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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Playing at the Right Level--A Conversation with Chris Woodruff

I had the opportunity to talk with former Top 30 ATP professional and current University of Tennessee associate head coach Chris Woodruff about his transition between college and professional tennis and the resulting question-and-answer session is available today on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

Playing at the right level may seem obvious in retrospect, but playing at the wrong one is a mistake I see being made again and again. Woodruff candidly discusses the perils of too much too soon, with his own recent career as a case in point. As he told me in Chicago:

Not playing at the right level after I won the NCAAs single-handedly set my career back two, three years, to the point where it almost drove me out of the game.
That's not an outcome any of us who love the sport would want. Please take a few minutes to read what someone who's "been there and done that" has to offer on the subject.

A couple of features on college players on the opposite ends of the experience spectrum were published today. University of Kentucky's senior Bruno Agostinelli, currently ranked No. 2 in the country, leads off this story about the Wildcats by the Kentucky Kernel (gotta love that name). Mississippi's Devin Britton, who is the second highest-ranked freshman in the country at 32 (Florida's Carlos Cueto is 19th), is the subject of this article from the Daily Mississippian.

Tomorrow is a travel day as we leave temperatures stuck in the teens here in Michigan for the balmy early spring (I hope) of Alabama. This is my fifth year covering the USTA Spring Nationals, and I have always had a great time there while watching outstanding tennis. I am hoping to use my new Twitter account to post match updates from my iPhone throughout the tournament. The "tweets" will appear in the Twitter Updates section on this site, in the sidebar, or at twitter.com/zootennis. For those not familiar with Twitter, it is basically a free-text-message-over-the-internet service that confines posts to 140 characters or less. It also can be accessed via most mobile phones. You can follow individuals, organizations, businesses, friends, family, celebrities, the president, anyone who has a Twitter account, by simply finding them via a keyword and clicking follow. (For a funny story about one of Twitter's most famous users, click here.) Right now most of the updates are just feeds of my blog posts, but I expect that to change starting tomorrow.


bullfrog said...

I agree that playing at the right level is very important. So why does the USTA have all the girls playing ITFs where they are lucky if they even get out of qualifying? Is that really developing them? They are not playing at "the right level" and basically attempting to bypass ITF juniors.

Wouldn't go to Tennessee said...

Mr. Woodruff, Are you trying to cost yourself and your school recruits? "You talk to some of these juniors and the fact that they are considering turning pro is comical". Exactly how many of those recruits do you think you are gonna get with comments like that? What kind of arrogant comment is that(not to mention that you are a college coach so it might behoove you to make that statement). Get the whole truth out there. College is simply not the training ground it used to be for the pros.1) only allowed 6 weeks of practice in the fall. 2) limited number of matches allowed in the spring. 3) how many of the guys you mentioned actually stayed long enough to get a degree which is the purpose of going to college I thought. You don't know if the kid has no interest in team sports(which after all tennis is not) You don't know if his family has enough money and the child doesn't need to worry about a job if he or she don't make it on the tour. I see far more kids who had a chance to make it professionally and didn't because they went to college and got into partying and fraternities or soroities and the whole social thing and it threw them off course and they lost their discipline and priorities. I watched an episode on 20/20 the other night and it interviewed people the whole time who had gotten a degree but were in debt up to their ears in college loans trying to find a job that actually paid them more for having the degree. They all had jobs that would have paid them the same amount but it was 4 years later and now they had thousands of dollars in debt that wasn't necessary. As they were qouted as saying "we were sold a lie that a degree would add a million dollars to to our income over the course of our lives." The college game is a good Futures level with some that would be competitive on the Challenger level and once in a blue moon 1 or 2 make noise on the A.T.P. tour. You simply can not compare college tennis of today to 20 years ago. There is no comparison.

West Nott said...

What a great interview, if anything, it makes me want to go to Tennessee. College tennis is what you make of it.

agree with tennessee said...

Isn't West Nott the assistant coach for the U.S.C. womens team? Obviously another slanted opinion. Of course all college coaches are going to try and sell college tennis. I don't blame them 1 bit. After all that is their job. i tend to agree with the poster that wouldn't go to Tennessee. College tennis is not close to what it used to be as far as a training ground for PRO tennis. You want to know why we have fallen behind Europe and South America? How many of them go to college for tennis training for the pros that are in the top 100? Our obsession with a college degree that may not help later anyway is a big factor in stunting the development of our teenage prospects. Obviously if you want to be a doctor or lawyer or something of that nature you need your degree but then again they weren't thinking about PRO tennis in the 1st place. Kind of ironic that we hired Jose Higueras to run Mens Tennis. I wonder where he went to college? If you truly want to play PRO tennis why not spend that 4 years playing Futures and Challengers and gaining the valuable experience to learn to deal with the rigorous travel schedule and seeing what it takes to make it. You will mature mentally and physically just as well doing that during that time period as long as you have someone guiding you along and do not try to free lance it on your on.

Lighten Up said...

Why not go to college for 1-2 years unless you are an amazing, can't miss guy like a Roddick? Free coaching, free training, free travel, etc. Plus it's a great reality check. If you're not dominating after a couple years, playing No. 3, 4 or 5 on your team, then you stay and get your degree.

Still wouldn't go to Tennessee said...

Lighten Up, "Can't miss like a Roddick." He was such a can't miss that the U.S.T.A. dropped him before he won the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl 18's. So much for a can't miss. I guess everybody didn't know he was a can't miss. Obviously the best American the last 5 to 7 years. I'm just saying who knows what would have happened if he had gone to college. Doubt he would have been successful as he is today and I'm quite certain he probably had plenty of people telling him to go to college as well. He obviously made the right decision for him. College simply isn't for everyone. We need to quit making these top juniors feel like thats what they should do. It is why America has fallen so far behind. Let them chase THEIR dreams and quit thinking that because they want to play PRO tennis instead of college tennis that it is "COMICAL." That was a stupid, classless statement for a college coach to make plain and simple.