Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Tips for Playing College Tennis

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

So you just graduated from high school and you’re getting ready to head off to college. You’ve signed your letter of intent to play tennis and now your focus is all on your training. You feel prepared, but are a little unsure of what to expect. College tennis is a whole new environment, and it can be incredibly overwhelming at first. Here are some tips to help you adjust to your brand new team.

Exercise and Train

coachjpweber.com
One of the most important aspects of playing tennis in college is the training regimen. You’re now playing at a much higher level than you were before. Because of this, you’re going to have to exercise and train much harder. Spend your summer playing as much tennis as you possibly can (aim for 4-5 days a week) and try to hit with players that are at your same level or better. Also, develop an exercise plan for yourself that utilizes a lot of sprints as well as drills for changing direction. If you’re lucky, your coach might even have a summer program for you to follow which will make this even easier for you!

Get to know your new team

One thing I was very happy I did prior to officially going off to college was getting to know some of my teammates ahead of time. This made the transition into college tennis that much easier. If you’re close by, go to some of their matches and start talking to them about the team, what their competition is like, etc. In this age of social media, it’s also incredibly easy to connect with some of the other recruits in your class online. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a roommate ahead of time if you make it a point to reach out to them.

Be a team player

In a lot of cases, your college team is going to consist of the players who were all the best on their high school teams. Because of this, it’s easy to expect to walk in and be one of the top players. Leave that mindset behind. College tennis is a completely different level and everyone’s a good player. Try and be open to wherever your coach thinks you would fit best. Maybe they see you as a doubles expert or a guaranteed win at six singles. Regardless of where you get placed, have an open mind and be a team player. Remember that both your coach and your teammates are counting on you to play your part for the overall success of the team.

Develop a relationship with your coach

Your coach is the most important link between your game and your success on the team. They recruited you, which means they think that you’re not only a great player, but a great person as well who they want to be part of their success. Show them the appreciation and respect they deserve. Of course there are going to be times where you disagree, but the more you take it upon yourself to get to know them the better off you’ll be. Don’t be afraid to talk to them if you’re unhappy or uncomfortable with something. If the team is important enough to them, they’ll be happy to sit down with you and listen to what you have to say.

Stay Positive

There are going to be times where it’s going to get hard, real hard. You’re going to want to give up and quit and that’s ok. It’s only natural to feel that way when you’re dedicating so much of your time to something of this magnitude and missing out on other fun opportunities in the process. The best advice I can give here is to stay positive and stick with it. Nothing is ever easy, especially in the environment that is college tennis. However, once it’s all over you’re going to look back on those years and be glad you did it.

Having the opportunity to play college tennis is a huge blessing. You’re going to get to travel to all kinds of cool places and get to know incredible people. Remember that not everyone gets an opportunity like this so be open to all the endless possibilities and most importantly, have fun!  

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

12 Things You Didn't Know About Wimbledon

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

In it's first week of the 139th run of the oldest Grand Slam in history, The Championships, Wimbledon, we've seen a fair share of drama as well as a lot of rain. But while cheering on players like Marcus Willes, your average tennis instructor from England who beat somebody ranked 719 spots ahead of him, or cringing as defending Champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic crack under pressure, trivial thoughts creep into our head, "What's with all the white? Has there ever been a Wimbledon where it hasn't rained? Why is it that strawberries are synonymous with Wimbledon?" Not to worry, because we thought about that too and took it one step further to present you with the 12 things you didn't know about Wimbledon!
ESPN2 - Wimbledon Championships on Vimeo
  1. Before Wimbledon was Wimbledon, the tournament began in 1877 consisting of only 22 players in its first Gentleman's Singles Championships. 
  2. Tennis players wear white because back in the 1800's it was unsightly for them to show any sweat spots on their clothes. Wearing all white disguised the problem. 
  3. The All England Club that hosts this historic tournament has a total of 54 grass, clay, and indoor tennis courts-19 of which are 'show' courts which are preserved for the Championships. 
  4. You may be denied admission as a spectator if you show up in ripped jeans, dirty trainers (sweat pants and shirts), sports shorts, or generally look like a punk rocker or biker.
  5. Tennis Champion Shirley Fry from Akron, OH is among only 10 women who have won a singles title at all 4 Grand Slams (Wimbledon 1956), and only among 6 women who have won all 4 doubles titles (Wimbledon 1951-1953).
  6. At the Champions Dinner there was a long held tradition of dancing between the two Singles Champions, which had ceased until Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams brought it back in 2015. Also, before they started dating, Andre Agassi had the pleasure of dancing with Steffi Graf after his only Wimbledon title in 1992.
  7. You can be a member and play all year round at the All England Club. The membership which is limited to 376 members are past Wimbledon Singles Champions, high politicos or are among the rich and famous. But not to worry, because if you know at least 4 full members who are willing to write a letter of recommendation for you, then you're a shoe-in for the waiting list with all the other 1,000 hopefuls.
  8. Even though Buckingham Palace is a mere 7 miles away from where the tournament is held, the Queen of England has only attended Wimbledon 4 times in her 64 year reign (1957, 1962, 1977, 2010). 
  9. The official Wimbledon headband is too colorful for Wimbledon. Nick Kyrgios was forced to turn it inside out during his 2015 run at the tournament.
  10. The longest recorded tennis match in history was played on Court No. 18 at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships when John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 after a grueling 11 hours. The shortest recorded Men's match at Wimbledon was a Men's Singles Final in 1881, when William Renshaw defeated John Hartley, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, in only 36 minutes! 
  11. The Wimbledon Championships only has a completely dry tournament about once every 20 years. The 'Middle Sunday' is reserved as a day of rest, however rain has forced play four times in Wimbledon history-1991, 1997, 2004, and now 2016. 
  12. Strawberries were the fashionable thing to eat back in the late 1800's, and they just happen to make their seasonal appearance at the start of the tournament. And there you have a delightful coincidence and a yummy tradition!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tennis Burnout- Taking time off

Kristianne Bontempo & Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Contributors

So you’re feeling the tennis burnout. Weeks go by and you realize you’re not progressing in your lessons, as well as not winning your matches. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to quit altogether, but before you make any decisions you might regret, here’s some tips on how to get your game back when you feel like you’ve hit a wall.

sportspsychologytennis.com
Take time off - If you’re beginning to feel like playing all the time is doing more harm than good, you might want to consider taking a break from the game. Especially if you’re starting to feel both physically and mentally exhausted. Don’t feel guilty, even the professionals need a break here and there. Create a short term plan for yourself by taking a week off and if you don’t find that you’re missing tennis just yet, try extending your break a little longer. Maybe a whole month is what you’ll need to feel rejuvenated and excited about the game again.

But the team needs you - If you’re struggling to decide if taking some time off is really necessary, especially if you’re team is pressuring you to play or you’re committed to a weekly drill, then try first minimizing the days you want to play. If you’re currently playing 4 days/week, cut it down to 3, then 2. Time away from the court will not only be beneficial to your physical and mental well-being, but it will give you time to hopefully forget some bad habits you felt like you were struggling with in your game. 

Forget the negative thoughts – “I’m no good, my teammates think I suck, I just want to quit.” Sometimes walking on the court can become a dark, dreary place if you’re stuck in a funk. But if you absolutely refuse to take a break, then it’s time to change how you look at the game. Why did you start playing tennis? Did you want to get fit, want to play with your friends, or do you really just love it? Many times when players get into this downward spiral, coaches will often have players start back at the basics—in other words, strip yourself from what is making your tennis experience so negative. If you’re on the biggest losing streak of your life, take a few private lessons to focus on your biggest crutch. If you don’t like the people you’re playing with, find another group. If you’re feeling too much pressure to win your matches, then skip a match or two.

One good thing to keep in mind here is that even if you do end up needing a short break, remember that you’re not missing out if you don’t play for a while. Even if tennis is your time for socialization, your friends won’t forget about you. They’ll understand that you need to do what’s best for you and when you do decide it’s time to return, it’ll be like you never left! Also, make sure that when you do make your big return that it’s when you’re excited about tennis again! Think of your ‘comeback’ (even if it’s a week) as a fresh start to a whole new you. Come back with a positive attitude and start having some fun again! 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tennis Tip: Approaching the net in singles

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

One strategy for singles play that is crucial to success is when to come into the net. As a general rule of thumb, you always want to attempt to get to the net as soon as possible to attack your opponent. Being able to combine a strong baseline game with solid net play is not only going to force your opponent into making adjustments, but will frustrate them as well. However, you don’t want to get too eager and come in for no reason or when the time isn’t quite right. Here’s a few short tips on when to come in and put away those shots!

o.canada.com
So when should I go to the net? There are usually many different opportunities to come in during the course of a point. However, the most opportune time is most often when your opponent is off balance. How do you achieve this? There are many equally successful ways but if you aren’t quite comfortable with the serve and volley technique yet, try playing it a little safer by hitting a strong and deep approach shot away from your opponent. This will hopefully cause them to struggle to get to the ball. More than likely, the shot you are then going to get back will end up being short. So close in on the net and put away the volley!

One key factor with the approach shots is timing. The easiest chance for you to try and come into the net off of a deep approach shot is when your opponent is hitting balls short into the service boxes. It’s not a bad idea to consider moving in off of these shorter shots because all of your momentum is already moving forward into the net.

Here’s one final tip to remember-every time you are charging the net make sure that you’re following your approach shot in the same direction you hit it. More than likely it’s going to end up coming back to you the same way! 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Off Court Practice Tips

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

With January being a slow and chilly month, players are in the process of transitioning to winter sports, or are in between seasons in their league. In order to keep your game moving along at home, use these easy but prudent tips, so when you're back on the court it'll feel like you never left!

Practice your toss while on the phone

aummagazine.com
If you’re struggling to get your toss just right, practice it while talking on the phone! It’s the perfect opportunity to use your free hand to get the toss motion down to a science. Stand up and use your non dominant arm to toss and really emphasize letting the ball come off of your fingertips. Safety Tip: Use a ball of rolled up socks so you don’t break anything.

Split step while cooking dinner

Split stepping is one of the most important parts of your game. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to transition from shot to shot. Take advantage of the standing time and try practicing split stepping while you’re cooking dinner!

Watch instructional videos

Figure out the part of your game that you’d like to work on the most and watch instructional videos on it. Sometimes observing someone else do the motion you are trying to achieve will help you get better at it yourself! Even listening to a podcast to improve mental strategy can do wonders on your game. Best of all, you can do all of this while getting chores done at home!

Watch professional tennis and shadow stroke

With the Australian Open on its way, this is the perfect time to sit down and watch all of your favorite pros compete! It’s also a great opportunity to observe their strokes and try to shadow them yourselves. Tip: If your TV has slow motion settings try recording the matches and watching the close up shots in slow motion. That will help you get a better view of their strokes step by step and will make it much easier to shadow and learn. And take special note in how they set up their feet!

Plank everyday

Most people underestimate the importance of core strength. A strong core is not only good for our overall health but it’s critical for tennis players. Think about how often you are turning, reaching and twisting during your matches. A simple 30-60 second plank everyday will help tone and strengthen those muscles that aid in generating more power with your groundstrokes. Plus, you’ll find yourself recovering quicker to set up for your next shot. It’s a win-win!

Stay active!

Whether you’re getting back into the gym after the holiday break or just going for a simple walk, staying active off-court is vital to improving your tennis game and your health! Yoga is a great option because not only does it help to increase our flexibility and strength, but it also helps to improve our respiration and energy (and you can do it almost anywhere). Anything you can do to maintain your stamina will be beneficial to your game so whatever it is-keep moving!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do’s and don’ts of parental involvement in tennis

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

wallknightstennis.com
Parents can be the most supportive and influential people in our lives. They raise us, care for us, and teach us everything they know. Not only are they crucial in teaching us right from wrong, but they’re probably the ones endorsing their child’s tennis game--mind, body and soul. Whether or not they’re players themselves or are learning the game, having your parents come watch your tennis matches or lessons can sometimes be a blessing. However, it can also be a huge headache if they don’t respect their boundaries. So to avoid the headache, here are some do’s and don’ts on how parents should handle themselves when it comes to their children’s tennis game.

Private Lessons
  •  Don’t disrupt - The whole purpose of private lessons is to let your child learn from a trained professional. An ideal parent will watch their child’s lesson in leisure. A disruptive parent will interrupt the lesson by criticizing either the student or pro, or trying to coach their child themselves. The biggest thing to remember here is to let the pro do their job. If you have something to add, try discussing it with the child or pro before or after the lesson in a constructive and positive manner.
  •   Do encourage - The best thing you can do to help your child perform to the best of their abilities is to encourage them. Compliment them on what they are doing right and let the pro focus on what needs work. This way, your child has more confidence and will feel completely at ease during their lessons.

 Group Lessons/Clinics
  • Don’t disrupt - Sound similar? Clinics should be handled very similarly to private lessons. Again, what is most important is that as a parent, you don't interrupt what is happening on the court, especially when there are other kids in the lesson! If you are constantly trying to tell your kid what you think about their game then not only does it distract and upset them, but it is distracting to everyone on the court and makes everyone uncomfortable.
  • Do distance yourself - If there’s a balcony or designated viewing area, try watching from there away from the lesson. Maybe even bring a magazine or a book to help pass the time. This allows your child to learn at ease with the rest of his peers.
  • Do use constructive criticism - If you have something you want to say to your child, wait till after the clinic is over to discuss it with them. Tell them your thoughts in a positive and helpful manner. The same goes for the clinic itself. If you have any comments or thoughts that you would like to discuss with a pro, try calling or sending them an email if you don’t get a chance to talk to them in private after the class is over.

 Tournaments
  •   Do provide guidance - Tournaments are a great opportunity for your kids to finally put all of their hard work to the test! If you’re attending a tournament for the first time, here’s a couple things to keep in mind. First, explain to your child what to expect. How many times are they expected to play (is there a consolation round, single elimination or is it a round robin?), are there particular rules (are they playing a 3rd set tiebreak in lieu of a set, or playing a standard pro-set up to 8?), will there be an official around and how do you use them in your favor? Second, help your child learn how to properly check in at the tournament desk. Going to their first match can sometimes be intimidating, so help ease that anxiety by walking them inside and checking in with them. After that, wait for their match to be called and offer words of encouragement and luck before they go on. After a few tournaments, your child will learn the routine and might prefer to check in on their own.
  • Do ask for an official - If there are any match discrepancies that require an official, try to remain calm and make a request at the tournament desk so that they can make sure someone is available to come solve the issue. Most tournaments will have officials out there to handle any problems. For those that don’t have one, you can ask the tournament desk for their help, otherwise you will have to sit back and let the kids solve the problem on their own.
  •   Do relax and have fun! -  Tournaments can make kids feel the pressure, and as a parent the easiest way to handle that is to not show them how you’re feeling. Sit up in the stands, watch their match, and even clap for them when they do well.

High School Tennis
  •  Do build independence - Parents tend to be very involved in their child’s high school teams. Whether that means bringing the snacks, driving kids to matches or practice, or just being a part of the cheering squad, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their lives. By all means come to the matches and cheer them on, but try to avoid coming to practices while watching their every move. It will be very difficult for your child to get acclimated to the team environment if their parent is constantly around. If you plan to stay throughout the practice, try sitting in the car and finding something to do while they practice. Let them figure out how to handle life on the team on their own.
  • Do trust the coach – Most of the time, these coaches are taking on the job of a high school season primarily for their interest and love in the sport. Trust them to handle any discrepancies that might be within the team or during a match. This is also a great time for your child to communicate to your coach of any issues they might need help resolving. If you must, email or talk with the coach before or after a practice/match just to give them a ‘heads up’ on something you’d like them to address.

 Tennis is one of those sports that provides kids and adults alike with incredibly beneficial life lessons. While your child is learning to figure out the ropes and critique their own game in a conducive manner, parents are learning how to be supportive while giving their child the independence they need for later on in life. So whether they are playing in a lesson or match, continually let your child know how proud you are of their effort and progress no matter the outcome, because at the end of the day—it’s just a game!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dealing with favoritism on a team

tennisoncampus.com
Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro
Being a part of any team is great. Making friends with your teammates and sharing countless memories of hard fought matches is something truly unforgettable. However, good memories aside, not everything on your team can be picture perfect all the time. In many cases, whether its high school, college, or a USTA team, favoritism is very common. Sometimes so much so that it can be extremely detrimental to not only the players themselves, but the overall success of the team. Here are some different scenarios involving favoritism and how to deal with them.

Playing Friends

This is a very common problem especially on USTA teams. In many cases, if the captain is making their lineup, it isn’t unheard of for the captain to play their friends (regardless of what their playing level is) instead of other players who may in fact actually be better than the “friends” of the captain. Not only is this an incredibly frustrating situation, but it makes the team dynamic both awkward and uncomfortable. The best way to deal with this? Begin with talking to the captain yourself. Sometimes it even helps to get your teammates opinions as well and maybe approach the captain as a group (if your situation allows). Another option if talking to your captain isn’t working is to get an un-biased pro involved to hopefully help sort out the situation. Try to emphasize that the current situation you’re in is very detrimental to the team’s success especially with not having the best possible players in the lineup. Hopefully the pro will then be able to step in and help to resolve the situation.

“Pay-to-Play”

In most cases coaches and pros are completely unbiased towards the players that they coach, however, sometimes you can find yourself caught in a situation of pay-to-play and I’m not referring to paying to play on your high school team. This version of pay-to-play is where coaches favor certain players over others because of how much money they are paying towards their program at the specific club they play at. What this means is that players who are willing to spend the most money on the tennis clinics, programs, etc., will be favored to play higher in the lineup over players who might not be paying as much.

This can be incredibly difficult because it doesn’t leave much option for players who might not be financially able to pay as much as others, or because they work and cannot attend as many drills. And if these players are incredibly talented, is it really fair to downgrade them if they don’t play as often? Solution—if you are willing to pay and have the time commitment available then great! Otherwise, deal with the position you will be placed in even if it’s not where you think you should be playing. But the best and most logical option would be to find another club. Do your research ahead of time before making the commitment to go somewhere else and make sure you talk to whoever is in charge of the programs there to get a good grasp on how the club handles things and what their staff is like. Then make a judgment call from there and go with whatever will work best for you.

Tennis Pro’s and Coaches Picking Favorites

Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught in a situation of your coach or pro picking favorites. This is very common especially on high school and college teams. So what do you do when you know someone is playing higher then you because the coach likes them better? Well there aren’t a whole lot of options but the best way to approach the situation is to try talking to the pro/coach about your position on the team first. You can even try to gauge how some of your teammates feel and see what they think and then try to approach the coach as a group discussing how all of you feel about where you are being placed on the team. If this doesn’t work, your best bet is to talk to either the athletic director or person in charge of the overall program and have them handle it. After all it is their job to deal with those situations and hopefully fix them.

Overall the best way to deal with a situation of favoritism is to begin with talking to the person in charge of your program and go from there. Try to approach the individual or head person in charge with the best attitude possible and emphasize how your biggest concern is the success of your team. 

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