The Seven Ingredients in the Making of a Professional Tennis Player
If you are a parent entertaining the idea that your child may become a professional tennis player one day, you may find the following advice very helpful.
On the outset, I’m going to make a statement that some of you might find realistic, eye-opening and painful. If you are planning a professional tennis career for your child, the chances of it materializing are slim at best; the likelihood of him becoming a doctor, lawyer or even a scientist is far greater. However, there are always exceptions in life; determination, devotion, and a long-term commitment are some of the big game changers that can turn your chances around. By setting up a realistic timetable and practical goals, as time goes by, your chances can dramatically improve. The following are the seven key factors that may help you to understand the blueprint of making a tennis professional:
- Early start – One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a coach is what is the right age for a child to learn tennis. My answer is the younger, the better. Developing hand-eye coordination is important at a young age, and it doesn’t require a tennis court. Throwing and catching balls of any size is a good prelude to striking the ball with a tennis racket later on. Andre Agassi began hitting balls hanging over his crib at the age of two and look where it led him. An early start will help you gain an edge on the rest of the field. Starting tennis at a wee age is becoming a trend. Learning the basic skills is a process of approximately four years; it will be followed by the competition phase as a junior that will pave the way to becoming an accomplished player.
- Hire a serious coach – Here are the most important qualifications of the coach that you want to assign as your child’s mentor:
- Has a lot of experience as a coach (has worked with a large variety of players, from beginners to highly skilled).
- Demonstrates a mastery of communication skills with by using verbal, visual and psychical teaching methods.
- Continuously produces highly skilled tennis players.
- Goal-oriented, demanding, has high expectations, yet manages to be very positive and encouraging.
- Has experience as a player that comes handy as an adviser of all aspects of competition.
- Athletic ability – The development of a good athlete is essential in becoming a top tennis player, a good portion of a well rounded tennis program should include endurance, strength, and agility training.
- Practice – Just like learning to play a musical instrument, tennis requires lots of practice: the more, the better. A minimum of 15 hours a week is a must if you want to reach greatness.
- Competition – The U.S.T.A. offers a tournament program suited for all age groups. It has three levels: novice, satellite and open. The age groups are 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. It is wise to start competition at a young age–the experience of playing under pressure develops mental toughness. The number of tournaments played as a junior should not exceed ten tournaments per year; playing an overloaded tournament schedule will lead your young athlete to burnout.
- Good tennis parents – Parents should play an important role in their child’s tennis program. It can be costly, it is time-consuming, requires lots of driving (lesson, practice, tournaments), and it should go along with lots of encouragement and patience. Under no circumstances, kids should be punished for bad performance and the coaching should be left to the pro.
- Wellness – Diet, rest, proper tennis equipment – A well-balanced diet (no junk food), and a minimum of 7 hours of sleep are essential in maintaining a high energy level for efficient training. It is just as important to have proper tennis gear, an up-to-date tennis racket (no metal), strung with proper tension and good quality string. Tennis shoes are a must, avoid running shoes; they don’t give lateral support and risk sprained ankles.
In addition to all my advice, it never hurts to have some luck as well, so I’d like to wish you LOTS OF LUCK!