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Entries in Parenting (48)


Tennis Hold'Em

If the Ace of Spades is the only card you need, this article may be for you:

1. Bankroll: How much money should I invest? In tennis: If you are in it for pleasure, or just looking to have fun, don't invest any more than is fun to lose. If you're planning on making a career out of it, a more powerful bankroll may be more suitable. 

2. Blinds: Forced bets. In tennis: These are the costs associated with tennis including: lessons; entry fees; equipment; travel; etc. Parents are often blind [chuckle-chuckle] as to these hidden costs which may add up over the course of development. 

3. Draw: hoping to improve your hand with the cards that will come on the board. In tennis: hoping to improve your ranking with an easy draw. 

4. Limit Poker: a game with fixed-size bets. In tennis: amateurism restrictions (can't take more than expenses). 

6. Outs: Cards that can improve your hand. In tennis: an error by the opponent that can improve your chances of winning. 

7. Pot Odds: The odds you are getting when you are drawing. In tennis: the odds of "making it" when you're first starting out (bad news: you are closer to ZERO). 

8. Beginner Mistakes:

A. Playing too many hands. In tennis: playing too many tournaments; being involved in too many activities. 

B. Playing above your bankroll. In tennis: spending above and beyond the level of comfort so as to cause internal stress and undesired pressures. Understand your level of comfort from the get-go and know when you've reached it and what you'll be willing to do going forward. 

C. Becoming too emotional at the table. In tennis: Bad matches will happen. Losing is part of the game. Annoying opponents will have to be faced. Do not let your emotions sway your judgment. 

D. Imitating other players. In tennis: trying to follow the pack in terms of chasing points, playing specific tournaments, joining this clinic or that, cherry-picking coaches or picking up negative attitudes ("just because so-and-so is doing it")

E. Overvaluing suited hands. In tennis: overqualifying yourself and underqualifying your opponents. Expect your opponent to improve every day. Work hard even if you're the best (or think you're the best). Even if you have the best hand (strokes) don't discount physical and mental toughness of the opponent which may TRUMP your hand. 

F. Failing to keep your ego in check. In tennis: don't be naive and think you can be a guaranteed winner. Know when to walk away from a losing hand or a sport that's going nowhere. This is particularly important for parents. If you want it more for your kids than they do, then it's better to FOLD before you BUST. Don't stay in the game just because you've already spent $X, have a closet full of tennis clothes, a garage full of rackets and are hoping for a miracle. Identify losing hands (i.e., kids who simply don't want to pursue tennis and are not passionate about it) and walk away. Focus your energies elsewhere; it's really OK to not be a tennis player. 

G. Banking on luck. In the long run, luck evens out; only skill remains as a deciding factor. "Edge" is the slight advantage one player has over another through more skill, larger stack or better position. In tennis: banking on short-cuts will be a loser; hard work is the only short-cut; try to improve your skill every day through focused practices. Don't bank on one good win and ignore your 100 bad losses. You're only as good as your worst loss

H. Publicizing tells (mannerisms that reveal the true strength of a player's hand). In tennis: allowing emotions to send signals to your opponent regarding your level of comfort. 

I. Losing focus. In tennis: allowing points to slip away for no reason; failing to work hard every day. As the expression goes: "if I don't practice one day, I know it; if I don't practice two days, the orchestra knows it; if I don't practice three days, the whole world knows it.

J. Becoming fixated on the charts. In tennis: focusing on rankings and draws

9. Skills:

A. Discipline (if you want to be good, you have to approach it like a job...a fun job but a job nonetheless) 

B. Mental Toughness (both endeavors are about winning and bouncing back from losses)

C. Understanding Risk v. Rewards (understand what it takes to get somewhere, what you get when you get there and lost opportunity costs)

D. Ability to Think For yourself (don't follow the herd)

E. Ability to Grind (Doyle Brunson:Limit [Texas] Hold 'em is like a job – the more hours you work, the more money you’ll make”)

F. Patience (looking at the long-term aspects of the game)

G. Observation (watching other players, learning and reading their strategies, likes/dislikes)

H. Knowing when to play and when to quit (see 8F, above)

I. Adaptability (knowing when to be aggressive and when to be defensive)

J. Ability to avoid being predicatable

K. Bluffing (sending out signals of confidence in order to make the other player nervous). As Buddha said: "your greatest weapon is in your opponent's mind."

10. Objectives:

A. Maximize Winning and Minimize Losses

B. Having Fun


Insights: Nitty Gritty With Matt Holt


Matt Holt was kind enough to share his nitty gritty insights on the Da Vinci Code of American Tennis.  Matt Holt was formerly a top US junior, earned a scholarship to Pepperdine and Arizona, and currently shares his teachings with his students in the San Francisco area.  Very thought provoking and entertaining at the very least.  

I believe today's coaches as a general rule are extremely skilled in developing players and are very passionate. Having grown up in the 70's and 80's playing, practice sessions were amazing but coaching was relatively mediocre. I had some really wonderful coaching, but I think technology and information sharing has lead to many instructors and coaches having access to effective and accurate info. 

That being said, practices today are mediocre at best. I feel coaches are incredibly limited due to parents that can micro-manage, children that are totally overscheduled, and practice regimens that in no way represent tournament scenarios. I have parents ask me all the time what path I recommend for their child's development based on their skill level, desire, and academic/life goals. I always evaluate and give them my opinion, but in my mind I am in a state of shock. 

Growing up in the 70's/80's when tennis was at a peak (like it is hopefully growing at the moment), the path to success hit you smack in the face. There were no clinics and large group lessons. If you were lucky, you had a private lesson each week, and then you got out on the courts and played your ass off against the best players you could every week! You played kids and adults alike, and you had exposure to every style of play. The pecking order was across all players... men, women, boys, girls. You had to beat player x before player y would play you. It was incredibly competitive, but at the same time there was a ton of comraderie. We always cheered for all of the players from our club, kind of like an unofficial team. The competition built respect for one another. It was never hard to prepare for a tournament because you were playing several matches per week. Mental toughness was far more developed than is seen currently among American players. 

As a coach who obviously relies on some degree of group lessons in order to drive profitability for a department, I have always advocated for juniors to go out and play as much as possible and not attend all clinics. Save a buck and call your friends to set up matches. It is incredible to see how many of these players go take a lesson from another coach or come back to a clinic rather than going out to practice and compete against anyone. The culture is really lacking when it comes to that. I wish I could identify the root cause for this, but I know it's not the players' fault. Maybe it's that there is so much overall focus with school and sports that the clinics provide a much needed social forum. I think this is partially true, but there has to be some grit out there that can only be attained through rigorous competition. 

Sitting on boards and committees, I have heard all of the arguments for lack of American champions in recent years. While I can't deny that, I can say that almost all of the traditional countries who have dominated the sport face the same fate. It is too much hard work relative to other things to excel at the sport. In countries where standards of living are slightly lower to definitely lower, the work to aspire in any profession is significant. Hence, the drive to succeed is on par with that of many career choices. 

It will take some unique individuals to put American tennis back in the limelight. There is some really nice talent out there at the moment, and I think there will be a much deeper pool over the next 6-8 years. In any case, we are a global society and there is some awesome tennis being played out there at the moment! I haven't seen a 4-pack of men hanging in the top since Borg, Mac, Connors, Vilas. I hope we get another 2 years out of this foursome. On the ladies' side, I have been excited at all of the new faces and I feel the level of play has improved drastically over the past 18 months. WTA needs a more targeted marketing campaign. They need a top rivalry, but the product is much better than they are getting credit for.


$126,365: Cost of Junior Development?

Duke: $55,690 x 4 years = $222,760UCLA: $51,563 x 4 years = $206,252
Florida: $42,066 x 4 years = $168,264
Michigan: $50,352 x 4 years = $201,408
Texas: $46,098 x 4 years = $184,392
North Carolina: $41,140 x 4 years = $164,560
Princeton: $52,670 x 4 years = $210,680
Washington: $46,466 x 4 years = $185,864

Here are the current costs for out-of-state tuition, room, board, and fees (worst case scenario) to big time tennis programs around the country. Remember, in men's tennis there are only 4.5 scholarships to spread around towards the entire team. A very small percentage of men (even the top 10 ranked juniors nationally) are landing full scholarships in their freshman year if they are going to big time tennis programs. With six guys in the lineup, there has to be enough money to go around to keep everyone happy. In women, there are 8 scholarships, so all the women (including the women not competing) will get a full ride. Thanks to Title IX.

If you look at the University of Michigan at $201,408 for a 4-year projected scholarship, the costs are middle of the road when compared to the other public and private universities across the land. Let's do some fun math and suppose you have an 18 year old son who is currently ranked #55 on TR.net. He wants to play for a top 20 program such as Michigan, but is clearly not good enough to land a full-ride (plus he is out-of-state). The worst case scenario (offered no scholarship) using rough Present Value math calculations says his parents will have needed to save atleast $126,365 in their bank account by the time he was 10 years old (accounting for 8 years of investing with a 6% return on investment).

Let's suppose you were ahead of the ball game as parents and already saved $130,000 by the time he was 10 years old. You planned before your son was born through savings and inheritance in anticipation of the hefty sum for his future college education. Sounds great, everything is going perfectly as planned.

Then your son at the age of 10 starts to become good at tennis. He starts to travel, get invitations to training camps, partial scholarships to tennis academies, accepted into National Events, and all his friends are moving along at the same pace. Emotion starts to factor in and as a parent, you can't help but want to believe in your child (he's got the love and talent, things will just work out). You tell your wife, money is sort of tight, lets dip into that college fund of $130,000 to offset some of the costs. $5,000 here and $3,000 there, no big deal. This consistently starts to happen as the pressure starts to build. You start to drink the Kool-Aid, "boy, your son really can be a top professional someday. Don't worry, he's going to get a big time scholarship, you wait and see."

Time unfolds and your $130,000 has dwindled down to $80,000 in savings for his college education.  He is 15 years old and really seems to be making good progress.  Sitting down as parents, you decide to make the investment (gamble more like) and send him to Evert's down in Boca Raton.  After a year of training and jetting around to tournaments, you spend a cool $40,000 in hopes that your calculated investment will pay off to land bigger scholarships down the road.  Kalamazoo Under 18's comes around and once again, he does just enough to impress some coaches, but nothing spectacular...he is ranked #55 on TR.net at 18 years of age.

This is a common scenario and a really unfair scenario. In other sports like Football and Basketball, the scholarships are easier to come by, but on the same note, they have more people participating in their respective sports. The only remedy is be realistic because you can't control the rankings (no matter how much money you spend).  The message is to simply watch out for the emotion that can overtake your logical decisions as parents. College is no joke, its very expensive. You must not put all your eggs in one basket or bet the farm because very few people get full rides to the top 20 tennis programs (plus it puts so much pressure on the child, hinders their development, and makes them feel more important than they really are). Now, if you are willing to sacrifice and play on a team outside the top 60 in Division I, then yes maybe some options will open up for a full ride. So be smart and manage your money. The purpose of this website is to show that there are other ways (smarter ways) to become good at the game while not breaking your bank account.

I would argue families are spending upwards of $126,365 per year and well above a quarter of a million in junior development as a conservative estimate.  When you start to pile on the lessons, traveling as a family, tournaments, equipment, bad information (mistakes), academies- its overwhelming how costs can escalate trying to keep up with the competition around you.  Money spent does not equal better tennis players.  

Anyone want to share their costs of raising a tennis player?  Let's not forget there are costs after college if your son or daughter wants to compete on the Futures, Challengers, and Professional Circuits and this when your child needs you the most! (if you want to chase that ultimate dream).    



Attention Parents: Practice Set Victories Are Meaningless

Parents deserve a ton of credit. A big round of applause for all the hours spent waiting in the parking lot during practice sessions, trucking kids to tournaments, keeping a positive smile after a rough loss, and footing the bills. Every child is lucky to have a parent who is willing to go the extra mile for them. Warren Buffet once said, "Being born in the United States and having two loving parents is like hitting the lottery. You are already winning in life and you should be grateful."

With all the hours spent toiling around the tennis scene, parents can't help getting caught up in the results. There is nothing more entertaining in life than seeing how you stack up to others. It is wired in our DNA to want to count the beans in the morning and see how we stack up with others relative to us. This is just human nature. We are no different from animals in the forest, all trying to jockey for position to be at the top of the food chain.

With the parents emotionally involved (how can they not be if they are spending all this time and money), the child eventually picks up on the cues that winning is the MOST important thing. A child can feel it everytime they get into the minivan and the first question is, "Well, how did it go?" Some parents try to be sneaky and ease their way into it, but in a roundabout way, they eventually squeeze out every groundstroke game or practice set score by the time the evening is over. How terrible!

For example, let's say Ben is a solid little player. He is improving and doing great, really enjoying the tennis. Despite losing to his good buddy Igor a couple times in a row in local tournaments, even getting cheated once, Ben is not too far off. Ben really feels like his time will come and eventually he will get him in a tournament. Since Ben and Igor live in the same city, Ben decides to give Igor a call to set up a practice match. What a great idea! The date is set and they agree to play next week.

Leading up to the match, Ben's Mom begins to say subtle things like "make sure you get enough sleep." "Drink plenty of water before you go to bed." "Remember, Igor doesn't really like his backhand." "Watch the lines." Before the match has started, Ben is starting to feel some pressure from Mom to win this silly practice match. Bless her heart, Mom is trying her best, but not understanding this is the worst thing she could do, promoting the culture that winning is the most important thing.

The match happens and Igor routintely drums Ben 6-3, 6-2. Ben really didn't play well, getting frustrated at himself everytime things got a little hairy. He mopes off the court and hops in the mini-van (his mother was peaking around a tree trying to watch without being seen). As usual, his mother wants to know the outcome of the practice match. Annoyed with his Mom and feeling the pressure, he says, "We split sets, but he won 6-4 in the third."

The perfect son who could do no wrong told a lie! It was a routine 6-3, 6-2 loss. Nowhere close to a split set decision as he relayed to his mother, how could this be?

Although horribly wrong, it is understandable why Ben suggested a 3 set loss.  He was feeling immense pressure from his Mom and wanted to save face.  By telling a somewhat decent scoreline, his mother would back off (maybe even be slightly happy because it was his best scoreline to date) and maybe even be in a great mood all night.  Kids are no dummies, they understand how a single practice set loss (imagine a tournament!) can affect the household and dinner conversation.  Last thing a child wants to deal with is a Mom talking about their practice matches.  Trust me!

Verbal and non-verbal cues can really affect a child negatively, so be careful. Winning is not the most important thing and if it is, you need to step away. The right course of action is to not ask at all because it really doesn't matter! Nobody cares! Nothing positive can come of it. The child will tell you if they want to. Good questions to ask are "did you have fun?"


Bob Brett: 5 Qualities To Hang On Your Bedroom Wall

From a recent interview, Bob Brett shared 5 characteristics of a champion.  It's safe to say Bob Brett is a humble spirit who possesses a wealth of experience from working with world class players on the tour.  His notable players include Becker, Ivanisevic, Medvedev, Ancic, and Cilic.  The most impressive quality about Bob is the length of time he worked with each player.  

Here are the 5 qualities of a champion according to Bob Brett:

1) World class talent.  The ability to learn. The ability to see the court.  Intuitive skills.

2) Play one's best when it counts the most.  

3) Be able to push one's self to do the right thing.  How strong is one's character to do the things one does not want or like to do. Do the right thing with one's behavior, training, and to stay disciplined.  

4) To overcome difficulty.  It could be injury, confidence, keeping one's mind through it all.   

5) Loyalty to what you want to do.  Believe what you are doing is the right thing and what you want to do. Choosing the right people to work with and trusting them, not turning to someone else when difficulty comes.  Disruptions in coaching break develop and one should be cautious of such changes.  The best players had very few coaches.  

After reading through the list, let's discuss each point in how it relates to junior/college players.

1) World class talent- yes, one could argue each player is born with it or not.  However, if one has a high ability to learn (love for the game) and willing to put in the time (10,000 hours), they can reach their own potential. Most juniors/college players do not have the ability to LEARN HOW TO LEARN.  Without love or thirst for learning (just give up!), tennis is too hard.  To the PARENTS- just give up and stop fighting a losing battle if your dreams are to make your child something he isn't (big time D1 scholarship or world class player).  

2)  Play one's best when it counts the most- This one you can't teach, but it can be helped along by putting kids into pressure situations more often.  This includes dominating your own age division before moving up, not ducking tournaments, playing all the tournaments regardless if you are #1 seed, playing atleast 8-10 practice sets a week against people at your OWN LEVEL, and not substituting lessons for matchplay. Have to practice being in pressure situations.  Non-PRESSURE situations include jetting around the world playing ITFs, chasing points at National Junior Events, playing Professional events, ducking Nationals after you signed with a college, taking lessons over matchplay, etc.  

3)  Be able to push one's self to do the right thing- This comes down to character and usually the guidance and parenting a child receives.  Be honest, don't cheat, be self-motivated...all qualities of someone of high character.  Children look to copy their role models (other good players, so beware if they are acting like idiots), parents, and coaches.  

4)  To overcome difficulty- again, this is a character issue.  The parents can help foster a child to respond to difficulty in an encouraging way.  

5)  Loyalty- again, not looking to place the blame on others but yourself if things don't go your way.  Starts with the parents again.   

Notice how Bob Brett didn't talk about forehands, backhands, serves, and spin ratio on the slice backhand (that ain't it!).  Enjoy!