Monday, December 19, 2011

The Psychology of Tennis

It's been brought to my attention that a different image of me has emerged on the courts that suggest that I might not be the gentleman on the court that I envisioned myself to be! 

This came as a sort of surprise, because I have made it a point to give my opponents the benefit of close line calls, the benefit of the score when the game score has been forgotten; and in addition, I try to make the teams as competitive as possible by partnering with players others avoid, or with whom they would prefer not to play, or who might be considered the weaker player.

I will often ask a player whom I might consider a weaker player than myself, and ask them to chose the receiving side they prefer.  If I know I'm the stronger player, and they know I'm the stronger player, and they chose the backhand side, Iv'e learned a lot about their knowledge of tennis, and their knowledge of what it takes to win.

I have often invited players to play, whom I have not seen play in order that they may have a go on the courts.  I make it a point to hit [stroke the ball] with anyone who asks me to do so--at least once--with whom I have never played. 

Hey, I remember how hard it is to get a match sometimes in a new place.  Some refuse to hit with me because I don't hit everything hard like they do. 

For that reason, I often will invite those players who  I see practicing on the wall into a match, or to play,  because Ithink it's important to work at your game, and I admire those dedicated to improving their game.

However, when the gauntlet is thrown, and I'm engrossed in playing a match, my attitude might appear to change only because I have a new motivation.  I want to win!  Short of taking away my opponent's racquet, or tying his shoe laces together on the crossover, I do whatever I think will be necessary to win.

I would not deliberately attempt to hinder your stroke production in anyway.  However, I might attempt to intimidate you by standing in closer to receive your serve.  I would surely lob to you when you are facing the Sun. 

Or, I might even move my receiving position as you toss the ball to serve, just to distract your concentration. What I do will be within the rules of the game, and those rules you should know too.

If not, you can bet, if you serve a let, and don't clear the ball from your path to the court, I will try to make my return hit the ball you left on the court.

Whether playing singles or doubles,  I prefer to concentrate on my strengths, not my weaknesses; but instead the weaknesses of my opponent, such that I might take advantage of to win.  Smart tournament players will often engage their opponents into relaxing during the crossover, and disrupt their concentration.

Basic Tennis is not difficult, it's the ability to stay focused while during the heat of competition that throws you off your game.  Everybody makes errors.  Understanding when you make errors and why you are making them, and more importantly how to correct them during the match, can--if you're losing--get you back into contention.

So, with that in mind, I hope you won't be to harsh on me with my smack talking, it's just to remind you that it's just a game.  I'm only here for a short time, but I'm there having fun, and hope you are too, because the better you play, the more fun I'll have.

That's the Talk of the Town.
Released  TOTT, America’s Tennis Decline, As I see it.

For some time now, sportswriters have noticed an absence of an American players in the finals of the U.S. Open, the French Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon.

Some attribute the decline to the lack of Clay Courts in the United States, and offers that up as the Spanish Players dominance. However, I see it a little differently.

As I see it, it’s a lot more basic than that. Surprisingly, and with the surge of popularity in the USTA’s Quick Start Program, at local county, and city recreational facilities, you would expect a plethora of talented new players. Not so, and I’d like to elaborate on several problems that come to mind, many take lessons but few learn to be Tennis Players.

One of the reasons I do not participate in USTA Tennis events is because of its "tennis marketing" rather than marketing of "better playing of tennis." Many of the tennis magazines are written by tennis instructors certified by the USTA, but who have limited experience in teaching tennis, but may have been talented players.

The magazine will often highlight, and promote the playing style, ball spin, and service speed, rather than the players form, the early shot preparation, players’ ability to anticipate, tennis acumen of the player, player’s shot selection, and how player’s employ better footwork, and stroking, and service technique to prevent tennis injuries.

Let’s start with the USTA Rating System. As I see it. The purpose is to provide a basis for tennis instructors that are certified by USTA, to give lessons in order to move players from one rating to another with their self evaluation criteria for tournament play. I see only a 1. Novice; 2. a beginner, 3. a person who plays tennis, and 4. a Tennis Player. as being a necessary ranking method.

However, the tennis teacher, as I see it, and the instructors’ ability to disect the stroke, and present it in increments so that the student can grasp how the stroke is produce is sorely lacking. I pride myself in being able to teach any stroke in less than and hour, and have a unique, systematic method, and realistic expection for student to use my technique to develop their own style of play.

If a teacher, who is of tournament skill level, uses a one hand backhand when playing or teaching, and acknowledges that using a two-hand backhand, or two-hand forehand requires the student to run more, and requires quicker foot speed to get to the ball, which would be a handicap to the Senior player, why would the instructor permit the student to use two-hands, when learning to play?

Finally, the work ethic for learning, and practicing around most courts where I play appear to be only playing. There is a sense of entitlement around the Challenge Courts, but little understanding that competition, requires daily attention to your playing ability, not exercising, that drives the accomplished, and winning tennis players.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tennis Meeting at Millbrook new Talk of the Town

Recently a petition was signed by several Millbrook Exchange Park Tennis players to have the facility director set aside 3 of the 23 courts available for open play, regardless of tennis activities planned by the Recreation Department.

Presently there is conversation to have me meet with the Director, David Bell to discuss the petition.

I am a resident of Henderson, N.C. and drive to Raleigh to play.   Since I, and several players find that on Saturdays, and Sundays, the courts seemed booked with lessons, league play, tournaments that required regulars to find other venue to enjoy our tennis, we ask to have the facility make a change.

When Millbrook does have Tennis Tournaments,  courts are often taken, and non-tournament players  often had to go to another facility miles away.  Since this is a matter that has been ongoing,  and well known, the petition made clear the request that 3 of the 23 courts be set-aside for open play regardless of the city's scheduled, and planned activities;  and thus an open meeting with the public [not just me] should be scheduled, and the public notified by the City of Raleigh, and Millbrook Exchange Park Tennis Staff

More to follow.

That's the Talk of the Town

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What has Happened to America's Tennis? My take is the talk of the town.

Released, Tuesday, December 06, 2011, TOTT, 919 610-5255

by Daniel A. Young, Sr., Winner N.C. Senior Games: 2009 and 2011.

It has been some time since American’s have dominated Tennis. At one time we seemed to have had the best facilities: Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Arthur Ashe Stadium. The best instructors: Vic Bradon, Nick Bollittieri, Dennis Van Der Meer. The best and most up todate balls, rackets, shoes and tennis equipment. So, what happened?

Well, as I see it, tennis has become too accessible. By that I mean, you can now just go to a tennis court and play. Few respect the purpose of the Challenge Court at some facilities.

Thus, they may call it tennis, because they have a tennis racket in their hand, but many beginners go and just bat the ball around. They have no visual concept of stroke production, stroking technique, other than what they may see of the professional players doing on the Tennis Channel. Players often running around their back hand, and seldom coming to the net.

I believe, since advertisers pay good money endorsing certain players, the tennis establishment, Tennis Magazines, USTA, Professional Tennis Association, is loathe to criticize the playing style of any one player, or commenting about these players likely causes of injury as a result of their style of play.

The public that gets their tennis on the TV will invariably copy what they see before them. Seldom do they see the fundamentals of stroke making, or commentary about stroke weaknesses of a players’ game.

Years ago, a wantabe player wouldn’t dream of asking a better player to play. Those learning to play didn’t always take lessons; lessons were for the country club set; but there were a plethora of tennis books on the library shelf, like: Use Your Head in Tennis, How to Beat Better Tennis Players, Match Play and the Spin of the Ball.

There were talented teachers too. Bob Johnson, who taught Arthur Ashe, and Harry Hopman who taught Ken Rosewall, Rod Lever. All three mentioned were one-handed players.

There were instructors who studied the game, and practice what they taught while teaching. Today in tennis, as I see it, little, if any attention is paid to body kinetics in stroke production hence injuries to wrist, ankle, shoulders, and knees abound.

Look at Baseball for example, the majority of players still throw and bat very much alike with but modest changes. The batter faces the pitcher sideways to the ball. Two hands are always on the bat when trying to hit the ball. The right hand is placed above the lefthand on the bat if you are right handed, and vice versa for left handers.

Today’s tennis teachers appear to have no interest in explaining the benefits of one hand strokes, or proper footwork, and how to acquire it for necessary stroke production. Nor do they have interest in explaining the one-hand use and its capability for a variety stroke making, as compared to the disadvantage of two-hand stroke requiring more running, shorter reach and which dominates today’s play at the baseline for professional two handed strokes, because to explain the benefits would be considered: "Too old-school."

In my opinion, the USTA 10 and under program, does little more than takes kids away from their neighborhood, and away from their peers, as a family outing; few of these players are found to be capable, or able, or enthusiastic enough to practice on their own between the lessons where learning should take place.

Instructing, and teaching may take place with the instructor, with or without a ball machine during a lesson, but learning takes place with concentrated effort, dedicated hard work, and practicing on the wall.

In the early 70’s the controversy was about whether to loop the backswing, or to take it straight back. However, utilizing the practice wall, which sent the ball back so quickly, usually solved the racket back problem. Today, few if any instructors demonstrate to players they are teaching how to use the wall for practice.

Today the controversy is more about open stance versus closed stance; flat backhand, or top spin backhand; flat serve, or American Twist serve; or when is the I- formation, the true I-formation, and when was it first used; or players switching hands, when they don’t have a decent backhand.

In conclusion, the USTA has a monopoly on America’s Tennis, and must take responsibility for its demise in America, as well as its popularity world wide, and thus demand a return to the teaching of basic tennis fundamentals that in the words of the President of the Rupert Group: "Facilitates the Achievement of Excellence."