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Release, Replan, Refocus

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Release, Replan, Refocus

Have you ever seen a professional play with their strings between points? Next time you are watching a professional tennis match, in between points, watch how they face away from their opponents and "adjust" the strings of their racquet. Maria Sharapova does this after almost every point. In the later matches of a tournament, Nadal will "go to the towel" after EVERY point. Watch it. He does. It's amazing how he doesn't vary from his routine.

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Why do all tennis players seem to be moving towards homeschooling? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Scott Handback   
Home School Trend

First it was the academies, now it is homeschooling. Many years ago, if a player wished to reach the highest levels of junior tennis, he/she went to one of the big academies in Florida or California. Nick Bollettieri was the catalyst for the tennis academy. In the 1980s, he put together a group of boys that ultimately became the leaders of American professional tennis: Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and many others. Due to his success, everyone wanted to attend a tennis academy to get to that level.

It also was the reason that everybody seemed to jump into the academy business. There are now hundreds of tennis programs who use the academy phrase in their name. There are not just in Florida and California anymore either. They are spread around the country.

Now homeschooling seems to be the trend for those players looking to reach the higher levels of the game. It is a trend that is not without merit, although it does not make sense for everyone. Each player, parent and coach needs to look at the factors involved in their situation and make a decision that best suits their situation.

For those players competing nationally, homeschooling is almost a requirement. Many local school districts have implemented a limit of 10 days that students may be absent from school and several have moved to year-round school which means students only have a 6-week summer and three The most important factor ... is the player’s maturity and independence.two-week breaks during the school year. For older players who are trying to compete nationally, they must play in roughly 90-110 competitive matches each year and most of the national tournaments mean you will miss at least one day of school and probably several days.

Homeschooling can take on many forms. There are several online private schools that offer players the ability to take courses via their laptop computer and an internet connection. The largest and seemingly the most utilized is Laurel Springs School. There is also K-12 which is offered in many states for no cost (not North Carolina) because they have worked out an agreement with the school districts in that state. The students have access to teachers through email and even weekly class sessions held online. The online schools cost more, but also offer a much easier system. They handle all of the paperwork necessary to document your player’s academic studies and even facilitate the testing required by the state for student advancement.

Another option is true homeschooling. In this case, the parent or someone they hire serves as the teacher and the parent purchases or develops a curriculum for the student. Depending on the state, there will be many requirements for homeschooled students and parents. The family will have to substantiate the amount of time spent on education and may even have to provide the curriculum to the state for approval. The family will also have to arrange for the student to take the advancement testing required by the state.

There are also several private schools that will work with tennis players to arrange their academic DO YOUR HOMEWORK before opting for any type of homeschoolingschedule to coincide with their tennis activities. The player may be in class from 8:30-12:30pm each day and then be dismissed for tennis activities the remainder of the day or the student may have to take two classes in person at the school and complete the other classes through correspondence courses.

My suggestion is DO YOUR HOMEWORK before opting for any type of homeschooling. Make sure the school is accredited by the Regional Educational Associations such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) which certifies schools, colleges and universities in an 11-state region. The lack of accreditation can limit options for entry into future colleges and universities, especially if the player is utilizing an institution that is not accredited during the high school years.

Another important factor is whether the NCAA recognizes that institutions courses for eligibility in competing in collegiate athletics. There are many courses that are not eligible for consideration by the NCAA, even courses offered by public and private high schools with great academic reputations. I highly recommend all parents explore the website for the NCAA Clearinghouse ( The NCAA Clearinghouse must certify all collegiate players prior to them being eligible to compete in collegiate athletics. At that website, you will be able to look up each high school to see which courses are not counted by the NCAA for eligibility purposes. There is even a list of requirements for homeschooling students wishing to compete in collegiate athletics that must be completed prior to certification.

The most important factor involved in the decision to become a homeschooled tennis player is the player’s maturity and independence. While I believe it can be a great advantage for a player to learn that type of responsibility at a young age, many players cannot handle the responsibility that comes with that freedom. Most of us adults did not learn those lessons until we were sent off to college to sink or swim. We were all of a sudden alone in the academic world and had to learn the meaning of time management on the fly. I think it is a positive thing that players have the ability to learn such a lesson at a younger age, even if they fail.

I have had fifteen different players who were homeschooled over the past three years and about half of those could not handle the time management involved with being a homeschooled student and went back to regular school after a semester. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort on both the part of the player and parent to become an effective homeschooled student-athlete.

Many parents think that it will be easy and they will not have to be involved. The parent has to be involved in insuring that the student is completing the work in a timely fashion. The flexibility that comes with homeschooling is great for families and especially tennis players who compete at the national level, but it also comes with a responsibility that must be achieved for the process to be successful.

The author, Scott Handback, a USTA High Performance Coach and previous USTA/STA Junior Davis Cup Coach, who is the Director of Tennis, Pool & Fitness at Cleveland Country Club in Shelby, North Carolina. He has coached hundreds of state, sectional and nationally-ranked players in his twenty years in the tennis industry. Scott also served as the Head Women’s Coach at Queens University of Charlotte for five seasons and volunteered for many years on NCTA and STA committees. Scott has coached many of North Carolina’s top junior players over the past eight years including Alex Calott, Grace Baker, Devon Sutherland, Thai Kwiatkowski, Nancy Bridges, Kirsten Ward and others. In addition to his duties at Cleveland Country Club, Scott also consults with junior tennis players and their parents in creating developmental plans through SCOBEN Consulting.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 February 2010 16:06
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