December 30, 2011

2012 Tennis Camp Dates Announced

I’ve posted on my website the dates for three of my 2012 Junior Summer Camps.

Week-Long Day Camps at:

Sumter, SC (The Palmetto Tennis Center) July 15-20

Lawrenceville, GA (Collins Hill Athletic Club) July 22-27

Weekend Day Camp at:

Lexington, SC (Country Club) July 13-15

For more info, go to

May 19, 2011

Not So Super: The Third-Set Tie-Breaker

At junior tournaments throughout the country it has become common to use so-called ‘Super Tie-Breakers’ instead of playing out third sets.  This is being done in spite of disapproval from players, coaches and parents.

“It teaches our players some very bad habits about competition,” says Frank Salazar, the 2009 USOC National coach of the year. “The biggest problem is that it does not instill the qualities of what competition is really all about; most importantly: perseverance! Perhaps this has contributed to why very few young Americans are surfacing in tennis on the world scene. We are the only country in the world that uses this system, and maybe that says something about us falling behind.”

Cris Robinson, a Coach from Richmond, Va. states, “We might be self-sabotaging player development with its use. Players grow the most when learn how fight through hard matches and win. The byproduct is learning to think through adverse situations while developing strength of body and mind along the way. If the player always engages the heart, the pain of losing will have its upside as well.”  “The third set is where all of the learning takes place.”

VesaPonnka,  the 2011 USOC National Coach of the Year says, “On the outside, the abbreviated matches have been looked by tournament directors as a solution to playing many matches in a short period, but they have had a negative effect on youngster’s development.”   “It is through tough, close three-set wins and close losses that players usually make the breakthrough to a new level. Easy matches seldom pave the way for growth.”

Winning and Losing are both tools for growth.  A player who wins does not earn full credit by winning a third-set tie-breaker; likewise, losing a TB instead of a third set makes it easier to shrug off a loss.  As Salazar states, “The losses are supposed to hurt and the wins are supposed to feel really, really good. Both of these emotions are critical incentives for player improvement.”

Players Agree with Coaches

Likewise, many players like 17-year-old player Collin Johns, have spoken out against third-set STBs. “I take a lot of pride in my fitness and in the program of training that I do,” he says. “The ten-point breaker allows players to get victories without paying the full price. The skill and toughness that I gain though hard work should be my advantage and the STB system doesn’t allow the work I do to make a difference.”

ATP professional Ryan Young holds a similar opinion. “The ability to finish off an opponent and learning how to carry leads throughout a long, tough match are incredibly hard skills to learn,” he says. “There is no substitute for having to learn how to do this over and over again. Our sport has no clock to do the dirty work, and it is unlike any other when it comes to learning how to win. The third-set set tie-break system is unfair to the favored player when the underdog knows from the start that it is a smaller mountain to climb in order to win. Tennis is a lot like boxing. You often don’t really gain small advantages on the lesser player until 45 minutes or an hour into the match. It is unfair to stop at the point when you finally gain control of the match and have to play a tie-break.”

Where Did the Third-Set Super Tie-Breaker System for Come From?

The third-set STB was first tried at the college level back in the early 1990s. It was during an experimental era when college tennis was attempting to find a way to shorten matches to increase the fan appeal. It quickly flopped. Many top-ranked teams suffered upsets to lesser teams. For example, under the STB system, the Lander College team beat the heavily favored University of Georgia by winning three of these 10-point STBs.  Though abandoned for college dual matches, the system has crept into youth tennis as a solution to bigger draws and multiple consolation rounds.

Lately there seems to be an agenda to use them as it is the easiest way to get more players into events and to conduct back-draw matches as well. A tournament can run multitudes of matches and finish on time; however, the down-side of this approach lies in stunted development of the player.  “The advantages of the STB are notable for a tournament director when there is bad weather or indoor court space is limited,” says  BonnieVona, Manager of Competitive Tennis and Player Development for Middle Atlantic Tennis. But she conversely points out, “The training of high-performance players requires full matches for best growth. “We probably need to define more clearly the differences between developmental needs of competitive players and recreational events.”

Are Traditional 2 out of 3 matches Too Strenuous for Younger Players?

A junior tennis official recently stated that the long matches in hot conditions were often too taxing on our young players.  Citing a recent study done he maintained that STBs should be used to prevent injuries and health problems stating, “Our kids are often being exposed to tougher conditions than Marine Boot Camp.”  Although convenient, this may not be the best correlation.All coaches and players know that acclimatization is a big part of being good. If players have properly conditioned, there are very few situations in a tennis match where overexertion becomes dangerous. When tennis players get fatigued or too hot to play, they simply miss balls and lose.

For certain, safety should always be a consideration. Tennis is primarily an outdoor sport. Hot and humid conditions are often an element of the game. Thus, conditioning and heat acclimatization is an essential training fundamental. If safety is really a concern, a medical waiver at tournaments would seem to be sufficient.Multiple sports that are much more dangerous already do this.

Perhaps we should Re-evaluate Doubles

Many coaches feel that the whole problem might be solved by making doubles more important again.  “The skills used for doubles really round out a player’s game,” says former US Davis Cup Chairman Roy Barth.
Tournament officials are stuck however. With so many tournaments playing back draw consolation matches, shortened doubles matches are now being played as well. Limiting back draws to one extra match for first round loser is a recommendation.  Doubles should go back to two-out of three sets for best player development.

Two rounds of doubles should start the tournament as well. The doubles matches could be held in conjunction with participant socials and organizational meetings on the first eve of the event. If 2 doubles were played first, 75% of the doubles matches would be completed before singles were started.  This would provide breathing room for the directors and other options.

Honoring the Game

The traditional tennis scoring system is one of our most sacred heirlooms. It should be protected as such. This scoring system sets multiple problem solving opportunities that makes it quite unique.  Based on threes, tennis scoring constantly tests one's ability to construct and win points in sequences that constantly changeand vary in pressure.  A player can only go forward in levels of achievement when he or she has mastered the ability to manage these fluctuating pressures. The third-set STB fails to measure this nor does it measure important aspects of momentum-control and understanding of the flow of the match.

A bad rule is like a bad law. They are easy to implement, butvery  hard to eliminate. Our traditional scoring system is fundamental. Modifications like no-ad scoring, pro-sets and super tie-breakers are devaluing our game. Such scoring schemes should be abandoned.

Chuck Kriese was the head coach at Clemson University for 33 years. He coachesd 5 Junior Grand-slam Titles. He is Author of 5 books and is in the national collegiate hall of fame. He is the Senior Director Competition and Coaching, at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD. Visit his website at

January 9, 2011

Criticisms of Current Rules: Part III: No-Ad and Super-Tie Breaker Scoring

I wholeheartedly agree with the ITF including doubles at all junior events. It tremendously contributes to the overall development of junior players. However, the use of the No-Ad scoring and the Super-Tie Breaker for third set is not beneficial.

There are three goals that should be considered in making a rule change:
1. The Process Goal for the player’s developmental learning.
2. The Product Goal to establish an even playing field.
3. The Fan Goal to attract and appeal to the spectators.

In junior tennis, the Process Goal is not satisfied by No-Ad scoring. The players do not learn the discipline to labor through the lengthy, war-like games that are the key to becoming skilled in tennis.

Perhaps the most important key to achieving high level of success in tennis is developing the skill that it takes to manage the momentum of traditional scoring. Traditional scoring is multi-dimensional. No-Ad scoring is not.

Likewise the Product Goal is not satisfied either, as the best players lose some of their edge in regards to their mental, emotional, and physical skills. All advantages are neutralized by the immediate fluctuations of momentum and pressures caused by the No-Ad system.

With traditional scoring, the subtle separation that a slightly better player has in his or her skills becomes a large advantage during the match. With No-Ad scoring, however, even a big skill separation is potentially nullified with the quick gains and losses of momentum.

The Fan Goal is not being satisfied either. The No-Ad scoring system eliminates the drama and suspense of a player being able to put together three consecutive points.
The traditional scoring system is an heirloom of tennis. It is unique in the sports world. It tests the player’s ability to group points and convert games. This deep skill should not be compromised. The athlete should impact the outcome of each game, not the scoring system.

Key momentum fluctuations are drastically impacted by the use of No-Ad scoring: For example, a 30-0 lead gives the player 16:1 odds that he/she will have a game point in No-Ad scoring. Likewise, a 30-15 lead gives a player 8:1 odds that he will have a game point.

At other key times, the impact of one point unfairly loads the deck as well. The critical 7th game is a good study of this. A 4-2 lead can turn into 5-2 or 4-3 based on a net cord or a bad line call. Even though this is the most obvious example, all game points are worth two games.

In tennis, it is fascinating when players with a similar skill level are competing. The winner must be able to closeout his or her opponent at the end of the match by gaining mastery over his or her nerves. No-Ad scoring takes this dimension away from the player’s developmental process.

Lastly, major tournaments should never be determined by the use of a 10-Point Tie-Breaker for the third set. For example, at the 2008 US Open Junior event, there were 23 doubles matches on the boys draw. 17 of these were decided by a Super-Tie Breaker. This demeans a great achievement and is not a good indicator of the better team.

There should be a valid reason for that the No-Ad system and the 10-Point Match Tie-Breaker to be used for Junior ITF events. Mostly likely, they were implemented with the hope that it would prepare junior players for its use in professional doubles. There is, however, no evidence that there is a carry over value. Most doubles players in the professional ranks are singles players who did not advance far enough in the singles rankings to sustain their career.

The No-Ad system in professional tennis was implemented as a compromise to prevent doubles from being dropped from the tour. Since then, however, it has remained extremely unpopular.

Tournament owners have ignored a simple scheduling solution. Before playing any singles matches, they may consider playing two rounds of doubles on the first two days of the event. Thus, players can use the doubles matches to ready themselves for singles competition, and the first two days can be dedicated to fan appreciation and kids clinics (perhaps even conducted by the doubles players). After these first two days, tournament owners would only have to take care of the remaining 4 doubles teams.

A bad rule is much like a bad politician. Both are easy to put into place, but the ramifications can be long lasting. And once in place, the bad rule or the bad politician are very hard to remove.

The integrity of the game is founded on a level playing field. The physical, mental and emotional skills of tennis should be the sole criteria that determine the outcome of a match, rather than a well timed injury or bathroom timeout. Furthermore, No-Ad scoring and the 10-Point Super-Tie Breaker impairs the crucial role of momentum in the sport. Players and coaches who spend thousands of hours of preparation and training to execute their skills deserve the best chance to win.

Criticisms of Current Rules: Part II: The Bathroom Break

Bathroom Breaks are being used as strategic tactic to break momentum in matches. Most tennis players would agree that there is rarely a need to use the bathroom once the tennis match starts. During a match, there is, typically, a greater concern for water replacement than excessive urination.

On rare occasions, diarrhea may be a factor. Diarrhea might be considered an acute injury. Urination is not. Perhaps the best rule for bathroom breaks may be to only allow it at end of split sets.

In a comparison, it would be unimaginable to see the situation in a boxing match where one boxer has delivered enough body punches to have his opponent leaning into the ropes - ready to submit. Then the player who is under duress, suddenly call for a trainer to give him medical attention or to call for a bathroom break. Likewise, in a tennis match, it often takes over an hour of steady shot selection and pressure to weaken an opponent.

The current rules for tennis should be adjusted to eliminate such disadvantages for the player that who has diligently worked to gain momentum.

Criticisms of Current Rules: Part I: The Injury Timeout

This is a three-part essay regarding disagreements that I have with ITF tournament rules.

In 2010, I attended 19 ITF events, during which I witnessed several matches won by abusing the rules with well timed injury or bathroom timeout. Also, I have concluded that the No-Ad and Super-Tie Break systems create topsy-turvy results. Upon questioning multiple of fellow coaches and players, I have heard many similar sentiments.

The issue that may be of most immediate concern is the abuse of
the rule for
Injury Timeout. The existing rule for on-court injuries may be of good intent, but it has been grossly abused by multiple players on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Faking injuries is now a very common method to change to momentum of matches. Its abuse is noticeable to all coaches and players and many spectators.

Momentum is the most powerful force in sports, and it is very hard to earn, fairly, through good tennis tactics and skilled play. During a tournament, there are some occasions where there may be a legitimate injury – a player has been hurt enough to stop play. However, even when a legitimate injury does happen, it should not be weighted so heavily as to cause an unfair disadvantage to the healthy opponent.

In no other sport are athletes penalized by their opponent’s injury or lack of conditioning. In a tennis match, a player’s health is rarely in peril.

Here are a few recommendations to remedy this issue:

A. A distinction made between an acute and chronic injury.
Chronic injuries and pre-existing injuries should never be treated on the court. Acute injuries are different, but there should still be some consideration for the concerns of the healthy player and the preservation of the momentum that he or she has earned.

B. A one-game penalty for a player that calls for a trainer.
This would eliminate bogus injuries, but still be a fair trade-off if for the player who is seriously injured.

C. A trainer can only be used during the normal change of sides.
If a trainer is needed, the normal 3 minutes for treatment would be fair under these circumstances. If the trainer is called for during a change of sides break, then the athlete should have to wait to be treated during the next change of sides break. This would not disturb the momentum of the match.

D. Cramping should not be considered an injury.
It is, rather, a symptom of poor conditioning.

The decision making burden, concerning what is and what is not an injury, should not be put on the referees or the trainer at the site. This leads to an inconsistency of assessments. Officials and trainers will usually conservatively error on the side of the injured as they fear making a mistake. Therefore, a consistently enforced rule should be in place to take subjectivity out of the situation.

January 4, 2011

Article To Read

This is an interesting article by Jonathan Zimmerman regarding why he thinks American students still lag far behind Asian students in standardized test scores. Influencing children to work hard and overcoming setbacks is much more important than promoting their self-esteem.