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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Taking Your Tennis On Tour:: Bonita L. Marks, Ph.D.

The Sunday before the US Open is about as quiet as tennis ever gets. Who says there's no off-season? It's today! Before I start watching the scores change on usopen.org for the Donald Young and Lauren Albanese matches first thing Monday, while keeping an eye on the USA network's coverage, I thought I would mention a book that I was given a copy to review, Taking Your Tennis On Tour; The Business, Science, and Reality of Going Pro.

I'm hard-pressed to think of an issue this book doesn't address. It begins with a very sensible chapter on collegiate tennis as the starting point, and throughout the book, it is assumed that the pro path is being pursued after some years of high level college tennis. From there it explores what is termed The Science of Going Pro with chapters on physical, mental, nutritional "toughness". Part 3, The Business of Going Pro, discusses in detail the economic realities of starting out, from private sponsorship plans and contracts to budgeting and taxes. Part 4 is titled The Reality of Going Pro, and it's a candid look at the none-too-glamourous circuits that everyone starts out playing, and the grinding travel they involve.

Dr. Marks uses her connections at the University of North Carolina, where she is an associate professor, to provide many real-life examples and anecdotes from players like Tripp Phillips, Brian Vahaly and Don Johnson. I especially like the section called "In Their Own Words: The Best and Worst Aspect of Circuit Life" when dozens of pros, few of whom ever reached the Promised Land of the Top 100, reveal what made the effort worthwhile, and what made it difficult.

My only objection to the book is how male-centered it is. Although much of the information is applicable to women as well as men, the lack of any acknowledgement of the special issues women face or even that women are out there playing is perplexing.

But I can't find fault with anyone who quotes my favorite line from Jim Courier about the life of a tennis player in The Journeymen: "It's like having a backstage pass to the world."


Bonita L. Marks, Ph.D. said...

Hi Colette- I'm glad that overall you liked the book and found it helpful. I'll answer your puzzlement as to why no women are mentioned in the book - as my publisher asked me the same question - especially since I am a female, it would seem a natural for me to cover women's tennis as well. The answer is an easy one - I simply had no successful interaction with women college players and I had no access to women pro players. I actually did try to include women college players early on in my tennis research but to no avail - for whatever reason, the few players and women's coaches I did attempt to work with early on were overwhelmingly disinterested in participating, so I focused my efforts on the men's tennis world where, for me, there was greater access, financial support, interest, and helpful interactions. I am sure there are issues specific to women traveling all over the world that would be different than the male experience, for instance I experienced some interesting (and on occasion, near frightful) incidents myself during my travels for this book, but my 'female experiences' ended up on the cutting room floor. Maybe someone will eventually put together a book covering the women's angle.