In order to become a successful competitive tennis player, guess what: you have to actually play! Shocker, right! But let’s define PLAY. Play, in this instance doesn’t mean to just hit a ball against a wall, or just hit casually with friends or family, or just drill with your local pro. That may help your skillset and form, but it will NOT help you WIN matches. To play means to COMPETE.
If you’re spending money at our academy, my push is to have all of my academy players playing in USTA tournaments as soon as they’re ready. As players, these kids can drill in groups, hit with friends, take private lessons, but it’s only part of the formula of success when competing at high school or college levels or in USTA. In order to become a successful match player and win, players need to COMPETE…in MATCHES…a lot!
Nothing can prepare a player for success in competitive tennis better than taking part in playing sets in leagues, in USTA, in simulated matches (with something on the line).
Competitive players that only train in group drills or in private lessons are now commonly referred to as serial drillers.
Girls are notorious for avoiding match play in their offseasons. Yes, females can be serial drillers as well as males. These individuals take to the social aspect of group drills or even work individually with pros, but only the most successful tennis players take on a heavy commitment to playing matches.
As parents, we want our kids to be successful in what they commit to. But too many parents are complacent with sending their kids to clubs or academies, into group drills or private lessons without making sure they are in competition. Parents expect their kids to win simply because of the money they spend in drills or through lessons. And they are missing a big piece of the formula.
So, if this is you, you’ve enabled your kid to be classified as a serial driller. The fact is that 99% of serial drillers will NEVER win high level matches. Most will be lucky to have average success in winning matches. Because you have to get in your match play to learn HOW to win. And this is something that can never be replicated in group drills or in private lessons with your local pro.
And yes I am a pro, and I’m telling you this. My academy makes most of its money on group drills, classes and private lessons. Yes, this is also essential to building sound players who can compete, but without match play, these players will become extremely pleasing to look at on the court (due to their great form and technique they acquire), but will generally crumble in matches and lose to any good opponent.
As a trainer, I don’t want kids to come to my academy and just look good on the court. I want them to win. If not win, I want them to be able to compete at their highest level. And this can NOT be done unless match play becomes a part of their offseason training routine. So I push my players to go outside the academy, to other clubs and play in USTA events.
Mental toughness is a huge component to building a successful player. And mental toughness is mostly taught through competition. Players must deal with the stresses of match play, learn how to relax enough to bring out their skills they develop in training. Learn how to execute in pressure situations. And, like most anything when it comes to tennis, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years, many matches.
Each summer, we offer UTR events through our club to prep players for USTA events and beyond. Events include tournaments, leagues and a ladder system.
Each of these programs offers weekly match play events. Each has something on the line, end of season awards for the best player or team.
It’s a great bridge to learning how to compete and building confidence and mental toughness to journey onto USTA tournaments, get ahead in high school and college competitions.
Check out our club site for match play opportunities:
Training is always available through our academy programs.
But please help us to keep our players from becoming serial drillers!
Shane Staley is the founder of Staley Tennis and a USPTA-certified trainer, Accredited Professional Coach and instructor.