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Sunday, December 29, 2013

REFLECTIONS: The 12 Do's and Don'ts of a Tennis Player

The United States Tennis Association has a rating system for determining the level a tennis player has achieved. In episode 28 of my Gotta Play Tennis podcast, “Rating your Skills by USTA Standards” (available on iTunes), I relayed their approach to evaluating the level of a tennis player. Competition results however don't really measure, in my estimation, the true person who takes the court. Some things are obvious, and some not so much. Therefore, here is my personal representation of a tennis player based upon the principles of do’s and don’ts. Why 12 points? We in the U.S. seem to like this number as we commonly measure things by the dozen. Besides, this was written between December 25th and January 5th for which, on the Christian Calendar, is known as the 12 Days of Christmas.

The 12 Do's and Don’ts of a Tennis Player (in no particular order)

  1. Do be ready, willing, and able to deal with uncomfortable weather conditions, either hot or cold, windy or calm, and sunny or overcast on public or private outdoor tennis courts. Dogs barking, kids yelling, and helicopters flying are all a reality.
  2. Do have a realization that tennis is hard work requiring almost constant movement and even more visual awareness. If resting is your thing, tennis is not for you.
  3. Do understand that tennis is a leg sport, and as such, requires one to develop strong leg muscles that can assist in durability on the court in long rallies and longevity for the unknown length of a tennis match. Regular stretching is a must to protect from injury.
  4. Do take comfort in the ideal that tennis is only a game, and unless it is your livelihood, should be viewed as a fun and entertaining sport that provides exercise, camaraderie, and personal achievement.
  5. Do be accepting of all ability levels, both as partners and opponents, as they too are in their own time line of skill and athleticism.
  6. Don't be stubborn about shot selection. Use the most reliable shot in your arsenal. When you are in danger of losing the rally or point, do not forget that the forehand is the most biomechanically efficient shot for humans to hit.
  7. Do be studious by learning all you can about the sport you love—historically, tactically, and strategically—so that all will feed your overall ability as a player. Be patient with your own growth. Invest in some lessons from a qualified instructor.
  8. Don't purposely hit shots closer to the lines than 1-2 feet and not with any more pace than necessary. Consistency and not sensationalism wins the day. Going for more or less than required in a given situation is a losing recipe.
  9. Don't beat yourself by letting your aggravation from bad on-court decisions or poor shot execution predict your outcome. Embrace the ups and downs. Live in the present—the ball you are hitting—and not in the past.
  10. Do be a good sport when either winning or losing a match or a rally. Applaud quality shots by your opponent. Be fair with all line calls. Give credit where credit is due and congratulate the victor or refrain from gloating over your own win.
  11. Don't lose your focus from shot-to-shot during a rally and always be totally aware of the things that affect your positioning such as spin, depth, direction, and height of the oncoming ball.
  12. Don't let others who worship at the national altar of football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey ruin your love and respect of the international sport of tennis. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Feel good about the fact that you actually “play” your sport and can do so hopefully for a lifetime.
When I began this piece, I wondered how I would find at least 12 things to add to the list. As I reached the bottom, I realized the number 15 had already been written and I felt like I was just hitting my stride. In other words, it is obviously difficult to sum up the measure of a tennis player in just 12 bullet points. With that said, if you truly absorb and take to heart the above principles, you surely are on your way to being a proud and accomplished tennis player.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours. May this be the year that tennis becomes all you want it to be in your life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

REFLECTIONS: How much belief have you developed in 2013?

It seems to be that time of year. "Reflections", as a topic, is almost cliché as we look back over the past days, weeks and months. Many racquets have been swung, lots of balls have been struck, and hour-upon-hour of relentless footsteps and even more unending sweat-droplets have filled the ticks of the clock. But to what end? Is this year of 2013 simply a continuation of the previous one? Has there been progress made? Do you stand as a better player than last year, or are you, like old Scrooge is quoted, a year older and not a penny richer? What do you believe is possible for you as a tennis player in 2014?

I CANNOT speak for your game, and I do hope you will take some time to reflect on what you've accomplished visiting the court over the last 300 plus days. I CAN speak for myself however, and that is exactly my intent in this post. As tennis years go, it has been a pretty good one for my own personal game. My knees, ankles, feet, wrists, elbows and back all seem to still be in working order. As the winter cold has all but put a halt to my outdoor play and instruction, my body finally gets some needed time to heal from the torturous wear and tear of hard courts in South Jersey public parks where I play and teach on courts built by low-bid contractors. My time as a tennis player or instructor is not very near and dear to their hearts, and as result, these slabs of green, white and red are torture chambers that attack every sinew and joint possible. There's a reason they call them "hard courts."

But no one forces me to push my body so relentlessly, tracking down every ball, bouncing off the fences, or diving on painted-over cement. It is the ongoing pursuit of making forward progress that fuels the insanity of such endeavors. I've been no stranger to both good and bad days on the court, and even the tennis royalty in the pro game have their moments. But attitude is everything, because without it, the tennis fire could be easily snuffed out as the years take their toll. For anyone who knows me or reads things I have posted or recorded, you know that my ladder of success is not placed against walls that lead to tournaments and trophies. Just having the ability to cover the court like a wild man, run as hard or harder than my decades-younger students, and stay healthy and uninjured, are all wins in my book. Also, the longevity of having survived on a court for now over 40 years should speak volumes until itself. It is something I am proud to admit along with my over 30 years of youth instruction.

Maybe the most I can take from last year is my continued belief, from the results I have witnessed, that I can still grow and learn and improve as a player and teacher. With my never-ending studies of the game I love—through reading, workshops, watching the pros, and throwing myself about the court—I have accomplished much in 2013. Maybe the small tweaks are not what anyone else would notice, nor will they elevate me to the next NTRP level or competitive bracket. I take solace in knowing them for myself, and their only visible sign may be the smile on my face or perhaps even an animated fist-pump after hitting the winning shot I know was not always possible in the past.

Thanks to the unceasing learning curve of this very physically and mentally challenging game, I have plenty more to work on in the new year. That being said, I believe that tennis skill will continue to grow in my life, not by leaps and bounds, but by small building blocks that continue to develop either physical or mental prowess. This is the gift that tennis brings to me this holiday season.

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe

"Believe" is a 2004 song from the Christmas-themed performance capture film The Polar Express. The words and music were written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, and the song was performed by Josh Groban.

Happy Holidays to you and yours
from Gotta Play Tennis

Monday, November 11, 2013

NEW CONTENT OF NOTE: Give the Gift of Tennis this holiday season

(For residents of the South Jersey area only)
Why not give The Gift of TENNIS to a friend, family member or another loved-one on your holiday shopping list. This gift plants the seed of a lifetime sport. 

Purchase tennis lesson GIFT CERTIFICATES in denominations
of 3 or more lessons.
(price discount applies when purchased in 3-lesson bundle)

Lessons will begin (in Gloucester Twp.) in April 2014

Gift Certificates can be purchased at lower 2013 rates 
(limit 3-lesson bundle)

Contact Ron Miller at gottaplaytennis.ron@gmail.com
or 856-359-GPTS

Saturday, August 10, 2013

LOCAL NEWS: Fall Tennis in Gloucester Twp.

Fall 2013 QuickStart Tennis
GottaPlayTennisKids COMPLETED for 2013

SEPTEMBER 28 - NOVEMBER 2 (6 weeks)
Rain Dates: Nov. 16 and 23

AGES: 5-10 program
Time: 10:15 - 11:25AM

LOCATION: Gloucester Twp. Community Park

What is QuickStart Tennis?
A tennis system designed to encourage the love of TENNIS - and help develop skills 
in young children — by bringing the sport down to their size.

All equipment provided • 7 hours of fun and learning • 2nd student discount available

80 Broadacres Drive, Clementon, NJ
(Next to the Cherrywood development)
Call 856-435-8734

Sunday, August 4, 2013

REFLECTIONS: Tryouts—cutting the dreams and potential of many kids?

Here's a concept for one to ponder–sports for little ones, and even teenagers, should be FUN! Isn't that really why kids beg mommy and daddy to pony-up the cash for all the equipment, registrations, and other countless miscellaneous charges associated with organized sports? The kids just want to have fun. Winning in a competitive environment can definitely deliver the goods. But even losing against a better team or competitor can be fun as well. It is all about presentation and what gets emphasized by the coaching staff, organization and parents. Learning, along with both skill and character building, take place from wins AND losses. As long as no one gets hurt, everyone who desires gets to play, all is done fairly, and someone or some team has a better day than another, then we will have winners and non-winners. The only LOSERS are those who perhaps desired to participate but did not even get the chance. This is where I begin to make my case for no-cut policies in sports. 

I am far from expert when it comes to most team-oriented mainstream sports and the way they handle thinning the pack. But what I do know is that many players try out for the high school tennis teams and only a select few make the cut. When counting the typical compliment of players selected, we see numbers 1, 2, and 3 singles and number 1 and 2 doubles as the most common varsity positions. Let's assume that the JV team has the same complement. Yet there are dozens of potential tennis players who are hungry for an activity they can enjoy with their friends, and yes even family, when the glow of high school sports has diminished. But for many, the flicker of participation is snuffed out before it even has a chance. Whatever happened to a time when sports were what you joined–not tried-out for–and provided the opportunity for anyone who burned with the desire to learn and grow from the experience the chance to do so?

I know it may be unrealistic to think that anyone that wants to catch a pass, score a goal, or hit an ace can, as Nike® likes to say, "Just Do It."  After all, reality clearly dictates the limitations of time as well as the inadequacies of restricted coaching staff, trainers and facilities. This kind of scarcity mentality however feeds on the fear that for some to have more others must have less. For example, when teams insist on giving their most talented players the majority of field time, others more athletically challenged sit the benches, wait, and hope for a chance to play and, dare we say it, have fun!

Getting back more specifically to tennis, it seems that the concept of no-cut is not all that radical after all. According to an April 15, 2013 news release from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS),  the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has registered more than 3,600 coaches who have implemented a no-cut initiative, affecting more than 130,000 high school students since the inception of the no-cut programs in 2006. The NFHS, the national leadership organization for high school athletic and performing arts programs, has partnered with the USTA with the goal of attracting new supporters of the no-cut policy through the 51 NFHS member state associations This includes more than 19,000 high schools and almost 7.7 million participants in high school sports.

Here are few of the top reasons, listed by the USTA on their website, for offering a no-cut tennis program:

  • One week of tryouts is not enough for a coach to know who the best players will be in four years. Coaches are often pleasantly surprised by the contributions made by individuals considered to have less potential.
  • Children who are cut from sport programs are almost always the least skilled or those who have discipline problems. It is precisely these youngsters who are in need of an opportunity to grow through sport. “ Frank L. Smoll and Ronald E. Smith, Sports and Your Child, second edition; Warde Publishers, Inc. 2005
  • No-cut programs open more opportunities for cooperation with parents, school and community that can result in much needed booster support as well as a built-in fan base for team matches
  • Giving students the opportunity to be on a team with friends and representing their high school can provide a positive and memorable experience that will benefit them long into adulthood.
  • It's the right thing to do - every child should have the opportunity to engage in healthy, lifelong activities in a safe and supportive environment with their peers.

On the court, I work diligently with students in Gloucester Twp., beginning at age 5, to help them develop skills, but perhaps more importantly the love, of the lifetime sport called tennis. Research has shown that tennis players score high in vigor, optimism, and self-esteem, and lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes and non-athletes. Having worked with hundreds of players over my many decades of teaching, I truly believe that what I offer is a gift that these kids can take with them into their future. How unfortunate is it for this gift of excitement and optimism to be squelched in high school by a system that limits how many can have a chance to play. 

Let me leave you with this, a coach's testimonial, once again from the USTA website: 
"We only had two courts and I had 21 kids turn out,'' Escame recalled of the 1969 season. "After the first week, I wrote down 16 names, and said if your name was on that list, you made the team. This girl came up to me in the hall and she said, "Mr. Escame, my name isn't on the list." And she started crying, and I couldn't look at her. I said, "You're right on the cusp. If you go out and practice, you're sure to make the team next year". Then she said, "If I'm not on the team, how can I practice?" I made up my mind after that season that I would keep everyone."
– Steve Escame, a no-cut high school tennis coach of 34 years with over 500 tennis victories

Is this the scene we want played-out in our schools or even our independent sports organizations? Can't we find a better way to encourage the potential of all kids who have the desire to participate in today's sports?

Friday, July 19, 2013

LOCAL NEWS: Tennis under the summer sun-No Blood, Just Sweat and Cheers

GlouTwp. Recreation Summer 2013
No one will disagree that mid-July of 2013 has been a scorcher. The combination of heat and humidity has made outdoor activities especially uncomfortable regardless of attire or frosty beverage. But the hottest action of all has been on the tennis court at Gloucester Twp. Community Park during the QuickStart Tennis summer evening session from July 15th-19th. "Madison found a new hobby and sport" said one parent from her first experience with tennis. So many kids and parents may not yet realize that soccer and little league are not their only choices during the summer months.

The roster of players ranged from ages 5-10, and their levels of experience with tennis varied about as much as their height. Fortunately for all, the learning activities, drills, and skill-based games were designed to accommodate all in attendance. The key element to any interactions with kids is fun, and the hot summer evening sun reflected off smiles on the faces of kids and parents alike. With games like Goldmine, Scorebounce, and Cone Catcher, even the very humid conditions could not suppress the enthusiasm felt on the court. When parents were eventually brought out to participate in some heat-adjusted games, they too seemed to enjoy themselves in this family-friendly program that welcomes parental involvement. Another parent wrote of their experience, "coach Ron is very kid oriented. He's very patient and  speaks to the kids on their level. He's made tennis very fun."

One more session is available this summer from August 5th to 8th from 9AM to 10:30AM at Gloucester Twp. Community Park. Registration is handled through the Gloucester Twp. Recreation Center located at 80 Broadacres Drive, Clementon (Next to the Cherrywood development). Call (856) 435-5734 for details or contact Ron Miller of Gotta Play Tennis at 856-359-GPTS. The recreation center is open Monday - Thursday, 8:00AM to 5:45PM with extended evening hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 7:30PM.

Monday, July 8, 2013

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Andy Murray is the King of England: The 2013 Wimbledon Championships

For nearly eight decades, Britain has been waiting, hoping and dreaming...read more.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

HOW TO'S: 5 Basic Ways to help you Prepare for Tennis Tryouts

It's that time of year when girls all over South Jersey are busy preparing for tennis tryouts, usually held sometime in August, at their local high school. Although most coaches will provide some type of open-court time to help groom those interested in the sport, this is only a small part of how a player should prepare if they are serious about making the girls team for the fall season. Here are 5 basic things you might consider that will no doubt give you an edge against the competition:

  1. Private or semi-private lessons: A knowledgeable instructor can help you grow by leaps and bounds as they provide technique, tactical, and training assistance. Play as much as possible soon after a lesson and attempt to apply what was learned.
  2. Hit lots of tennis balls: The technique of immersion, used regularly in learning a world language, is extremely practical for tennis. Spend as much time on a court as possible (preferably in point play) so that you can nurture a comfortable and excited feeling when walking through the gate. Repetition–hitting specific shots over and over again–helps you develop consistency and lessen mental fatigue. Less surprises during a match usually equals better results. Remember-you PLAY how you PRACTICE.
  3. Physical training: Endurance is a huge part of tennis (especially for singles play). When tired, you stop moving your feet and everything else fails as a result. Running is important, but remember that tennis is a quick-sprint sport and not a cross-country run. Work on footwork drills (preferably using an agility ladder), sprinting drills (can be used to pick up balls on court), and lots of quick direction changing runs both side-to-side and front to back. Strength training (especially for the upper body and core) is helpful, but don't ignore working the wrists and developing a stronger grip by squeezing a tennis ball (or grip strengthener) while doing other sedentary activities.
  4. Mental training: Learn as much as you can about tennis–how to keep score, rules of etiquette (review The Code), what basic tactics work for the pros, etc. Watch tennis on network television, YouTube clips, ESPN3 steaming or The Tennis Channel. Play tennis in video games and be competitive (be careful as poor technique works in video but not in reality). Seek out some tennis podcasts (iTunes or other podcatcher), either video or audio, that can be seen or heard on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
  5. Flexibility: It took training in martial arts for me to understand the value of flexible muscles on a tennis court. Seek knowledgeable advice on stretching muscle-groups and actively do so whenever the opportunity for sitting in place arises (stretch while watching a movie or TV show for example). When tight muscles do not fight themselves, you increase endurance and lessen chances for injury.
Good luck!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

LOCAL NEWS: Both kids and parents take a swing at Tennis Family Fun Day

Kooshball catch is always a fun favorite
Visualize a mildly-warm saturday morning in June, energetic kids ages 5-14, and tennis courts filled with fun and skill-building activities. This gives you some idea of how it was at the 2nd Annual Tennis Family Fun Day in Gloucester Twp. Community park. The event, hosted by Ron and Trish Miller of Gotta Play Tennis Kids (with the cooperation of the Gloucester Twp. Recreation Center) showcased the low cost, family-friendly activity of QuickStart tennis. Newly-budding tennis players participated in a variety of activities that worked their minds and bodies while being introduced to some of the tennis stroke and movement basics. Games such as Shark Island and Cone Catcher emphasized visual awareness and quickness, while activities like Kooshball Catch and Tennis T's worked on racquet control. Players got to move around in small groups to experience a snapshot of the QuickStart tennis format which is ideal for younger players looking to learn the game.

Needless to say, the kids (and parents) had a great time at this totally free event which introduced quite a number of Gloucester Twp. families to the benefits that Gotta Play Tennis Kids provides with Spring, Summer and Fall programs offered through the recreation center. To my knowledge, there is no other event that helps parents get a first-hand look at the advantages this lifetime activity called tennis can provide. But looking was only a part of the parents' involvement. Ron and Trish invited the adults to grab a provided racquet and start hitting with their kids using the special player-friendly slow-bounce or foam balls that help all ages participate together. As usual, when parents are engaged instead of just standing on the sidelines, they feel more a part of their kids' activity. When it was time to go, both parents and kids seemed willing to stay for even more. But it was time to put down the racquets as the event came to its conclusion.
Tennis Family Fun Day was a great success, and the wish is that those in attendance will spread the word and tell others about what Gotta Play Tennis Kids can provide in the way of recreation, exercise, and just plain fun. 

Registration for the summer saturday programs and evening summer camps is still available at the Gloucester Twp. Recreation Center located at 80 Broadacres Drive, Clementon (Next to the Cherrywood development). Call (856) 435-5734 for details or contact Ron Miller of Gotta Play Tennis at 856-359-GPTS. The recreation center is open Monday - Thursday, 8:00AM to 5:45PM with extended evening hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 7:30PM.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

NEWS: 2nd Annual Family Fun Announced by Gotta Play Tennis Kids

Come join us for the 2nd Annual Tennis Family Fun Day.
Held on the courts in beautiful Gloucester Twp. Community Park, this FREE event showcases the QuickStart Tennis programs offered by Gloucester Twp. Recreation and Gotta Play Tennis Kids.
  • No equipment or tennis experience necessary
  • Try out first-hand the reduced-size courts, junior racquets, age-appropriate FOAM, RED FELT or ORANGE FELT balls that help everyone gain tennis skills faster than ever before
  • Play games, similar to those used in the youth tennis programs, as a family
  • Receive details about upcoming programs in 2013
  • FREE drawing for a junior tennis racquet

And better yet, this event is absolutely FREE!

Rain Date: Sunday, June 23rd

Thursday, April 18, 2013

EPISODE 99 (Podcast): Plan your work, but don't be afraid to adjust

You've no doubt heard the expression "plan your work and work your plan". While it may be important to begin each match with a plan, one must have the courage to make adjustments in order to maximize their potential.

Subscribe in iTunes:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The Masters of Miami 2013: Andy Murray & Serena Williams

Key Biscayne, FL - Andy Murray (No. 3, Britain) prevailed over David Ferrer (No. 5, Spain) in a grueling, see-saw 3 set battle this past weekend to take the Men's Singles Championship at the Sony Open in Crandon Park Tennis Center, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

REFLECTIONS: How to make the MOST of your Youth Sports time and dollars

It's no secret that most parents must pay attention to how they spend their hard-earned dollars for their children's extra-curricular activities. Youth sports are a great pathway for kids to explore how their bodies move, how their minds can adapt to quick decision-making, and how it’s possible to push themselves beyond what they may have individually ever expected. There is even the component of how their efforts can add value to group camaraderie and team spirit. But all this brain and brawn training, combined with the ever-present necessity for both more and higher-tech equipment and accessories, comes at a cost. The parental money tree may not always be full of ripened fruit.
In his book entitled The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families, Mark Hyman (author, journalist, Professor of Sports Management at George Washington University) takes a behind-the-scenes look at the business of youth sports—mainly how the marketplace capitalizes on the nearly 50 million kids in organized sports each year. He considers monies for equipment and apparel, league fees, travel expenses, and other intangibles that are forcing money out of the wallets of parents at an alarming rate even at a time when budgets are tight.
This book is just one example that sheds a light on the amount of monetary transaction taking place in most of today's organized youth sports. Visit any league website and you will be directed to registration fees, late fees, mandatory fundraising, travel expenses and sometimes even, my favorite, concession-stand forced labor. And these are only the visible dollars as things such as banquet fees, snacks, and sometimes even hotel accommodations come with the package. Once you begin to add in the other requisite expenses of pads and protectors, specialized footwear, socks, cups, gloves, bats, balls, mouthguards, sticks and more, the cost continues to mount. Some sports are more costly than others. But if you have aspirations to be on a travel team of any sort, everything escalates to yet another level. Am I saying this type of recreation, and its associated costs, shouldn't be made available to kids? Certainly not as thousands of kids and their parents each year enjoy their time together in sport. Yet one does need to take pause from time to time and reflect on just how much is necessary. In an anecdote from a book by former NBA player Bob Bigelow-—Just Let the Kids's Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child's Fun and Success in Youth Sports-—he cites a Texas baseball team campaigning for fifteen hundred dollars in order to take its 5 and 6 year old All-star T-ball players to a state championship. We're talking T-ball here folks where kindergarteners compete against other kindergarteners for spots on elite T-ball teams. This is a sport, Bob Bigelow goes on to explain, where typically only one in fifteen kids is active at a time since one player is at bat while the others either sit the bench or dance around aimlessly in the outfield waiting for a ball that rarely comes.
As you can see, the cost of youth sports goes well beyond dollars and cents. Sports can sometimes give the illusion of being a great “activity” for children whose level of obesity as a group has tripled in the last 30 years. But activity does not always mean “active.” Many players spend weekends, during what are called “seasons”, idle on benches during a “game”, and many of the players get little of the activity they signed up for. When one looks at both the time and money invested, and how much playing time their kids actually benefit from, it is critical for parents to make the best decisions. Think back to your own childhood and imagine how much fun you had playing any game that did not keep you engaged throughout. You probably stopped that game and tried something else.
Just pointing out the challenges however is only part of the solution. Could there be an alternative where no one sits on the bench, every person is active at all times, skills are taught and learned, fun is a by-product each and every time kids participate, and friendly competition becomes an enjoyable activity instead of gut wrenching anxiety? And is it possible that this could also have a low barrier to entry with family-friendly fees and virtually no equipment to purchase? There is an alternative, it is called tennis, and it’s available right here in Gloucester Twp. through the Recreation Center. For the price of a modest meal for a family of 4, kids ages 5-10 can participate in the beginnings of the lifetime sport cited in a 2010 article from the Washington Post touting a 43 percent increase in player participation since the year 2000.
Parents today are burdened with making many decisions about how to spend time with their kids as well as where best to allocate funds for their future development. When a mom or dad can share a common athletic interest with their children of any age, and then participate with their kids on their own schedule and at little to no cost in a public park setting, everybody is a winner. Thanks to public courts, low-cost racquets, and new, more user-friendly tennis balls that helps make everyone successful, more people than ever are hitting the courts as a family. League practices, the time spent when kids usually prepare for game time, can be replaced with family events on the court. Spring and summer sessions, not seasons, can provide the team environment that many kids crave with competitive games that are skill-based. Remember, even though most think of tennis as an individual sport, mostly every high school and college have male and female tennis teams that are successful on the individual efforts of each team member. A team is simply a group of like-minded individuals.
Michele Obama, as a part of her Let’s Move! campaign to promote a healthier generation of kids, aligned herself with the United States Tennis Association in 2011 and said, “ "Thanks to programs like the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis initiative, it’s easier than ever for kids to get active and have fun.” Perhaps there is something to this sport, this activity, this low-cost form of family entertainment. This may be one solution that helps maximize both time and money in youth sports.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NEWS (local): Gloucester Twp. Spring Tennis info

Spring 2013 QuickStart Tennis
— Program Dates —
APRIL 20 - May 25
Rain Dates: June 8 and 15
(No class on June 1)

AGES: 5-7 program
Time: 9:00 - 10:10AM

AGES: 8-10 program
Time: 10:15 - 11:25AM
LOCATION: Gloucester Twp. Community Park

What is QuickStart Tennis? (a.k.a. 10 and Under Tennis)
A tennis system designed to encourage the love of TENNIS - and help develop skills
in young children — by bringing the sport down to their size.

All equipment provided • 7 hours of fun and learning • 2nd student discount available

Spring 2013 Tennis for Teens
— Program Dates —

Monday thru Thursday
APRIL 22 - April 25
Rain Date: April 26

AGES: 11-14 program

Time: 5:45 - 7:15PM

Monday thru Thursday
MAY 20 - MAY 23

Rain Date: MAY 24
AGES: 11-14 program
Time: 6:00- 7:30PM
LOCATION: Gloucester Twp. Community Park

Call (856) 435-5734
Gloucester Twp. Dept. of Recreation

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Nadal drops to his knees in victory
Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Nadal is back! BNP Paribas Open 2013

Indian Wells, CA -- BNP Paribas Open

Rafael Nadal (No. 5, Spain) defeated Juan Martin Del Potro (No. 7, Argentina) in a see-saw 3 set thriller…read more

Saturday, March 2, 2013

NEWS: Tennis Night in America 2013

The world has once again become a smaller place as we celebrate tennis in both New York and Hong Kong on March 4, 2013. As a way to promote the lifetime sport that already has global appeal, StarGames, producers of the BNP Paribas Showdowns, in partnership with the International Tennis Federation, have designated this date as World Tennis Day all over the globe. As a jump start to the United States Tennis Association's effort to encourage increased participation in the game of tennis, Tennis Night in America will feature, at NYC's Madison Square Garden, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka—four of the high-level professional players on the ATP and WTA tours. The BNP Paribas Showdown sister matches in Hong Kong will feature greats Ivan Lendl, winner of eight Grand Slam titles and current coach of No. 3 Andy Murray against none other than John McEnroe, winner of seven slams and a popular tennis analyst. In addition, Asia's first Grand Slam champion, Li Na will take on former number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

"Tennis Night in America is the perfect venue to kick off our latest youth registration efforts," says Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "The night is sure to generate momentum for youth tennis and create excitement for spring and summer programs at facilities nationwide." Both the ITF and USTA support efforts to bring more kids into the game with the use of more appropriately sized equipment for youth such as smaller racquets, lighter balls and lower nets. Court sizes are also reduced since a six year old shouldn't really need to cover the same amount of court real estate as an adult or even teen player. Picture, for example, a tennis court turned sideways where the width of 36 feet becomes the length, and the length of a standard court from baseline to net accommodates two 18 foot wide courts. This means that eight children could comfortably play this challenging and fun sport on one full-sized court.

Jerry Solomon, executive producer and President of StarGames, Inc., said “Last year more than 2,000 clubs participated in Tennis Night in America activities around the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden. Youth participation in tennis is something we strongly believe in, so it seemed natural to try to build upon the success we’ve had in the U.S. by partnering with the ITF in a global effort with World Tennis Day.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

EPISODE 98 (Podcast): The Grand Slams—What's in it for me?

Choosing to watch a tennis match is a commitment to both time and brain power. Nowhere is this more true than at the Grand Slams which can absorb hours from the clock. So why is it we so look forward to these matches all year? What can we gain from the experience both as spectators and players?

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FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013
Tennis and Aging

"One of the great benefits of tennis relative to other sports is that you can play it for a lifetime. But playing tennis matches…read more

Saturday, January 26, 2013

EPISODE 97 (Podcast): The Team vs. Individual Sport Dilemma

In order to grow the game of tennis, we need to plant new seeds, water and fertilize them, and nurture their development. But one plant can grow very well even if rooted well away from the rest of the flower patch. Children can flourish just as well in sport regardless of being surrounded by a multitude of teammates. And perhaps, they might even stand taller and fresher from the experience.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

REFLECTIONS: A Swiss Miss, but not by much

Djokovic interviewed after win
"Here we've only got one rule. Never, ever let it cool." These are familiar lyrics from the song Hot Chocolate sung by Tom Hanks in the classic holiday film The Polar Express. And since it's the middle of the summer in Australia, "hot, hot, hot" is definitely the watchword. Temperatures have hit well over 100 degrees Farenheit during some days on the court.

But the weather is not the only thing that is hot down under. In the fourth round of the Australian Open, a masterpiece of will and determination played out–between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 15 Stan Wawrinka–that was worthy of a Grand Slam final. The final score of 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 displays most of the story as Wawrinka, holding a 2-13 win/loss record coming in to this match, played at a much higher level than his ranking indicates. Djokovic was hit with all he could handle, in the over 5 hour long match, from the man whose career as a Swiss player has always been overshadowed by the great one, Roger Federer. This was the classic clash of one-handed backhand Wawrinka vs. the two handed weapon of Djokovic. If Novak is the poster child for flexibility and defense on a court, then Stan is the textbook entry for the one-handed topspin backhand. In my opinion, it ranks as one of the best shots on the tour and generates real indecision for an opponent when choosing which side to attack. 

The 2012 Australian Open final, a nail-biting battle between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, went almost six hours to the delight of the capacity crowd and people like myself watching on a screen from afar. But that was a FINAL. This is only the fourth round, and Novak will supposedly be facing even tougher opponents. All I can say is that he may face higher-ranking challengers in the coming rounds,  but I doubt he will be facing any bigger test than he experienced in this cracker-jack of a fourth round match. Many congratulations to Stan Wawrinka for showing us not only his talent but the kind of stuff he is made of. As for Djokovic, when asked by Jim Courier how he was feeling at the end of the match, he said, "my body feels great, it's only five hours." 

This may have been the match of the tournament, but we shall see what else can bubble to the surface as we approach the quarterfinal rounds. "Keep it cookin in the pot, Soon, ya got hot choc-o-lat!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

FAVORITE SITES: Timeless Tennis by Gary Bala

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Video: What is the Beauty of Tennis? Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi explains the beauty of tennis - and it's lesson for life: To strive, To adjust, To overcome…see more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

REFLECTIONS: The Team Sports Dilemma

2012 Summer Camp I / Glou. Twp.
Team sports provide a wonderful education for kids in school and in life. Ask any Health and Physical Education teacher in an elementary school setting and they will probably mention the importance of cooperation, strategy, social skills and responsibility. Ask any coach of an organized youth recreational sport and they will recite the concepts of team spirit, unity, pride, skill development and commitment. There is certainly a positive place in our world for youth team sports with their matching jerseys, catchy names, and extensive parent following. This is regardless of the size and shape of ball they use or the dimensions and lines on a field or court.

As usual, however, what we see in front of the curtain is very different than what lurks behind. In a 2009 article by Tim Heckler, CEO of the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association), what starts out as a model for very positive social interaction between both kids and parents sometimes turns ugly. His first-hand experience spans over 15 years of coaching kids soccer teams and involvement with both basketball and softball thanks to the participation of his three kids. Although citing the wonderful learning opportunity provided for many parents and volunteers through participation and social interaction, he also saw the underbelly of interfering and controlling parents, individual power trips, player disappointment resulting from unfair selection practices, and an environment where a select few have control of a child’s destiny in their sport. 
Mr. Heckler mentions how he had seen, after the age of about 11, soccer teams lose the  “fun and games” aspect and refocus on building a team of strong-willed competitors who inevitably include the child or children of those in charge regardless of their talent. When other parents see the favoritism and both unfair and untrained decision-making, the best of team sports gets lost in a negative atmosphere of dissatisfaction. Mr. Heckler himself found many kids losing interest around 11-12 years old.

If this were only the opinion of one man, albeit an industry CEO, then it would be interesting but not precedent setting. But the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) made statistics available (from the aforementioned article) that compared tennis, an individual sport, to other team-oriented sports. Part of what the numbers showed was not a surprise. Soccer, baseball and basketball for example, popular team sports for youth, attract significant numbers of kids. Basketball came in third with 1 million kids, baseball took about 1.2 million, and soccer wins the prize with 1.7 million. Tennis by comparison captured about 200,000 in the same time period. I personally see kids flock in droves to team activities, and to be perfectly honest, I think all kids need to experience a variety of sports to see what really appeals to them. So then you might be inclined to wonder why I believe there is a dilemma.

Kids are not the ones who ultimately make the decisions about what they get to participate in at a young age. Parents do. And there is always a tendency to either go with what you know or go with what most appeals to the masses. Since many parents are not tennis players, don't follow it, didn’t play it in high school, and don't understand it, their kids are never even given the chance to either accept it or reject it on its own merit. Choices always need to made by parents since time and funds are not infinite, and more often than not, the choice goes the way of the biggest group or the so-called popular sport. 

Getting back to the statistics by the SGMA, they also showed that by age 10, many kids start moving to more individualized sports until by the age of 16 the participation numbers in soccer, baseball and tennis even-out at about 500,000 active youth. So do kids grow out of team sports? No, not really. Between the ages of about 14 and 18, teenagers are in high school and may join the tennis team. Every player has an individual role in the overall score of that team, and no one player can make a team win or lose. That is not to say that some players are not stronger and more valuable to the wins/losses column than others. But individuals get to show their ability, shot after shot, in an environment that allows them more control over their own destiny in a game or match. Even in doubles, they only have one partner and not the support of a half-dozen or more players. And by the very nature of tennis, there is little time to stand around and stare into space as most parents have seen from kids on a soccer field or baseball outfield. 
One of the biggest advantages associated with tennis is its longevity. I have seen kids programs that start at the age of 3 and adult programs that can carry one through their entire life. I personally begin kids at 5 years old and continue with them in group programs until about the age of 12. This seems to be when more individual attention to stroke production, strategy, tactics and fitness training become advantageous as specific methods can be used to fit the specific needs of the player.

My perspective as a PTR Junior Development Certified instructor is as follows: tennis may be an individual sport, but I believe that due to the availability of high school tennis teams, club leagues, and USTA Junior Team Tennis, this sport blends the best of both worlds. My insight as a certified school teacher tells me that students in any classroom do not get report cards that reflect the class grade. Each student may participate as part of the group, but their report card carries their name and indicates their individual effort. Does their involvement with the other children collectively add to the overall classroom environment? Absolutely. And the participation and social skills involved in collaborative learning are not only positive but essential. But when all is said and done, a students' graduation certificate-whether from middle school, high school, or college-bears their name only. We live in a world where the skills we learn should last us a lifetime, and also where individual effort is not only recognized but necessary for success. Tennis provides this type of experience, and I can only keep working to spread the word that this activity is a "must-try" for every kid, everywhere.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

EPISODE 96 (Podcast): One's in, the other's out-Happy 2013


To start off the new year right, I get together with Gary Bala, blogger and creator of Timelesstennis.net, to reflect on 2012 results and how they may impact the upcoming 2013 season.

Note: referenced in this podcast was a German player whom I could not recall at the time of recording. That player's name was Tommy Haas.

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