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Kim Shanley, Publisher
American Tennis: Continuing Comments
Last month, I wrote “American Tennis: Where is it going?” as a commentary on the unmistakable disappearance of American men and women among the world’s elite. In writing the short piece, I had no idea it would strike such a cord among TennisOne readers. Never has a newsletter had the response and depth of reaction that this one had. And, as such, it has prompted this second of an unintended series on the subject!
American women have seen a decline in the world rankings. We don’t see a lot of U.S. women today following in the footsteps of Lindsay Davenport or the Williams sisters.
I should note here that in my first piece I alluded to more references regarding the men’s game. I think most people will agree that a similar paradigm shift has occurred in the women’s game as well. We don’t see a lot of U.S. women today following in the footsteps of the Davenports, the Williams Sisters, or the Capriati’s. So please know that I am referring generally to both sexes.
The vast majority of those who wrote responses agreed with many of my points. Yet, there were a number of people who wrote with additional opinions. One very legitimate, specific point of contention was mentioned more than once: MONEY. More specifically, there were three points defining tennis in terms of money: The cost of playing tennis; the cost of learning tennis; and the amount of money tennis pros earn compared to other professional sports. Let me share my experience and thoughts on these issues.
Cost of Playing Tennis
In terms of playing tennis, the sport is probably one of the least expensive. In the most frugal sense, tennis can be played with a racquet from a local thrift store, a few used balls procured from a local tennis club or found outside the fences or in the bushes around public tennis courts. At the same time, you can play on public courts usually for free. Granted, the quality of these three components can be summed up by the phrase, you get what you pay for.
Even if we look at purchasing a nice racquet and play regularly with a new can of tennis balls, you are not going to be out more than a few bucks each time you play on a public tennis court. Compare the cost of a decent set of golf clubs ($150 to $1000!) and the typical $40 to $125 green fees and suddenly the cost of tennis doesn’t look so bad! Certainly, the rise of golf’s popularity compared to tennis would dispel the issue of cost as being a factor in the demise of tennis in terms of popularity.
The cost of playing tournament tennis can be significant; one person countered my article by saying that the cost of traveling to tennis tournaments is a major factor in prohibiting more players from participating in the sport. Certainly, this can be argued. However, if you compare the cost of traveling to any other sports’ tournaments, similar cost will be incurred. Attending softball, basketball, or golf tournaments would all have similar travel costs and such tournaments can be similar to a typical tennis tournament.
Cost of Learning Tennis
The cost of learning tennis can be argued to be a factor. Certainly, private lessons can add up. At $50 to $70 or more per hour, this method of learning can be costly. However, we see similar costs for golf lessons. (Tack on the $5 to $8 per bucket of practice balls and you can easily spend much more for golf!)
Group lessons are much more economical than privates, reducing the cost to an affordable level.
Compared to the cost of other lessons, (piano, singing, sports camps, etc.) tennis lessons can be similar. Certainly, group tennis lessons, clinic, and camps can be much cheaper. We train a number of top juniors in such clinics with only a few augmenting the clinics with private lessons. Clinics usually run about $5 a half-hour in our area. I usually recommend players seek private lessons initially so they gain a true understanding of what they are working on. After a few of these private lessons, group lessons with an occasional private lesson as maintenance can provide ample instruction to continue on a steady path of improvement.
Potential to Make Money
On the subject of prize money, it can be argued that most team sports have much higher salaries among a higher number of players. I agree with this statement. However, as my prior article pointed out, the number of good to great athletes competing in team sports is significantly higher. Thus, the competition for those spots is usually very stiff. A "good" athlete probably doesn’t even stand a chance among such high-caliber competitors. And, as I mentioned, few great athletes go out for the typical high school tennis team.
In the US, great athletes like Jason Schmidt seem to gravitate toward team sports like baseball.
I believe great athletes would have far better chance at making it big in tennis because of this very concept. And consider all the minor leagues in such team sports. There are tens of thousands of wanna be pros fighting for the chance to make in the big show. Yet, the odds are, few will ever make it out of the lower ranks.
In tennis, the players make their own fortunes. Those who have the potential—then maximize that potential through dedication and hard work—can create their own success. I believe that if a larger number of great athletes took to tennis, we would see a change in the status of U.S. competitors.
Next month, I will address some of the other valid points many of our readers presented including court surfaces, training techniques, equipment and the USTA…among others! In the meantime, I invite all readers to share their thoughts on this subject. Perhaps we will help come up with a plan to invigorate tennis and reinvent the U.S. tennis professional!
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's Book Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.)
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Evolving a Loop Swing that Fits!
There are many ways to hit a tennis ball and, if you watch the pro, many variations on the loop take back. The loop swing provides for a quantifiable amount of added energy afforded by the dropping of the racquet with the assistance of gravity to generate initial momentum before the forward and upward contact phase of the stroke. Dave Smith shows you how to develop a loop swing that fits your personality and your game.
Ball Control – Win with Spin
Everyone remembers the first time they encountered an opponent who could spin the ball. It seemed to magically do indescribable things. The laws of physics and gravity apparently didn’t apply as the ball curved, jumped, and stopped everywhere your racquet wasn’t. The truth is, spin isn’t magic, it is actually all about physics. Spin refers to the rotation of the ball. The direction of rotation determines the type of spin. Wayne Elderton reveals the secrets of applying spin to the ball.
Tennis is a game of movement and anyone watching the US Open can't help but notice what an important part fitness plays in the game. You can't hit the ball if you can't get to the ball. Here is another great drill from legendary fitness guru, Pat Etcheberry. This is the same drill that tennis champions, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, and Justine Henin-Hardenne used to get to the top of their games and their sport.
ProStrokes Gallery: Fernando Gonzalez - The Forehand
Fernando Gonzalez has been in and around the top ten for a few years, but has recently made a commitment to climb even higher. He has hired the renown coach Larry Stefanki to add variety to his punishing backcourt game. Known for perhaps the biggest forehand on the tour, Gonzalez is looking to add to his resume by moving forward and ending more points at the net with approach shots and volleys. This personable Chilean is definitely moving “up”and appears poised to rejoin the top ten.
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
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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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