Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
Player to Player:
I just played my first season for my high school tennis team. It is too cold out to play now, and I was wondering what you could suggest I do for the winter months. Any help would be appreciated!
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Last week's question from Adrian:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Hi. I'm 15 years old, and my dream is to play college tennis, even for a Division 3 school. I guess I'm a 3.5-4.0 player right now. I use a lot of spin on my forehand and have a very consistent, hard backhand. I am quite accomplished at things like volleys, lobs, drop shots and slicing. I have dependable strokes but tend to make unforced errors when I try to be aggressive. I'm working on directional control and am able to use this with some success during match play. I have a strong, flat serve (but I do not use this a lot) and a consistent slice serve but am working to learn a topspin kick serve. I have a western grip, which causes me to frame my shots from time to time, but I am slowly working on this, and my mis-hits have decreased. I am a very good student in school and maintain a 4.0 GPA and am in the top five in my class. I am looking to play tennis at the University of Chicago for the academic and tennis opportunities. I know how hard it will be to get into this school academically and am trying very hard to accomplish this. Again, my dream has been to play college tennis, and I just love the game so much. Could you tell me if I have what it takes and maybe what I need to do to achieve my goal? Thank you for your time.
Eric R., Northern California
"Yo Adrian!!" Wait a second. As a young teen, you probably do not even know the original "Rocky" movies, right?
In any case, I loved your letter about your wonderful 4.0 average in academics and your passion for tennis. That is a great combination for a scholarship or at least a chance to get into a college and make the team. I love your positive thinking and willingness to set high goals for yourself. Nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself, so you have the right frame of mind.
First, check with your highest-rated local pro or college instructor/coach. What is their opinion after hitting with you and looking at your strokes and after telling them about whatever results you have achieved in the tourneys at your junior level?
Testing out your game at this level vs. tough competition would be the next question to be addressed. This would be a stepping stone once your advisor has helped you to realize what is your realistically highest possible level.
What about your school team? How are you doing? If you are killing your school-level competition, then for sure a summer of testing at a higher level would be great "grist for the mill."
Do you have a good gym cross training program? That is necessary, and a different trainer might design sport-specific exercises based on your body (strengths and weaknesses). If money doesn't allow for two tennis trainers (a gym one and a strokes pro) like the pros all use, this is not a problem. Just go to Google or the archives at USTA.com, and you will find many free resources to study on video.
You sound like a person deserving a chance to thrive. The world needs more people like you, Adrian, so, "Yo, Adrian!!" ... Go for it! (Watch "Rocky" if you like, too). And, most of all, enjoy the journey.
Coach Leonard, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Here are my recommendations for preparing for college tennis:
1) Play higher age groups in USTA tournaments. Try the 18-and-under group to face stronger competition. Hit and play with 4.0 and 4.5 adults from your club.
2) Practice as much doubles as singles. College tennis utilizes their players in both singles and doubles.
3) Attend a highly rated tennis camp. Don't compromise by going local. Have your parents spend the money for quality. If the University of Chicago has a camp, go there. There's nothing better than learning the techniques and strategies from the coach you want to play for. It wouldn't hurt to ask the coach what's he's looking for to get you on the right path.
4) Weight training and conditioning should become as much a routine as going on the courts. Hitting the weights and the road will make hitting the ball much easier. At 15 years old, your body is still growing. Build as you grow.
5) Nutrition will help you stay tough. Eating right will help fuel you up to get to the winner's circle. Be sure that you apply good eating and drinking habits during match play, too.
6) Last but not least, find the right equipment that works best for you. You mentioned that you periodically frame a ball or two when using the western grip. The key there is to avoid tennis frames with a wide cross section in the head. Going to a narrow beam oversize may be the ticket. Less interference and more strings definitely allows for a more "brushing" type of stroke. Strings and tension are also very important. With a western grip and vertical swing path, you may want to consider either a full polyester or hybrid string job at a mid to high tension. This will allow for less spring and more control upon impact. Even type of shoes can help. If playing extended matches in the heat, think about a mesh type of upper. If support is an issue, try a mid top.
So these are things to consider on your journey to college tennis. Don't lose focus on the grades. Classes may get tougher in high school. Speaking of high school, be sure that you play high school tennis, no matter how easy it may seem. College coaches not only look at outstanding prospects in tournaments but also ones who play in high school. It shows how you can get along with both your teammates and your coach. College tennis is a team sport. Playing tournaments doesn't mean that you can be a "team" player. Coaches need to know that before offering spots on his team.
I hope it all works out for the best for you.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.