The 2017 Summer Tennis Academy was another great period of success for us! The kids worked extremely hard, and they will take what they learned back home and implement each aspect into their training and tournament play/preparation.
The summer academy is all about getting ready for tournaments, it’s as simple as that. We take each player, understand their individual goals, potential, overall experience, etc., and we give them the tools to become tournament-tough players. You probably need to win at least 4-5 matches to come out on top at Texas tournaments, Champs and Superchamps. Obviously national tournaments require much bigger draws; you would need to win at least 6-7 consecutive matches – now that’s a lot! The Texas Grand Slam is a huge draw, to win it you need to win at least 7 matches. Many of the summer academy kids come here because they are simply not getting what they need back home to be fully confident and ready going into a tournament. Simply playing a few times per week and taking a private lesson will not suffice if you want to be truly good and successful in your tournaments. When players come here, they learn how to train, how to run hard off the court, put in the extra effort, play matches, and take lessons. We want them to feel as though they have done every single thing in their power to create possible success at a tournament. Any doubt in readiness or lack of confidence can really break a player before the tournament even begins.
So, what do you need before going into a tournament? Well, it’s actually quite simple, and that’s how we like to keep it. You need four basic components:
1. Drilling – You need to hit a ton of balls, and I’m talking live ball – cross courts, down-the-lines, drop and hit points, 2-on-1 drills… if you have the resources to do it all then great, hit TONS and TONS of balls.
2. Match play – Practice matches teach you how to start matches, come from behind, close out sets, battle after choking a big lead, and all the various things that can happen in a live match; if you don’t experience these things in practice, you have no chance of being successful when the stakes are 10 times as high in a big tournament. Practice matches are the #1 tool that will get you ready for tournaments. This is hard for many kids, because they simply cannot get enough variety of opponents back home. Whether they live in a small town or go to a country club, they aren’t playing enough matches. PLAY MATCHES at least three times per week.
3. Private lessons – Every good player has a private coach that they get one-on-one time with at least once or twice per week – sometimes more depending on the player. Keep in mind, if your only practice is that with a private coach, then you won’t be a good tournament player in the long run. Don’t forget you need to drill with kids that are close to your level and you need to play matches against other kids; playing matches or points with your coach is good for strategy and execution but sometimes these points can be sugar coated and unrealistic. Every player has holes in their games, things that need polishing or improvement, even the top players in the world have private coaches. You must get those extra reps on areas that need real detail, that’s what the private lessons are for. If your backhand let you down in your last match, you should spend time with a coach getting those extra reps and gaining more confidence in that backhand. It’s really that simple. Even if everything feels good, it’s important to go through every shot with your coach right before a tournament. It just might give you an added boost of confidence that can really make a difference!
4. Fitness – Let’s face it; winning a tournament takes a lot of mental fortitude – you must really put it all together not just for one match, but consecutive matches, and each round the opponent becomes more difficult to beat. But what a lot of players fail to see is the importance of off-court fitness training. The bottom line is this: if you are fit, you are fully confident in your ability to stay out on that court all day if that’s what it takes. If you know you are fitter than the person across from you, you won’t play rushed, you won’t play panicked like you have to end the point too soon because you are simply pacing yourself for what lies ahead in the next 2-3 hours. Fitness creates confidence, toughness, and in turn creates that mental toughness you were striving for. Get fit and you will see a huge difference in your tournament play. Please note: a long-distance run is only ONE type of fitness training, and it’s not enough for a fast-twitch sport like tennis. When I ask kids in the summer academy if they do off-court fitness, they’ll often answer, “Oh yeah coach, I run five miles, twice a week”. Well that’s not helping your explosiveness and agility, its only helping your cardiovascular strength. For tennis, you need really three areas of fitness: 1. Sprinting – overall speed, this can be done with interval training, incline running, etc. 2. Agility and explosiveness – plyometrics are always good, as well as on-court fitness drills focusing on first step movements, shuffling, cross-over step, etc., and 3. Cardio – your lungs need to be strong and your endurance should be high. Long-distance running helps with this.
If I had to add a fifth component, it would be extra serving practice. One thing that I see really lets young players down in their tournaments are low serving percentages. The bottom line is we don’t practice the serve enough, the groundstrokes always get love and we tend to neglect the serve during a practice session until it’s time to play points or a match. If you can practice your serve away from practice time, at least 3-4 times per week, it will really help your tournament play. The most important statistic in tennis, the one thing that usually translates with winning, are serve percentages, 1st and 2nd.
This is the NEWK’S way. These four simple steps are what every one of our year-round kids do day in and day out, and the results in their tournaments speak for themselves. Trust me, if you do these four things, and you do them well, you will become successful in your tournaments. If you skip a drill session, or play a match at 50%, or skip fitness here and there, or don’t put in the extra reps, you will fail when the pressure is high. Remember that confidence is extremely fragile, for any athlete, so gaining it takes a lot of hard work and effort. These steps to getting tournament ready is what we hope every summer academy player will take home and implement into their training. It’s what all of our year-round players go through every week, and it’s what makes our players so successful in tournament play.
– PJ HENDRIE, ACADEMY DIRECTOR