I’ve played and coached is many countries around the world and I can tell you that the junior tennis culture in US is very different from the rest of them. It seems like technology is taking a firm hold of this upcoming generation and it seems like their attention span is ever decreasing and their respect for the elders and hard work slowly deteriorates. There is a quite widespread “fast-food” and entitlement mindset that I’m noticing around. A lot of kids expect immediate results without putting hardly any hard work into it. They expect a few correct swings to overshadow thousands of the wrong ones they took in the past. Nevermind that I just explained to them that all professional players are doing that way. Nevermind that I just hit an few absolute cannons right in front of them. None of that matters to them. Compare that to a kid somewhere in Colombia who probably doesn’t go to school that much and trains hard all day just to get out of the county and to make a better life for himself and his family by playing tennis. I was that kid and I know what it takes to do that. One has to have an absolute “balls to the wall” (no pun intended) mindset to succeed in this sport. What matters most and what drives a lot of American kids today is an instant gratification and their immediate success in their performance or in competition with their peers. After all, that’s how they beat other players in their tournaments, they don’t see beyond that. Very few are willing to lay down their pride for the sake of future victories, that’s just not the way most of them are wired today.
You see that with the parents as well. Virtually all are looking for their kids to hit with the best kids in town like that alone would get their kid to the next level. If it was that easy there will be a lot more professional tennis players in the US! If that’s the right mindset, then number one player in the world couldn’t get any better because there is nobody is better than him/her. Interesting fact is Roger Federer frequently trains with junior players in the off-season and somehow still manages to get better. Interesting isn’t it? That’s because he knows what he is working on and they are good enough players for him to practice that with. If Roger can do it, everybody can and should do it. What’s needed is specific training designed to eliminate all technical flaws, that’s number one. Then know the game well enough to understand what to do in any particular situation be it offence or defense and knowing different kinds of players and their strengths and weaknesses. Then you will need to combine those two factors by hitting from more difficult situations and still properly place your shots in the most difficult for the opponent areas. Sure, it’s nice and even beneficial to hit with better kids every now and then, but is it the most important? No, it’s not. Hitting with the best will only magnify the technical errors that already exist. To actually fix them would be nearly impossible in that kind environment where there is more pressure and less time to think about what you are doing. This “my child has to hit with the best” mindset is epidemic and it’s being passed down to the kids who are now obsessed with whom they are hitting and what their ranking is and not with what their arm is going on their forehand backswing or what footwork pattern they are using. In parents and kids in America today I see very few thoughts that are directed to what would happen when they get a little older (17-18 years old) when the game that’s played and requirements for being a great player drastically change. It’s a very shortsighted approach that is fatal on a large scale because valuable time is lost, the time that is used by others somewhere in Russia to get to automatic level of proper technique. Guess who will have an edge when the two meet in a tournament later on?