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Chicken or Squirrel?

Early in my coaching career an old wise tennis person (Col. Shivar) gave me advice on coaching vs. recruiting. He said “Darryl you can get a chicken to climb a tree; however, it is better to start with a squirrel”. What do you think?

Match organizer quote

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  — Jim Ryun: Former track athlete and politician

Captain Tennis (Hugh Waters) says that in Tennis it’s play and fun that keeps us going. Also, someone that gets a court and calls us to play.

Kids Tennis Camps

Kids Tennis Camps at Virginia Wesleyan College and Cape Henry Racquet Club:


The following information is to offer guidelines to on court tennis coaching for the coaching staff, designated coaches and team members. During a team match , the team should use the maximum of coaches allowed unless there is a justified reason not too. If a team is utilizing the maximum amount of coaches allowed, the team members not playing should take an active role in supporting-coaching players that are on the court, competing. These players can offer valuable information to the coach when he is not present and comes to that particular court. Knowing the score at all times during a match is a must.

The following scenarios or some of the situations that may present themselves to coaches:

Avoid distraction coaching: Sometimes a coach needs to go on the court just to keep himself away from distractions and from talking to other people and doing other stuff, not related to the match. If the team is in control of the match then the coach may justify talking with a significant booster or a good recruit.

Real on court coaching: The coach goes on court to provide tactical information, game plan, and mechanics. Providing the right tactical information can relate to emotional coaching; many coaches have various charting techniques that require on court coaching.

Emotional on court coaching: The coach is there to provide and assist the appropriate emotions. This can provide confidence; the coach can also assist with tempo and relaxation.

Provoking the other coach coaching: The coach tries to get the other coach involved in the match, knowing that if that happens, the opponent’s level of play may suffer because the other coach is a burden to the situation.

Lowering the opponents level coaching: Sometimes a coach may go on another court, because their presence in previous battles may bring demons of the past in the opponents mind.

Leaving the court pissed coaching:The coach may leave the court pissed sometimes and it may have a positive effect on the player. This might happen when the player is not performing at his level and the coach, knowing that, wants to make him think and realize that he can and is expected to perform better.

Delegate coaching: It would be done by a superior coach. From head coach to assistant coach, going down the hierarchy, until the members of the team get involved in each others matches.

Adjacent court coaching:Taking an active role in a court that is away from the one the coach is on. Coaching the other court from distance can provide confidence to the player they are coaching from a distance. If the coach was on the player’s court the player could feel pressure or patronized.

Leaving the court for other reason coaching: The player does not stand a chance to win or you may have to go to some other courts because you would be more useful.

Going where the money is coaching: A coach can go and coach on a court where he feels a player has a greater chance of winning, because he knows the opponent and he knows that he can coach his player to victory against the opponent.

Other kind of on court coaching: There are various other reasons to provide on court coaching and they include: having a player that has to develop a certain style of play for future competitive matches. Of course, if a player’s parent drove all night to see a match, you might just want to stay on the court just to make a good impression or just avoid talking to them :)

Zack Zapatero going to Davidson

Cummings Athletics is very pleased to announce Zack Zapatero will be playing tennis for Davidson College in the fall of 2013. Davidson competes in the Southern Conference and has very tough acceptance rate of 13%. Many thanks to Coach Barrett for his support.



If a person wants to be good in tennis, there is a formula to follow.Being good is being the best one can be given their age, athletic ability, mechanics, and resources.Once a person becomes good they never really lose that level.It is similar to riding a bicycle, once one gets it, one never really forgets it.

To be good, a player needs to play the game. I know it sounds easy, however, it has been forgotten especially in the United States at this given time. Here is my formula:

60-80 tournament singles matches 20 tournaments averaging 3-4 singles matches
80-100 practice singles matches 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down
45-60 tournament doubles matches 15 tournaments averaging 3-4 doubles matches
30-40 doubles practice matches 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down

140-180 total singles matches
75-100 total doubles matches

A player will need to play this type of schedule until they find out how good they can become.

When playing in practice, remember that a match is 2-out-of-3 sets. When playing only a set one does not get the changing of tactics and increase or decreasing of intensity that occurs between sets. If a player is a junior tennis player, playing with adults is a very important part of the process. Many adults have already been there and done that. The junior player will gain from the adults experience while playing.

When playing tournaments, a player will need to incorporate the same guideline as practicing 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down. A player will also need to win some tournaments. No matter how bad a player thinks they are there is a tournament somewhere they can win. Oh by the way, no matter how good a player thinks they are there are tournaments where you will get kicked. If not, then they are one of the top players in the world and they do not need to be reading this.

A player will need to exhaust their areas tennis resources and if they become the “top dog” in their area they will need to play regional, national, and international competition. The player will need to be a part of someone’s 25% of playing up. When they are playing the up and coming players is when they will learn a great deal about themselves as a tennis player.

It is a good idea to play on as many different surfaces as possible for development. Being a player is being able to adjust to a variety of conditions. Bill Tilden, a great American champion said ” Every time I find myself playing tennis under new conditions, I wish I knew more about the game itself. We group many games under the term “tennis.” They are played under the same rules and in the same spirit but they are not the same game.”

If the person is a junior tennis player developing they will need to be able to arrange their own practices and matches. This kind of independence needed is the same kind of independence needed in becoming a good player.

Yes What about lessons & drills? Well, if the person wants to be a player, then lessons & drills are needed as a result of an evaluation of playing the game. If the players are missing a shot due to mechanics, then they will probably need the help of a professional if they cannot figure it out themselves. Players will need to do some drilling. Drills that require two players to control the ball among themselves with movement and consistency are very helpful for development. Hopefully, players will realize what they need more or less of as a result of playing the game. If players want to be good at playing they have to play. If they want to be a good lesson takers then they should take lessons.

I never really liked the word lesson/s. When I think of lessons I think of dependency. I prefer the word coaching. I believe effective coaching should lead the student to become more independent of the coach. Good coaching is not needing a coach all the time. As a player goes through their career they should need coaching less and less, or they may need a little consulting. I know what about the pro’s ? The professional coaches are more like mangers arranging schedules, travel arrangements, practice partners, and organizing practices, and providing emotional support. To be the best they can be will require the player to follow this progressional guideline.

“He or she who wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of the pasture expecting the cow to back up to him or her”

Open Skill Learning

Great article about tennis being open skill learning. Click here for PDF article.



Not so good answer: “I do not take standardized test well”; “I am taking it again”; “It was the day after my prom”; “I am not sure”: These kinds of answers may communicate the recruit is an excuse maker.

Good answer: “950 or whatever the actual score is”: Answering the question with the exact score communicates a sense of confidence along with not dwelling on this subject if the SAT is lower than needed to get admitted to the school.


Not so good answer: “I would have had a 3.2 if my Chemistry teacher liked me”; “I went to a tough private school”.

Good answer: Very similar to the SAT question, the coach is just looking for the answer and the projection of confidence would reflect well on the recruit.


Not so good answer: “None”; “I am just getting started”

Good answer: If a recruit actually has a list then communicating it by saying “I am being recruited by University X, Y, and Z and I am planning on visiting these schools in the near future”. If the recruit does not have a list of schools the answer may be “Currently I am interested in small private liberal arts schools on the East Coast”. More insightful answers is helpful for the recruit to create a market for themselves. A more competitive recruiting process can be helpful for the recruit’s scholarship opportunities, financial aid opportunities, along with help with admissions if needed.


Not so good answer: “I played #2 on my high school team”; “I was ranked #24 in my USTA section”; “I was ranked #24 in the 14 and under division of my country”. None of these answers really determine the recruit’s level of play. They just determine where a person was ranked in a certain category and most junior ranking systems have some holes in them.

Good answer: “I believe I can play in the top six in your program because I have wins over player X,Y, and Z who have wins over some of your top 6 players”; “My Universal Tennis Rating is a 10 and your tennis teams Universal Tennis Rating ranges from 8-10″. Actually direct and indirect results are very helpful in determining a recruit’s level of play. In addition, the Universal Tennis Rating at has the level of play of ATP, WTA, USA Colleges, and recruits from around the world.


Not so good answer: “Not much, can you tell me more?”.

Good answer: “You have been coaching at this university for 10 years and you are alumni. The program competes in conference X and your program has been in the top 3 for the last 4 years. You rivalries are University X, Y, and Z. Etc…Etc…” In today’s world this kind of information is all over the internet and knowing this information demonstrates the recruit’s sincere interest in the university along showing how serious the recruit is about their choice in schools.

2007 National College Rankings to USTA 1999 14 and Under Boys Rankings

How did the 1999 Nationally ranked 14 and under boys do when they played college tennis? The number 10 boy in the country was a kid named John Isner. He has done pretty well. For complete comparsion click on the attached file:

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