Monthly Archives: October 2013


I have a very inquisitive mind.  I am constantly in search or learning new information that I can utilize to become a better coach.  I have recently been digging deeply into the works of Coach John Wooden.  John Wooden is one of the greatest coaches of all time.  He built a championship basketball program at UCLA from nothing.  More importantly he had a profound impact on the men he coached.  What is even more interesting are his philosophies, principles, and viewpoints on coaching.


In his book, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, the very first concept he discusses is “Industriousness.”  He defines this concept as, “There is no substitute for work.  Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.”  I could not agree more.  In terms of coaching youth, especially in the sport of tennis, to become an accomplished tennis player it easily takes 10+ years of technical, tactical, physical, and competitive development.  Not only is this a tremendous amount of hard work (10,000 plus hours to be exact) but the development must be carefully planned and monitored.  Just working hard is not good enough, the work must be industrious.

In his books, Coach Wooden explains how deeply he studied the game of basketball and how much time and effort he put into planning practices.  He literally would spend 2 hours planning a 90-120 minute practice, no detail was too small.  It took a tremendous amount of industrious work and it was not easy but obviously it was worth while and only he knows how worth while it was.

As a coach his work inspires me to continue to work hard and improve my skills.  It also shows me how important it is to teach my players that attaining high achievements in the sport of tennis are not easy, in fact it is very hard and it is the price you pay that makes it all worth while.  Too often we are fooled by what is new or flashy or the quick fix.  The wisdom of Coach Wooden is that there is no quick fix or easy street for anything worth while.

Egg, Orange, or Ball – Which Are You?

IMG_1886My wife and I have some pretty interesting conversations.  She told me this story about eggs, oranges, and balls that one of her teacher friends told her.  I was blown away by the symbolism in this story and it is especially valuable in helping understand the value of a good coach-player relationship in developing tennis players.  I just had to share it and it goes like this…

When an egg falls on the ground it cracks and doesn’t get back up.  When an orange falls on the ground it bounces back a little, stays down, and bruises.  When a ball hits the ground it bounces back.  With a little push every time the ball will continue to bounce back.  Which do you want to be?  Do you want someone pushing you to bounce back and get better?

This little word picture explains perfectly the relationship between a player and coach.  There will be ups and downs in a junior tennis player’s career.  First, players need to learn the valuable life skill of resiliency to bounce back and “do the next right thing.”  Second with a steady but gentle push from a caring coach players will always be able to bounce back stronger.

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USTA Tournament Guide

Middle States Guidebook Cover

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions from parents new to the game about getting started in USTA junior tournament tennis.  I am going to be honest the world of Junior Tennis can be pretty difficult to grasp and understand.  There are sections, districts, age groups, levels, and how points are calculated for rankings.

The USTA provides an 8-page guide to the whole thing and instead of trying to find it on the USTA website I included a link below for easy reference.  If you find it useful please share.

Click Here to View the Middle States USTA Guidebook Junior Tournaments

Turning Individuals Into a Team

Tennis is an individual sport, regardless if the competition is in a tournament or dual match, ultimately it still comes down to player vs. player on the court.  In a team tennis setting getting a group of individual players to commit to a common goal and ask “what can I give?” instead of “what can I get?” is arguably the most difficult thing for a coach to accomplish.  I use the scene below in the movie 2004 Disney movie Miracle to make my point.

Throughout the beginning of the movie all the amateur hockey players constantly refer to themselves as playing for a college or university.  They say something like, “My name is Mike Eruzione. I play for Boston University.”  After one game Coach Herb Brooks skates them for hours on end well beyond the point of exhaustion.  One player finally realizes the message Coach Brooks has be trying to convey to them for a long time and says, “Mike Eruzione, I play for the United States of America!”

If you have any great ideas for bonding your team together to sacrifice and work together for a common goal leave a comment below.

Interview with Frank Giampaolo

IMG_0321I was texting back and forth with a friend and fellow high level coach out in Souther California, Frank Giampaolo, this week.  We thought it would be a good idea to do an interview and put the answers up on the blog.  Below is that interview and if you are a tennis parent or a coach and have not picked up the Tennis Parent’s Bible you really should.


How did your career begin?

While attending Ohio State University, my friends were talking about this great new opportunity working for the Greyhound Bus Factory after graduation. The starting pay was a whopping $9/hour versus the $4 minimum wage- this was in 1985. I wanted no part of that! Around that time my father was changing careers and moving to Southern California. I was packed and sitting in the car 2 days before we left!
On my first Day in California, I drove out to The Vic Braden Tennis College. I mentioned that I wanted to learn how to seriously teach this game and asked if I could sit and observe Vic’s classroom sessions and on-court lessons. I went back every day for two weeks. After that, I was offered a position. My years at the tennis college and the National Tennis Research Center in Coto De Caza taught me everything I didn’t even know… I needed to know.

How have you grown as a coach?

Back then, tennis teaching was primarily focused on fundamental stroke development and repetition. The growth came by developing the other components that are commonly found in champions. I went deeper. I traded in the financially rewarding academy approach for my current spiritually rewarding customization approach.

What’s the greatest factor in your success?

Understanding each individual’s preferred intelligence. We are all born with a genetic predisposition to excel at a certain style of play. Our brain type (or personality profile) and body type play the most significant role in maximizing potential at the quickest rate. Also, shifting focus from fundamental stroke production to the mental and emotional components of the game has helped my players win 77 National titles in the past 10 years.

Why did you write the Tennis Parent’s Bible?

I was a successful high performance coach and then became a tennis parent. My step-daughter, Sarah Fansler, went from a 10-year-old beginner to playing the US Open by the age of 15. She won 10 National titles as a junior. Along that journey, I realized that being a tennis parent is 1000 times more difficult than being a coach! There were great USPTA and PTR coaches workshops and great junior developmental programs, but zero tennis parental educational avenues. So…. I took it as a challenge to write my first book.

How big is the factor of the parent in developing a champion?

Well, without a well-informed tennis parent, and/or “hired gun” the most gifted junior on the planet has no chance. Uneducated tennis parents waste thousands of dollars, hours, and tears. Interestingly though, most tennis parents of ranked juniors are successful, type A personalities. They don’t feel they need anyone’s help because in the past, they played on their high school or college squad. These parents sadly sabotage any real chance of their child’s success without ever realizing it.
I was coaching at the Australian Open, talking with an incredibly successful tour coach about tennis parents and I asked him, “Where they would look for the next big talent?” …With a half smile he said, “Well, first I’d start at an orphanage…”

What’s the best advice to give a parent?

Leave the ego at home and make it a point to get educated. A tennis parent who views the role of a tennis parent as a part-time hobby usually has a hobbiest as a junior player. The National and ITF champs I know have a primary tennis parent. Raising athletic royalty is a full-time job. These parents are the teams management system. They work as the human resources department hiring and firing coaches, trainers and hitters. They are the bank, the accountants, the nutritionists, the designated driver, the airline and hotel booking agent, they register their player for events, wash clothes, get rackets strung, purchase equipment, pay coaches and tournament fees. They organize the schedules and find practice partners. They are even the psychologist, the match charter, and the match videographer. Their laundry list of jobs makes them the most important figure in a junior tennis champion’s life.

What’s the best advice for a player dealing with their parents? 

Number one is to read the above tennis parent job description list! Most juniors haven’t taken the time to actually look into everything their parents are doing for them. I often remind juniors that their folks can go to Hawaii and stay at the Ritz for a week every two months for the same amount of money they’re spending on their child’s tennis dream. Realize that if you’re going to have an attitude towards your parents that attitude should be gratitude.

How has the game evolved over your career? 

The physical, mental and emotional evolution of the athlete is number one. I was part of a tennis magazine shoot regarding how equipment is changing the game. We shot several top ATP pros serving with wood, aluminum and modern graphite frames. The result was that the modern pros hit 130 mph with graphite, then aluminum, then wood. Modern string technology surely makes a difference in spin and control, but players around the globe are training harder. They are bigger, stronger, and faster. They develop the mental and emotional components now more than ever. So from my point of view it’s the player more so than the equipment.

Where do you see the future of the game going?

Great question!  I know what I’d like to see! On the Woman’s professional side I’d like to see the development and implementation of secondary strokes. In my opinion, it’s such a one dimensional slugfest. On the Men’s professional side, I’d like to see taller players attack deep down the middle. It would take away the speedsters passing shot angles. The Isners, and Querreys of the game have massive wing spans and it sure would be a tough assignment to pass or lob them. From the high performance junior development side, I’d like to see juniors occasionally trade in the typical lesson sequence (rallying back & forth for 45 minutes, volleying for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of serves) with a different plan. I’d like to see future training sessions look like this: serve and return for 30 minutes, then work on their attacking, transition game for 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of rallying.

What are your thoughts on the transition balls & 10 & under tennis?

My overall feeling is that they are both terrific for any age beginners. I have my staff use them in the 55 & over beginner classes as well. The issue is finding the exceptions and progress them towards the real game ASAP. Remember, not all beginners enter the game with the same athletic history. For example, I’ve had two 28-year-old beginners in the same group; one is a top accountant who has never played a sport in her life, the other gal is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Yes, they both signed up for my beginner class, but have opposing athletic histories. Also, I have two 7-year-old players; one just wants to look cool in his Nike Rafa outfit (he doesn’t even want to hit!), the other has a very different growth development schedule (he’s sure he can beat the 16-year-olds in the advanced program and is mad that he’s not in that group!).

How would you define the mental aspects of the game? 

The mental component is simply the X’s & O’s of strategy and tactics. It’s dissecting opponents and executing the shot the moment demands. The mental side is understanding the different patterns of shot sequences to apply versus the different styles of opponents.

How would you define the emotional aspects of the game? 

The emotional components deal with a player’s ability to focus on their performance goals for the duration of a whole game, a whole set, a whole match or even for the entire tournament. It’s handling stress. It’s composure under adversity. It’s one’s ability to close out leads and handle gamesmanship. It’s dealing with the subtle differences between choking and panicking on-court.

How do you plans on impacting the game in the future? 

My plan is to continue to take the Tennis Parents Workshops, the High Performance Mental Emotional Workshops and the Coaches Information Exchanges around the world. I’ll be heading back to Israel, New Zealand, and Australia next year as well many new countries. Of course, I’ll be here booking “crash courses”  in the US. I will be finishing up the seventh workbook is the Mental Emotional series of high performance junior eBooks. And I’ll continue to offer free tennis parent newsletters and blogs.

Find out more about Frank Giampaolo…

Tennis Parent Bible

Tennis is NOT an Anaerobic Sport!

IMG_1896I hear all the time, “tennis is an anaerobic sport.”  I am going to make a bold statement and tell you that is not 100% accurate.  I see players sprinting, doing change of direction drills and in general doing high intensity short interval workouts all the time for tennis-specific conditioning.  A good number of these players are leaving some performance on the table because they are missing something VERY BIG, developing their aerobic system.  In this post I want to shed some much needed light on the subject and explain why tennis should really be classified as an Alactic-Aerobic sport.

In order to set the table we have to get into talking about energy systems in general.  The body has 3 energy systems and the role of each is to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which in essence is energy.  To use an analogy, ATP is to the body as gasoline is to a car.  Each system has unique properties and before we move on you have to understand a little more about the 2 anaerobic energy systems (alactic & lactic) along with the aerobic system. I summarized all 3 below.

Anaerobic Energy Systems

  • The alactic or creatine phosphate system (ATP-PC) can produce ATP for 10-12 seconds max at a very rapid pace because it has the fewest chemical steps of all 3 energy systems.  A stored phosphocreatine molecule is combined with an ADP molecule to produce ATP.  This chemical reaction does not require any oxygen thus is anaerobic.  The alactic system also has the greatest potential to produce ATP rapidly for power however the tradeoff is that it can only maintain the output for a very short duration before it runs completely out of phosphocreatine and ceases.
  • The lactic system can produced ATP for somewhere in the range of 60-90 seconds.  This process occurs by creating energy from glycogen (sugar stored in muscles) or blood glucose (sugar in the blood stream).  In this entire process the by product lactate is produced, hence the name.  This entire chemical process also occurs without the need for oxygen.  Lactate builds up in the muscles and bloodstream and changes the pH balance up to a point where the brain shuts down lactic energy production.  For years it was thought that lactic acid was the reason for fatigue but new research points to the disturbed pH balance as the reason.

Aerobic Energy System

  • The aerobic energy system relies on oxygen to produce ATP and can do so for a very long time.  This is the system that provides the vast majority of energy needed for our body to function on a daily basis.  The tradeoff to being able to produce so much ATP for so long is that it comes at the expense of power.  The aerobic energy system lacks power because it is dependent on oxygen and there are many chemical reactions that occur to produce the ATP.  In other words it is slower at producing ATP compared to the alactic and lactic systems but once in motion it can produces tremendous amounts of ATP for hours on end.

Now that you understand a little about the 2 anaerobic and the aerobic energy systems let me explain how this all relates to tennis training.  You see the body does not work in nice separate components, instead it works as one unit and everything is interrelated.  This interrelationship between body systems could not be more true in the case of the 3 energy systems.  You see the aerobic system plays an absolutely critical role in replenishing the 2 anaerobic systems.  In the case of the lactic system the aerobic system oxidizes the lactate back into pyruvate and then converts it to Acetyl CoA which then gets fed into the aerobic energy system to produce more ATP.  In essence the aerobic system clears the waste from lactic energy production and actually uses it to make aerobic energy.  You will also remember that alactic energy production relies directly on the supply of phosphocreatine and it is the responsibility of the aerobic system to replenishes those stores as well.

At this point I hope you are seeing where I am going with this.  If all tennis players do is train anaerobically they fail to develop the aerobic system and they are missing out BIG TIME.  They will recover poorly between points and as developed as the anaerobic systems may be they cannot efficiently replenish phosphocreatine and or convert lactate into Acetyl CoA without the aerobic system.  The development of the aerobic system is essential to the ability of the anaerobic systems to function at full capacity repeatedly.  Finally, the anaerobic energy systems are not very adaptable with training, in fact a good deal of their capacity, especially the alactic system has to do with genetics.  On the other hand, the aerobic system is incredibly adaptable and that is good news for those not born with genetically superior anaerobic energy systems and even better news for those who do have genetically superior anaerobic systems.

To wrap this all up tennis is a sport that relies heavily on alactic energy production.  Points do not last very long and the intensity and power needed is great.  The 25 or 90 seconds between points or during change overs relies heavily on the ability of the aerobic energy system to replace phosphocreatine stores.  Hence tennis is not just an anaerobic sport, instead it really is an alactic-aerobic sport and needs to be trained as such.

Now I am not against running sprints and developing the anaerobic energy systems in tennis players. In fact I use methods to do so very often.  The difference is I focus on anaerobic system development after I already know the player has a well developed aerobic system.  And for these well conditioned athletes with an aerobic base I still focus on maintaining their aerobic systems.  However for athletes who are not in good aerobic shape I focus first on getting them a good aerobic base before developing the anaerobic systems because they will definitely get more bang for their buck by doing so.  By the way it is pretty easy to tell how aerobically conditioned someone is, assessment like resting heart rate, one-minute heart rate recovery, and the Coopers test work great.

If this post peaked your interest please feel free to use the buttons below to share and if you want to learn more I strongly recommend reading some work by Joel Jamison.  His book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning, is the best and most practical work I have ever found on conditioning.