Here is yet another email from Dr Ray Brown. But this one is special because it comes with an answer from the one and only Robert Lansdorp. Robert takes issue with the idea the parents are to blame and instead says the problems originate with the coaches. Coach Lansdorp’s answer is in green as a response.
THE FALL OF AMERICAN TENNIS (An Editorial)
There are many reasons behind the fall of American tennis, the stumbling of the USTA being chief among them. However, there is a factor that may not have received enough attention: Tennis Parents.
I have observed many cases over the years where a child was good enough to be in the top 100 but the main obstacle was the parents. Here is why. A child is a ward of their parents, and in the case of tennis training they are often the prisoner of their parent’s poorly thought ideas about how to develop their child. The child cannot escape this prison and so their tennis fate and their opportunities to be the best that they can be are compromised by ignorant parents.
The abundance of superficial information in Tennis magazines and on the Tennis Channel gives parents a sense of empowerment; it gives them the illusion that they can coach their child to the top. The example of Richard Williams further fueled these delusions. It is the consequence of parental coaching delusions that has led to the demise on many promising American children because parents began demanding their child perform when they were not ready, properly coached, properly conditioned, etc. The child had no choice but to obey the parent’s confused, uninformed and superficially derived instructions, regardless of what the coach said. Over the years I have had to dismiss many families as a result of the parent going behind my back and forcing the child to follow their irrational and totally to irresponsible instructions.
The first serious signs of parental destruction of the child appear when the child shows up at practice with the weight of the world on her shoulders. But before that you will hear a parent say things like “should she have a bigger serve” or “why didn’t she put the ball away” well before the child has had any chance to develop the strength to have a “faster” serve or the legs to properly set up to take control of the point. The abundance of clichés in tennis only serves to encourage the parent in their irrational belief that they can coach.
I have had a student enter our program filled with enthusiasm and excitement only to see it gradually die away as the parent engaged more and more in mindless, irresponsibly at “home coaching”. The child is torn between the authority and threat of punishment by the parent and the instruction of the coach. The only coaching solution is to cut the baby in half or let the student go. Faced with this choice, I first attempt to stop the “in home coaching’, and then if that fails, I always let them go.
This state of affairs, the emergence of the ignorant and misguided parent, did not exist in the 70’s and early 80’s. It has evolved over the same time period as the decline in American tennis. Sadly, the emergence of the ignorant parent-coach problem combined with the increasing involvement in player development by the USTA has conspired to destroy many a potential player and wipe out the once dominant American presence in tennis.
OMG, now it is the parents! It is NOT the parents! IT IS THE COACHING! Most coaches in this country don’t know much at all about coaching. They are just horrible. They know how to talk a great game and people believe them. You don’t know who is great and who is not.
The USPTA is for quantity, not quality any more. Anybody is a coach these days. If you can poke a ball over the net and get a basket of balls, you are a coach. If you can talk a great game you must be great. So many times the parents are smarter than the ” PRO ” and know more. IT is not the PARENTS!
Another thing that is happening in this country is that every body has Academies!! Academies don’t create Champions. THEY DON’T !!!
But people don’t want to believe me. Every club in the US has “Academies” and if the coach has one pretty good player he will start an ” Academy “! It is more money in his pocket. So the “One on One” has left this country.
Name me one top tenner that has come out of the Chris Evert Academy in the last 10 years? Name me one? Even top 30 player? I like Rick Macci, but who came out of his Academy in the last 10 years? And all these so, and so, Academies in clubs don’t develop players. If in the past the kids were in Academies, it was always a family member running the show. They were in control.
I am at fault a little. My rates have gone up to $200 an hour. Not outrageous, like some pro’s but too expensive for a lot a people. So, the “One on One” is disappearing!
“Academies” are popping up all over the place and now comes the second problem. Everybody and I mean everybody is in hitting lots of topspin and hitting “Academy” balls. High over the net with lots of topspin. Then you look at the top pro’s and they are all hitting the hell out of the ball. Very hard, fairly low over the net, not much higher than 2 1/2 feet over the net, AND CONSISTENT! Consistent, because they have been doing it since they were young.
This Academy ball is a big problem in getting Champions. Because of the Academies, you are losing the “One on One” teaching and there goes the DISCIPLINE! Now you are in real trouble! No discipline…. No Champions!
Also, the attitude of people has changed after the Capriaty debacle. Let’s just go to college! Nothing wrong with that, but no Champion will develop with that attitude. And don’t bring up Isner!
Probably 99% of the world class players hardly went to high school and never went to college. Combining the two does not work. Going to a hard private High School is the death in becoming a great player, forget becoming a Champion.
On top of all this you have a bunch of money hungry people running the USTA Junior “Development” Program. Nothing good will come out of the USTA Junior Development. They are just stealing players from other coaches and then messing them up and forgetting them. What a great organization!
There are hundreds and hundreds of very talented youngsters in this country, but they don’t get developed into Champions. Making of Champions is an art and a gift!6
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