Ask the Coach: Another school year

August 26, 2012

 

Ask the Coach

Another school year

 

Here we are at the beginning of September. Most of the school districts in the Arizona area have begun regular operation and parents are still were recovering from the massive lists of items that their children need for this school year. With this article I want to add a couple of items to the mix aren’t exactly pressing but you will need to take a look at before too long.

 

As you know, I have taught and coached tennis for a number of years. I was a high school and college coach so I wanted to make you aware of something parents may want to do to prepare their child for the upcoming tennis season. Most schools have tennis in the spring and is the last thing you want to add to your to do list but is it too much of the burden.

 

Most schools inArizonaright at this moment have no idea who there tennis coaches will be for spring. This is truly a vexing issue for me because schools just don’t seem to take tennis seriously. To add insult to injury, many schools budget tennis teams such little money that it’s almost an insult to have the sport at all. My last experience which was two years ago was I was helping a coach at a high school near my home with the tennis team. With my disability was difficult to do a whole lot but through the season I did find out some shocking information about the school budgets.

 

The school in SurpriseArizonahad budgeted the tennis team a whopping $100 for the season. In that $100 in expenses for tennis balls which left practically nothing. Most schools make it mandatory for parents or students to purchase team outfits for the season. I find this fact extremely insulting considering the amount of money that they pump into other sports. I have seen high school weight rooms that equal the quality of equipment he would find at theUniversityofSouthern California. Everyone seems to be fine with this fact but yet they can’t find the money to buy a pair of shorts and a shirt for each player on the tennis team. Most schools go with just matching shirts and let the players wear their own shorts and hopefully they match. That comes across as very unprofessional when a school team sporting tennis shirt and basketball shorts with running shoes.

 

And of course the USTA is nowhere to be found and has absolutely no program to help schools whatsoever. So coaches are left to fend for themselves putting together what they can usually out of their own pocket. So to prepare your student for the upcoming season, if they plan on playing tennis, it would be best to set aside a few dollars here and there to afford those uniforms. There are many good tennis shops around the greaterPhoenixarea. One of my favorite stores is All About Tennis, located inTempeandScottsdale.  The owner Jesse Ponwith has been a vital part of the tennis scene in the greaterPhoenixarea for quite a long time. He’s personally helped me out several times with some discounted equipment and apparel for some of my players in the past. Where Jesse is a businessman and looks to provide top-notch equipment and apparel for tennis players, he has a heart for the sport.

 

I would recommend giving them a call if your kids need equipment for tennis and he will do his best to outfit the players as well. Too many coaches and purchasing departments rely on online stores located in other states to buy equipment. Everything you need Jesse can pretty much get.

 

That being said, as a coach myself, I would recommend getting your student athlete involved in the tennis program somewhere close to home. Use this class as a time of tune-up, so when the season starts up in January here student will be ready to play. Another recommendation I have if you cannot get your student into a good program is to buy them a basket of tennis balls and have them go out and practice their serve. Serving is about 80% of the game in high school tennis. At this point I want to stop and encourage your student-athlete when they go out to practice their servers to not hit big first serves. Use a majority of your time in practicing your second serves, in most cases if your student knows how to, to practice the spin serve. I encourage players everywhere to learn the difference between a slice serve and a kick serve. There are resources online that can show you the difference between the two but it is vital that you practice these two serves prior to the season. A player is only as good as their second serve, if you can’t get your serve in your lose points and ultimately games which will turn into matches. Practicing your second serve is not sexy to usually pretty ugly, not to mention boring. Either way, practice them anyway.

 

There are a lot of parents that may think that their child is in good enough and haven’t played in years but they used to play. To that I say good, tennis is like riding a bike in your muscle memory will come back to you and your member all the things that have been taught to you before.  There are no shortcuts with tennis and you have to put in the time and the effort and get the repetitions down. It’s not about strength, it’s about consistency.  A good, consistent player will go a long way in high school tennis.

 

While my favorite tennis stories is when I used to be the tennis pro at the Arizona Athletic Club inTempe.  I did a lesson for young man who was just getting ready to enter high school. He did have some experience with other tennis pros but he was looking to tune up his game and get ready for freshman tennis in the fall. Over about two months of private lessons, with one lesson per week, this young man began to improve and yet comfortable with the game that he had.

 

After his very first lesson, his dad came walking up and we spoke for a while and I gave him an update on his son’s progress. I asked the dad if he had played tennis for any answer yes years ago when he lived inIndiana. I stopped the conversation there and asked him whereabouts inIndianaand he answered “LaPorte”. This answer surprised me because I was from LaPorte.  So we went on to talk and he asked me when I graduated high school and I told him 1974, he responded with he graduated earlier in 1968. His response cause they think as I thought my brother graduated in 1968 and when I mentioned that, he asked me who my brother was. When I told his name he began to laugh because he used to work with my brother at the supermarket in our town. Our town was about 18,000 people and here we are 2000 miles away 30 years later and my path crosses one of my brother’s best friends in high school. I got my brother on the phone right away and hope the two up together and they’ve been friends ever since.

 

I’ve always said this, that tennis is a very social sport. It is amazing what you can meet on the tennis courts. In this case it was a friend from decades ago. Not to toot my own horn but my brothers friend’s son went on to be the number one freshman player atTempehigh school than in the spring became the number one player on the varsity team. Okay, okay it may be tooting my own horn a little, but I can’t help but if I’m good at what I do.

 

I will find out soon enough because after a three-year absence from the tennis scene, I’m going to attempt a youth program at the tennis courts in the apartment complex where I live. I believe I can do this with the use of my mobility scooter and a new and better reaction to new medication that I just obtained. I love the sport of tennis and it was like cutting my heart out to have to quit but I think God that he’s given me another chance to teach.

 

I’ll keep you informed. A side note is that I’m looking for donations of used equipment and ball hoppers for my program so if you are tennis enthusiast or teaching pro and have some spare equipment you would like to donate please contact me via e-mail at daleshepard31@hotmail.com.

 

Let me know what you think of this article by leaving a comment below or contacting me at my e-mail listed above. Thank you for your continued support

     

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     September 5, 2012

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