ARTICLE: How Often Should She Practice / Play?

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You've heard it said, 'train up a child in the way she (he) would go and when she (he) is old she (he) will not depart from it.' Bank on it!


How Often Should Talented Juniors Practice And Play?

by Neville DeAngelou twitter @nevdeangelou

There are a myriad reasons a person is drawn to, involved with or participates in any sport - in this case tennis. Those reasons go to motivation. They go to purpose. They go to passion. They go to mission.

These latter - motivation, purpose, passion and mission - are important but have no direct bearing on ability, potential, talent, competence or growth. They influence outcome but cannot produce it.

Outcome is a function of skill, strategy, commitment and sustainment, all of which are necessary but not sufficient for the kind of success talented juniors pursue.

That said, in response to the question How often should talented juniors practice and play? I'll address a presecribed set of actions and behaviors - skill, ability and sustainment - intended to produce the following desireable outcomes: competence, efficiency and growth. I addressed genius in The Hunks I Dreamed (A Breed Beyond The Hero). I recommend it to ALL!.

Junior Tennis

Celebrating ATA Juniors
What Do You See? Shhhhh!

First, this bears repeating:

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practicing a bad shot (technique) will get you a better bad shot (technique)!

"Every time you repeat an action - right or wrong - you will find it easier to repeat that very action, right or wrong!" [That is a life lesson!]

Secondly, individuality matters!

An athlete's individuality should never be squelched; it should be incorporated as a natural part of growth and development. However, individuality does not trump physics; physics win every time. Both are irrevocably subject to the 'laws of nature.' Ignore either to your peril. [That's a life lesson.]

As coaches, we bring out only the miracle that is you! For other miracles head to our chapel.

Thirdly, the ball knows nothing of your brilliance NOR CARE!

A normal tennis ball has no respect for anyone! Neither does a racket. The court doesn't care who you are - outside of my sci-fi novels - so, I'll not address those here. They are addressed in class!

The following RECOMMENDATIONS are based on assessments of the actions, behaviors, coaching and outcomes of players that have reached top ten of their category (nationally and / or globally, as each relates) and of players with college and Professional Tour aspirations. Use them wisely.

How often should talented juniors practice and play?

Have a CLEAR PURPOSE

There should be a clear purpose each and every time a player steps on the court, whether that is with a coach, a ball machine or an opponent.

Generally, for junior athletes under 16 years old, the maximum combined training ought to be around 16 hours per week.

TRAINING BREAK-DOWN by AGE / LEVEL

Ages 6-9

Individual Training:  3-4 sessions per week, each session no longer than 45 minutes.

Group Lessons / Practice: 50% tennis; 50% other sports, e.g., soccer, basketball, track, swimming.

Ages 9-12

Individual Training: 6-8 hours per week, plus 2 hours of related fitness training.

Group Lessons / Practice: 3-4 sessions per week, approx 1 hour per session; 70% tennis, 30% other sports.

Ages 12-14

Individual Training: 2-3 hours each day, 4-5 times per week.

Group Lessons / Practice: 3-4 sessions per week approxi 1 hour per session; 85% tennis, 15% other sport.

Ages 14-16 or Intermediate Player 3-4 hours of training per day, 4-5 times a week (individualized training program).
Ages 16-18 or Advance Player 3-4 hours of training per day, 5-6 times a week (individualized training program).
Below Age 6

Have lots of fun; related activities depend on the wisdom of the parent and the comfort of the child.

Some children advance early; some later. Just don't wait until it is too late. There is no magic number.

TOURNAMENT PLAY FOR TALENTED JUNIORS

First, lets get this discussion out of the way. You'll hear it said repeatedly in the most unexpected quraters, "My player is not going to play with so-and-so because he / she is a pusher, a hacker, a junk-baller, he / she is not good enough, he / she whatever."

Here is what I say to the talented junior considering that thought:

Ka-Bungkum! A load of kabookie. With that attitude a player is headed for mediocrity. It's a ridiculous excuse. It is misplaced inflated pride. It is a lack of mental tougness. You are not headed to the top - solid middle, maybe - if you approach it in that way.

Here is why!

If you expect your opponents' purpose is to give you balls you like the way you like them, you're in the wrong sport.

If you're planning to be a competent player (much more so, a top player) you will have to play every kind of player, every kind of ball hitter, face all kinds of attitudes out there and come out on top.

You'ill meet cheaters, unbelievable parents, pushers, hackers, grinders, counter-punchers, dinkers, hard-hitters, junk ball players, screamers, whiners, complainers ... and the list goes on.

If you don't learn to play and how to win against these and more; you are not going to get as far as your talent would allow. The plan to beat you and keep you down is real easy. I've just told you what it is.

Besides, guess what the game is about; playing the ball!!!

A competent player has to learn to play against every kind of ball in very awkward situations, so it is by far the better to get practice doing so. Do so bravely. Relish the opportunity to meet the pusher, the hacker, the whatever; you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you'll discover about yourself, your abilities and your game.

As a junior, match play - tournament play - are part and parcle of developing your game, not merely a place for showcasing your game. Read that again!

Do you remember those players who were Numero Uno at thirteen and have dropped off the map? Probably not! There is a reason! Several, in fact! They stopped growing - they thought they made it! They reached the pinnacle. There was nothing more to learn. Listen to top athletes, who enjoy sustained periods at the top echelons, you'll hear them saying, "There is so much more I need to learn. There is so much more I want to learn. There is so much more I am seeking to learn."

Ask Federer. Ask Nadal. Ask Serena.

Growth requires patience and challenge - the proving kind! Growth requires a willingness to face challenges and to learn from each; to be proved by them and to improve beyond them. See tournaments, i.e., match play, only in that light!

Read that again.

Here is my recomendation for tournaments per year (singles & doubles):

  • Intermediate players: 15 – 20 (matches)
  • advanced players: 20 – 25 (matches) 
  • Rest 1 – 2 days after each tournament, dependent on rounds


HIGHLIGHT - for talented junior tennis players: 15 hours per week of tennis training + fitness + tournaments for development.

IN GENERAL ON THE WHOLE:

1. 500 sets per year
2. 8-10 sets per week

That's where the real learning occurs.

See you along The Journey
Neville

Highly Recommended To All Champions

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