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?

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