The flowing strokes of Pete Sampras and the elegance of Anna Kournikova's game once again grace our site this week, thanks to their play in World Team Tennis courtesy of the Sacramento Capitols. The TennisOne staff is on the road covering the Acura Classic in San Diego this week, so continue to look for cutting edge instruction and news on TennisOne on a daily (or near) basis.
Kim Shanley, Publisher
American Tennis: Where is it going?
David W. Smith Senior Editor TennisOne
It is very interesting that the United States has only one player ranked higher than Marcos Baghdatis from the tiny island of Cyprus.
With Andre Agassi retiring this year, Pete Sampras long gone, and Roddick on a downward ranking path, many tennis followers are asking the question, "Where are the dominant Americans’ in today’s tennis?"
It is very interesting that a player such as Marcos Baghdatis could reach a top ten ranking in the world and hail from such a tiny place like the island of Cyprus. Surely, the United States, home to some 270 million people can produce more than one player ranked higher than Mr. Baghdatis.
Yet, we don’t. Not at the moment…and possibly not in the near future.
Having taught tennis and studied the game for well over 30 years, I will describe what I have found to be a definitive answer to this question.
Click photo: Go to any high school in America, the best athletes are choosing football, baseball, and basketball.
Go to any high school in America and examine the most popular sports. Football, softball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and depending on the areas, swimming, track and even golf clearly out-rank tennis in terms of popularity.
When I say "popularity" I mean this in two ways. First of these is the number of athletes that come out for a sport. The other aspect of popularity is the perception of "coo"l any of the aforementioned sports have on campus.
I have often said that if I ever got the kids who played the big three sports, (football, basketball, baseball), I would have a huge team of nationally ranked kids. Few very strong or gifted athletes go out for tennis. Sure, there are those who do and generally become great players. I once had the varsity football quarterback take lessons from me and he immediately became one of the best players in the area. Unfortunately, his love of not just football but also basketball (he was also a varsity basketball player), took time away from pursuing tennis with the same quality of time as others, perhaps less gifted, put into their tennis.
Where other countries revere tennis players, American teens seldom look at tennis as a sport which they can gain a sense of ego-gratifying recognition.
Tennis on Television
In the past few months, scanning the ESPN channels, I have seen shows on fishing, pool, poker, bowling, and, yes, even darts.
Click photo: Scanning the ESPN channels, I have seen shows on fishing, pool, poker, bowling, and, yes,
It is not uncommon to go weeks without seeing anything even remotely associated with tennis on these channels.
Many of the kids that come to my academy have never even seen tennis played on television! Imagine kids going to a basketball, football or baseball camp never having seen these sports played before attending such camps! That would be unheard of!
The Concept of Learning
For some reason, tennis is about the only sport I can think of that teaches tennis in a transitional format in many teaching facilities. That is, the concept of tennis is approached as "hit and giggle" or "laugh and win." Tennis concepts taught at beginner levels are usually simple with the idea that change can come later.
Can you imagine at the golf course the pro saying, “Hey, hold the club what ever way feels comfortable, swing at the ball standing so you can hit it twenty yards or so, and then let’s hit the course.” Or, imagine a baseball camp where they let the kids play anyway they want so they don’t discourage them, and then get them into a game as quickly as possible. “Hey, forget throwing the ball overhand, you can get away with rolling the ball underhand to the first baseman.”
Yet, in so many tennis programs, I see this exact teaching philosophy that I just lampooned as the cornerstone of their effort to keep tennis kids "excited"’ about playing.
Ever notice the number of adults who can’t get past the 3.5 level? Notice the number of players who dink and push the ball over the net to "play"’ tennis?
In my many years of teaching, I have had some surprises in tennis. Many of those "less gifted" players who did come out for my teams became gifted. I had a boy many years ago come out for my tennis team. As a freshman, he couldn’t drop-hit a tennis ball, let alone hit one tossed to him. Yet, by the time he was a sophomore, he became one of the highest ranked doubles players in southern California, a place that is somewhat known for tennis in the U.S. He went on to win 150 league varsity matches without a loss in his three years on varsity.
Click photo: Imagine if there were 6,000 more high school tennis players players and they were all
Yet, such surprises are exactly that. If the U.S. ever wants to regain a foothold in the tennis world, we can’t rely on surprises!
Ironically, the USTA, for decades, have had a "‘hands of"’ approach to high school tennis. Only recently, has the USTA made a cursory attempt at reaching out to the high schools.
If the USTA really wanted to get those athletes out for tennis they should do two things:
Develop the coolest video/DVD of tennis points played, (the rallies with the between the legs, the behind the back, the scrambling and power, movement and finesse) and offer it to every physical education program in the country.
- Devote more time and money into training high school tennis coaches.
Where I grew up in southern California, there are some 700 high schools. Of these there are probably some 300 that have reasonably good tennis programs that average over 20 kids per team. That is over 6000 players, just in southern California, that play tennis at this important age.
Imagine if there were 6000 more players there, but they were all good athletes! Multiply that by the number of high schools across the country. We would have a lot more Blakes, Roddicks, Youngs, and Agassi’s to show the world who’s who!
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Russians Look to Revive at Acura Classic
The elite Russian women abandoned the US Open Series kickoff at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, but they are out in force this week at the Acura Classic at the La Costa Resort and Spa in San Diego. With 10 Russians amongst the 56 players, including top seeds Sharapova, Petrova, Dementieva, they are looking to make their mark.
ProStrokes Special - Sampras and Kournikova
What do top players do when they retire from the tour and get a bit bored with all the golf? Well, fortunately there is World Team Tennis. And courtesy of the Sacramento Capitols, TennisOne brings you the flowing strokes of all-time great Pete Sampras and the elegance of Anna Kournikova's game.
Virtual Tennis Academy
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training, and much, more from a hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from the convenience of their own home.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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