Monday, March 30, 2009

Help Wanted!

I came across a recent Article headed Has American Tennis Become Too Soft in the article it hinted that there was no junior Americans in the "wings" to take the place of the William Sisters ,Roddick and James Blake.The article goes on to say that"Common wisdom has it that the Americans aren’t as hungry as the Eastern Euros, who often have to scratch and claw to make a living for their families. It’s hard to find an analyst who thinks that this isn’t at least part of the reason for the decline — that the nation is simply being outworked. In short, America has become too soft." Prominent sports Physchologist Jim Loehr had this to say “Affluence undermines drive,” says Loehr. “If you come from highly affluent family and there’s no real urgency to accomplish extraordinary things to survive, you’re not going push yourself to endure a lot of pain. You have a fallback position. That’s why it’s not surprising that a lot of top players come from areas of the world where they have to fight like a dog to survive. If you look at golf and why the South Koreans are dominating the LPGA, it’s because they have a work ethic that’s beyond comprehension. There’s a big chance of burnout, but they don’t have the fallback position. They’re betting the whole farm on the kid. The same thing with Monica Seles — neither of her parents worked and Monica was out on court knowing she was fighting for the survival of the whole family.” Another point that Loehr touched on is something that I can see is a huge issue in New Zealand "Loehr argues that the greatest obstacle the U.S. faces is that the sport has become too expensive for most families to afford. While just playing the sport at public parks, buying rackets, balls and shoes and paying for a few clinics isn’t prohibitive, top juniors require a whole lot more. Providing private coaching and travel for a competitive junior over a 10-year period costs well into the six figures.He goes on to say It’s such a large country and you have to cross it to be recognized and get to the highest level and there are serious financial barriers. While in Europe, they don’t have the same geography and can play all these tournaments and the cost isn’t as great. In the U.S., the only people who can afford it are affluent and it’s a perk and a status symbol.Jose Higueras National Director of Coaching for USTA puts it simply I don’t think our kids are exposed on a daily basis to what it takes to become a champion,” he said. “ If you go to Europe, it’s pretty simple: the kids work four to five hours a day and it’s a grind. It’s not that easy. If it were, then everybody would be great. In the old days our kids maybe had a little bit more of that mentality…If they want to become great players, it doesn’t come for free and it doesn’t happen just trying once every other day or once a week. It comes by trying every single day.” Now if the Americans are in trouble then what hope do we have here in New Zealand ,where some of these issues that are raised in the article are even more relevant and shows how hard it will be for Ceo's Steve Walker vision of Peak performance to achieve its goals it may just be that a vision!New Zealand face isolation,and the biggest thing that players coaches and parents face here is financial support.The game for most to achieve at an elite level is just getting too expensive.The other factor here is that Tennis is a Summer sport and to date I have seen no plans to develop the game locally during this period.New Zealand is a team sport Nation, Rugby ,Netball and Cricket dominant.Its easy for youngsters to enrol at soccer rugby or netball and be playing competition the next week, as we all know to reach a competitive level in tennis it takes time and many parents and juniors are not prepared to grind out the Saturday Morning Peewee classes and become frustrated at not playing a real game.I realize that the "grasshoppers" program is trying to bridge the gap but the problem is still there.The article offers food for thought and can be read at this linkIt would be interesting to hear thoughts on this so feel free to comment, if the Americans are soft then do we stand a chance?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Champions create Champions

There will always be champions and for a period of time they will reign supreme winning grand slams and tournaments and enjoying center court,Laver,Connors,Borg,McEnroe,Sampras,Federer,Nadal have all tasted success at number 1.Currently Nadal has cemented his place as Worlds top player.Right now their are coaches and players refining technique, working on physique ,improving their fitness and movement hoping for their "time in the sun" the high standards set by the current champion will create under them a new regime of players seeking to take the No 1 position.Look how much the Nadal influence has made on Murray, have you noticed in the past months how much he has bulked up his body.That's the nature of this individual sport players that are prepared to put in the time ,make sacrifices ,be very disciplined will reap the rewards.Your time at Number 1 will not last forever you have "have raised the bar" always be aware there are others trying to leap past it,a stronger and more physical player has appeared due to the Federer influence and now a new breed of players will come to combat the Nadal

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sometimes a more visual approach is better.

Sometimes as a coach no matter how much you demonstrate to the pupil they cannot quiet grasp the concept of "pro nating" or contact point until they see for themsevles by the use of video analysis what you mean or want them to do.The last few sessions I have used this with students and the results in understanding and how to improve on certain aspects of their shots certainly adds points for the visual learning technique.Its been very usefull in comparing Top players such as Nadal, Murray and Sharapova in the same way and showing the students their swings etc against the students.Although each player is different certain characteristics appear in all players and their shots.I think most players have a different interpretation on their strokes until they see them via video analysis.Using this concept can also help track improvement because in a few months when you next take a video the coach and player can see the new improvements against the old swings. If local players would like a video analysis done please let me know. ( Just click on the picture and you will get a bigger photo)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hector Update

Just to let you know that Hector is now safe and sound back at his home in Mexico.After a long and tiring journey Hector is back on the tennis court at Irapuato, Mexico where a $25,000 Womens event is being held.Hector is hitting with the players and also serving as a linesman in Maindraw matches.No Doubt the experience he gained at the Trans Tasman event in Timaru will be of benifit.The "eye" will keep you updated with our mexican friend.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Adios Amigo"

Here is a small presentation for Hector who has been assisting me in the South Canterbury Area with various tennis programs and as a coach have hopefully helped Hector with his game and gave him some direction. Let me say he has been a great ambassador of Mexico and his parents should be justly proud of what he has achieved.At a presentation last evening at squad I spoke on what an inspiration Hector has been for local juniors , travelling across the other side of the World and being able to experience a different way of life using tennis as a common theme.I wish all the best for Hector on his return to Mexico and hope he will remember his time in South Canterbury for a long time, I am sure our paths will cross again,Well done Hector and safe journey's.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Time waits for no one- especially Tennis Players

A junior tennis player arrives at the courts ready for their first experience wide eyed , excited but a little scared as to what is going to happen in the next 45 minutes,this junior is eight years old .As a coach I know that if they excel in this sport this is just the beginning of many paths they will take striving to be the best tennis player they can.Theres a lot of events , decisions made by player and parents, injury's , adrenalin pumping through the body as wins accumulate, disappointment of losses and goals not achieved.Of course through this journey, the player , parents will spend a small fortune in creating the best opportunities and experience,... some bad decisions will be made that can effect how that player performs, at times this sport of tennis will be an emotional roller coaster, sacrifices will have to be made, friendships will be forged and friendships will be lost.Some events we can control but there also will be events we cannot control.At the end of the day players and parents and also coaches must realize time itself passes very quickly and soon this wide eyed eight year old will be eighteen .