The Tennis Channel has a feature in which top professionals dig into their bags to see what they have inside. I suspect that they find some long lost items when they do this bag check, and the tone of this feature is more flippant than serious.
Junior tournament players, however, should recognize that having a well-prepared bag with useful and necessary items packed inside is vital, and might very well be the difference between victory and defeat.
Some of the items I describe below are obvious, some less so, but all are important.
1. Rackets: Of course and don't use all of them concurrently. If you have four rackets and you use them all equally in a rotation, then you might break all the strings at the same time! Use one racket and move on to the next when the string breaks. That way, you are ensured of always having several pristine rackets.
2. Strings: You will save money at tournaments and ensure that you get the strings you want, if you supply your own.
3. Extra laces: If yours break and you don't have extra, you could be in trouble.
4. Chemical ice pack: For injuries and extra hot days.
5. "The Code" rulebook: Players should know the rules! Opponents and officials are not however, always sure of the rules. “The Code” can settle many disputes.
6. Over the counter anti inflammatory and upset stomach medications: Get parental permission for this!
7. Full water bottle and empty water bottle: Hydration is vital to success.
8. Plastic bags: You might want to organize all of these things
9. Bandana: So many uses here its hard to name them all, but a few are: Towel, sweatband and cooling band.
10. Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, hat, wrist bands, extra shirt: For the outdoors.
11. Extra socks, skin lubricant, baby powder: To prevent blisters.
12. Training tape, under wrap and antiseptic wipes: For minor injuries.
13. Energy bars and snacks: For extra energy during and immediately following a match.
14. Feminine products: As needed.
15. Grip tape: If grips get worn and slippery.
Not all of the above are needed at all times by everyone, but this list is a good reference point. Equipment preparation is often overlooked by inexperienced players and attentiveness to these often overlooked details might spare you an avoidable loss.
Steve Kaplan is 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 New York 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.