Juniors need a defined pathway to help them through the many intricacies and hurdles of a professional tennis career. Usually the national associations provide their countries academies, or state run training centres, with guidelines on how to develop players from the age of 7 onward.
A concept which is more or less at the amateur level in some Indian cities, and non-existent in most.
Training To Go Pro
Only in the past couple of years have some academies brought about results via a concentrated and dedicated effort. This has led a few juniors to be able to climb up in the ITF Junior rankings and even into the Top 100 (Juniors) worldwide. Sadly, it stops there most of the time.
Players then spend the next four, five or more years still trying to breakthrough on the international circuit. Why is this the case?
It is more due to the fact that they continue to train for the ‘junior level’ all the way up to age 18, rather than begin training for the ‘pro level’ from the age of 13 – 14.
The reason the above happens is that coaches, and trainers, do not teach players to be athletes first. Too much time is spent focusing on non-progressive drills rather than fitness, endurance, stamina, speed and match play. With a proper fitness regimen where balance, co-ordination, bio-mechanics, efficiency, strength, explosiveness, recovery and agile thinking are implemented a player could be a well rounded athlete by their 16th birthday.
Yes, technique is important but if the basic mechanics are not set into a player by the time they are 12, they will always be trying to catch up. As the player gets older they will be one step behind everyone else.
Benchmarks and Tests
The Lawn Tennis Association of UK uses a four point player pathway for those looking to become the best in the world.
Head – good decision making and problem solving; players stay focused and find ways to win
Heart – resilient performer who competes unconditionally
Legs – movement & athleticism positively influences the outcome of matches
Weapons – excellent technique & shot making consistent with game style
– courtesy the LTA website
As you can see, a strong mind on a strong body help match play consistency an attainable goal for a player looking to rise to the top.
In addition, regular testing should be a part of any players progress.
Some examples are, setting up goals to do a particular drill in X amount of time. The ability to be accurate with a shot in X amount of balls. Able to lift X amount of weight for a dead lift, and other age defined benchmarks as per the player’s age, physique and capability.
Want to know how you can test your child? Get in touch with ITL and we can assist you.
Probably the most overlooked aspect is the structure, and more importantly the necessity of planning a tournament schedule.
When it comes to playing national level events some cities may have an abundance of tournaments, while others sparingly have one a month. More often than not players and parents have to travel to various cities to play, just to keep up or maintain points.
Having a clear plan of how many local, national, UTR or ITF events you will play will allow you to judge yourself as a player. You can use local events to test out new strategies, techniques or even to see if your new fitness regimen has made you more agile.
Once you are sure you will get the results you want playing in a higher level event, then it’s time to travel to reach a bigger goal. Even if you lose in the first round of the Singles, and Doubles, as long as you feel that your preparation is where it needs to be the smaller details can be easier to work out.
Remember, just because you are not No.1 at the age of 13, or 18, doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful professional tennis career.
If you would like to set up a meeting with us to develop a player pathway for yourself, or your child, please do get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to assist you on your journey.