Michael Joyce Talks Coaching Philosophy, US Player Development and More; New USTA Spring Team Championships in Mobile
Californian Michael Joyce, a former ATP professional famous from his playing days due to a seminal essay about him by David Foster Wallace, (required reading for any one with an interest in tennis) and more recently, due to his coaching of Maria Sharapova, is now working with young American Jessica Pegula. Joyce, who won the Kalamazoo 18s in 1991, also has started a new venture called Ask Michael Joyce, a consulting service. Joyce talked with Barry Buss in a two-part interview, with Joyce discussing his coaching philosophy, what has gone wrong with American tennis and why the USTA shouldn't shoulder the blame for it. He expresses impatience with the unceasing criticism of the USTA and its Player Development and believes a family would be unwise to decline an opportunity to send their child to its Boca Raton training facility.
Joyce debunks the idea that the USTA "steals" players, saying:
So they are trying to say "stay home with your coach because he's the only person who can possibly help you with your tennis? That its because of him you're this good? Its got nothing to do with how hard your(sic) working...or all those matches you gutted out..It's him...And that you should pass up an all expenses paid opportunity to train with the best players and coaches America has at a state of the art training facility either in Southern California..or South Florida...And you're not supposed to do this because why? It will break your relationship with your coach?" You can't Skype or Facetime or pick up the phone and talk to him still while taking advantage of this amazing training opportunity being offered you?
Joyce goes on to extoll the virtues, indeed the necessity, of such a move, which seems to be the opposite of what's suggested in this Daniel Coyle post about (now) Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin. The youngest Olympic slalom medalist ever, at 18, may not be that different from Joyce himself however, in understanding what it takes to compete at the highest level of any athletic competition, and like many a tennis family, her parents ended up living in two different parts of the country to provide Shiffrin with what they considered the best atmosphere for her development. See this Washington Post article on the Shiffrins for more details on their choices.
Joyce also has little use for those coaches who emphasize technique, although he does admit he himself had solid fundamentals instilled in him by legendary Southern California coach Robert Lansdorp.
Plus so much of learning is feel and visual...the technicians in our sport, sure they have a place...but you and I have talked about this before...I don't care what a kid does, as long as he can repeat it. Some things are easier to repeat than others...Its easy to get all caught up in a players grips and swings...When you see players getting erratic, way more often than not its balance, spacing, timing, preparation, conditioning, concentration, intensity, nerves, impatience or just poor shot selection that are the culprits..not their technique..
As part of the new USTA Junior Competition schedule, the 18s Spring Nationals no longer exist, but the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center in Mobile, Alabama will host the first annual USTA Spring Team Championships, with registration beginning next Friday, March 7th.
After two days of practice and education, the competition will start and run for four days. There are 16 boys teams and 16s girls teams, each made up of two players from the 12s, the 14s, the 16s and the 18s, in a compass draw, with the top three teams receiving gold, silver and bronze balls. Four eight-game pro set doubles matches and eight singles matches will be played to determine who wins the match. More details on how the teams are set up can be found at the TennisLink site.
The competitors list is available via this google document.