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What's New in The Midwest in 2012
USTA College Information Session at the ACC Tournament
Changes in the Tar Heel Qualifier
What's New in The Midwest in 2012   2012 has brought many new changes for junior competitive tournament players. National USTA has made significant changes to the tournament schedule which have reduced opportunities for many. Meanwhile, the Midwest USTA has responded to the requests of players and parents with several notablechanges: • Midwest now "owns" the elevated tournaments (Levels 1-5); this should ensure more consistent standards for tournaments, including:
o No matches starting before 8am
o 12 hours guaranteed between matches from one day to the next
o For 14s, 12s, and10-and-Unders, no matches start/resume after 9pm
o For 16s and 18s, no matches start/resume after 10pm
• Efforts made to better distribute elevated tournaments (Levels 1-5) geographically (53% in Michigan and Ohio, down from 71%)
• All events begin on Saturday
• There are elevated tournaments during all holidays, so less school is missed
• New 2-day 32-draw tournaments added
• Many more doubles added, most with a one-match consolation
• All are Feed-In Consolation
• Boys and Girls 10s compass draws added
• Concurrent events of different levels held on same weekend, allowing players to sign up for both Let us know your thoughts on these changes....join our Facebook community!  
USTA College Information Session at the ACC Tournament High school players, parents, and coaches are invited to attend a College Information Session hosted by the USTA on Saturday April 23rd at the ACC Championships, held at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary NC.
Changes in the Tar Heel Qualifier Changes in the Tar Heel Qualifier We have found information about the 2011 Tar Heel Qualifier changes posted at on NCTennis.com since the first of the year but know that some folks are still just finding out. We encourage you to make a regular stop at www.nctennis.com from time to time as that as forum is used to distribute the most information. But, in case you have not visited the site or have and have questions, please read the following.
When is the right time to play in a higher age division? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Scott Handback   
Junior tennis higher age group

That answer depends on many important factors: When is the player’s birthday? How does the player compare to their peers (locally, sectionally and nationally)? What are the player’s long-term goals?

There is not a single answer for everyone. Each player, along with their parents and coach, needs to re-evaluate their developmental plan every six months. What might have been good for that player six months ago may not be in the player’s best interest for the next six months.

Typically, I recommend that a player begin to play tournaments in the next higher age division in the fall if they will have to play in that higher age division before the next summer. In other words, if Susie will turn 13 in May, I would suggest she begin to play 14 & under events beginning in the late summer, early fall of the previous year.

In any tournament, only 25% of the players will leave that tournament with a winning recordWith the USTA Point System in determining rankings and therefore entry into tournaments, I would highly suggest that players begin to play in the higher age division at least six months prior to having to play in the older age division. This allows the player time to build some points in the older age group and therefore not have to “start all over” in working their way back to sectional or national level events.

High Performance players (those who are competing sectionally and nationally) have even more factors to consider in determining which age division to compete. There are three key questions I must know the answers to prior to making that recommendation to a player:

  1. What is the player’s personality and how must it change to reach their long-term goals?
  2. What is the player’s physiological age as compared to chronological age and what other physical factors are involved?
  3. What is the player’s long-term goal?

First, in order to compete at the highest levels of the junior game (ITF Juniors and Top 50 National USTA Juniors) players must develop the right mix of confidence and maturity in understanding the game of tennis. The USTA recommends a 2:1 win-to-loss ratio for junior tennis players. While I agree with that statement, I also believe a true indicator of a player’s ultimate ability is their ability to process losing tennis matches. In any tournament, only 25% of the players will leave that tournament with a winning record (not counting consolation) and only one player will leave that event without losing a match. If every loss is detrimental to the player’s psyche, then that player will not venture out to compete at the higher levels of the junior tennis game. Instead they will want to compete at the lower levels where they will have more success.

Tennis matches, like all athletics contests, are a confrontation and conflict which create stress for each participant. Obviously each player is reacts differently to the stress of tennis matches. That reaction should play a key role in the decision of playing players in a higher age division or keeping the player in a lower age division.

A second factor to consider is the player’s physiological characteristics. The developmental plan for a 5’8” Young players are especially susceptible to burnout and growth injuries such as stress fractures if they are pushed too hard too soon125-lb 10 year old should differ from a more average 4’10” 75-lb 10 year old. Even though each player is 10 years old chronologically, the 5’8” player is more like a 13 year old physiologically and therefore can handle the stress of competing in an older age division much easier that the other player. I am not saying that shorter players cannot compete successfully in older age divisions, but they require a much higher level of technical advancement to do so effectively and without added risk of injuries.

A last factor to consider is the long-term goal of the player. If you follow junior tennis for any length of time, you will notice there is a window of opportunity for each player in reaching their goals. A player wishing to compete on the pro tour someday has a much smaller window of opportunity than a player who wishes to compete on their high school team and possible play collegiate tennis someday. Many people will take that fact and then say “Well I will just push my player to get them ahead of the curve to reach the highest levels of the game.” The problem is that young players are especially susceptible to burnout and growth injuries such as stress fractures if they are pushed too hard too soon.

In coaching numerous junior tennis players in North Carolina over the past eight years, over twenty of them were ranked in the top ten of their age division in the state. Out of those players, there have been only two players that I suggested they play in older age divisions earlier than necessary due to their development. The first was Thai Kwiatkowski. Thai was #1 in the North Carolina 10 & under division when he was nine years old. By the time he was 10 years old, he was ranked in the top 20 in the nation in Boys 12 & under. Clearly he proved he could handle the older competition at a younger age both physiologically and psychologically. However, even he had his limitations.

His parents suggested competing sectionally and nationally in the 14 & under division while he was still 10 years old. Thai was 4’10” and weighed about 80 pounds. He could handle the pace of the 12 & under matches without sacrificing his technical skills, but the 14 & under division was too fast for him at the time. He played much more defensively and lost some of his technical development because he could not execute the same strokes we had developed.

He obviously is still doing well and has grown into his game. It is much tougher for boys to play in higher age divisions because the power is much greater beginning in the 14s, especially the serve. There are many boys who hit their growth spurt early and have no issues competing on higher levels. There are also some late bloomers who struggle to keep pace at the same level they were accustomed to playing until they hit their growth spurt.

Another example is Kirsten Ward. Kirsten was #2 in North Carolina 10 & under division when she was nine years old. We made the decision at that time to move to the 12 & under division to give her three years to adjust to the game styles. She did struggle at first. She lost more matches than she won for the first eight months, but eventually she began to have a 2:1 win ratio and move into the Top 100 in USTA Girls 12 & under before aging up.

She had another dilemma. Her parents had just spent an enormous amount of money for her to compete nationally that previous year and could not afford to continue that effort for another six years. After some thought, we decided to focus on playing more local events, but in higher age divisions. Our idea was she could go back to national competition when she worked her way back to that level in the 18 & under division. The original thought was to play 14s in North Carolina, but we decided to let her play the 18s in a local event to challenge her. Well she won the event, and then another and another, until she was ranked in the top 10 in the Girls 18s in North Carolina a year and a half later as a 13-year old. She is now beginning to compete sectionally in the 18s. The move has proved to be better financially for her family as she has been able to stay more local the last two years.

Again, each player is unique and brings different characteristics to the table. As a coach or as a parent, you must be able and willing to respect those unique qualities of the player and structure a developmental plan around those characteristics. Too many times parents and players judge themselves by what “everyone else is doing”. Because it was successful for that player does not mean it will be successful for your player.

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 Wednesday, 21 April 2010 01:59
 
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