USTA Player Development
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USTA Player Development

Two-handed Forehand
Understandably, the tennis public focuses on the world's best players when they reach their pinnacle performances from one Grand Slam event to another. It is highly advisable for young players to not be copy-cats without technical assistance. The movements of pros are so fast they are misinterpreted. A young aspiring musician should go to a concert to be inspired and go to a music class to be instructed. The same formula applies to tennis. Improvement comes in stages. Federer and Nadal played two-handed forehands in their beginning stages. The two short attached videos address this topic. (The little kid on the second tape went on to become a national champion in Canada in the 12's and 14's. He now is in the 16's) If one were to study the path of champions they would find a vast majority of players hit two-handed forehands upon starting tennis. From my observation the use of the red and orange transitional balls are not decreasing the number of sloppy forehands.

Scoring Format for Practice
Basketball did not always have the three point shot or the "shot clock." Both were incorporated to quicken the game. I would not suggest changing the scoring system for official tennis matches. But I would suggest a creative scoring system for young, developmental players to experiment with in practice. There are numerous ways to do this; one would be that a winning overhead is worth two points. A couple of years ago, at a national 12's, I had a thousand points charted and only seven overhead attempts were taken. There is a huge difference between "little kid tennis" and "big kid tennis." If one were to study the path of champions they would find that most successful 12 year olds were unsuccessful 18 year olds. From my observation a weekend local tournament looks like "clones taught by clowns." (Politically incorrect statements are part of championship coaching. Period)

The Continental Grip
Jose Higueras, Director of USTA Coaching, "The grip for the forehand volley is almost a continental grip." There is no perfect grip; only the grip with the least amount of adjustments. Young players should be taught to volley with eastern grips. As one acquires size, strength and athleticism they should volley on the forehand side with a composite grip. The heel pad stays on the third panel and the base knuckle moves close to the second panel. The grip used to be called the "Australian grip." The first time, from a historical standpoint, a player could be ranked in the US was age 13. Now kids often have five years of tournament experience by that age and they only go to the net to shake hands and pick up balls. There are many factors for "net-phobia." Little kids based on their size are easy to pass and lob. Plus if they have a strong continental grip on the forehand volley their racquet face does not even align with the court they are standing on. Laver versus Ashe on the forehand volley was composite versus continental. Laver beat Ashe twenty-one times in a row. The humble Laver, "Poor Artie had problems with the forehand volley."

Years ago Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith made an educational tape with Vic Braden. The two US Open and Wimbledon champs handled themselves with total class. I remember them repeatedly, from one technical topic to the next saying, "I did not know that." The new GM, like Ashe and Smith, will an have an outstanding skill set. Yet it is a safe bet that he or she will need assistance with improving how young children are taught throughout America. Product management is needed.

Steve Smith


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