Written By Todd Widom

This article was prompted by an increasing number of parents over the years contacting me for a truthful assessment of their child’s tennis. It is not so easy to receive the truth for some so I am here to give you the truth.  Many parents get very excited when their 12 or 14 year old is obtaining excellent results.  Does it mean that the child will go on to do great things in tennis?  Maybe, but in many cases the real answer is no.  The strategy of spending money is easy, because as long as your child is winning everyone is happy.  However, you may not be so happy in the later stages of your child’s junior career when they need to peak to get into a great school.

The essence of what I am getting at is if you think your child is having great results, be prepared that you are going to keep investing in his or her playing career. The issue is that you want your child to peak when he or she is 16 to 18 years old and what you must face is the reality that your child is going to require the necessary tools to attend a great university or maybe play professional tennis.  Just because your child is winning, does not mean that they have the necessary foundation and tools to play great tennis in their last couple of years of junior tennis, which is when it matters most.

The younger divisions of junior tennis are for learning and developing your game for when you are older. What parents must understand, is that your child should be learning how to train, compete, construct points, have a great attitude, and be mentally prepared.  There is no time to be trying various strategies, or going from academy to academy.  You will lose precious time and no child has that luxury.  Certainly, if an academy or coach is not working out then a change is required, but due diligence and research is required to find the right coach.

When a person gets an opinion from a doctor that they need surgery, they should get a second opinion. The same holds true in tennis.  When a student is looking for a new coach or to improve on something in their game, they should interview coaches, obtain a second opinion, and select the one they feel like will get them to the best place in their game.

In addition, when your child is figuring out what college they would like to attend, they should have a list of schools, research them and visit them. I counsel many kids and their parents on these issues.  You are making a financial investment in your child’s tennis, and your child is making a commitment to tennis.  In addition, the coach is making an investment in your child and their tennis career.  What I keep seeing over and over again are junior tennis players not peaking from sixteen to eighteen years old and this is not only a very significant problem, but this is also a costly mistake the parents absorb financially and the player absorbs physically, mentally and educationally.  Even though each case is different, what I can tell you is that the majority of kids do not have the solid foundation required to play at higher levels of tennis.  As a coach, mentor, friend, and teacher to my students, I make sure that all aspects of what creates a strong and solid foundation are set into motion from day one.  This is the only way I know how to do it, and I am not merely a coach.  My business actually started this way as parents were panicking that they have spent all this time, effort and money, and at the most important juncture of their child’s junior tennis career, their child is faltering, their foundation is cracking and their dreams are quickly dissolving into thin air.  Do yourself a favor and get your child assessed by someone experienced so that you will save yourself major headaches in the upcoming years.

CaptureWritten By Todd Widom

I find it quite amusing when I attend junior tennis tournaments and see the teenagers huddled around each other either socializing or trying to snap a photo to put on social media. Then all of a sudden, their name is called and they need to rush to the court to play a tennis match.  They may win or lose, but if they do not perform up to their parent’s standard that they have set for their child, it will be a rough car ride home or back to the hotel.  The “cool” kids that love tournaments so they can see their friends usually do not do well.  Their mentality and preparation is wrong.  For the serious kids, socializing is for outside the tennis facility.  When you are at the tournament, the serious kids are there to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to win.  Everything else is secondary.

For all the parents reading this article, the next time you attend a junior tennis event, just take a step back and see who is hanging around at the courts all day with no purpose. It is going to be the vast majority of kids, but also keep in mind that the vast majority of kids do not have goals and a purpose for why they play tennis.  There will be a couple of kids sprinkled around the event away from everyone else warming up properly, stretching, re-gripping their rackets, and maybe listening to music in a quiet secluded setting.  They are not around many other kids socializing and listening to all the noise around them.  These teenagers are there at this event and they have a purpose.

For many of you who have read my previous articles, you know that my tennis background was training with a couple of Argentine disciplinarian coaches who produced some of the best amateurs and professionals in the United States. I trained with these phenomenal coaches from when I was 6 years old all the way to 26 years old.  As I reflect on how I was and what went through my mind preparing for a tournament, it went something like this.  Tennis for me was a blast from day one.  I was obsessed with everything about it.  I grew up and played with the best players in the country and in the world since I was 6 years old.  I had two main coaches that truly cared for the students.  They trained you multiple hours every day.  You did not just take a lesson and then spend no time with them the following days.  They were truly there for you to produce you into a champion.  They were not running a lesson factory away from the other students.  Tennis for me was a way to better my life.  What this means is that if I could hit that tennis ball better than most, I could find a way to better my life in something I truly enjoyed doing.  I felt the love from my coaches because they knew I would run through a wall to win a point or perform the drill properly.  When there is this mutual desire by both parties to go the extra mile, there was no way I could not be a serious prepared tennis player at a tournament.  To goof off at a tournament meant to me that I did not respect what they were doing for me, and what my mother was doing for me since there were tremendous sacrifices to see how good I could be.  I was a reflection of their phenomenal teachings and I would not let them down if I could avoid it.  You see, I was striving to be a top notch amateur and then professional, but I felt that they cared so much and wanted it for me as well, so we were in this process together working our tails off.

Playing junior tennis in Florida in my generation was very difficult. The talent pool was large.  If you did not prepare well in practice or in the tournament arena for your matches, you were not going to be successful.  I would watch some of the top players and I knew that to ever beat them, things had to be done properly.  I was also a top-notch player, but I knew that if something was off, it would be a quick match and I would not win.  These players would be away from the rest of the competition at events and you know they were getting ready for a prize fight.  There was no socializing for these players.  They were there for one reason and one reason only, and that was to win.  I was not the only one trying to better my life by hitting a yellow ball better than the rest.  When I went to tournaments, I rarely stayed at the tournament hotel because for me the competition took place on the courts and I did not want to spend time or socialize with the competition outside the “boxing arena.”

In closing, if you ever wonder how you fulfill your potential in this game, it is to perform many aspects of preparation well, but to have the proper guidance so that your goals can become a reality. I am not saying that your child should not socialize, but what I am saying is that the tennis facility is there for tennis.  The socializing for the serious children is outside of the tennis facility.  It is very easy to see who these focused children are at a tennis tournament.  What many children and parents need to realize is that tennis can open countless doors and the skills they learn on the tennis court can be lifelong.  Many of these skills are not taught by studying out of a book in school.  From very early on, I had a dream of playing professionally, and I knew tennis was the one thing I was best at, so when you have those thoughts of bettering the future of your life through tennis, you are going to have to do things better than most people.  There are kids all over the globe trying to get college scholarships or make it on the ATP Tour.  What separates your child from the rest? Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

outdoor tennis courtWritten By Todd Widom

As the Orange Bowl Boys and Girls 16’s and 18’s International Tournament in South Florida is coming to a close, and the Boys and Girls 12’s and 14’s are getting  underway, it is important to note there are some players that come from different climates to play in this prestigious event.  I coach players who come to South Florida from the northeast that have to learn to adapt their games to be able to succeed outdoors.  This is also going to be true for all the players that are heading out to Arizona for the winter nationals that are coming from indoor tennis training.  I am seeing a lot of similarities in the way these junior players are playing and constructing points, and if they do not make the necessary adjustments from indoor to outdoor tennis, they are not going to be too indoor tennis courtsuccessful in an outdoor climate.

The students I train know my tennis background and know that I was trained by some very tough Argentine disciplinarian coaches, who produced some of the best professionals and also some of the best amateurs in this country over the past thirty plus years.  In this day and age of technology, YouTube videos, and over coaching are what players may use to learn how to adapt to tennis outdoors.  This article is about the different issues I see with the players coming from indoor tennis and trying to adapt to outdoor tennis, which tends to be very difficult.  Remember, everything that these young players do, whether it is good or bad is a habit, so this transition from indoor tennis to outdoor tennis is not easy for many kids. (more…)

volkswagon jettaWritten By Todd Widom

At sixteen years old I was one of the top juniors in the United States.  My dream from when I was a young boy was to be a professional tennis player.  I had dreams of playing in front of big crowds on television and on the best stages in the world.  I was starting to grow and I was getting stronger due to some very intense physical and tennis training that I was doing on a daily basis.

In 1999 I was preparing for an important junior tournament, I booked my airline ticket, a rental car for my mom or coach to drive and a hotel room.  (more…)

fitnessWritten By Todd Widom

The vast majority of your children are not going to do what this article is discussing.  To be elite in this sport, you have to be different than the rest, and it is the small things that make the biggest difference if you want to be special.  If you do not go above and beyond the call of duty, you will be like the rest.  It all depends what your child wants out of their tennis.

This past December I had a discussion with a young touring professional who was having trouble sustaining his level of fitness during matches on the ATP tour.  He had some very good chances to win matches against good players, but he would run out of gas and not be able to sustain his level of play.  After telling me his physical issues during his matches, he asked me if he should be doing fitness during tournaments.  My quick response was, of course!

Included in this article is information on fitness for those who are trying to become elite junior tennis players.  The norm for a junior tennis player is to warm up for their match, play their match, maybe stretch 5 to10 minutes, get food, maybe play another match or go to the movies, or hang out with their tennis friends for the rest of the day.  If the junior tennis player trains well for a tournament, they should be physically fit entering each and every tournament.  The reality is that if this player does not keep up their level of fitness during tournaments, they will be out of shape when they come back to train once their tournament is complete.  For every day they skip doing some physical fitness during a tournament, they will lose a bit of their physical conditioning, which will have to be boosted up again when they come home to train.  (more…)

tied sneakersWritten By Todd Widom

In 1999 I had a good Easter Bowl finish in the boys 16 and under division.  Due to my results, I was invited by the USTA to go on a trip for three weeks to Europe and play some of the best 16 and under European tournaments on red clay.  I was very excited to say the least.  These players in the draw of these three tournaments were mostly from Europe and they were very good, especially on red clay.  I thought I was great on clay because I grew up on clay in south Florida and I was coached by Argentine coaches my whole life.  Being good on green clay in the United States and being good on European red clay are two very different things.   (more…)

kyle mautnerWritten By Todd Widom

Since there is so much information on the internet about how to perfect this or that tennis technique, I thought it would be very interesting for my audience to get an inside look at what really takes place in order to be an elite amateur in the United States.

I started working with Kyle Mautner just before he started his junior year of high school.  Kyle was about to go through some changes to his game by being more physical and agressive so he could attain his goals and dreams as a tennis player.  Based on each player’s long-term goals and dreams, I then work with them set a plan on how to achieve those goals.  This is not a short-term development plan.  It is a strategic, concise, involved long term planning effort.  Everything that a young athlete does is a habit and some habits are tough to break; however, if that young person wants to achieve their goals, they need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  (more…)

An Interview with Keith Parmenter: The Man in South Florida Who Keeps the Top Tennis Players Injury Freekeith parmenter

Written By Todd Widom

I thought it would be very interesting for you to read about how athletes cure some ailments and how the bodywork specialists can get these athletes cured at an extremely fast rate compared to general medicine.  Being the son of a foot and ankle surgeon, when I was younger I would watch ESPN SportsCenter before school and be amazed how quickly some of the athletes could recover from injuries that looked quite severe.  While I was on the ATP Tour, I was often told by doctors to have an MRI, rest, ice, have injections, wear a boot on my foot, or have surgery.  This advice was from the top surgeons in South Florida that see elite athletes in all sports.  As a professional athlete, there is no time to waste guessing what an injury is and sitting at home resting while taking anti-inflammatory medications or having injections to mask the pain in hopes of recovering after a certain number of weeks.  (more…)

budget moneyWritten By Todd Widom

Junior tennis travel and playing in tournaments are very costly and everyone’s financial situation is different, which is why implementing a strategy for your child to play competitive tournaments without spending an exorbitant amount of money is imperative for many families.  One aspect that surprised me when I started coaching was the amount of tournaments the juniors players were playing.  Some of the juniors were playing as many tournaments as I did when I was a professional.  This is detrimental to the player.

A junior tennis player is much different than a professional player because a junior is still developing many skills in their game.  If the player is competing in tournaments too often, their development as a tennis player will come to a screeching halt.

(more…)

e-learningWritten By Todd Widom

There is a new trend in tennis development with coaches convincing parents that pulling their child out of regular school and putting them into an online source of education is going to progress their child’s tennis at a more rapid rate.  Tennis is a big business and more hours for your child on the court equates to more money for the coach or academy.  However, more hours on the court does not mean that your child will progress faster or even progress at all, and it could even mean that your child regresses.  It is all based upon the quality of the training.  (more…)

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