - $2,640 = 12 x $220 per month ($55 per private) 
  • Membership Fees - $2,400 = 12 x $200 per month (not including initial membership fee) 
  • Tournaments - $4800 = 12 x $400 (1 tournament per month, a majority of them within driving distance). Cost includes gas and food (maybe sports drinks and energy bars). But is also a rough estimate of paying a pro to go watch the child play (Lil' Mo?) as well as overnight lodging at some events. 

Total - $13,120

2013 - Age 9

Not much change happens between 8-10 years of age. The only difference will be accounting for inflation at a historical rate of approximately 3 percent.

Total - $13,513 = 1.03 x $13,120

2014 - Age 10

Total - $13,907 = 1.06 x $13,513

2015 - Age 11

The dynamics start to change on the part of the parent and child. Due to the initial investment made on the child, the parents and the player get more emotionally attached to the results. At this point, an “arm’s race” may begin to take place among the child’s immediate competitors. Therefore, they decide to “up the ante” a little bit and add more tennis, all in hopes of getting ahead of the competition (there’s always someone who’s better). The child is ranked in the top 300 on TR.net in the 6th grade and the he gets a taste of celebrity when he ventures out to a far-away national event. More and more discussions start to take place between players, parents and coaches with an emphasis on the national stage ("will he make it?" "does he have what it takes? Tell us, coach!"). The child wants to succeed at a higher level and the parents and still fully committed to supporting the child’s dream. After all, playing tennis is better than being a latch-key kid and the parents are so proud of the attention that the child is getting from other adults/parents. Can't let them down, can we?! The decision is certianly also influenced by the results of some of the kid's peers. 

  • Equipment - $800 (goot fill up that 6-pack bag with 6 brand new rackets. Chances are that he didn't like the rackets after all, so he has to switch twice in one year).
  • Group Lessons - $3,840 = 12 x $320 (4hrs x week @ $20 per group) 
  • Private Lesson - $5,280 = 12 x $440 (2 privates per week x $55) 
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 = 12 x $400 (adding another club for extra court time, coaches, and variety of players) 
  • Tournaments - $7,500 = 15 x $500 (some tournaments require farther stays and duration)

Total - $24,219 = 1.09 x $22,220

2016 - Age 12

The only difference between 11 and 12 is the increase in duration per tournament (i.e., player stays in the draw longer; therefore, more cost to the parent), which accounts for a greater cost per tournament at $700. All other expenses remain relatively similar and there is no system for cost recovery in the mateur divisions. 

Tournaments - $10,500 = 15 x $700

Total - $28,246 = 1.12 x $25,220

2017 - Age 14

The child lands an equipment preferred player program deal for being top 10 in his Section, but it doesn’t offset all the equipment costs because he is breaking more strings (more expensive strings) due to addtional on-court time and a stronger physique, running through more shoes, cracking more racquets (from throwing the racquet), new Tourna Grip for every match, and the Nike clothes to fit the part. To save money in the long-term, the parents purchase a $1,000 stringing machine to string racquets for the kid.

Group lessons are reduced to 3 times per week to allow for more outside match-play with adults and juniors. However, the group lesson prices go up because he is in a more advanced group with more personal attention (coach's hourly rate is split among 2-3 players rather than 4-5 or even 6). The parents decide to hire a trainer twice a week to increase the agility and quickness of the child. Why? Because everyone else is doing it! Also, the player may be too young to know what he needs to work on from a cross-training point of view. Additional costs may include match analysis and stroke analysis software (certainly not for every match and practice but, perhaps, once per year) as well as slo-motion videography. 

Private lessons are bumped up to 3 times per week (so that the player can focus on specifics), mixing in a new professional who coaches all the best juniors around in hopes of getting more time with the pro in the future. The drive is three times as far for the third private lesson and slightly more expensive for the specialized expertise (supply and demand). Membership fees are static because the child is asked to play elsewhere as a guest, one of the benefits of increasing the level of play. More people want to hit with a better player. Tournaments are increased to 18 per year (the designated/manadatory for sectional rankings; national/super-national events; doubles; etc.) and a third of the tournaments require a flight or a severe cross-country drive.

  • Equipment - $2,000 
  • Group Lessons - $3,600 = 12 x $300 (3 x per week @ $25 per group) 
  • Private Lessons - $8,160 = 12 x $680 (2 x per week @$55, 1 x per week @ $60) 
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Tournaments - $14,400 = 18 x $800 

 Total - $37,904 = 1.15 x $32,960 

2018 - Age 14

The child struggles somewhat in his first year 14’s and the parents decide that lack of training is the problem. Despite living in Los Angeles, they seek out new options to maximize his tennis. First, they explore the big academies like Everts, IMG Academies, Saddlebrook, Newks, and Weil. The price tag is hefty, but the word is they develop Grand Slam Champions.

At the same time, the parents check out smaller outfits such as Gorins, Moros, Harold Solomon/Andy Brandi- just to name a few. The parents decide on Weil because it is close-by and their son can get the best quality training within a 2-300 mile radius.

According to Weil Tennis Academy, here is the Customized Boarding and Training Program:

Full Academic Year (August - June) - Customized Boarding & Training Program 

  • $43,000 US (including all application and insurance fees) [2011 figures – costs may increase or decrease in by 2018; note, also, that several other year-around academies come with an annual price-tag that is considerably higher - up to $68,000 or more]
  • All the features of the Full time Standard Program plus 
  • 1 private tennis lesson and 1 semi-private tennis lesson per week 
  • 1 private fitness training time per week with a Certified Personal Trainer 
  • 1 month of private Mental Fitness Coaching 
  • 2 private Nutritional Consultations per semester 
  • One Year Individual Developmental Training Plan 
  • College Tennis Placement Program with Academy Director. 

A couple things to point out, the child is getting a mix of individual, semi-private and group coaching and attention; he is receiving a regimented training schedule with a group of competitive kids in addition to the mental coaching and nutritional advice. The environment is energized and the player is racking up on-court hours towards that 10,000 hour goal. The caveat is that the $43,000 will only buy training from August to June. In comparison, the parents spent $38,209 in the previous calendar year.

Other costs associated with the academy are not factored into the base price such as more private lessons (Private Tennis Lessons with Weil Academy Head Coach: $110.00 per hour), transportation, coaching fees at tournaments, and most importantly, school. The parents want the child to succeed in academics, so they purchase the University of Miami On-Line Education for approx. $11,000 per year.

The tournament costs will increase significantly because the private coach is going to travel to San Antonio Nationals, Clay Courts, Sectionals, Eddie Herr Qualifying, and Orange Bowl Qualifying. Not to mention, family members want to tag along to the fun locations exotic locations like Miami and stay at the Biltmore Hotel (for purposes of this article, we’ll assume that this is not the only vacation for the family unit thus, the costs, are tennis-related).

  • Equipment - $1,200
  • Weil Tennis Academy - $48,000 = $43,000 + 5,000 (figure accounts for privates, transportation, coaching at tournaments) 
  • Education - $10,750 
  • Summer Group Lessons - $900 = 3 months x $300 (3 x week @ $25 per group, must prepay for Summer Session) 
  • Summer Private Lessons $2,160 = 3 months x $720 (3 x week @$60, old coach is out of the picture) Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Tournaments - $19,800 = 18 x $1,100 (very conservative number) 

Total - $103,379 = 1.18 x $87,610

2019 - Age 15

The Weil Academy did a great job in controlling all the things they can control, but the child was not ready to make this type of commitment so soon. He missed his childhood experience and became a bit deflated by the physical and emotional demands without the usual support group. Moving forward, the parents decide to bring the child home to LA and take time off, getting ready for the next big push: setting himself up for a top D1 collegiate scholarship.

  • Equipment - $1,400 (switched from Wilson NXT to Big Banger) 
  • Group Lessons - $3,000 = 10 months x $300 (3 x week @ $25 per group, no tennis for 2 months after academy) 
  • Private Lessons - $4,800 = 10 months x $480 (2 x week @ $60, reducing the amount of private lessons) 
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Tournaments - 21,600 = 18 x $1,200

Total - $43,076 = 1.21 x $35,600

2020 - Age 16

Less is more. The child starts to piece things together with the technique, point construction, mind, and overall body coordination. He cracks the top 150 in his first year 16’s and things look promising for his second year 16’s. The parents start boasting about the upside potential of the aggressive game-style the child has developed- it was only a matter of time. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the parents decide it is time to make a run for the top 50 USTA.

Staying the course of the previous year with the solid support staff, the parents decide to add a full-time personal trainer.

  • Equipment - $1,400 
  • Group Lessons - $3,600 = 12 months x $300 (3 x week @ $25 per group) 
  • Private Lessons - $5,760 = 12 months x $480 (2 x week @ $60) 
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Off-Court Training - $7,200 = 12 months x $600 (3 x week @ $50) 
  • Tournaments - 21,600 = 18 x $1,200 

Total - $55,006 = 1.24 x $44,360

2021 - Age 17

What a year 2015 was, a breakthrough year. He cracked the top 50 in the nation and is starting to make some noise with a few wins in the top 30 coupled with a few disastrous losses outside the top 100. The parents feel he is so close and he only needs a few more ounces of consistency to get him to the next level.

After speaking with various sources which included parents, coaches, ex-players, and the USTA- the parents settle on integrating ITF Junior Events into his schedule. The reasoning behind the decision is for stiffer competition and to attain a top 200 ITF ranking to impress the collegiate coaches. The “real” reason is everyone else is doing it, seems like the logical thing to do.

With that being said, someone needs to travel with the player, preferably a coach. A few families around the country decide on a knowledgeable coach to take the children to 10 (10 weeks of private coaching) different ITF events throughout the year. A majority of the tournaments are located within the United States with a few dipping into Central and South America.

  • Equipment - $1,200 (costs are offset by a full racquet sponsorship with limited string) 
  • Group Lessons - $3,000 = 10 months x $300 (3 x week @ $25 per group, 2 months at ITF events) 
  • Private Lessons - $4,800 = 10 months x $480 (2 x week @ $60, 2 months at ITF events) 
  • ITF Coaching - $4,000 = 10 weeks x $400 per week (Coaching rate = $1,200 per week, 3 players traveling) 
  • Off-Court Training - $6,000 = 10 months x $600 (3 x week @ $50) 
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Tournaments - $32,000 = 20 x $1,600 (paying for coaches flight, parents at a few events) 

Total - $70,866 = 1.27 x $55,800

2022 - Age 18

The moment of truth arrives. The child cracked the top 75 as a first year 18’s and is ranked in the top 300 ITF. A great year nonetheless and sets him up for a run at cracking the top 20 USTA and top 150 ITF. Who knows, maybe the child can participate in a Junior Grand Slam Qualifying Draw.

Colleges are littering the mailbox with letters, especially with the game-style the child demonstrates. Professional tennis is a long-shot, but the parents want to keep the door open for a career after college.

Marching on, the parents decide to keep the same schedule and sign early with a top school. They feel they have found the optimum training formula for their child.

  • Equipment - $1,200 (costs are offset by a full racquet sponsorship with limited string) 
  • Group Lessons - $3,000 = 10 months x $300 (3 x week @ $25 per group, 2 months at ITF events) 
  • Private Lessons - $4,800 = 10 months x $480 (2 x week @ $60, 2 months at ITF events) 
  • ITF Coaching - $4,000 = 10 weeks x $400 per week (Coaching rate = $1,200 per week, 3 players traveling) 
  • Off-Court Training - $6,000 = 10 months x $600 (3 x week @ $50, 2 months at ITF events)
  • Membership Fees - $4,800 
  • Tournaments - $32,000 = 20 x $1,600 (paying for coaches flight, parents at a few events) 

Total - $72,540 = 1.30 x $55,800

End of Junior Career - AGE 19

The parents are satisfied with the journey with their child finishing in the top 20 USTA and top 150 ITF. The child settles at PRIVATE University on a 35 percent scholarship, with no guarantee of playing in the top 6 for his first year. Regardless, the child is going to earn a world-class education in return for competing for a top-tier program.

The Journey Is Not Complete

The road is just beginning for the child and his tennis journey to achieving his full-potential. Private University is an expensive university ($46,000) with little chance of pouring a full-scholarship his way in the future. During the summers, Coach Awesome recommends further training coupled with competing in a handful of ITF Futures events. After college tennis, the road to professionalism is tough. Everyone comes so far to only give up a few inches from the finish line. The last two hurdles in a 100 meter sprint are the toughest to conquer and require a significant amount of financial backing.

If we add up all the years, here is the total amount spent before setting foot on college campus:

= 13,120 + 13,513 + 13,907 + 24,219 + 28,246 + 37,904 + 103,379 + 43,076 + 55,006 + 70,866 + 72,540

= $475,776 is the GRAND TOTAL accounting for inflation from the age of 8-18.

What if families invested the money instead?

With an 8% annual market return over the same time period, the parents will have saved the following amount by today:

= 13,120(1.08^11) + 13,513(1.08^10) + 13,907(1.08^9) + 24,219(1.08^8) + 28,246(1.08^7) + 37,904(1.08^6) + 103,379(1.08^5) + 43,076(1.08^4) + 55,006(1.08^3) + 70,866(1.08^2) + 72,540(1.08)

= $681,745 is the opportunity cost.  



Do you think that the $681,740 figure is high? Here are some thoughts (unfortunately, there's a glaring lack of outside information available):

  • In talking about the state of college scholarships, David Benjamin, ITA Executive Director, says the following: “If parents invest $50,000 a year into their child's tennis career, some feel they're owed”. He goes on to say: "But it's not in the Constitution that if you spend a certain amount, you'll get a scholarship to the school of your choice. Intellectually, a family understands this, but emotionally it's difficult to accept. That's where you get the anger."
  • According to the USTA’s “Going to College or Turning Pro? Making an Informed Decision!” (October 2010) prepared by Timothy Russell, Ph.D., the annual developmental value received at college is around $48,000/year (see Appendix A). That is, if it costs that university $48,000/year to train you, it is foreseeable that a player may spend about the same amount per year before entering college.
  • "The expense of developing a world-class player from age 10 to 20 is astronomical — training, traveling, equipment," Martin Blackman (heads talent identification and development for the U.S.T.A.)
  • Roger Draper, head of the British Lawn Tennis Association has estimated that the cost of developing a world-class player (Wimbledon champion caliber) is £250,000 (approx. $420,000). This, of course, taking into account fewer tournaments and less travel (given the smaller distances) in UK than in USA. 

Here are some questions:

A. Do you think that the figures above are too high for the average family pushing for the top echelons of tennis? Are the figures just right? If you are a parent (particularly one who is NOT a tennis pro), please feel free to share your experience so far. Are there aspects that you have sacrificed in order to reduce the overall costs? Has your child obtained a college scholarship the value of which outweighs the monetary expenditure? What would you do different? What advice would you have for similarly situated families just starting out with the sport? 

B. Even if the figures are not entirely spot-on (given that every family is different and some of the costs may be shared among siblings thereby reducing the overall average), one cannot deny that a great deal of money is, in fact, expected to be "invested" in a child's development and that the money would actually pay real-world dividends if used somewhere else (e.g. income producing property). If so, is there a way to get the same results (if not better) for a fraction of the cost? For, let's say, $50,000 - $100,000?

C. What steps need to be taken by the family, coach, club, regional organization, USTA, tournament organizers, academies, colleges, etc. in order to reduce the cost of developing across the board? Is there a road-map (CAtennis.com uses that term a lot) that each segment can follow in order to get the most out of tennis with least financial sacrifice? Why isn't anybody talking about this? What do the people "in the know" have to hide? 


The Swedish Road Map to Success

It appears that the United States is not the only country struggling with its current tennis identity. Sweden, the paragon of tennis excellence in the '70s, '80s and '90s, also appears to be experiencing a development crisis. 

In an article published on Nov. 11, 2011 the director of the Swedish Tennis Federation. Mr. Johan Sjogren, shared some thoughts about the future of Swedish tennis in respone to a newspaper article entitled "Towards the Top 100". You are hereby encouraged to read Mr. Sjogren's article yourself. Below, is a brief summary of some important points:

1. Sweden requires a number of changes in a variety of areas in order for its top junior players to have a realistic chance at reaching the top 100.

2. A significant component is the amount and type of exercise that the athlete must endure. However, hard work without passion will not guarantee results. If the players expect tennis to always be FUN, they are in the wrong profession. The players must be internally driven/motivated to strive for success. 

3. Nevertheless, coaches play an important role in motivating the youngsters. They need to understand the workload and how it fits in the overall development scheme. 

4. In addition to hard work, some objective criteria should be established:

A. Ages 6-9: Play and Stay (Swedish version of Quickstart)

B. Ages 10-12: player should be able to master all kinds of diverse pace and movement

C. Ages 13-14: player begins to master tactical and strategic abilities

D. Ages 15-16: player should be able to compete in ITF competitions or other events corresponding to category 3-5. Girls should be able to debut on U.S. $ 10,000 level. 

E. Ages 17-18: players should compete in ITF competitions or other events corresponding to category 2, 1 and A as well as USD $10,000events. Girls should be able to play USD$25.000/50,000. 

F. Ages 19-20: players begin testing the ATP / WTA fields. 

5. Mr. Sjogren goes on to say that with only one exception (Johanna Larsson), since 1974 only Swedish players who have been ranked top-15 in ITF have cracked the top 100 in the pros: Thomas Enqvist, Thomas Johansson, Magnus Norman, Andreas Vinciguerra, Joachim Johansson, Robin Soderling, Sofia Arvidsson and Claudia Mitchell. 

6. To change tack, a joint effort (clubs + regions + associations) following a framework (consisting of proper environment as well as experienced and dedicated coaches) is required. In this regard, Sweden needs more players in the top 600, more players in the top 300 with an end result of getting more players in the top 100. Presently, Swedent's players are 2-3 years behind in development in that the country's 18 year old are at the level of world 16 year olds. 

7. Consequently, to achieve these goals, the following steps are necessary:

A. Clubs have to set up learning tracks to ensure that the players develop properly and have an adaptable game. 

B. Players must have access to individualized training systems including those based on new technologies.

C. Create better "sparring" conditions (at all levels)

D. The oganization needs to work closely with the players' schools to ensure that the player can follow the necessary program

E. Clubs need to ensure that the coaches actually show up to tournaments (apparently, this is a global issue). To paraphrase Mr. Sjogren, "can you imagine a scenrio where a football [soccer] coach did not show up to watch the team play on the weekend?!" 

F. Coaches need to do a better job of setting tournament schedules, development periods, rest time, etc.

In this regard, Mr. Sjogren makes the following revelation: the Swedish tennis federation is willing to offer these resources only if "we [Swedish Tennis Federation], clubs, regions and associations, pull together towards a common goal - Towards the top 100". The admission (one that is entirely reasonable) is that this goal is not, however, for everyone.  

Mr. Sjogren concludes by outlining the increase in the number of professional events as well as the establishment of the National Training Center. Nevertheless, two things stand out from Mr. Sjogren's postion: (1) for Sweden to once again dominate the sport, the entire system - private and public/federal - requires a a complete overhaul; and (2) Sweden's goal is not to simply to get one or two top players. The intent is to have more players in the top 600, more players in the top 300, and more players in the top 100. These players will, in turn, propel - like a tsunami - their Swedish colleagues into the higher ranks. 

Is this a good approach and should the US follow suit


The Development Spectrum


When it comes to sports, it's important to have heros...idols. They make the game look so effortless and smooth and completely within reach of us mortals. Invariably, a junior (or even dedicated adult) will, with best intentions in mind, attempt to model his game after a particular pro. When going down this road, use your best efforts to remember the relevance of proper fundamentals.

Now, CAtennis.com seeks to avoid lengthy discussions about techniques or grips. We're not here to tell you that Federer's forehand is the best (probably is); that a semi-Western is superior to an Eastern grip; or that you have to start the shot like this and finish like that. These things are best left to your on-court pro who can explain to you the various aspects and how they fit your particular body/mental type. As a matter of fact, in previous postings we have taken the position that tennis is not just about the strokes. However, this is only to emphasize the fact that tennis involves more than just strokes. One must master several other dimensions in order to become a good player.

Nevertheless, when starting out with this game, it's indispensable to understand the proper fundamentals of the game in order to have a shot down the road. Having a solid foundation, as the term entails, allows you to build upon it and develop new dimensions to the game. Unfortunately, in a rush to be the best player in the world, many players seek to emulate a particular player without first mastering some basic concepts. Sometimes, they copy a player who has a certain peculiarity (e.g., finishing a forehand swing over his head as opposed to "through the ball" in the vicinity of the left shoulder) and wonder why the same shot doesn't pan out for them...why it doesn't fit their particular physical characteristic. Unsurprisingly, a failure to grasp the basic fundamentals is many times the answer. In terms of tennis development, think of a particular pro's game as a light spectrum. It doesn't matter who it is; it could be Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Williams sisters, or anybody else for that matter. In this regard, what you see today in their game is usually not how they started out

For example, in the picture above, these top players may have started in the "blue" end of the spectrum. As they developed (got bigger, faster, stronger; got more experienced; or bodies changed a particular way) they made small adjustments towards the "green" end of the spectrum. Sometimes, they have decided to de-emphasize a component (e.g. loading) and over-emphasize another (e.g. swinging). Through this process, however, they have have understood (like a surfer mastering the long board before moving down to a 6ft board) the elements of a proper shot but made a conscious decision to modify the particular components to suit their respective, individual needs.

Nonetheless, when copying a "top" player, too many times beginners start at the "green" end of the spectrum and then make even further adjustments from there. Because the basic biomechanical and physical components are a foreign language to them, some of these players end up completely "off the reservation" in terms of their strokes. I have seen players who were willing to swear on a stack of holy manuscripts that their game resembles Nadal's, Moya's or Roddick's. Often times, the "style" is only a perversion of the original motion. The outfit is there; the shoes are there; the racket and strings are there; but the only thing that matters - the strokes - aren't anywhere near. Once you find yourself with funky shots, the road back can be daunting. Think about it: when you're young you don't have a lot of power so you can slap the ball silly and it's probably not going to fly on you; crazy swings, wide open stances, imperfect footwork and the ball still goes in. However, as you get older, power is cheap to come by - control is actually a scarce commodity. And a great deal of the control components comes from sound fundamentals. 

Accordingly, when learning the game, spend some time getting a real good understanding of the basic shot elements. Know why the grip should be in a particular range, why the footwork should look a certain way, why the torso and shoulders should be integrated in a proper chain reaction, why the swing should look and feel like this or like that, etc. For example, if you're trying hit the ball forward learn to drive through the ball in the direction of your target. I know it's hard, but learn to rely on logic and common sense. Although it's great to have idols, until you're on the right track, try to refrain from copying too much of your idol's strokes. After grasping the basics, it's OK to make small adjustments in pursuit of your ideal model. If you do the opposite - trying to copy someone too soon - you risk implementing a component in your game (something that may stand out to the untrained eye) that serves only minimal, cosmetic purpose and which could be problematic in the later stages of your development. Ideally, you should learn solid fundamentals by the time you're 14 so that, going forward, you will make only small adjustments dealing with power, placement and control.


NCAA Rules Limit Winter College Practice


College tennis is a tricky deal for the motivated coach and the unmotivated player. In junior tennis, things were easy. Distractions were limited. Parents made sure kids made curfew, ate properly, did their homework, and planned their days for them. In college tennis, things are easy when you are in the playing season. You really don't have much time between class, fitness, tennis, eating, homework, and checking your Facebook. Distractions and a lack of motivation are really not factors because your coach and team will apply enough subtle pressure on you to simply not "let go of the rope."

However, every year college coaches struggle with the time period between mid-November to early January. The NCAA wisely limited practice time to 20 hours per week during the playing season (this includes your fitness, competition, and practice sessions). When the fall and dual-season are not in action, the NCAA limits every player and coach to 2 hours of tennis skill instruction per week and 6 hours of fitness from mid-November to Thanksgiving. Only 8 hours a week! Once December 1st rolls around, coaches, fitness trainers, and players are not allowed to allowed to work with each other. The players are free to do as they wish.

Now one might wonder why the NCAA would do such a thing. The reason is to protect the kids from coaches who abuse the system (# of hours on the court). Afterall, kids are in school to pursue an education and they need to be given time to study. I'm sure in many cases, coaches in the past forced boys and girls to practice without any regard for their academics (I have no proof, but I'm sure it happened).

Now that you know the history behind these rules, the time between December 1st and January 7th is a tricky time for every college coach and player. The coach is stressed out because all the gains made during the fall could potentially be wiped out without consistent upkeep to the players game. The players are stressed out about finals and might be a little burnt out from the fall season. Let's brainstorm: What are some good ways to keep the players motivated during this time period? Tournaments are not easy to come by during this time.

In the picture above, here are some potential scenarios to how many hours you would need to practice everyday for 6 days a week for 5 weeks to accumulate close to 100 hours. Most people would be surprised how many players fail to surpass 100 hours. Parents long to see their children, spoil them with turkey and sweets, and taking vacations to warm locations. Kids want to catch up with old friends from high school. There are many forces and distractions at work which can distort your tennis priorities (did I mention New Years Partying!?!). Parents sometimes do not drive the kids as hard as they used to (maybe because of perspective or maybe because they are satisfied). Parents might see the end of the road is near, so what's the point.