How then, could training running in one direction be the only way to build better play?
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How then, could training running in one direction be the only way to build better play?
Meet 8-year-old Aryan Mehta with his first tennis trophy. I’m sure that it will not be his last, and here’s why.
I first met Aryan at a TAD (reception) class for juniors between 7 and 10 years at Cary Tennis Park. He was shy, and I didn’t get much out of him that first session. I did notice that he was a hard worker and certainly tried his best to participate, even when some of the activities selected were a little overwhelming. I moved on to work with the older academy players, and did not get to work with TAD again.
I got to meet Aryan’s dad Sunil, when he applied for private coaching about four months later. One of my players had moved on to university and had a spot free. Although I am generally swamped with competition players, I often take a number of juniors, beginners and intermediate, who show enough personal interest and commitment to learning. I’m known to stop coaching a player because I don’t feel a connection, but Aryan and I hit off immediately, and our sessions became a lot of fun.
I believe that character has a lot to do with results, and also how long you will persist no matter how long it takes. Aryan worked really hard on court and, being an intelligent boy, he asked a lot of questions too. It was a pleasure to work with him, while I was a Tennis Professional at Cary Tennis Park, and I wish him well with his next steps, because, no matter what he choses to do, I know that he has what it takes within him to succeed!
11 year old rising tennis player, Justin Kim has qualified for the North Carolina Championship Team – State Track at the USTA-Spring JTT and will play the finals on the 13-15 July 2018 at Cary Tennis Park. We interviewed Justin at practice, and here are his comments.
Question: When did you start playing tennis?
Justin: I started when I was 4 years old, having fun with Coaches Jose and Nina, at Brier Creek Country Club. but I didn’t get serious until about 8 and a half years old.
Question: What changed then?
I was playing golf a lot with my mother, Gina Lee, and my sister Jenna Kim (currently a competitive junior golfer), but I felt I wanted to be more active. I also wanted to spend more time with my dad, Charles Kim, who plays a lot of tennis. My dad would go out with me on weekends and we would hit together. I’m really lucky that my dad knows how to string my racquets and I enjoy playing with him on court.
Question: What would you say you love most about tennis?
Question: Great, what makes you think you could be a good competitor?
In the Fall of 2010, I won a USTA L5 singles tournament, as well as a doubles tournament in one weekend. That convinced me that I could become a really good player. After that, I started to do weekly practice at Brier Creek with Coach Chris Fletcher.
Question: How has working with Coach Liz Odera helped you?
Justin (smiling): I’m really pleased with my first serve: I used to suffer a lot in matches because my serves were very unreliable. She helped me build a powerful kick serve, and it can really hurt my opponents. She has also improved my backhand, my slice and consistency. . She encourages me to plan ahead and trust myself when playing. We prepare for every match together, and go through the results of the last match and focus on what I could use to have an advantage in a match. This has helped my become a more confident player.
Question: What are your next goals?
Justin: I hope to tryout for the varsity team at my school (Durham Academy) when I get to 7th grade, and further on, get to play for a high school team.
I sighed deeply. It was going to be yet another difficult morning, with endless complaints about the manner in which Flo treated the students and colleagues. I stepped out into the hallway and gasped at the long line of people trailing around the building and all the way to my door. “Anyone who does not have any story about Flo can come to the front of the line,” I said loudly. “For the rest of you, just know that I am meeting with her now, so just go back to your work or study. You will be contacted.”
I walked stepped back into my office, shut the door firmly, and turned to face an angry Flo. “You are too soft on them. They think that they can get past me with excuses, which they never will!” I looked at Flo calmly, and after a long stare into each other’s eyes, she glanced down. “Flo, help me understand this,” I asked quietly. ”Were you following the normal schedule while allocating work last week?”
“Of course!” exclaimed Flo defensively, “No more, no less!”.
“Flo, just hold on. You know that I left you in charge because I trust you to get work done well. Would you care to explain, then, why the complaints?” I asked quietly.
Flo looked down at her hands and said fretfully, “They don’t listen”.
“Don’t worry Flo,” I smiled, “Its just about communication, lets try and make it work.”
That morning, I gave Flo some important but very simple points to note, which I am sharing with you.
It’s important at all times, that you speak in a calm manner. Flo is a fast speaker with a high voice that quickly shakes under pressure. I got her to practice speaking in an even tone, calmly and quietly. Then we worked on how to animate her voice, to encourage and energize. And most of all, to show staff that she appreciates their input.
Working with Flo was a joy, mainly because she loved her job, and all she needed to do is to focus on sharing her enthusiasm, rather that argue with other staff. I’m confident that Flo will make a great leader, as she builds her skills for communication.
If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below
Africa hopes to arrive on the world stage with growing numbers of tennis players around the continent. These are exciting moments, only just a few years ago, a Kenya-trained player from a small but unique sports centre (Sadili Oval, next to Kibera), Burundi-born Hassan Ndayashimiye, made it to the world stage, coming through the qualifiers and reaching the second round at Wimbledon Juniors. Hassan has since joined college in the USA, after a successful stint at the ITF Centre in Pretoria. Sadili Oval also completed 2011 with Henry Ayesiga (a beneficiary from the slums of Kampala Uganda) earning second place in Africa in the Boys Under 14, nurturing him to through the next two years, finally saying a fond goodbye when he became a student at Cerritos College, USA. They are not the first product of our academy, we accept poor children from around Africa, and provide them with education and tennis training, with 7 playing college tennis on scholarship in the USA, 14 are top in the region and 9 have scholarships awarded to them in UK high schools. Amongst them are:
As you can see, from the examples described, although they had great talent, and used it to open doors to future outside professional sport.
The Effort Is Great – Is The Reward Requisite?
On average, most junior will have sacrificed about 7 years of their lives, to get to be amongst the best in their country. In order to get noticed, they would, on average, joined the game at about 9 years, and reached their peak at 17 years. This is often because the game is learned at a relatively older age than would be seen elsewhere. You would not find a more committed, athletic and hardworking junior than what you see in Africa, yet only a very narrow band make the cut to play any grand slams, and often only at the qualification stage. I have often talked to many coaches on the top level circuits, and many do not really have clear answers, perhaps because very few have had contact with these incredible kids. What I often find, is that there is no difference between a top Under 14 junior in Africa and that in Europe or America, indeed, I have travelled with teams of kids between 12 and 15 years to tournaments in Florida and England, and they have often reached the quarters and semi-finals. So what goes wrong after 16 years?
ITF (International Tennis Federation) new rules demand players destined to the top stage, get points from within their region. As such, our talented juniors are now required to travel and play within Africa, to gain the requisite points to enable them play on the world stage, especially lucrative European Circuit, and make it to the Grand Slams.
Sadili currently has 25 promising African juniors aged between 10 and 14 years, with potential to reach next step. It is for this reason that I feel concerned and need to consider various options for them, and also hope to get feedback from those who are reading this article on what the next course would be.
You see, in order to get enough points to grow, the first thought would be to have players to play regionally. At present, there are a limited number of regional ITF qualification tournaments available in Africa. Players such as our would wish to move from the ITF/CAT Under 14s (which are many) to Under 16s (which do not exist) in order to build their game and play a more experienced and time game at the Under ITF 18s. That makes sense doesn’t it?
With the lack of a high level Under 16 tournament, African players in often find themselves flat-footed and inexperienced when they meet the confident and competition ready Europeans, who often see ITF tournaments a perfect spot to grab easy points in order to get higher rankings. This has been very costly for the continent, as many juniors finally lose their confidence and move on to other sports and just stay in the background.
There are two alternatives to the ITF tournaments that we decided to take up in order to grow our players. Firstly, we sought places outside of the continent, where our talented kids to go and train with others their age for short periods, and play as many tournaments as they could. This is extremely costly, as a result of Airfare to other continents, where there exist for ITF tournaments. In addition, players would have to officially represent their countries and selection of players would depend on the local federations, a process which is not only slow, it is fraught with nepotism and favoritism, in many countries.
Secondly, we started an African ranking tournament series, the Tennis Africa Cup, www.tennisafrica.info which allows for children to play and gain points from tournaments that were being played within the continent, beginning with Kenya. The tournaments themselves are graded to ensure that players who are advanced get to challenge themselves with the bigger tournaments, in the hope of building an elite group. This method seems more feasible, and ensures that costs are kept lower and more affordable. The system has been in existence for almost 12 years, in which a number of juniors have gained scholarships to high schools in Europe and University teams in USA. However, a lot more support is needed to keep this fire burning, which includes sponsorship of more tournaments all over the continent, more tennis brand names offering strings, racquets and other goods, assured accommodation and meals for travelling kids through volunteers, and a stronger IT capacity to build a string site. Our estimate is that it is possible to build an annual 16-week tournament series that goes through Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Benin, Seychelles and Zambia.
If we can keep these activities going, then, the end of the six years, Africa may get an opportunity to present herself to the world platform with pride.
Contact Liz on firstname.lastname@example.org
Listening is key to improving the performance of every female athlete.
Coaches demonstrate, observe and correct. Many coaches do this quite well, but miss a very important opportunity to impact positively on a female athlete’s life. When a female athlete walks into a session, she is keen to connect with the coach, in order to perform at her best. As coaches, we find ourselves pushing forward with the session, demonstrating and talking (a lot), as we observe and correct. How much time do we spend actually listening? From talking to many coaches, it ranges from 0-2% normally.
When you listen, you learn
At the start of every session, and during the short breaks, I often take time to give each of my players a chance to talk to me. It’s often me asking only one or two questions, and leaving her to then choose what she wishes to tell me. It’s the one time I call “free choice”. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone in such a short time. It helps you understand her, and feed in subtle but gradual adjustments to the learning session that will give her a satisfactory learning opportunity.
When you listen, you act
Listening helps you understand what the underlying issue is. Does your athlete really understand what is required, or perhaps she knows another way to do the same thing? Could this, perhaps be easily built around her to ensure that she has, not just the important basics, but also uniquely different style, that helps build her confidence? Allowing for creativity helps build self esteem, and accommodating for this while offering critical techniques is always a win-win.
You can contact Liz Odera on email@example.com