The local tennis community boasts some of the top coaches in the world, and with this wealth of talent available, New York Tennis Magazine took the opportunity to pick the brains of some of these coaches. These instructors share their thoughts on a variety of tennis topics and issues, ranging from junior tennis to the professional game.
Meet the participants…
Ricardo Aciolyis a director at the Evert Tennis Academy. He is a former member of the Brazilian Davis Cup Team who was ranked in the top 50 in the ATP doubles rankings. Ricardo has coached several top players including Marcelo Rios and Gabriela Sabatini. He served as Davis Cup Captain for Brazil for six years, and during his tenure as the team captain, reached the semifinal in the World Group. Ricardo has also served as a director on the ATP board of directors and is a two-time member of the ATP Player Council. He serves as director of relations for the Rio Open ATP 500 tournament, and is a commentator on Brazilian TV for the US Open, Wimbledon and all Masters 1000 event.
Gilad Bloomis a former Israeli Davis Cup player and two-time Olympian who played on the ATP Tour from 1983-1995, reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 1990, reached a highest ranking of 61 in singles, and was Israel Singles Champion three times. Bloom has been running his own tennis program since 2000 and was also director of tennis at John McEnroe Tennis Academy for two years. He can be reached by e-mail at Bloom.Gilad@gmail.com.
John Curtisis executive director at Manhattan Tennis Academy. He has held a number of positions at various tennis clubs, and was head coach of the NYU Men’s Tennis team from 1996-2006. Afterwards, focusing on junior development, Curtis was the 2006 PTR Coach of the Year in the Northeast Region and in the 2009 PTR Member of the Year in Northeast Region. He can be reached by phone at (212) 359-9535 or by e-mail at John@ManhattanTennisAcademy.com.
Liezel Huberis executive director of tennis for the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx, N.Y. A former number one-ranked doubles player, Huber won 57 WTA Tour doubles titles including seven Grand Slam titles and three year-end championship titles. Huber was also a three-time Olympian and a member of both the United States and South African Fed Cup teams. She was a WTA Player Council Representative for seven years, and is the founder of Liezel’s Cause, a non-profit organization she created to assist families affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Luke Jensenis currently director of racket sports at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. Raised in Ludington, Mich., Luke Jensen’s resume includes 10 ATP Tour doubles titles. He was also a member of the U.S. Davis Cup teams that reached the finals in 1991 and won in 1992. His ambidextrous play, including his ability to serve the ball with either hand at 130 miles per hour, earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke.”
Lawrence Klegeris co-director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. He is recognized as one of the top developmental coaches in the United States. He has trained more ranked juniors than anyone in the history of the USTA Eastern Section. His students have won numerous National and Regional Championships, and 20 USTA Eastern Year-End Sportsmanship Awards.
Ed Krasscoached the Harvard Women’s Tennis Team to four consecutive Ivy League titles from 1986-1990. Ed is the founder and director of the Annual College Tennis Exposure Camps, which are taught exclusively by all head college coaches for high school-aged players (15-18). Ed is also the founder of One-On-One Doubles tournaments, which have been played at USTA, ATP, ITA and USPTA national events.
Chris Lewitis a former number one for Cornell and Pro Circuit player. He is a high performance coach, educator and the author of two best-selling books: The Secrets of Spanish Tennis and The Tennis Technique Bible. He has coached numerous top 10 nationally-ranked players and is known for his expertise in building the foundations of young prodigies. Chris trains players during the school year in the new York City area, and players come from around the country to his summer camp in the paradise of Vermont.
Ognen Nikolovskiis the general manager of CourtSense and director of tennis at Bogota Racquet Club. He is a former top junior from Yugoslavia who went on to play college tennis at Rollins College where he became an all-American. He went on to become a world-ranked singles and doubles player on the ATP Tour and was a captain of the Macedonia Davis Cup team. He joined CourtSense in 2008 where his passion and experience has become instrumental in developing the program.
Joao Pinhois the head professional of 10U and high-performance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He is a USPTA elite professional, a former NCAA DI coach and player, and has specialized in developing competitive junior players over the past decade. Currently, he is the private coach of three national champions and a WTA touring pro.
Mark Santucciis director of adult tennis at Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. He came to Roosevelt Island after 10 years as director of tennis and operations, director of junior tennis and director of adult programs at Yonkers Tennis Center. A native of Rhode Island, Santucci was the captain of the Marist College Tennis team, where he helped lead his team to a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. He can be reached by e-mail at MSantucci@AdvantageTennisClubs.com.
Conrad Singhis the chief operating officer of tennis & director of coaching at Centercourt Club & Sports. He has held head coach and director positions in Australia, England, Japan and China, and has been involved in professional tennis player development for well over two decades. Singh came to Centercourt from Shanghai, China, where he helped to develop a top high-performance player program, which saw more than 200 athletes train under his system.
Khrystsina Tryboiis currently the director of marketing and a 10U tennis coordinator for MatchPoint NYC. She is a former Division II tennis player from Belarus, and is currently working for MatchPoint NYC in their QuickStart tennis program and is leading their marketing team. She is highly involved with USPTA and USTA to help grow the game.
With the prevalence of things like social media and video games, what do you think is the best way to make sure your students are getting the most out of your tennis program?
►Ricardo Acioly: Technology as a whole is transforming our culture, and with this scenario, we have seen the rise of an instant gratification generation of tennis players. That is not simple to deal with as we all know tennis is a game of processes that requires time, repetition and focus to develop skills. So we need to be smart to adapt and create an environment on and off the court that is challenging and interesting to get kids engaged in their own development process as a tennis player. Drills and exercises have to be dynamic, intense and achieve clear objectives in a way that we will keep them away from turning off during the executions and focused on the path towards their goals and objectives. We also need be creative and make them compete between themselves on a daily basis using creative formats that can also engage everyone as a group.
►Chris Lewit: Social media, the Internet, and all types of digital media can be a blessing and a curse. My players have to be mindful to use social media and digital media carefully to help their development—and not to distract from their training. I tell my players to be judicious when it comes to whom and what they trust online for tennis and training information. I guide them to the best sources for sports science and I instruct them to ask me about what they have learned digitally. I have been using social media to spread my teaching philosophy and method across the world, and it’s a great way for players, parents, and coaches to educate themselves—but they have to know what sources to trust. There is a lot of bad information and advice floating around. It can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s important that kids stay off their mobile devices during practice. I have a strict rule about that. I can’t believe it sometimes when I see kids checking their phones during lessons—not to mention the coach checking his or her phone too! Video games are a good relaxation tool, but they can be addicting. Players need to be careful to only play video games after all the hard work on court and in the gym is finished!
►Ognen Nikolovski: Just the fact that whenever someone is playing tennis they are not able to use their phone or look at a screen is already a big win for any tennis program. We all know that in today’s society the biggest issue with most individuals is that they are not physically active enough, so getting them out on the tennis courts in programs where they do not have a choice but be physically active is the biggest plus that any tennis program can offer. Also, we should not forget that even though tennis is mostly an individual sport, it can be very social and those participating in any tennis program are going to be exposed to lots of types of social interaction with peers of mostly the same age and level, and coaches who can be great role models or mentors.
►Mark Santucci: Kids want to have fun! Parents want the kids to learn the sport of a lifetime. So a balance must be maintained by the coach to achieve both. Make the learning parts fun, challenging and dynamic and then turn the learning parts into healthy competitive game play. Encourage and highlight every player and help them reach their very best. Help all players get to know each other, form friendships, and in turn enjoy playing together. Developing a love for the game and enjoyment of coming to class is imperative to players wanting to come often and stay in the sport.
►Khrystsina Tryboi: I think the best way to keep kids in the game is to add a gamification component to every practice, especially if we are working with the R.O.G. Another great way is to work with video during and after practice. There are a lot of tools out there that allow coaches to pinpoint improvements on every stroke and tactical skills. As Jeff Salzenstein said during the USPTA World Conference, we as coaches need to ask better questions and help people improve their game. Assigning students to watch specific videos will help them ask better questions, stay focused on what needs to be improved and what works well. The use of video will also make us better coaches!
What are some of the most difficult aspects of college recruiting, and how can we help players navigate that process better?
►Ricardo Acioly: We have to deal with expectation and reality, and I believe preparation is key to make the process as smooth as possible. Nowadays, a player can easily find out in a precise and objective way their tennis profile and level of the college team he would like be a part of by using UTR as a guide. Once he knows that we can evaluate his current level and help him to draw his path to develop and achieve his or her objective. The sooner this process starts the greater the chances for a successful ending.
►Lawrence Kleger: I think the best advice that I can give a potential college player is to do his/her due diligence and to start the process early—like freshman year! The future recruit should identify schools that seem appealing, and that have tennis programs with players at a level close to her/his level of play. This is easier now than in the past, as UTR posts the UTRs of all members of all college tennis teams. The player should confirm that she/he is academically qualified for the school, or should do all that he/she can to be academically qualified when the time comes to apply. The goal is to create a list of appropriate schools in which the player has interest. By January of sophomore year, the player should be contacting coaches at the schools on his/her list. If possible, it really helps the process if the player can visit (unofficial) as many schools of interest as possible. By junior year, this list should be narrowed, and active recruitment is often underway. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version, but there is a lot more detail and nuance to the college recruiting and selection process for a tennis player.
►Ed Krass: The best advice I can give to juniors is to attend a college match at any level—to observe the levels of play at each position. It’s important to work hard academically starting in the ninth grade, and to get quality practices and matches to prepare for tournament play. One of the most difficult aspects to navigating the recruiting process is what you hear from other players and parents, a lot of which is misleading. Having college coaches work with you at a camp and/or or having them watch you compete is a great way for you to showcase your game, ability and upside. Even better, you can get their honest feedback about your potential to fit in with their program or others. Being able to talk to coaches directly, or coaches who are knowledgeable about the process, can be an invaluable resource.
►Conrad Singh: I believe the most difficult aspect is that of really knowing the player. Not only the UTR or Tennis Ranking, but who the individual is. This is obviously a time consuming process, but it would be great if the rules allowed for potential players to come to the College meet the coach, train with the team and see how they fit the environment. We all know that environment is what differentiates the right fit. This is such a complex matrix of factors that it needs to be fully explored as detailed as possible. Obviously we can see now that in college tennis, many players are coming from overseas where players are categorized and rated under rankings and tennis environments very different to that of the U.S. In Europe, countries like Italy and France are still not using the UTR, but the domestic system is very strong so I think it is important that both the coaches and the players are understanding the levels required to make a college team at varying divisions. Another critical detail is the Coach of the team and the player coming in being able to fit well in combined goals. Hence I feel it is essential the player being recruited should be able to speak to some of the players in the team to get a true feel of the essential factors that will be front and center and critical for the new player to know before arrival.
What advice do you give your students on dealing with a situation where they feel their opponents are cheating?
►Gilad Bloom: I would instruct them to call the referee/supervisor of the tournament and ask him/her to stay and watch the match, if the cheating continues they should refuse to play one more point without supervision.
►John Curtis: My advice has always been, and will continue to be, take the high road and do not “hook” your opponent back! Don’t take the bait. It’s all about integrity. Everyone remembers those kids, or worse, adults who cheat on line calls, tamper with the score, etc. A bad reputation like this follows them beyond the tennis court. It reflects poorly on them as a person and, ultimately, they pay for that sour reputation many times over, whether they know it or not. Let your opponent know that you think they are cheating, and let a third party know if you have to, either a roving umpire or tournament director. It’s easier said than done, but always resist the human reflex to adopt the “eye for an eye” belief system on this. Your character and self image will thank you for it.
►Andrew Eichenholz: Often the toughest part about losing a point is not actually losing the point, but the mental effects that linger in the coming points, games and, in some cases, another set. It's about putting that single point in perspective, no matter how disappointing losing it may be, and for whatever the reason you lost it was. I've found that it's detrimental to discuss the 'cheating' with the player. Altering tactics to try to 'play it safe' to deal with potential 'cheating' does not help, either. The more a player thinks about these things, the more likely they are to lose focus and see their own level suffer, which is the biggest problem in this situation. The past is the past, and it's about what solutions a player and coach can find for the player to execute their best tennis so that after the match, the discussion is a reflection on overcoming the 'cheating' hurdle rather than being derailed by it.
►Liezel Huber: Everybody makes mistakes. I tell myself or my student to only act on the second offense. At that time, simply stop play and get an official. It is a lot more fun to play and not to worry about distractions.
As an industry, how can we begin to make tennis more affordable and accessible to a wider group of individuals?
►Andrew Eichenholz: There are perhaps little things that can slowly make a difference. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center runs what is called the “PACES Program,” which allows students in the area to come to the home of the US Open for a minimal fee, receiving a tour around the grounds—including an educational element—to engage with the history of the sport, as well as an hour-long lesson with the facility’s staff pros. During that session, students are run through a dynamic warm-up before being introduced to the sport's basic shots to give them a basic understanding of tennis and foster a love for the sport. Another way is helping give families ideas for what they can do if they're not at the tennis center. On days when students do not have a class or private lesson, there is nothing stopping them from playing. There are various apparatus that could be constructed at home or at a local park that allow kids and adults alike to play the game, or at the very least satisfy their craving to swing a racquet around. There are many ways to use a handball wall to work on your game and get reps in, and the only cost is effort and time on behalf of the student. Coaches could even encourage students through “homework,” asking their players to accomplish certain “missions” between classes. That could be hitting a certain number of shots in a row against the wall without stopping or doing variations of "ups" to work on feel.
►Liezel Huber: Parks as well as public facilities run wonderful free or low-cost programming, perhaps at off-peak times. Also, look out for any Net Generation initiatives in your area or find a wall to hit on. That's how I got started!
►Mark Santucci: Tennis in a metropolitan area is tricky to make affordable. If you look at the amount of space needed to play tennis on one tennis court, compared to prices of real estate, it is amazing that more tennis clubs do not become high-rise buildings. Having options of match play versus instructional clinics can give players different price point options. Group clinics are the best way to make tennis affordable. Cardio tennis in particular is a lower cost tennis option as this is a group clinic with six or eight players playing in high intensity, quick-switching drills and point-play games. When you compare this tennis class to soul cycle, or a night out to dinner or drinks with friends, pricing is pretty similar.
With the abundance of analytics now available in nearly every sport, how much can tennis benefit from the use of advanced stats, and how would you incorporate them into your tennis teaching/coaching?
►Chris Lewit: Analytics are the future of sports training, however, parents and coaches need to be careful in the conclusions they make based on statistical analysis. For example, it’s commonly accepted now that the average rally on the pro tours is four to five shots. Pros are playing powerfully and aggressively, which is reflected in the stats. However, many have taken a false logical leap and concluded that because the pros often finish points in that rally range, training for junior should be primarily the first four shots only, and that training longer reps and rallies is a waste of time. I strongly disagree and this is why I sometimes refer to this theory as the “Myth of the First Four Shots.” Young players especially still need to learn to focus and develop consistency, rhythm, and control, as well as patience and defense—and this can only be learned through long repetitions and rallies. The serve and attacking shots are, of course, also extremely important. There should be a balanced approach to junior training blending attack, consistency, and defense. Simple stats are very helpful for my junior tournament players to objectively track their performance. Advanced analytics have more bearing at the top college and professional level.
►Ognen Nikolovski: The benefits of using technology in tennis can be very positive for any type of the player. Whether it is a simple video analysis or more complex advanced stats software, the key for the coach is to make sure that it’s used at the right time and with a specific purpose that is beneficial to the player at that time. For younger kids and adults that are in their introductory stage to the game of tennis, just simple video analysis and comparison to other players can do wonders as many of us are visual learners. To the more advanced players, both adults and juniors, the use of specific advanced stats can really help the coach in having the players understand certain patterns of play or aspects of the game where they need to improve or emphasize the strengths that they have. At CourtSense, we are lucky enough to have the PlaySight system on every indoor court, 16 in total, and we have found out that technology can really be a helpful tool in coaching of any type of a player.
►Joao Pinho: Tennis is finally catching up with other mainstream sports in terms of stats and analytics. While that is a very positive change, it's important to find a balance between teaching based on the new findings and the way that it has been done for decades. For example, this recent wealth of information in our sport has shed more light into the actual length of most points during a match, which puts significantly more importance on serve and returns; historically, two of the strokes that players (and coaches) would spend less time on. While it is very positive to place additional emphasis on these particular strokes, it's also crucial not to totally shift our mentalities and get away from developing sound baseliners who are capable of being consistent and aggressive from the back of the court, even though the percentage of points that actually go beyond nine shots is fairly low. With that said, in the past few years, I have incorporated many more patterns of play off the serve and return into my lesson plans, as well as unique games to work on the "beginning of the point.” However, I don't ignore the importance of developing a very solid ground game that will give the player the confidence that he or she won't “breakdown” on an important point that goes the distance.
►Conrad Singh: As a sports scientist, I am completely into the details we can get from analytics. It is already clear how much players benefit from this when we look at the top players like Novak Djokovic using specialized data that is coming from the ATP, IBM and other IT agencies. At some point this can really help players in their scouting and with specific match preparation. We have seen players like Matteo Berrettini working and adding in analytics partners such as Australian Craig O'Shannessy, so clearly it works. My issue is when coaches take these ATP and WTA findings and implement them conclusively to juniors and to players in developmental stages. The debate is growing now on whether the findings coming out and being shared with young athletes is helping or hurting their match play. We all know the under five shots stats at pro levels are very high and the common chase today is be the player who wins in that statistic. Having said that, legends of the game such as the great Chuck Kriese may argue with these ideas and would prefer to teach each player artistically to compete in the way that suits their own styles, remembering key psychological principles such as speed of play, tactical foundations and other game style match ups versus simply stats. This is a very big and open topic however I have to say that I can’t see statistical analytics slowing down any time soon in tennis.
►Khrystsina Tryboi: I regularly use video on my coaching to show the students what needs to be improved and what works well. Currently, I make them on my phone, but the next step would be to use a specific tool for that. I also assign them videos to watch from YouTube or just the ones we film during practice. Technology would definitely help me better analyze performance of my players.
How do you feel about on-court coaching and at which levels should it be allowed?
►Luke Jensen: I believe it should be allowed at every level of play. I believe we lose young potential players because tennis is the only sport where we send kids into the competition without any sideline coaching where they have to call their own lines and keep their own score. I feel the game just throws kids into the fire. My great improvement was during my college years competing for USC when my Hall of Fame coach Dick Leach taught me winning strategies from in-game pressure situations. Even golf has caddies to assist. Tennis needs to create a learning environment on the tournament court to retain more players that peel away because of the brutal nature of walking out there alone. The TV ratings explode during the Laver Cup when legends like Borg, Federer and Nadal are on the court coaching. It makes the game so interesting to watch.
►Ed Krass: I like the on-court coaching aspect in college tennis! I think that it could be a great addition at select junior events, maybe one or two a year, so these young players learn how to be properly coached before they play college. I also like the idea of on-court coaching at professional events. I know mostly all sports, at the pro level, allow for coaching during the competition. For all of our sport's challenges, i.e., the emotions, the mental side, tactics/strategy. opponent etc. Coaching on court just may allow for more growth in a player's true development and enjoyment in playing the game.
►Liezel Huber: On-court coaching is fun for the fans. I think it enhances the fan experience by giving the fan an insight on how the player is thinking, game strategy and, often times, it sparks a reaction from the player. It would be fun to see on-court coaching at Grand Slams!
How do you deal with a parent who you think is negatively affecting their child's play? What is the parent’s role versus the coach’s role?
►Ricardo Acioly: To keep it simple, a parent should bring to the table his/her lifelong values and experiences to inspire and ignite in his or her child things like good work ethics, positive thinking, focus, determination and anything else that he or she can add so their child will reach for their dreams to be successful in life as a whole, not just in tennis. A parent that is very engaged in the child's development path should understand that this role can have a huge positive or negative impact in the process. When a parent starts getting too involved in the sense of making his or her own goals, expectations, desires, beliefs and views his child's tennis parameters the result is normally a lot of friction between everyone which is very counterproductive for the player. The parent interaction in terms of the tennis development should be done with the coach, who also needs to understand the vision of what the parent wants for the player. But to make this work the coach has to have the freedom to draw the Player Development path according to his/her beliefs and experiences, and receive total parent support to execute it.
►Gilad Bloom: The parent’s role is to be a parent, the coach’s job is to coach. The parents are not allowed to speak to the kid during practice, this is very important. I encourage the parents to talk about general things like attitude, dedication and sportsmanship, but not about tennis related issues, there is no way that the parent would know about teaching tennis more than the coach, if that’s the case than they should get a better coach or coach the kid themselves. I personally don’t believe in coaching your own child, two out of my four kids like tennis, I just play with them for fun as a father and son experience, if they want lessons I let my assistants teach them, nothing is more important than the relationship with the kids, being their coach can interfere, I’ve seen it happen too many times, the parents role should be supportive, my advice to parents-take them to practice, pay a good coach to do the job, go get a coffee and show up in the last 10 minutes of the practice. If they want you to come watch them play in tournaments you should go but only if they insist. It’s a tough sport and it is best to let the kids cope with it on their own early on so they develop an independence, too many players nowadays rely on a coach or a parent. There have been famous cases where it worked when the parent is the full time coach, but in most cases it ends miserably with the player scarred for life. Bottom line: if you are going to coach your child it better come from the kid.
►John Curtis: At The Manhattan Tennis Academy, parents are not allowed to interact with their children during the lesson time. That time is strictly for learning and connecting with the coach. Outside of that time, parents are obviously allowed to parent their child however they see fit, including tennis coaching. It’s a tricky one at any level. In a perfect world, parents should parent and coaches should coach, but again, there will always be the tennis parent who thinks they know best, while continuing to pay a coach; it’s quite counterproductive in my opinion. The better idea, if the parent insists on coaching, is to at least collaborate. A productive plan can take effect if the student is hearing the same advice from both parent and coach.
►Lawrence Kleger: The player, parent, coach dynamic is key to the success of the player. If a coach determines that a parent is negatively affecting his/her student’s play, the coach has to be brave and professional and raise this with the parent(s). Most parents will appreciate the honesty and respect the coach for putting the player’s best interests and success first, at possible risk of income. There are some parents who do not accept constructive feedback well, or at all, and see this as the coach telling them how to parent their child. When that happens, look out! Many tennis coaches do not confront parents, as there is always a risk that doing so might upset or anger the parent, leading to the parent finding a new coach for the player. In these situations, the one that usually suffers is the player, as a player with a difficult parent/s, who bounces from coach to coach as a result, generally does not progress as well as players with stable, long-term coaching relationships. When I am making a decision about whether to coach a new player, I meet with the parent(s) to try to be as sure as possible that I will be able to work closely with them. But, as in life, sometimes relationships between well-intended, caring people do not work out, and this is not necessarily anyone’s fault. But, when the player, parent and coach are all “on the same page,” the odds of the player reaching her/his potential increases dramatically.
►Ed Krass: I think a parent's role is to be just that—a parent. Even if the parent has played professionally and/or collegiately, they should leave the teaching/coaching aspects to the coaches they have hired. Junior players often want to separate from their parents when it comes time for them to play a sport. Players should both love and respect their parents; however, I have found that the junior players respect the words of their coaches MORE when it comes to tennis-specific advice. The parents all need to learn and understand this fragile yet vitally important relationship and synergy needed to raise a tennis player successfully in today's environment. There are some great books for parents to read about how to effectively raise a junior tennis player including Frank Giampaolo's book on how to be the best tennis parent possible: The Tennis Parent’s Bible.
►Joao Pinho: I believe the main issue associated with parents who are overly involved or negative impacting the child's tennis journey is the parent's lack of knowledge about the process of developing competitive players. Despite having good intentions, most parents did not play at a high level, nor have developed a player to any significant stage; therefore, they don't fully understand what it takes, the ups and downs, and what's actually important in that process. As a consequence of that confusion, parents often stress over inconsistent results, compare their child's progress with others, as well as believe that playing with better players is the ultimate solution for improvement. In order to address these issues, I find it important to work closely with parents throughout the year. At the USTA BJK National Tennis Center, I not only host a series of group parent meetings throughout the year where I not only go over the information about our programs, but also discuss important concepts, related to their child's tennis journey, for them to be aware of. Additionally, I do individual meetings with the player and parent (in our most competitive levels), at the end of every session, to discuss the issues that are specific to that player and how the parent can assist. Such efforts have resulted in a more coordinated effort between our parents and coaches and empowered the parents to make decisions with a more educated view of the entire process. In general terms, parents must understand that they are part of a team (player, coach and parent) and that decisions should include the input from all three parties. As the player evolves, s/he will "lead the direction" more while working with parents and coaches to find the best route for that end-goal. The coaches' role is to serve a stabilizer who is capable of seeing the perspective from both player and parent, while understanding what's around the corner; which is something that players and parents (who have not been through the journey) will likely not to be able to foresee.
How do you deal with a student who shows poor sportsmanship on the court and/or a negative attitude?
►John Curtis: Nobody is immune to a bad day on the court, but poor sportsmanship should never be tolerated. At our Academy, we stress sportsmanship just as much as forehands and backhands. Tantrums of any kind are not tolerated and players are sat out or even disqualified from a match for egregious infractions such as racket throwing or profane outbursts. Again, it comes down to integrity and character. Losing gracefully is not easy, but your character is rewarded when you can learn to. It’s easy to be the good guy when you win- not so much when you lose..
►Chris Lewit: It’s important to develop the hardware (technical/physical), but to never neglect the software (mental/emotional)! There are many approaches I take with my players. The first step is to figure out what is causing the behavior. What’s at the root? Players can struggle with many different emotions and pressures, and I need to first understand what is driving the negative behavior. For example, some kids struggle with anger. Some with fear. Some with insecurity. Some with anxiety. Some with embarrassment. Or all of the above. There may be off court school or family issues driving the behavior. Kids feel and respond to pressure in different ways. I try to work closely with the parents because they know their child even better than I do. We come up with a game plan to improve the behavior. We set goals and develop a plan of action. I believe that parental support and guidance are critical. Parents are my best helper to shape a child’s behavior because they have so much influence and spend so much time with a child. If one of my students exhibits flat out cheating or other unacceptable behavior, I usually recommend to the parents to take them out of competition for a short period of time until they reform themselves. Playing tournaments is a privilege, not a right. Players need to conduct themselves at tournaments with basic dignity and need to show respect to the people around them. I often give my players books and articles to read, videos to review, and other resources to help them with the mental and emotional side of the game.
►Mark Santucci: Cases of poor sportsmanship and negative attitude are very important teaching moments. A coach must talk with the player and show them the results of their actions. If it continues, a player should be sat down off the court, and tennis taken away. After a brief time out to think about their actions and realize the short punishment, they can return back to the court. Another conversation should take place highlighting why they were off court, and what is acceptable on court. This can happen a few times as a player learns, grows and matures. If the actions continue to happen over a few week period, a parent conversation is the next step.
What type of cross-training do you recommend to players to help them elevate their game?
►Gilad Bloom: Off court training is very important in today’s game, it is almost impossible to reach a high level without strength and conditioning. I recommend every player to do two or three fitness sessions per week. The three main things that I recommend doing when building a fitness routine are: Tennis related drills and exercises, specifically working on motions and muscles there are used in tennis; Injury prevention—yoga, Pilates, stretching. Tennis is a grueling sport that takes a toll on the body, using very specific muscles, it can cause bad posture and back problem, especially with hard court being the main surface in this country. Most players are not flexible enough, improving you flexibility will help you be more agile on the court but mainly injury free. Also, play another sport! It is scientifically proven that playing multiple sports at a young age creates higher level athletes and less injury prone. The benefits of playing another sport are important in more than one way. The mental aspect of it is huge as well, it helps you get away from tennis and miss the game, appreciate how much you love it. My favorite sports to supplement tennis are soccer and basketball, I always recommend a team sport since tennis is so lonely.
►Ognen Nikolovski: In general the younger the kids are the better it is for them to play as many different sports as possible. My belief is that, in addition to tennis, it is a must for any young player up to age 13 or 14 to play another sport with a ball at least once or twice per week, preferably a team sport such as soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, etc. as the benefits of playing a couple of sports at a young age are very important for the overall athletic development of any player. The older the players get it is much more important that they focus on rehab and recovery work as tennis is already very demanding on the body and putting additional stress on it can only increase the risk of injury. If we are discussing cross-training for committed high performance players, then specific fitness program for each player becomes an absolute necessity as that is the only way to make sure that a player stays healthy and also is able to get the most out of their body from a physical and also mental aspect.
►Joao Pinho: While most parents, players and coaches will likely agree that participating in different sports can play an important role in the overall athletic development of a player, the reality is that few seem to take advantage of that; at least in our sport. Nonetheless, just because many others don't take pursue it, it does not mean it should not be done. In general terms, playing multiple sports can boost the player's physical capabilities, as well as create a more well-rounded athlete and, potentially, minimize the chances of injuries related to overuse. Activities such as soccer, lacrosse and basketball, can be good additions to a tennis player to use as cross-training. One aspect that I often emphasize with parents is that we first want to develop an athlete to then build a tennis player, and not the other way around. While being a single sport player can create initial success, the price is often paid further down the road as the player is not as of a complete athlete as they could be, or burns out, or gets injured.
How would you describe the current state of tennis both nationally and locally?
►Stefan Ilic: The current state of tennis both locally and nationally is not entirely clear to me, however, on the local scale here in New York, there is an ever-present stigma that tennis is a sport for the rich. It might be so, considering it was labeled the second most expensive sport next to golf. This stigma should change if not vanish and more programs should be available for the less financially privileged. This can boost the morale of the neighboring regions of New York City, to see that this city can be a mecca for people who want to play tennis, regardless of financial standing. Wouldn’t that be nice! Nationally, I think tennis is in good standing. It can only improve!
►Luke Jensen: I’m a massive believer in the game of tennis of today. Emerging stars on the pro tour that drives TV ratings and sponsors. I find the 400,000 high school tennis players drive our future. The lack of elite young teaching pros globally concern me more than anything. The teacher inspires and impacts the tennis dream.
How can players benefit from competing in the various team formats of tennis?
►Luke Jensen: I find every age and level of team tennis drives the positive in tennis. At the West Side Tennis Club, I find players that take part in the numerous groups of USTA leagues, Long Island Leagues and high school tennis teams has the most F-U-N compared to the individual tennis. Win while having fun and the game thrives.
►Lawrence Kleger: Tennis is, at its foundation, an individual sport, in which players have to learn to fend for themselves. There is rarely help available at times of greatest need. And that reality, and the strength it takes to solve challenges on one’s own in tennis, is what I love most about the sport! Tennis is truly character building! However, within that context, there can be enormously positive benefits to playing doubles, and to playing tennis on a team. Whether the team experience is Junior Team Tennis, middle or high school or collegiate team play, or the Laver Cup, team formats have tremendous appeal to fans and to players. And team formats often still allow a player to take the court alone, for a singles match, but playing for his/her team, school, or country. This expanded stage can offer a different kind of pressure, but also a different level of support, in which many players thrive. Having your teammates on the sideline cheering for your success, and your coach available to help and encourage you, really appeals to the majority of players that compete on teams. And many all-time great players, including John McEnroe, count their experiences and achievements in Davis Cup, Fed Cup, the Olympics, and, more recently, Laver Cup, among their greatest.
►Conrad Singh: Team tennis is an electrifying, exciting way to keep all players engaged in competition. Whilst tennis is and will always be an individual sport in terms of the process, building towards a team goal with scoring formats adds a dimension of excitement which can be hard to find. Clearly the best players in the world love the idea of playing with other top players in team formats—just see the success of the Laver Cup in every way. I know in my native Australia, we grow up respecting Davis Cup and representing Australia at Olympics as the highest honor in the game. Hence I am a huge believer that team tennis is a great way to keep players going, allow players longer careers (see Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Murray back to Davis Cup Ties often). high school tennis is a nice relief for many of our Centercourt Players who fight and compete alone all year, as is college tennis along the pathway to pro tennis. I am all for team formats in every way.
►Khrystsina Tryboi: Tennis is a solitary sport and being a part of a team is great privilege. Currently, MatchPoint NYC runs several modified team events for our players: team challenges, team tournaments, Junior Team Tennis. We always try to participate in USTA team events to show the kids the importance of working together, harness friendships and create better athletes. It’s important to have great sportsmanship and know what it means to play on the team where you are not just playing for yourself, but for others. You become a part of something bigger than yourself.