| By Nazari Urbina
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

As a Developmental or High Performance Coach, it is critical we are aware of the priorities needed to be established by our players, and what areas need to be taught if our players are to become great juniors and move towards a successful career as a student-athlete in college.

One of the most important things is that parents, coaches, and players understand that, to be able to compete, they also need to do well in school so they can keep their eligibility. If you want to be in the lineup, you must earn it! Nothing is going to be handed to you. Players need to be prepared for this which is a big shift from parents often helping their children during their junior years.

As a college player at Texas A&M, I learned that there are different things that a junior player needs to work on to become a college athlete. Below I will share the most important ones:


 

Technical

In order to make an easy change from a junior to college, the player has to have his/her technique related to his/her game style well-established. He/she needs to have good fundamentals in their technique and must be able to hit every shot with the efficient technical skill, as well as effective footwork.


 

Tactical

A well-defined game style and strategy needs to be evident by the time players get to college. The ability to control points and shots with accuracy, power, and quality are traits needed to compete. Knowledge of patterns of play as well as personal preferences and best connections within points are essential. It’s also important to have a clear and level approach to the areas of their game needed to be developed.

The ability to resolve problems and find solutions during matches is paramount. It’s very important that when competing, they find ways to figure out what to do when things are not going the way they wanted. Mental skills are more essential at the collegiate-level so arriving well equipped is important.


 

Mental

By the college age it is expected that discipline both on and off court are a feature. Players need to be ready and prepared to take care of their nutrition, hours of sleep, fitness, and punctuality for practices, being organized with their equipment, practice schedule and schoolwork. There is no doubt that discipline is the foundation of success!

They need to be able to control their emotions and have established routines and rituals when they compete, especially, when they are under pressure. Positive self-talk and positive body language are some of the basics of competing at this level. Handling pressure and expectations in certain situations and a well developed mindset are keys to success also.

It’s important that they understand that they’re going to lose more matches than they win. They need to be able to have the maturity to take the losses, understand what happened and learn from them. There’s no such thing as success without failure.


 

Physical

The athlete needs to be able to have speed, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, and conditioning. I had the chance of working with Pat Etcheberry when I was in Acapulco, Mexico. One of the most important things that he told us is that to become mentally tough and a great competitor, we must really work hard on our fitness. Learning how to deal with the pain, fatigue and discomfort is how we build character and fight adversity.


 

I remember the day that I decided to go to college. I was 17-years-old and training at an academy in Acapulco, Mexico, and one day I decided that I wanted to play in college. When I was at the academy, I trained six hours a day, five days a week. I played ITF and WTA tournaments as well as national tournaments in Mexico. All of this helped me in my development to become a better tennis player and helped me to accomplish a lot of things at Texas A&M.

It’s important that parents, coaches and players understand that college not only helps you to improve your tennis; it gives you the opportunity to have a good education, earn a degree from a great school along with the opportunity to have a career outside of tennis.

Most importantly, it helps them to become a better person. They become an independent human being. They learn how to be accountable, a team player, a disciplined and responsible person and, most of all, a competent person, always trying to represent themselves as a human being first and a tennis player second.

Most college coaches look for players who like to be on a team, are coachable, honest, disciplined, responsible, organized, and willing to learn and improve every day. If your players have all these qualities, they will find success in their career and in their life.

 

Nazari Urbina is a full-time coach at the Centercourt Performance Tennis Academy. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 where she was the only player to make four appearances in the NCAA Singles Championships. She led her team to the NCAA Championship match against Stanford in 2013. Professionally, Urbina was awarded the Bronze Medal in Doubles at the World University Games in 2011 and also represented Mexico with the Fed Cup Team in 2011 and 2017.