Congratulations and a job well done to my friend Tony Bresky for bringing a National Title to Wake Forest. It is an incredible achievement for a coach to bring a team of players together to win a National Title. His team consisted of both American and foreign tennis players, but no American was in the starting lineup for Wake Forest. If college coaches cannot recruit the top Americans to come to their schools, they go the foreign route and recruit foreign tennis players to have a fighting chance at competing. College coaching is a profession and it is very difficult to land a great college coaching position, so the coaches are always searching for the best talent with the toughest mentalities to represent them and their program.
The starting lineup for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons was very impressive. Of their top six players, five of them currently had ATP rankings when they won the National Title and the rankings ranged between being ranked 600th and 1,100th in the world. The sixth player did not currently have an ATP ranking, but once did have a ranking in the 900's on the ATP Tour. When I played for the University of Miami from 2001-2003, I was constantly facing players at this level. In fact, I was playing against players who were 20- or 21-year-old freshmen at the number one spot. These players had extensive professional experience not only on the ATP Tour, but also throughout Europe playing Club League events. Club League is a chance to play for a tennis club in Europe and play other professionals, while earning a salary for your efforts. The level in Club League is quite high, and what many of the players have realized is that they tried the ATP Tour and it was not for them or were unable to crack into the upper echelon of professional tennis. They then came to the realization that they could use their tennis to attend some amazing universities in the United States and earn scholarships and degrees while still playing a very high level of tennis.
If your child has a realistic chance and shows the ability to maybe one day play at a high amateur or professional level, as the parent, you need to know who you are hiring to help guide your child to where they realistically could and want to be. This all-important individual, not individuals, better take a tremendous and priority interest in your child and have a proven record of accomplishment in developing high-level players. I am not talking about the occasional one-hour tennis lesson. If you look at the credentials of these players, do you think playing more junior tennis is the right move or should your child have extensive experience playing professional tennis before they enter the college tennis arena? This is for your coach to decide what is best for your child. The coach should be the one guiding you and your child to where you could realistically go.
Many parents get very excited that their child is ranked a certain ranking on the ITF Junior Circuit. The experience that these six Wake Forest players have in the starting lineup is far superior than the vast majority of juniors who are running around the globe beating other juniors. These men have beaten men to achieve these rankings. From my first days of coaching, I have heard parents and kids express how they would love to play the Junior Grand Slams. As a junior player, I played the Junior U.S. Open one time. It sounds exciting, and it is, but if you want to be playing at the highest level of college tennis, the proof is in the pudding. Play men or women to prepare your child to play men or women at the highest level of amateur tennis.
Todd Widom is a former top 200 ATP professional in both singles and doubles, and owner of TW Tennis, South Florida’s top small group/private tennis training geared exclusively for the high-performance junior, collegiate or professional tennis player. Todd may be reached by e-mail at Todd@TWTennis.com or visit TWTennis.com.