What I find troubling is that a high percentage of collegiate tennis players are quite unhappy with their student-athlete experience. They get to their college campus full of excitement, a little scared and a lot clueless. They have been told that their college days will be the best days of their lives, but fail to understand that they can only be the best days of their lives if they are willing to go through some adversity. It seems to me that nobody wants to explain why college can be some of the best years of your life.
anuary, 2003: I’m sitting on a Cliffside, overlooking the east coast of Australia, contemplating my future as a tennis player. I just battled through four rounds of qualifying to make it to the first round of a futures event. Today, I was up a set, 5-4 40-0 and lost in three sets against the 4th seed. My elbow is throbbing, my back is bothering me and my first round losers paycheck will only cover two nights of hotel bills. Is this really worth it??
ast month I asked if the Coach matters when deciding where to take your tennis talents. This month I am turning my attention to college rankings, and asking if they should hold any relevance when making a final college decision.
Whenever I peek at Facebook, there is some coach posting their teams current ranking, and milking it for every bit of publicity they can get. Settle down Coaches, I did the same thing too! These posts get lots of those wide open mouthed emoji responses and will lead to a nice write up in their college newspaper, but what value do these rankings hold when it comes to deciding which college to choose?
Sports fans typically fancy themselves to be true experts of their sport. They love to share their opinions as to what tactics athletes should adopt, what calls the coaches should have made, who must retire, who should turn pro, who is taking performance enhancing drugs and which coaches should lose their jobs. They love to give adulation and praise to coaches when they win and demonize them when they lose. But Max Landsberg, author of Mastering Coaching, states only “20 percent of learning derives from a coach who cares about an individual’s or team’s learning.” If this is true, even if a coach happens to be the Michael Jordan of coaching, the most they can hope to impact a players progress is around 20%.
I recently heard a statistic claiming that roughly 70% of what Donald Trump presented to the American population during his presidential campaign, was, in fact, false. There is a lot of debate about what President Trump truly believes and what he just put out there to grab headlines in his bid to win the election.
This serves as a reminder that we are all guilty at times of some delusional dialogue about ourselves and our goals. Throughout my years of collegiate coaching, I listened to many bold statements from players, and I learned to become increasingly skeptical when I would hear these lines from recruits or players on my team.
Below is a sample of a conversation that would transpire between myself (ME) and many coaches (MR. COACH) around the world while I was recruiting players to play college tennis. Some of the quotes have actually come out of the mouths of many coaches and every college coach has heard this type of thing countless times.
My name is David Mullins and I started playing tennis at the age of 10. It all started when my father took me to a local park and threw some tennis balls to me. Since then…. blah, blah, blah, blah… I cannot tell you how many times I received letters like this from players, telling me their entire tennis history and life successes, both on and off the court. I am here to tell you that college coaches do not care about any of this, well, at least not initially.
I am not a huge basketball fan but like most sports fan, I do enjoy the NBA Playoffs. I remember watching one game where the star player of the team was having a terrible first half and did not score a single point despite the fact that he averages about 25 points per game.
I spent 4 years competing as an elite collegiate tennis player and another 12 years coaching college tennis in three different conferences, on both the men’s and women’s side. The landscape of college tennis and college sports in general have changed dramatically since I commenced my playing career over 16 years ago.
Unless you have a huge first serve or a blistering return of serve, your success as a tennis player is often going to be determined by the quality (pace & depth) of your neutral ball.
To me, a neutral ball is one that is not an obvious offensive position where you are equipped to end the point with a winner or even force your opponent into an error. It is also not a ball that puts you on flat-out defence where you are scrambling just to get the ball back in the court. A neutral ball is typically one that is just continuing the point without much drama. However, I think the ability to understand what phase of neutrality you are in will often determine your success as a tennis player.