Monthly Archives: April 2013

Top 3 Reasons to Incorporate Strength & Conditioning in Tennis Training

If you are not incorporating strength & conditioning into tennis player development you are leaving a lot on the table.

  1. Athleticism is an Enormous Part of Today’s Game
  2. Strength & Conditioning is the Key to Injury Prevention
  3. Strength & Conditioning Provides a Rich Proprioceptive Environment

Check out the video below where I go into a little more depth.  On the other end of the spectrum poorly designed strength & conditioning programs can actually cause injury and diminish performance on the court.  For example, strength and conditioning for a 12 year-old is a whole lot different than it is for a 16 year-old.  But I’ll save that topic for a whole other blog post…

Explosive First Step Training

Speed and Agility are terms commonly used interchangeably but they mean very different things.  Linear speed refers to the top speed a person can achieve (think track sprinting events).  Agility refers to how quickly someone can accelerate, decelerate and re-accelerate off in a new direction (think making a cut in football).

Tennis definitely falls into the category of being a sport where agility is more important than linear speed. Players need to be able to be changing directions often and quickly to reach higher levels.  The most important aspect to being quick is the first step a player takes.  The first step absolutely has to be explosive and aggressive.  I use this analogy to teach kids about the importance of the first acceleration step:

Imagine have a race against someone for 10 yards.  Who wins the person with the highest top speed or the person who gets off the starting line fastest?  It is always the one who gets off the line faster.  Tennis is the same way, a player is in a short distance race with the ball.  If they beat the ball there they are in good shape, if they get there at the same time as the ball it is much harder, and if the ball beats them there the point is over.

I do all kinds of explosive first step and agility drills during on court training.  Here is a video of two kids who were training together just the other day.  I put them in red bands at their hips.  This created an overload where they had to explode through the band on the first step to overcome the resistance.  We then would take off the resistance and go back to the court for drilling.  I can tell you the first step was quick in this lesson!

2 Kind of Coaches

When you look at older and more accomplished tennis players, it is logical to believe that the best tennis players start out training from very young ages with great coaches.  That could not be further from the truth.  In fact, if you look at world-class performers they actually begin their journey with what many people believe to be average coaches.

Let me explain in a little more detail.  I believe there are two types of coaches (sometimes 3, but that is for another blog post) a player needs to achieve high levels of performance.  The first coach ignites the passion for tennis and the second coach builds the necessary skills consistently pushing the player to new heights.

IMG_0346The later coach is the one who is working with older athletes and reaps all the credit for developing  the player.  The truth is they deserve a great deal of credit because their skill set of being able to maintain motivation and develop training that pushes players to new heights is no easy task.  It takes a tremendous amount of knowledge, careful planning, and years of practice mastering their coaching skills.  However, I want to focus on the coach who lays the foundation because their role in a player’s development is just as important.

Tennis is not an easy sport to become really good at.  It takes years of practicing and refining technique, learning shot selection, and lots of losses that cause bumps and bruises along the way. So knowing this why would a child want to put in all this effort and work, because it certainly is not always easy or enjoyable.  The reason is someone has ignited a passion for the game of tennis.  That passion gives the children the motivation and energy to relentlessly purse their dreams.  Now think about what the first coach really does.  A kid may come into a tennis lesson or class and the coach greets them with excitement and enthusiasm.  Then teaches them some basics and praises them for their effort.  The children learn a valuable lesson equating effort with success.  They may even look up to that coach and aspire to be like them.  This coach has ignited a passion in the child and it is that passion that sets the stage for all the years ahead and for the second coach to eventually take over.  I hope you can see how necessary that first experience for a child is.

I have realized this in my coaching and is the exact reason my approach to teaching young kids and beginners is more about fun, excitement, and praising effort than getting good at tennis.  My goal is to ignite a passion.  It is only after that “fire in the belly” is burning strong I know I can very carefully and methodically shift to the role as the second coach.

As parents you may not know a ton about tennis but that does not mean you cannot help coach.  You can be a major part of the process by helping to ignite the passion by playing tennis with your son or daughter, showing the greats of the game on TV, and above all praising them not for their successes but for their effort.

See for yourself how myself and my staff, who I mentor at length on these concepts, this summer at tennis camp.  Maybe we’ll ignite that spark of passion in your son or daughter.  CLICK HERE to learn more.

American Tennis with Chuck Kriese

I had the opportunity to be the featured guest on Chuck Kriese’s show American Tennis.  We spent 45 minutes talking about high school tennis and how to grow the game. Click below to listen the show…

Listen to internet radio with UR10s on Blog Talk Radio

Recipe for Developing Champions

For many years I have been on a relentless quest for the secrets to developing great tennis players.  My search has brought me all over the place, taught me many things, and allowed me to meet countless people.  In fact, one man I met a few years back, Coach Chuck Kriese, shared with me the formula he uses for developing great players, and he has developed some great ones.

Ability + Desire + Opportunity = Athlete’s Full Potential


Ability, desire, and opportunity are the key foundational ingredients to developing a player to their fullest potential.  Ability is basically a person’s genetics, it is what they are born with.  Some athletes will be 6’2″, some have more fast twitch muscle fibers than others, and some see the court in unique ways.  Desire is the “fire in the belly” that some players have.  No one really knows why but some athletes just have high achievement needs, more passion and desire to put in the necessary hard work than others.  The first two parts of the equation ability and desire are mostly centered around the individual, the last part, opportunity, is a little different.  Opportunity mainly falls on the parents and coaches.  They provide many of the opportunities for players to grow and continue growing.  The opportunities can range and depend on so many factors.  In fact, if you want to read a great book about opportunities and their effect on people check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success.  The real magic happens when an athlete is fully prepared with their ability and desire to take full advantage of an opportunity.  The equation sure does give context to this quote by Winston Churchill.

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.  What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” – Winston Churchill

Put all three of these things together and you get the athlete’s fullest potential.  The key is maximizing all 3 areas to their fullest.  An athlete with tremendous ability and desire with zero opportunities will leave something on the table.  An athlete with tremendous ability and opportunities but no desire will never reach their fullest potential.  Finally, an athlete with tremendous desire and opportunity will go far but will ultimately be limited somewhere along the line by their physical abilities.

I teach this formula to my athletes so they know they have some control of the equation.  I want them to equate effort with success.  I also think knowing how all 3 interact allows them to take full advantage of any opportunities that do come there way.  As a coach, this equation is also why I am constantly on a quest to get better and learn as much as possible.  I want to be able to give the athletes I am working with the best possible opportunities to reach their fullest potential.

For an athlete to reach their fullest potential its not all about fancy drills and high performance training, its about maximizing on their unique abilities, desire, and opportunities.  Sure makes the old saying “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard” make a whole lot more sense.

Here is an opportunity to get better at tennis and valuable life lessons that go well beyond the lines of the court.  Coach Slezak’s Summer Tennis Camp – Click to Learn More.

Player Wins Positive Athlete Award

One of the tennis players I have had the absolute privilege to coach, Kelly Capone, was just awarded the Pittsburgh Positive Athlete Award!