Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Three Families, Three Dreams of Tennis Glory

The Broward-Palm Beach New Times recently published this in-depth story on three promising 12-and-under girls in South Florida, and the decisions and sacrifices their families must make to keep them on the path to tennis greatness. Where to live, when and how often to play, which coach, what schooling, what balance, who decides--every parent with a talented junior faces these questions over and over again.

I think this story is an interesting look at how three families deal with those questions, but I was disappointed in the reporter's description of the ladders of junior tennis. None of these girls are playing ITF tournaments--the minimum age to do so is 13--so the rather breathless description of the "stepping stones" to WTA tournaments seems both naive and incomplete. There's no mention of the ITF Women's circuit, which is an essential component in earning a WTA ranking, and the age restrictions now in place make the references to Tracy Austin and Jennifer Capriati irrelevant to any 12-year-old playing today.

A special thanks to the zootennis reader who passed this article along.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The article makes me sad. We all know their real chances of making it. I wish them the best though.

Man in the Moon said...

anon.

I agree 1000 per cent.

Articles like this do not help, either. Article stating that the player has champion genes because her dad was a minor league baseball player and the mom played sports in college.

A family (firefighters) that has a total income before taxes of $80,000 - $100,000 and are spending $30,0000 (after tax) a year on tennis for a 12 year old - do not have a clue. One single Mon works 2 jobs -one as a server in a strip club. That is just great, terrific role model.

Too bad, so sad.

For every Venus, Serena, Roddick, as we know, there are 100,000 or more twelve year olds trying to cash in.

Spend the time studying and going to a good school.

Austin said...

Sasha Vickery is extremely athletic and has great strokes, I could see her making a run if her game matures as she gets older.

Anonymous said...

Austin
and the sun is going to come up in the east and set in the west. That and $4.95 will get you a cafe latte grande in Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

Success in USTA tournaments, sadly is not the stepping stone to success in the WTA Tour. How many in the WTA top 10...top 20...
were number 1 in the 10's, 12's 14's etc USTA. Yes, some good tournament experience can come from playing some tournaments - but heres reality: First year of playing pro tournaments requires approx $200K plus in travel. If you can't spend this then you probably won't make it, and spending $30K plus a year for these middle class hard working families is going to make it unlikely for them to have the kind of money necessary for those first few years of travel. The kids in the USA that are going to break thru are the ones that are trained primarily by a parent, play only a few tournaments a year up until 12 (saving the body and mind for later), and then spends the money at 14 and 15 to travel. The USTA is doing the 10 year olds etc a big disfavor by promoting all those "must" tournaments at such an early age. In Russia, the little ones aren't even allowed to hit a ball until 8 years old. They just shadow and work on form.
Here in the USA we keep trying to out do the next by saying "...and he/she started playing at 2 years old". The girls that are going to make to the top 20 WTA are the ones that aren't getting all the attention at 12 years old because they are training and not concerned with being number 1 in the 10, 12, 14 age groups. We all know that the Junior game (USTA) in the USA is different than the pro game. Full of learning how to not lose rather than how to win. My daughter is taught the correct shot selection, correct form, to hit angles, go for the big shots, come to the net, go for the big serve...at 10 years old. Right now we are not concerned if it goes a bit long or a bit wide - at 12, those shots will be winners. If she were playing tournaments she would be more concerned with winning and not the correct shot.
But the downside is ... she has no articles written about her, she's not "USTA Player of the Week", etc etc. But...in about 5 years she will have all of the attention that she needs. (Just another perspective.)

Anonymous said...

Monday's USA Today had a front page article of a 5 year old moving to Paris to train at an academy. Whole family moved from Sacramento. The paper, not the parents, proclaimed him as the next hope. Interesting read. A little more realistic than these situations. Mom is a teaching pro. Mom from Finland. Kids can train for free. Next hope at 5 is just to sell papers, if you ask me.