The local tennis community boasts some of the top coaches in the world, and with this wealth of talent available, Long Island Tennis Magazine took the opportunity to pick the brains of some of these coaches. These instructors share their thoughts on a variety of tennis topics and issues, ranging from junior tennis to the professional game.
Meet the participants …
Ricky Beckeris director of tennis at the prestigious Pine Hollow Country Club which was awarded the USTA 2018 Private Club of The Year Award on Long Island. As a coach, Becker has been the primary coach for multiple juniors who reached number one in the East. As a player, he won the 1992 Most Valuable Player Award for the NCAA-Winning Stanford University Tennis Team and 1993-1996 Roslyn High School Tennis Teams. He reached number four in the United States and number one in the East in the 18-and-Unders. He can be reached by e-mail at RBecker06@yahoo.com or visit JuniorTennisConsulting.com.
Lisa Dodsonis the developer and owner of Servemaster, a USPTA Elite Professional and a former WTA world-ranked player. She is currently the director of tennis at Shenorock Shore Club in Rye, N.Y. She may be reached by e-mail at Lisa@TheTotalServe.com or visit TheTotalServe.com.
Andrew Eichenholzis a USPTA-certified professional who serves as the USPTA Eastern Section's Metropolitan president. He has coached part-time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since 2012 and also served as a volunteer assistant coach at Division I Stony Brook University for the 2016-17 season.
Laurie Tenney Fehrs
Laurie Tenney Fehrshas been the director of tennis and head professional at Eastern Athletic Club for the past 35 years. A former National 18U Doubles Champion, she began her successful career on the professional tour when she was 17 and would go on to compete in six Wimbledon Championships and seven U.S. Opens.
Michael Fehrsgrew up on Long Island in a tennis-playing family, and currently serves as the Head Pro at Eastern Athletic Club and Tam O’Shanter Country Club. He is a former New York State Doubles Champion from Huntington High School, and played Division I collegiate tennis at the University of Delaware.
Ken Feueris the director of player development at Sportime Syosset, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy’s Long Island Annex. A native of Massapequa, N.Y., he was a top-ranked junior player both on a sectional and national level, before playing collegiately at the University of Nebraska. After his playing career, he was an assistant coach for his alma mater, and would also create his own academy in Scottsdale, Ariz. where he worked with adults, ATP/WTA players and high performance juniors before joining JMTA in the summer of 2019.
Stefan Ilicis a staff professional and associate high performance coach at New York Tennis at Great Neck. As a junior player, Stefan was ranked as high as top 10 in the USTA Eastern Section, won a PSAL Singles Title at Forest Hills High School, was a member of a Junior TeamTennis National Championship team in 2010, and finished as a four-star recruit.
Chris Lewitis a former number one singles player for Cornell who played on the pro circuit. He is a high performance coach, educator, and the author of two best-selling books: The Secrets of Spanish Tennis and The Tennis Technique Bible. He has coached numerous top 10 nationally ranked players and is known for his expertise in building the foundations of young prodigies. Chris trains players during the school year in the New York City area, and players come from around the country to his summer camp in the paradise of Vermont.
Steve Kaplanis the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.
Ed Krasscoached the Harvard Women’s Tennis Team to four consecutive Ivy League titles from 1986-1990. Ed is the founder and director of the Annual College Tennis Exposure Camps, which are taught exclusively by all head college coaches for high school-aged players (15-18). Ed is also the founder of One-On-One Doubles tournaments, which have been played at USTA, ATP, ITA and USPTA national events.
Adam Leeis a teaching professional at Glen Head Racquet and Fitness. He was a three-year captain at Wake Forest where he still holds the program record for singles victories, and achieved an ATP ranking. He has worked with Top 500 ATP Tour players as well as top nationally-ranked juniors, and has USPTA, ITPA, Certified Tennis Performance Specialist and GPTCA coaching certifications.
David Nisensonis the director of junior development at Point Set Tennis. With more than 25 years of playing and coaching experience and an unmatched competitiveness, David has quickly become one of the driving forces behind Point Set’s junior development program.
Joao Pinhois the head professional of 10U and High-Performance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He is a USPTA elite professional, a former NCAA Division I coach and player, and has specialized in developing competitive junior players over the past decade. Currently, he is the private coach of three national champions and a WTA touring pro.
Jason Wassis a USPTA professional certified instructor, with experience coaching all ages and levels. A graduate of the USTA High-Performance Player Development Program, Jay’s strengths lie in working with players in developmental stages of the game, building a player’s technique and strategy from the ground up. Jason’s versatility as a tennis coach is demonstrated by his list of students, ranging from total beginner to nationally-ranked. Named the 2010 USTA Long Island Tennis Professional of the Year, Jay is the director of tennis at Sportime Kings Park.
With the prevalence of things like social media and video games, what do you think is the best way to make sure your students are getting the most out of your tennis program?
►Ricky Becker: When hearing this question, I feel like I would be shallow in answering it with a tennis answer. I can easily make an argument that social media, video games and overall screen time we are allowing for our kids is the biggest world-wide crisis right now. Attention deficit, apathy and general lack of motivation for doing real life activities is going to be at levels we haven’t seen before, although I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that people that are a lot smarter and influential than me can stop this societal problem.
►Chris Lewit: Social media, Internet, and all types of digital media can be a blessing and a curse. My players have to be careful to use social media and digital media carefully to help their development—and not to distract from their training. I tell my players to be judicious when it comes to whom and what they trust online for tennis and training information. I guide them to the best sources for sports science and I instruct them to ask me about what they have learned digitally. I have been using social media to spread my teaching philosophy and method across the world, and it’s a great way for players, parents, and coaches to educate themselves—but they have to know what sources to trust. There is a lot of bad information and advice floating around. It can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s important that kids stay off their mobile devices during practice I have a strict rule about that. I can’t believe it sometimes when I see kids checking their phones during lessons—not to mention the coach checking his or her phone too! Video games are a good relaxation tool, but they can be addicting. Players need to be careful to only play video games after all the hard work on court and in the gym is finished!
►Jason Wass: I think it is important for directors and coaches to listen to our players (and parents) to make sure they are stimulated. Also, we need to pay attention to visual cues/body language and make sure we keep players properly engaged and challenged. As far as how social media and video games play into our work. We need to be very aware as a community, as parents and as coaches what we are up against as we compete for time allocation and the needs of a new generation. Saying things like “This is what worked for me” will only get coaches so far and it will not work with all players.
What are some of the most difficult aspects of college recruiting, and how can we help players navigate that process better?
►Ricky Becker: I feel speaking to parents of junior players who have been through the process is an invaluable and under-used resource. I would also recommend on going onto MyUTR.com (Universal Tennis Rating) to see what the ratings are of the players who play on different teams at colleges you might be interested in attending to see where you fall. This will help navigate the process better because unfortunately I feel like one of the most difficult aspects of college recruiting is sorting through false promises or hopes that some clubs promise prospective college players to keep the student with them.
►Steve Kaplan: College coaches have great omniscience and experience about the college recruiting process and most tennis families do not. It's a highly inequitable negotiation unless you understand some fundamentals. Coaches are seeking value in recruits just as players look to optimize their admission opportunities. If you understand this central concept especially early on, the process is easier to manage. What qualities do coaches look for? Of course, suitable tennis ability and, academic credentials, first and foremost. Beyond the obvious however, tangibles like health and fitness, a long and consistent commitment to competing, a record of team experience, skill in singles and doubles and a sound game all matter greatly. Intangibles like reputation (who do you think coaches ask first to learn about a player? Their team members, of course.), independence, leadership and cooperation are also powerful factors. Some seek to profit from creating a mysterious aura around the recruiting process by presenting themselves as the gatekeepers into schools. I see both knowing and educating players and families about the demands of the process to demystify and adapt as a fundamental obligation of a coach.
►Ed Krass: The best advice I can give to juniors is to attend a college match at any level—to observe the levels of play at each position. It’s important to work hard academically starting in the ninth grade, and to get quality practices and matches to prepare for tournament play. One of the most difficult aspects to navigating the recruiting process is what you hear from other players and parents, a lot of which is misleading. Having college coaches work with you at a camp and/or or having them watch you compete is a great way for you to showcase your game, ability and upside. Even better, you can get their honest feedback about your potential to fit in with their program or others. Being able to talk to coaches directly, or coaches who are knowledgeable about the process, can be an invaluable resource.
What advice do you give your students on dealing with a situation where they feel their opponents are cheating?
►Lisa Dodson: This is always a tough situation. Men generally handle the situation better than women and juniors. Guys seem to feel more comfortable calling someone out if they think they are getting hooked. But, regardless of who you are, I advise that if it happens three times, that’s enough. Anyone can make an honest mistake so we have to give the benefit of the doubt. The player should question the second time they believe a bad call was made. If they are playing in a match of importance or a tournament, then the third time they need to ask for someone to call lines. Most of the time an impartial person can be found to official, even for high school matches. It’s important that players don’t get derailed by the perceived bad calls. Once players start focusing on and looking for bad calls, it’s hard to do what is important. Even the best players in the world can be thrown by bad calls. Everyone handles the situation differently but the cool head always prevails.
►Andrew Eichenholz: Often the toughest part about losing a point is not actually losing the point, but the mental effects that linger in the coming points, games and, in some cases, another set. It's about putting that single point in perspective, no matter how disappointing losing it may be, and for whatever the reason you lost it was. I've found that it's detrimental to discuss the 'cheating' with the player. Altering tactics to try to 'play it safe' to deal with potential 'cheating' does not help, either. The more a player thinks about these things, the more likely they are to lose focus and see their own level suffer, which is the biggest problem in this situation. The past is the past, and it's about what solutions a player and coach can find for the player to execute their best tennis so that after the match, the discussion is a reflection on overcoming the 'cheating' hurdle rather than being derailed by it.
►Michael Fehrs: I love this question because unlike most coaches, there is no one way to solve this problem. Each player, child or adult, has a different personality. As one prepares for a match, this issue could arise especially if the opponent is known for cheating. My opinion and expertise is that a player has to respect his or herself, the court, and the sport. If you are a “gentleman” or a “lady,” you deserve to play the sport clean. So, I would confront your opponent and ask to make the call after the ball bounces. From there, if it happens ONCE more, you walk up to the net and tell your opponent to please rectify the call that was made and then go get an official.
►Ken Feuer: When a student of mine feels like they are being cheated I tell them that they must keep their cool. All too many times the student gets caught up in the bad call and losses focus on what they are really trying to do on court. I tell my students to give their opponents the benefit of the doubt on the first bad call but on the second one they simply put their racket down and go get a referee.
As an industry, how can we begin to make tennis more affordable and accessible to more people?
►Andrew Eichenholz: There are perhaps little things that can slowly make a difference. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center runs what is called the PACES Program, which allows students in the area to come to the home of the US Open for a minimal fee, receiving a tour around the grounds—including an educational element—to engage with the history of the sport, as well as an hour-long lesson with the facility’s staff pros. During that session, students are run through a dynamic warm-up before being introduced to the sport's basic shots to give them a basic understanding of tennis and foster a love for the sport. Another way is helping give families ideas for what they can do if they're not at the tennis center. On days when students do not have a class or private lesson, there is nothing stopping them from playing. There are various apparatus that could be constructed at home or at a local park that allow kids and adults alike to play the game, or at the very least satisfy their craving to swing a racquet around. There are many ways to use a handball wall to work on your game and get reps in, and the only cost is effort and time on behalf of the student. Coaches could even encourage students through “homework,” asking their players to accomplish certain “missions” between classes. That could be hitting a certain number of shots in a row against the wall without stopping or doing variations of "ups" to work on feel.
►Steve Kaplan: As Long Islanders, it's difficult to escape the extraordinarily high costs of living. As a club owner, I face this same expense issue. It should be no surprise that tennis—especially indoor tennis—is expensive to provide, and the cost will be passed on. While programs are giving (and boasting about) more training scholarships today than ever before most are performance and not need based. Thus, opportunities abound, but not for those who need support the most. As an industry and as local operators we can do better. We should encourage not marginalize school tennis, because it's the best value for a great tennis experience at a low cost. It's good for players and good for families and that's good for the sport. We can also focus on providing quality over quantity and teach players what positive steps they can take off court to supplement limited on court resources. We can be creative and innovative. The tennis industry can grow the game by doing a better job of providing a vision of philanthropy, enlightened self-interest and inclusion instead of short sighted promotional expediency.
►David Nisenson: Locally, tennis faces challenges brought on by the popularity of team sports which include local town leagues and instructional programs at moderate pricing. On a national level, I think warm weather states have a advantage because court time and availability to train at a lower cost, compared to indoor tennis in New York.
►Jason Wass: We have to be creative and also understanding of the obstacles that we face. Rent, utilities, taxes have all gone up in our area. Using public courts can help to keep costs lower during warm weather months, but the indoor season is always a challenge. Utilizing smaller courts and equipment that is appropriately sized can also help make tennis fun and manageable on the same space. Players should also look for opportunities to play at non-peak times to keep costs down.
With the abundance of analytics now available in nearly every sport, how much can tennis benefit from the use of advanced stats, and how would you incorporate them into your tennis teaching/coaching?
►Ricky Becker: I think tennis is behind, but catching up. If you watched the US Open, analytics were all over the production. I like keeping simple statistics, like serve percentages, points won off first/second serves as well as winners and errors off both wings. This confirms or dispels things that me and my students know and helps guide us a little going forward. Looking at more advanced stats would need more recorded matches, which is uncommon among junior players and not allowed by parents or coaches at junior tournaments.
►Adam Lee: As a coach of many national, collegiate and professional tennis players, it is essential to analyze and deconstruct the statistics and data gathered from match play. These actual statistics and data allow me to tailor specific methods and techniques to improve and develop holes and weaknesses as well as strengthen weapons. Without the abundance of analytics, coaches can have more of a difficult time dealing with stubbornness, a resistance to change, and different opinions and beliefs from their players.
►Chris Lewit: Analytics are the future of sports training, however, parents and coaches need to be careful in the conclusions they make based on statistical analysis. For example, it’s commonly accepted now that the average rally on the pro tours is four to five shots. Pros are playing powerfully and aggressively, which is reflected in the stats. However, many have taken a false logical leap and concluded that because the pros often finish points in that rally range, training for junior should be primarily the first four shots only, and that training longer reps and rallies is a waste of time. I strongly disagree and this is why I sometimes refer to this theory as the “Myth of the First Four Shots.” Young players especially still need to learn to focus and develop consistency, rhythm, and control, as well as patience and defense—and this can only be learned through long repetitions and rallies. The serve and attacking shots are, of course, also extremely important. There should be a balanced approach to junior training blending attack, consistency, and defense. Simple stats are very helpful for my junior tournament players to objectively track their performance. Advanced analytics have more bearing at the top college and professional level.
►Joao Pinho: Tennis is finally catching up with other mainstream sports in terms of stats and analytics. While that is a very positive change, it's important to find a balance between teaching based on the new findings and the way that it has been done for decades. For example, this recent wealth of information in our sport has shed more light into the actual length of most points during a match, which puts significantly more importance on serve and returns; historically, two of the strokes that players (and coaches) would spend less time on. While it is very positive to place additional emphasis on these particular strokes, it's also crucial not to totally shift our mentalities and get away from developing sound baseliners who are capable of being consistent and aggressive from the back of the court, even though the percentage of points that actually go beyond nine shots is fairly low. With that said, in the past few years, I have incorporated many more patterns of play off the serve and return into my lesson plans, as well as unique games to work on the "beginning of the point.” However, I don't ignore the importance of developing a very solid ground game that will give the player the confidence that he or she won't “break down” on an important point that goes the distance.
How do you feel about on-court coaching, and at which levels should it be allowed?
►Laurie Fehrs: I am not a fan of on-court coaching during a tournament. On-court coaching should be limited to training sessions and practices. I feel it is important with a student to sometimes work with them on recognizing their opponent’s weaknesses. At times, they can’t recognize this on their own until you point it out. Ultimately, I believe a player needs to be able to realize these weaknesses on their own. And when the match is over, coaching becomes very helpful.
►Ed Krass: I like the on-court coaching aspect in college tennis! I think that it could be a great addition at select junior events, maybe one or two a year, so these young players learn how to be properly coached before they play college. I also like the idea of on-court coaching at professional events. I know mostly all sports, at the pro level, allow for coaching during the competition. For all of our sport's challenges, i.e., the emotions, the mental side, tactics/strategy, opponent etc. Coaching on court just may allow for more growth in a player's true development and enjoyment in playing the game.
►David Nisenson: I don’t think coaching should be allowed in junior tennis, because it would diminish the problem solving aspect that makes tennis so unique. I think developing these skills are crucial for the growth of a junior player. I would be okay with coaching at the pro level, and I think it would add a different dynamic for the fans if they were able to hear the interaction between player and coach as they are currently doing in the WTA.
How do you deal with a parent who you think is negatively affecting their child's play? What is the parent’s role versus the coach’s role?
►Ken Feuer: There are different ways a parent negatively affects a student’s tennis game. For the most part, you have to take each case differently. There are different levels of affecting a student’s game. Some are just minor situations in which case you can just mention in passing your concerns with the parent such as maybe showing up late to a lesson or practice consistently. For more serious situations, such as berating a child after a loss or constantly getting involved in the coaches lessons in a negative way or just putting enormous amounts of pressure on the child by focusing on wins and losses instead of the process the coach is trying to instill. Unfortunately, you may have to have a sit down with the parent and be honest with what you see. It may lose you a client but every case is different and I’ve seen some parents learn from the talk and get better from it. It can be tricky because as a coach you know the student can benefit if the parent gives the child some space to learn but know your roll and don’t ever cross the line. Use your best judgment when speaking to parents and know your boundaries of home life to on the tennis court.
►Michael Fehrs: Having dealt with this problem recently and a couple of times, this is a very tough situation for coaches. I have lost a student and I was okay with it because all things “come out in the wash.” Coaches cannot spend parent’s money; however, the way to help a parent learn about how they are affecting their child’s play is to have a group meeting. Group meetings should be had bi-weekly. To educate a parent is a major part of a coach’s job. If he/she can educate while coaching, everything will go positively. Parent’s Role = Understand what the coach is trying to portray and help his/her child. Coach’s Role = Educating the Parent/Coaching the Kid = Creating a foundation.
►Ed Krass: I think a parent's role is to be just that—a parent. Even if the parent has played professionally and/or collegiately, they should leave the teaching/coaching aspects to the coaches they have hired. Junior players often want to separate from their parents when it comes time for them to play a sport. Players should both love and respect their parents; however, I have found that the junior players respect the words of their coaches MORE when it comes to tennis-specific advice. The parents all need to learn and understand this fragile yet vitally important relationship and synergy needed to raise a tennis player successfully in today's environment. There are some great books for parents to read about how to effectively raise a junior tennis player including Frank Giampaolo's book on how to be the best tennis parent possible: The Tennis Parent’s Bible.
►Joao Pinho: I believe the main issue associated with parents who are overly involved or negative impacting the child's tennis journey is the parent's lack of knowledge about the process of developing competitive players. Despite having good intentions, most parents did not play at a high level, nor have developed a player to any significant stage; therefore, they don't fully understand what it takes, the ups and downs, and what's actually important in that process. As a consequence of that confusion, parents often stress over inconsistent results, compare their child's progress with others, as well as believe that playing with better players is the ultimate solution for improvement. In order to address these issues, I find it important to work closely with parents throughout the year. At the USTA BJK National Tennis Center, I not only host a series of group parent meetings throughout the year where I not only go over the information about our programs, but also discuss important concepts, related to their child's tennis journey, for them to be aware of. Additionally, I do individual meetings with the player and parent (in our most competitive levels), at the end of every session, to discuss the issues that are specific to that player and how the parent can assist. Such efforts have resulted in a more coordinated effort between our parents and coaches and empowered the parents to make decisions with a more educated view of the entire process. In general terms, parents must understand that they are part of a team (player, coach and parent) and that decisions should include the input from all three parties. As the player evolves, s/he will "lead the direction" more while working with parents and coaches to find the best route for that end-goal. The coaches' role is to serve a stabilizer who is capable of seeing the perspective from both player and parent, while understanding what's around the corner; which is something that players and parents (who have not been through the journey) will likely not to be able to foresee.
How do you deal with a student who shows poor sportsmanship on the court and/or a negative attitude?
►Laurie Fehrs: When working with a student that shows poor sportsmanship or a negative attitude, I try to talk with them after to see if they understand where it is coming from. Is it trying to do well for a parent? Are they out of shape or condition? Is it self-esteem? Sometimes these things can affect the player, and emotions run high. I find when you can get to the root of these issues, the behavior of the player improves.
►Stefan Ilic: When a student shows a negative attitude towards anything they should be doing, the coach has a responsibility to explain why the attitude will not help them progress. After that, the coach should try to inquire as to why the negative attitude or bad sportsmanship is even present, to get to the underlying problem. Instead of the negative attitude, the student should see with the help of the coach the positive effects a good attitude will have: Hopefully, the student will adjust with ease and learn to prevent any bad behavior and thoughts from arising on the court in the future. If this doesn’t work then the coach themselves should be the one to exemplify what a positive attitude on the court could achieve. Whether it be picking up balls more effectively so there is more time to play, or listen to their own advice to prevent the student from feeling like he/she is being ‘targeted’ to learn, this way everyone learns from each other. These are a few examples.
►Chris Lewit: It’s important to develop the hardware (technical/physical), but to never neglect the software (mental/emotional)! There are many approaches I take with my players. The first step is to figure out what is causing the behavior. What’s at the root? Players can struggle with many different emotions and pressures, and I need to first understand what is driving the negative behavior. For example, some kids struggle with anger. Some with fear. Some with insecurity. Some with anxiety. Some with embarrassment. Or all of the above. There may be off court school or family issues driving the behavior. Kids feel and respond to pressure in different ways. I try to work closely with the parents because they know their child even better than I do. We come up with a game plan to improve the behavior. We set goals and develop a plan of action. I believe that parental support and guidance are critical. Parents are my best helper to shape a child’s behavior because they have so much influence and spend so much time with a child. If one of my students exhibits flat out cheating or other unacceptable behavior, I usually recommend to the parents to take them out of competition for a short period of time until they reform themselves. Playing tournaments is a privilege, not a right. Players need to conduct themselves at tournaments with basic dignity and need to show respect to the people around them. I often give my players books and articles to read, videos to review, and other resources to help them with the mental and emotional side of the game.
►Adam Lee: It is really important for coaches to know the different personalities of their players. I do not allow bad behavior on my court. As for a negative attitude, I address the situation to their parents and share my ideas as to how I can help change the issue. Whenever I see negativity on my court, I always sit them down on the side and talk to them about ways they can channel their thoughts more positively. It is really important to stop them there and then to make them realize what they are doing.
What type of cross-training do you recommend to players to help them elevate their game?
►Lisa Dodson: Play other sports and participate in other athletic endeavors. Unless you are a tournament player, tennis “training” can be uninspiring and boring. Crossover skills, endurance, speed and agility can be gained by simply doing something else. Female recreational players should absolutely do some strength and balance training for more powerful movement and joint stability. This will include some weight lifting, strengthening using body weight and core work. Guys tend to be strong regardless of strength training so flexibility and overall fitness is important especially if they are more of the weekend warrior. Examples for guys: interval short distance running/jogging, pushups and some core work is pretty easy to find time for. Juniors should be playing other sports to develop crossover skills. For example, basketball is a great for speed, agility and crossover footwork, shooting arm and hand pronation is great for the serve and playing a smaller court sport helps field of vision. This is a more successful way to “train” for most players. Tournament players fall into a specific category and need to develop a healthy fitness routine.
►Laurie Fehrs: I can’t believe how many kids can’t or don’t jump rope. I am old-fashioned when it comes to basic cross-training … a lot of jump rope, long distance running, between about one to two miles, quick wind sprints, footwork drills and shadowing.
►Adam Lee: I am a certified tennis performance specialist, which is the gold standard in the tennis fitness industry. I really recommend High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), hill sprints, resistance band training, medicine ball workouts, core strength exercises, and of course, plyometric exercises. It is important for players to be explosive and powerful when changing direction, while keeping a low center of gravity.
►Joao Pinho: While most parents, players and coaches will likely agree that participating in different sports can play an important role in the overall athletic development of a player, the reality is that few seem to take advantage of that; at least in our sport. Nonetheless, just because many others don't pursue it, it does not mean it should not be done. In general terms, playing multiple sports can boost the player's physical capabilities, as well as create a more well-rounded athlete and, potentially, minimize the chances of injuries related to overuse. Activities such as soccer, lacrosse and basketball, can be good additions to a tennis player to use as cross-training. One aspect that I often emphasize with parents is that we first want to develop an athlete to then build a tennis player, and not the other way around. While being a single sport player can create initial success, the price is often paid further down the road as the player is not as complete an athlete as they could be, or burns out, or gets injured.
How can players benefit from competing in the various team formats of tennis?
►Michael Fehrs: Junior USTA, Doubles USTA, High School Tennis, Team Tennis, tennis is by far the hardest sport out there. We as coaches must develop a culture that allows the most individual sport out there to feel as if his/her student has a team/home. The more we can do that, the more positive mindset one could have throughout the rigors of tennis.
►Ken Feuer: Competing in the various team formats of tennis can be very beneficial to a player’s development. For one, the player feels a sense of belonging and relying on others in that team aspect. The team aspect makes it fun and creates lasting memories with others In a sport where players are always out there on their own. Other teammates cheering them on can boost self-esteem and confidence and is a great way to get lots of guaranteed matches under your belt in a totally different format makes it even more exciting.
►Stefan Ilic: Players can become better people by learning how to interact with the game and others while playing different formats. There are the adult leagues, tournaments for young adults/teens, and even the younger generations can compete on the city scale. These mediums allow for developing a sense for how the game is played in different age groups. Since different age groups and tournament styles have different scoring formats they each bring their own values to the game. Chronologically, the younger kids will learn more if they start younger rather than waiting till their late teens to start playing. The same applies to adults … the sooner the better.
►Steve Kaplan: Tennis, by its nature, is an individual sport, but people by nature are social animals and socialization thru sports should be a fundamental goal of tennis participation. Teams give us a sense of belonging. Learning to work with synergy as part of a group is an indispensable skill as an adult and you cannot easily be a solitary leader. The ultimate goal of very many junior players is, after all, a great college team experience. It's important to learn to be a vital team member early in life and such opportunities need not be limited to school teams or USTA team tennis although both are great ways to be a part of a team. My advice to juniors is be proactive and creative. Volunteer to mentor, tutor or aid others on the court and off. Find commonality and affiliation in causes you care about and work with others as part of a team to further them and elevate yourself. Tennis excellence can be a lonely pursuit if you isolate yourself and see it as a zero sum game in which all opponents are enemies. Teams teach, cooperation, humility and a sense of our place in the world. These lessons are indispensable for young tennis players.
►David Nisenson: Tennis, being an individual sport, does not provide the players the opportunity to be cheered on, to cheer for or develop bonds that come with playing on a team. The recent Laver Cup showed how refreshing and enjoyable that experience was for the best players in the world to be in that type of environment.
►Jason Wass: I’m a big believer that team tennis is super important, for the growth of the game, but also for the growth of the players. Tennis is largely known as an individual sport, but it is often the case that player’s greatest memories are of high school and college tennis, junior team tennis, etc. Tennis has the ability to develop great skills to develop independence, discipline and a sense of accountability (since you can’t blame anyone else when it is only you out on the court). However, team sports can develop strong social connections, a sense that you are working for more than just yourself and the responsibility to not let your teammates down. Team tennis is a great way for players to experience the ups and downs of competition in a group environment with players encouraging each other to reach a common goal. It makes it a bit easier to handle losses when other players share the same feelings as you do and you are not alone.