Category Archives for "Opinion"

1 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Obsess Over USTA Ratings

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Obsess Over USTA Ratings


Many USTA league players drive themselves crazy over NTRP ratings. And I don’t blame them.  The NTRP rating is supposed to be a reflection of the year you had and determines what leagues you can play in.  It’s also fun to anticipate how your match results and  a computer algorithm assesses your game.

But in reality, you shouldn’t care about your USTA rating.  Here are 8 reasons why:

1. Ratings are an imperfect science

There’s no question in my mind that USTA tried to come up with the best formula it could to determine NTRP ratings.  After all, with more than 300,000 USTA league players, there’s no way USTA can go through each person’s record with a fine-tooth comb.  That being said, I wouldn’t take your NTRP rating as a truly accurate reflection of your year.  Because sometimes people’s year-end ratings don’t make sense.

Several of my friends have had the following seemingly illogical ratings determinations:

  1. Went 9-0 in sectionals and nationals and stayed a 4.5
  2. Went 1-1 on the year with 1 default, and got bumped down to a 4.0 (former D1 college player)
  3. Went to Nationals and defeated top 5.0 players multiple times but got bumped down to a 4.5
  4. Went 64-12 and didn’t get bumped up

I’m sure you or your USTA league friends have similar examples.  If you do, post them in the comments below! The point is that getting bumped up or down doesn’t necessarily reflect how you did over the course of the year.

2. It distracts you and your partner during matches

I have many wonderful tennis friends who are constantly thinking about how each match will potentially affect their USTA rating.  I’ve been in several doubles matches where my partner has said something to the effect of “If we win 6-0, this will screw up our rating for next year!” Arrrgh! The statement itself may be true, but it’s clear that the NTRP rating, for many, poses too much of a distraction during matches.

When you play tennis matches, your goal should be to play your best and give 100% each and every time on the court (a rant to come on that below).  Like my college coach Keith Puryear (Episode 2 of the podcast) always says, “focus on the process, not the result.”  Any time you start thinking about how your match will affect your rating, you are robbing yourself of optimal play and wasting energy and focus on something that a computer has most of the control over.

3. It causes tanking and enrages my soul

I love all my USTA friends.  But I truly hate how some of them will straight up throw matches to try and not get bumped up. If I play you and you tank, you have not only wasted your time and money, but more importantly to me, my time and money.  I think that we should constantly try to improve ourselves and our tennis game.  But if you tank matches, you train your body to perform at suboptimal levels by decreasing your intensity and competitive drive.

This is also why, per #1 above, ratings can be inaccurate.  Let’s say a league player, we’ll call her, Ivanna Tankalot, destroys everyone at 4.5, and then tanks a few matches at the end of the year against weak players and ends up staying at 4.5 (congratu-freakin-lations, Ivanna!).  Is 4.5 her truly deserved ranking? Or should she be bumped up to 5.0 because she is fully capable of playing at that level and will be competitive with the 5.0s?  I think you know the answer, and Ivanna you to post your thoughts by commenting below (do you see what I did there?).

4. You will lose out on playing better competition

Sure, winning is fun.  But to me, playing against higher-level competition that will push you to play your best is a lot more fun, regardless of the result.  I’ve been a 5.0 for several years, but looking back on my last 4.5 season where I never lost a 4.5 men’s match, I much prefer the higher level competition.  There were many matches in 4.5  where I was on autopilot, or knew I just had to hit 5 balls in and I’d get a short ball to pound on.  Coasting will do nothing for my game or yours.  I promise you that the better players you play, and more often, the better a player you will become (now I sound like Yoda).  I guarantee you that your focus and intensity will level up a notch.

I know many of you will say, even if we protect our rating and stay at the same level, we’ll face higher competition when we get to Nationals anyway!  But what’s going to improve your game more, playing a top 4.5 player 1-2 times a year, or playing 5.0s all year round?  And I don’t blame you for wanting to get to Nationals.  After all, it is a very memorable experience.  But I’d rather become a better tennis player, and feel the joy of an improved skill set, over destroying people at 4.5 for the next 15 years.

5. It can mess with your well-being

This isn’t talked about much, but I know there are players out there who are depressed because they cannot increase their rating by .5 to 1 point after several years of trying.  This is certainly not good for your health or tennis game.  And after a while, it can cause you to feel overwhelming pressure during matches.  During the crucial moments of a match, you do not want to think about how crucial it is to win, because most of us will get tight and play horrible if we do that.

The best thing you can do for your game is to focus on your long-term improvement.  Sure, maybe the computer rated you a 4.0 again.  But how does your game feel over the past few months?  Are you training optimally, and giving it 100% effort during practices and matches?  Are you implementing good strategy during your matches?  What parts of your game has improved?  Ask yourself these questions, ignore your NTRP rating (except when you sign up for leagues 🙂 ), and everything will take care of itself.

6. You will waste time and energy

People spend tons of hours, some almost every day, thinking about ratings.  Why should you care?  Instead, focus on improving your game.  I can tell you that most of the 5.0s and 5.5s I play with do not give a damn about their rating.  They go on the court to crush people.  This is how you should be, too.  Think of all the things you could do instead of thinking about this stuff.  You could:

  1. Think about tennis strategy
  2. Learn a new language
  3. Go to the gym
  4. Practice your lifelong dream of becoming a hula-hoop champion
  5. Work on your serve

The point is that we as human beings have a limited capacity to focus and make decisions, and you should use it on things that matter, instead of obsessing about USTA ratings.

7. More equal matchups and variety of teams advancing to sectionals/nationals

Without the obsession over ratings and match-tanking, more people would be moved to the proper level they should play at.  If you have multiple top-level players that destroy their opponents but throw matches, and are able to stay at that level, this is not fair for the rest of the player pool.  The top players should be bumped up, otherwise they will continue to dominate a level for which they are too good to be playing.  It’s a good thing the 3-person nationals team rule is in place, otherwise you would have the same teams dominate each year (instead of every other year like it is now).

And think about the longevity of USTA leagues before you argue that there isn’t anything wrong with the same groups of players winning so often.  If other players see the same teams win each year and think the system is flawed, they will drop out of USTA leagues.  Could this be a reason for the stagnation of the USTA league player base? I think so. Best of luck playing against ghosts in a few years.

8. The world will be a better place

If people didn’t obsess about USTA ratings, there would be:

  1. No tanking matches
  2. No staying up until 2am to see the year-end rankings
  3. No 80 comment-deep facebook posts about ratings
  4. Everyone would focus more on improving their tennis games
  5. More players would play at the level they really should play at

I hope that the above points make you think twice about putting so much importance into USTA ratings.  It’s fun and entertaining, but can really take away from your overall improvement and even cause harm to the USTA leagues and its players.  And whatever you do, do not tank matches.  Don’t. do. it.

For more tips to improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook: The Building Blocks of Tennis Success by subscribing to my free newsletter below!


TFP 055: James Blake — How to Unite Through Activism

TFP 055: James Blake — How to Unite Through Activism

On today’s show, I had the honor of speaking with James Blake, former ATP world #4, about his new book Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together.  James has amassed 10 singles titles, appeared in 24 singles finals, and beaten some of the greatest tennis players in the world, including Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick.  I was fortunate enough to connect with James and speak with him while he was in LA commentating on the ATP 1000 Shanghai Masters tournament.

One of the things that stood out the most about James to me was his class on the court.  When my dad and I used to watch James play in DC at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic (now the Citi Open), he would thank the ballkids every time they gave him tennis balls or fetched him a towel.  James also had one of the biggest forehands on tour, which he used to propel himself up the ranks into the top 5 of the ATP Tour.  James continues to impress off the court as well with his second book, Ways of Grace, which he wrote ten years after his first book, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life.

James discusses the incredible athletes in Ways of Grace that have spoken out for a cause, the most difficult time in James’s career, James’s secret weapon for coming back from difficult times, when James experienced discrimination on tour, and more on Episode 55 of The Tennis Files Podcast.  Special thanks to GetCharly for helping set up my interview with James! You should definitely check out this fantastic app if you haven’t yet!

I hope you enjoy my interview with James, and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below this post!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:30] How writing James’s second book, Ways of Grace, was a completely different experience from his first book Breaking Back
  • [4:10] What James wants readers to get out of reading Ways of Grace
  • [6:04] The incredible athletes that James discusses in his book
  • [7:26] Why famous individuals should speak out about what they believe in, and the possible repercussions of doing so
  • [10:11] One of James’s favorite athletes and what she did to advance society
  • [12:05] Times when James experienced discrimination on the ATP Tour
  • [14:15] James’s toughest moment in his career and how he persevered through that adversity

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together – James’s new book

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If you enjoyed my interview with James, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

Thanksgiving Tennis Turkeys Giving Thanks

10 Things Tennis Players Should be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I put together a list of people and entities that have a significantly positive impact on tennis. They help tennis players develop, improve, and enjoy their games and lives through their tireless efforts.

Here is my list of 10 things that all tennis players should be thankful for:

1. Tennis Coaches

Teachers are amazing people because they dedicate themselves to helping others grow and improve their life skills. Tennis coaches are no different. Good tennis coaches teach you the fundamentals and techniques to help you become a better tennis player. Great tennis coaches take it a step further by training you to persevere against adversity and become a winner not just in tennis, but in life. Tennis coaches are an integral part of tennis players’ careers and I am very thankful to all of them, including mine, who are committed to improving people’s tennis games and life skills.

2. Tennis Parents and Families

The parents of tennis players sacrifice their lives to help their children reach their tennis goals.  I know firsthand how much time, effort, and money my parents sacrificed to advance my tennis career so that I would improve, be happy, and succeed in life. Without my parents I’d probably be an expert cheese puff eater instead of a strong tennis player. And the rest of a tennis player’s family can also provide critical support and confidence. My girlfriend makes it a point to cheer me on during big matches whenever she can. I would like to extend a special and heartfelt thanks to all the tennis parents and families for putting your children, husband, wife, or relative’s tennis career and well-being in front of your own.

3. USTA Leagues

USTA leagues are a fantastic way for people of all ages and skill levels to compete in a fun and exciting environment. Whether you are a beginner or former top college player, there is a league for you. I have met so many wonderful people by playing in USTA leagues and had so much fun because of the team aspect it brings to tennis. I have been fortunate enough to travel the country to participate in USTA National tournaments. I also appreciate the work that league captains put in to make sure teams run smoothly and are successful as possible. I am truly thankful to everyone who helps run the USTA leagues.

4. Tennis Friends

My tennis friends train with me, help my game, support my growth, and enable me to enjoy the game. My tennis friends do more for me than just benefit my tennis. They have helped me get hired for jobs, protected me from harm, given me life advice, accompanied me on memorable trips, and made me enjoy my life to the fullest. I have met so many incredible and kindhearted people through my tennis career. I am thankful for having such great friends that I have met because of tennis.

5. The USTA and County Tennis Associations

As a board member of my local county tennis association (go MCTA!), I know firsthand how much work it takes to organize the seemingly infinite amount of tennis tournaments and leagues. It is easy to play in them, a little harder to captain, and even harder to figure out times, locations, number of leagues, matches, finances, logistics, timing, and a myriad of other variables to make leagues and tournaments successful. I know that the USTA, MCTA, and other tennis associations dedicate themselves to the growth of tennis because they know it is a healthy and lifelong sport that people love to play. Cheers to all the tennis associations out there, and thank you for your passion about the game!

6. Djokovic and Federer

These two juggernauts have produced some of the most dominant and exciting tennis matches in years. The continued grace of Federer and the soul-crushing defeats handed down by Djokovic are a pleasure to watch. They have both played numerous exciting grand slam finals against each other, including this year at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. I love watching Djokovic and Federer, and I am thankful that we have such amazing players to watch, learn from, and entertained us.

7. The Williams Sisters

It’s been over 20 years after Venus and Serena turned pro, and they are still crushing it. Serena had one of the best years in the history of tennis, and Venus is firmly back in the top 10 even while she continues to fight an autoimmune disease. These two have produced countless memorable matches and are such a huge draw to the women’s game. I hope they don’t retire any time soon, because the women’s game will have a huge void without them.

8. Sweet Tennis Gear

I’d like to think that I’m not materialistic, but I really do appreciate high-performing racquets and shoes. Tennis gear continues to become lighter, more durable, and appealing to the human eye.  Now companies are even coming out with tennis sensors and smartwatches, which I look forward to testing and reviewing for you in the upcoming months. It is fun to try out all the new tennis equipment that these tennis design geniuses keep creating.

9. Tennis Facilities

It takes a lot of work to finance, build, and maintain tennis courts, and I am thankful to all the staff who put in the hard work and effort to do it. Without them, I wouldn’t be playing any tennis except in my dreams or on a gaming console. These facilities are integral to the sport because they attract tons of new and current players to play tennis through clinics, programs, and making courts available to play on. These facilities also supply most of the top pros in our tennis communities. If tennis facilities close down, tennis will go down with it.

10. Tournament Staff and Volunteers

From the professional tournaments to the juniors, tournament staff make tennis players’ careers possible. All those ATP and WTA tournaments you enjoy watching wouldn’t exist without the methodical planning, scheduling, and execution of every match by officials, ballboys, umpires, ushers, tournament staff, and all the other volunteers. I am grateful for the wonderful experiences I’ve had at tennis tournaments, but without tournament staff and volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of it!

If you enjoyed this post, let me know about it by commenting below or liking my Facebook page! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

3 Broken Piggy Bank - Tennis on a Budget

Tennis on a Budget: 13 Ways to Save Money

Tennis is expensive. Racquets, strings, grips, tennis balls, and shoes are just some of the things we have to keep buying to play the game we love.

Below are my 10 tips for playing tennis on a budget. Because we need money to pay the rent too.

1. Buy a Stringing Machine 

You can save hundreds of dollars per year by purchasing a stringing machine. Stringing is not difficult to learn. Once you figure out how to weave strings and tie a knot, you are golden.

Right now, you probably spend at least $25 bucks per string job. Let’s estimate that you string 2 racquets per month. Your total racquet-stringing costs are $600 a year ($25 x 2 x 12).

Instead, you can buy a $180 stringing machine and a couple reels of string ($160/reel) which will cost you $500 total. You will break even in less than a year!

After that, you will start saving good money, because you will only pay for the cost of the string, which is $10 per racquet for a $160 reel. That’s a $15 savings on every racquet you string!

24 string jobs (1 year) x $15 means you will save $360 per year! That’s a lot of money. And the more frequently you need to string racquets, the more money you will save. String for your friends to make extra income!

2. Purchase Older Model Racquets

When a premium racquet first hits the market, it will be in the $200-300 range. Then a few years go by, and an updated model comes out. What happens then? The price of the older model will take a nose-dive to make room for the newer one.

All that matters is that you like the racquet and it suits your game. So if you want to save money on racquets, try finding some older model racquets on sale, demo them, and see which ones you like.

You don’t need the latest model racquet to play great tennis. The same principle works for clothes, shoes, and other tennis products, too.

3. Buy Shoes with a 6-Month Warranty

Most of the big brands make fantastic shoes with 6-month warranties. If you can wear out these shoes within 6-months, you get a free pair!

Great tennis shoes that I have used with a 6-month warranty are: Adidas Barricade V, Asics Gel Resolution 5 (newest model = Gel Resolution 6), and the Nike Zoom Cage 2.

The Gel Resolution model has been the lightest and most favorite pair of shoes that I have used in this category.  Shoes with 6-month warranties tend to be a bit heavier because they are more durable. However, these shoes are getting lighter thanks to advances in shoe technology. 

The extra weight can be a good thing, because these shoes are usually more stable than their lighter counterparts. And you will get used to the weight, if you notice a difference, after a couple hitting sessions.

If you want to save money on shoes, buy a pair with a warranty and enjoy two pairs for the price of one! Just remember to keep the receipt and the warranty card included in the box, and don’t forget to send the shoes back before the 6-month deadline!

4. Use Cheaper Strings

You can probably find cheaper alternatives to the strings that you use. If you like your current strings but wouldn’t mind saving some money, there are tons of similar strings on the market that you should try.

For example, I used to play with Babolat RPM Blast, but switched to another polyester string called Volkl Cyclone which costs half as much! Since money isn’t growing out of my pockets, and Cyclone plays similar to RPM, I happily made the change. Now I play with the Tour version of Cyclone because it feels a bit softer.

You can search for cheaper strings at places like Tennis Express, Holabird Sports, or other tennis shops. There are a ton of tennis strings on the market, but you can filter for type, gauge, brand, and more on the websites above to help find what strings will suit you best.

5. Buy in Bulk 

Purchase as many products as you can in bulk to save money. For example, one can of tennis balls costs $3 to $4 bucks. Instead, you can get 24-cans of tennis balls for $60. You will save between $12 to $36 dollars per 24 cans!

Buy tennis strings in reels. One pack of Babolat RPM Blast costs $18. Instead, you can buy a reel of Babolat RPM Blast, which will string about 16 racquets, and costs $245 bucks.  

Since buying 16 individual packs at $18 each costs $288, this means you will save $33 bucks ($288-$245) if you buy a reel. Believe me, it (reely) adds up!

You should also buy grips in bulk (30 or 60 packs). Everyone buys in bulk to save on groceries and other products, so why not buy in bulk for tennis, too? 

6. Search for Coupon Codes

Perform a quick google search for coupons on the tennis shop you are buying from. You can often find coupon codes that you can input in your shopping cart that will take off a percentage from your total bill. Just search for “[name of tennis shop] coupon code.” It’ll take you less than a minute, and you can save a few bucks. 

7. Save Old Tennis Balls

If you open a fresh can of tennis balls and use it for one practice session, chances are it is still good enough to use again. And even if the balls lose some bounce, you can still use them for other things like practicing your serve or placing balls on the court as targets or for footwork drills.

I recommend you buy a ball hopper to store and pick up balls. I use this one, which holds 75 balls and is pretty inexpensive ($25). Buy your tennis balls in bulk and you’ll have enough for one!

8. Play Tennis Outdoors When Possible

Playing indoors costs anywhere from $20 to $40 an hour. Not that cheap. I recommend that you play outdoors if possible to save money.

Most outdoor courts are free. You can use to easily find public (or private) tennis courts in your area. If it’s a little chilly, layer up! Or invest the $20 you just saved towards a sweatshirt!

9. Indoor Tennis: Early Bird and Splitting Court Costs

If you have to play tennis indoors, there are a couple things you can do to save money.

First, if you can, play tennis during the non-peak or early bird hours.  The cheapest time to play is usually first thing in the morning (~6am), followed by weekdays during work hours. The most expensive times to play are after work or on the weekend.

Second, make sure to split the court costs with a friend. And if you play doubles, the cost can be divided by 4. That makes playing tennis pretty cheap!

Bonus Tip: Sometimes, tennis clubs don’t mind if you play past the time you booked, as long as you paid for an hour. So keep playing and see if they say anything! If they are strict about court times or you see an employee scowling at you, you may want to get off the court! Find a court online that will be empty after your time slot to facilitate this strategy.

10. Ask for a Discount on Lessons

Ask your coach for a discount if you take multiple lessons. A coach will only list an hourly rate. However, if you are willing to commit to 5 or 10 lessons, sometimes the instructor will cut you a deal. This is great for both parties: you save some money, and the coach has guaranteed income coming his or her way. It won’t always work, but it has for several of my friends. “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.”

11. Re-Use Grips

If you want to save a few bucks, and don’t believe in wasting a perfectly good grip, then try re-using your tennis grips!

When one side of your tennis grip is no longer usable, take it off the handle and turn it over to the other side. If that side isn’t worn or damp, you can use the grip again!

I have done this successfully with all of my favorite overgrips: Yonex Super Grap, Wilson Pro OvergripBabolat Pro Tour Overgrip, and Tourna Grip

Will you score style points and be invited to the next “I am the 1% meeting?” Probably not. But if you want to save money and don’t have an extra grip in your bag, re-using the backside of a tennis grip might do the trick.

12. Use a Rubber Band as a Vibration Dampener

Vibration dampeners come in a lot of cool varieties, but there’s no need to pay for one. Instead, tie a rubber band to the same spot of the stringbed where you would place a vibration dampener. If you don’t believe me, google search Andre Agassi. He used rubber bands and he did pretty well. Throw a bunch of them in your bag, and you are all set to go! Boom, more money in the bank!

13. Practice More Efficiently

Don’t waste your time or money on training that doesn’t help your game. If you take private or group lessons, tell your coach what you want to work on to maximize the value of your investment. Arranging practices with tough players who want to improve is the cheapest way to train effectively (cost = $0).

Be smart about your training, and your wallet will thank you for it.

Note: The product links above are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I make a small commission. If you do, I really appreciate it! And if not, I appreciate you too 🙂

If you have any other ideas about how to play tennis on a budget, I would love to hear about them. Let me know by leaving a comment!

For more tips on how to improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook: The Building Blocks of Tennis Success by subscribing to my free newsletter below!

10 UMBC 2007 America East Champions

They Cut My Team – UMBC and the Alarming Demise of College Tennis

As a proud former UMBC Tennis player, I looked forward to attending my alma-mater’s matches for years to come. There’s an immense amount of joy associated with visiting your school, cheering on the team, and reliving the wonderful days of college athletics.

That dream has been destroyed.

Monday, November 2, was a dark day for UMBC Tennis. Both its men’s and women’s programs were declared eliminated after this season. Unfortunately, this is a common trend for college tennis, and not enough is being done about it.

The Decline of Tennis in the United States

In my previous article on The NCAA’s Move to No-Ad Scoring, I noted that according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, approximately 250 tennis programs have been cut since 2000. That’s around 2000-3000 spots on college tennis teams that have been eliminated since the beginning of this century. This is a staggering number of young men and women who no longer have the opportunity to play collegiate tennis.

We wonder why tennis isn’t as popular in the U.S.  You don’t need to think about this for too long when you consider that the presence of tennis teams in hundreds of schools are no more.

How do you expect tennis to grow by eliminating so many college tennis programs around the country? 

Each time we eliminate a college tennis team, the message sent is that tennis simply isn’t worth it. 

As a member of the UMBC tennis team, club tennis players and others who watched us play routinely asked us questions about tennis. They stopped by to watch us practice and cheer us on against other teams. I know for a fact that more people played tennis because they saw more high-level tennis around them.

Collegiate tennis programs serve as a motivating presence on campus and in the community.  Eliminating college tennis teams negatively impacts a community’s desire and excitement to play the game. 

While working on my previous article, 30 College Coaches Reveal Top Character Traits of Student-Athletes, I mentioned the elimination of UMBC Tennis to a couple of the coaches.

They sent their condolences, and gave a common piece of advice that stuck with me: We must be proactive in order to prevent more programs from being cut.

UMBC’s Letter Announcing the Decision

The decision to eliminate UMBC Tennis left me feeling shocked and confused. I had a lot of questions surrounding the reasons for the decision.

Let’s take a look at UMBC’s letter announcing the elimination of UMBC Tennis.

Argument 1 “Discontinuation of men’s and women’s tennis responds to a national trend of contraction in the number of sports offered at NCAA Division I schools”

This is a very weak and indefensible argument that should have been left out of the letter. The problem with this statement is that it tells the reader: “Well, other colleges are cutting tennis, so it’s fine for us to do it too.”

Contracting the number of sports at Division I schools is not the proper response to the national trend. It isn’t something we should be doing. Our response to the national trend should be to find ways to keep our athletic programs, not cut them.

Just because someone jumps off a cliff doesn’t mean you should, right?

Argument 2. “UMBC and fellow AEC schools entered into a two-year contract with the Missouri Valley Conference which concludes at the end of the 2016 Spring season. This temporary conference is not sustainable as it involves costly and time-consuming travel for student-athletes.”

While this argument may be valid, I have a lot of questions about it.

First, exactly how much additional travel did UMBC Tennis undertake by switching to the MVC last year?


Let’s take a look at UMBC’s 2014-2015 men’s away schedule against conference opponents.

It looks like the UMBC men didn’t play a new conference team (i.e. not Hartford or Stony Brook) until the MVC tournament. And UMBC has almost always had to travel somewhere for the postseason, so there’s not much of a difference being in MVC. The only additional burden is if UMBC chose to fly to the MVC tournament, which they could drive to (12 hours).

The only considerable financial burden I can see is if UMBC is required to add in away matches against its new conference foes (Drake, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, or Wichita State).

Still, I think the costs could be managed by, say, playing both Illinois schools in one trip and replacing the spring break trip to Texas with a local excursion. And wouldn’t half of those schools come to us anyway? There’s only 4 of them, after all.

So from a financial perspective, unless UMBC is required to add several away matches against MVC schools that require flights, there are virtually no additional travel costs associated with being a member of the MVC as opposed to the AEC. And the UMBC women are still in the America East as of today. No change there.

Second, could UMBC have found a home in another conference? We used to play in the Northeast Conference, so why can’t we go back there and crush it like we used to before the AEC?  And how about the Atlantic 10 conference? The vast majority of teams from both those conferences are in the Mid-Atlantic region or the east coast, which would reduce UMBC’s travel costs.

I sincerely hope UMBC considered entering another conference if the “this temporary conference is not sustainable” argument is truly a determinative reason for UMBC Tennis’s demise.

Argument 3.  “Internally, this step is also consistent with our efforts to maintain compliance with Title IX gender equity requirements for scholarships and operate our athletic programs effectively and efficiently.”

UMBC Athletics currently has 9 women’s teams and 8 men’s teams. And no football team. Therefore, I wonder how the elimination of UMBC Tennis was required to maintain UMBC’s compliance with Title IX.

According to guidance on Title IX, “the total amount of assistance awarded to men and women must be substantially proportionate to their participation rates in athletic programs.” 

So how does cutting both the men’s and women’s teams help compliance with Title IX? If only the men’s team was cut, I would view this argument as more legitimate. However, I do not see why cutting both teams would help equalize the proportion of female to male scholarships.

Admittedly, I am no Title IX expert, and I would appreciate an explanation as to how this move was required under Title IX. It doesn’t make sense to me when looking at UMBC’s men’s and women’s athletic teams.

The Excellence of UMBC Tennis

UMBC’s tennis teams have had some of the best student-athletes at UMBC. We have historically been on the high-end of the GPA scale. We dedicate ourselves to our sport and our academics, as do the vast majority of student-athletes at UMBC.

Keith Puryear, now head tennis coach at Navy, spent 19 years building UMBC into a thriving Division I program at UMBC. Rob Hubbard and assistant coach Oliver Steil continued to push the program to great heights.

I was extremely proud to hear about UMBC’s big wins over William and Mary and VCU last year. People who knew I played at UMBC remarked how strong both teams were playing. It is truly a shame to see the entire program go.

It is interesting that UMBC Tennis is the only team from the university to be eliminated. What is it about the tennis team that made it the unlucky recipient of the pink slip?

Is it because we don’t make enough money for the university? Let’s be honest, the only sports that consistently make money in college are basketball and football. There are 14 other sports at UMBC along with tennis that aren’t basketball or football.

And condolences to the Hartford University tennis program, which will be eliminated after this year.

A Message to UMBC Tennis

Give it everything you have this season. Show the university and everyone who voted to terminate our program what they are missing out on. Leave our program with a lasting impression of dignity, grit, and class.

I was lucky enough to serve as captain of the 2007 UMBC Men’s Team, the last one to win a conference title and make it to the NCAA tournament. And I want you to do everything in your power to take our place as the last UMBC Tennis team to be champions.

You are all fantastic players, and I wish you nothing but the best this season. Make us proud. The UMBC Tennis family is behind you.

You can take the dawg out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the dawg.

Go Retrievers.

College Tennis Coaches Collage

30 College Tennis Coaches Reveal Top Character Traits of Successful Student-Athletes

There are hundreds of character traits that make up an individual’s personality and determine his or her level of success. 

I used to wonder which of these character traits were the most crucial to reaching one’s potential in sport and in life.

So I asked the top college tennis coaches in the nation for the answer.

I contacted 70 head coaches from the top-ranked college tennis teams and asked them the following question:

What are the most important character traits of successful college tennis players?

30 of them responded, including 16 coaches from top 20 ranked DI programs (based on the 2015 final standings).

The responses that I received below were very powerful and motivating. If you take these quotes to heart, you will dramatically improve your personal, professional, and athletic success.

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Top Character Traits of Successful Student-Athletes

Brian Boland – #1 University of Virginia (Men)

Brian Boland - UVA Mens Tennis

Photo Credit: Virginia Athletic Media Relations

“As I reflect on the great student-athletes I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with over the years, they have a number of character traits in common, but three distinct ones come to mind. 

First, they have a strong work ethic and ability to push themselves, both mentally and physically, to limits they once felt were not attainable.

Secondly, they embrace suffering and uncomfortable situations because it provides them with the best opportunity to grow. This is why they choose to do the work that they do; why work hard to have things easy?

Finally, they are disciplined in all facets of their lives, and because they understand that discipline is everything, it will not only benefit them on the court, but in their future endeavors and any situation they will come across.” 

Richard Gallien – #2 University of Southern California (Women)

Richard Gallien - University of Southern California Womens Tennis

Photo Credit: University of Southern California Athletics

“A few attributes of a successful college player would be:

1. A real love of tennis in general, and a keen competitive spirit. 

2. A person who enjoys being part of a team. 

3. Someone who is coachable. 

4. An organized and disciplined student, who is curious about learning.  

5. Self-motivated

6. Pleasant attitude

7. Humility

8. Emotional maturity”

Stella Sampras-Webster – #3 University of California, Los Angeles (Women)

Stella Sampras-Webster UCLA Womens Tennis

Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics


Work ethic


David Roditi – #4 Texas Christian University (Men)

TCU All Sports Photo Day

Photo courtesy Michael Clements, TCU Athletics

“In my opinion the 5 most important character traits that are found in most successful college players are:

Competitiveness- Hate to lose at anything

Organized- been able to handle school, tennis, travel and social life

Ability to focus- When the chips are down they can focus on the task at hand

Sense of playing for something bigger than themselves- Appreciative

Coachable- Ability to receive information, process it, train it and apply it.  This whole process without getting defensive.  I guess you could say ‘Confident.'”

Jeff Wallace – #5 University of Georgia (Women)

Jeff Wallace - UGA Women's Tennis

Photo credit: John Kelley, University of Georgia Athletics

“I would separate character traits into two areas – On court and Off court.

My most important on court character traits would be: Ability to win (Competitive), Drive to Improve (Hardworking), Ability to learn (Coachable), Ability to adjust (Resilient), and Positive court demeanor (energetic).
My most important off court character traits would be: Relationships, Loyalty, Honesty, Appreciation, and Encouraging.”

Brad Dancer – #6 University of Illinois (Men)

Brad Dancer Illinois Mens Tennis

Photo Credit: University of Illinois Athletics

“It’s always fascinating to examine the character traits of our most successful players.  One thing you learn in coaching is that there are no ‘set’ rules for how to gain success in college.  Having said that there are many commonalities among the best, including:

1)  Self-belief – this doesn’t always have to be tied to tennis – some people might not believe in their tennis ability, but feel destined to do great things in life – these individuals under the proper tutelage become great winners in college tennis.

2)  Balance of now/long term – successful players always seem to be obsessed ‘in the moment’ of training or competing, but don’t get too high or low based on the results of that moment – they can engage themselves fully committed to a moment and walk away with a vision for where they are going regardless of the outcome.”

Manuel Diaz – #8 University of Georgia (Men)

Coach Manuel Diaz - UGA Men's Tennis

Photo credit: John Kelley, University of Georgia Athletics

“I think the most important character traits are:

1. Love of Competition

2. Willingness to work hard.

Those are two of the biggest character traits I look for.”


Michael Center – #9 University of Texas (Men)

Michael Center - UT Mens Tennis

Photo credit: University of Texas Athletics

“How the player conducts them self when no one is watching is the most important characteristic.

These choices will most often determine which direction a person goes.”


Mark Guilbeau – #9 University of Virginia (Women)

Mark Guilbeau - UVA Womens Tennis

Photo credit: Virginia Athletics Media Relations

“Honesty would be at the top of the list. Being honest regarding all of the day to day activities – on and off the courts, as well as honest in communication with teammates, coaches, parents etc.

Also having an honesty toward your sport and the work ethic it takes to compete successfully at a top collegiate level. An ability to honestly evaluate your own level. 

An “abundance mentality” within your team – possessing a true and genuine ability to pull for your teammates and celebrate and honor their individual success just as you do your own. 

Removal of jealousy. 

This can be a major challenge within a sport that is so highly individually emphasized. 

A positive attitude. Respect and appreciation for all that we are given in any collegiate program. Courtesy towards others. A grateful heart and attitude. 

Self-motivation and a desire to work at your skills. Self security to develop and work at new skills and improve deficiencies. Confidence to use your strengths and take ownership of your game. 

Lastly, a “golden rule” mind-set. Treat others and your process well, so that it in turn treats you well.” 

Ty Tucker – #12 The Ohio State University (Men)

Ty Tucker - OSU Mens Tennis

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Ohio State University

“Competitive desire- is something we look for in a student athlete. Our best players have won 90% of their practice sets during their entire career.

Maturity- these guys are 18 years old when they start as a freshman, so I believe overachieving that first year is due to maturity especially during long practices that first semester.”

Chris Young – #12 Oklahoma State University (Women)

Chris Young - Oklahoma State Womens Tennis

Photo credit: Oklahoma State University Athletics

“I believe the characteristics would be:


Hard Working




Tony Bresky – #13 Wake Forest University (Men)

Tony Bresky - WFU Mens Tennis

Photo courtesy Wake Forest Athletics

“To me the most important trait of a successful college tennis player is consistency. Not consistency from the baseline (although that also helps), but consistency in your daily habits.

The best players I have coached consistently have great attitudes at practice, enjoy going to school and are consistent in their class attendance, preparation for exams, papers, etc.

In general, they are in good moods, fun to be around, easy to get along with. They don’t sleep too much or too little, they have a social life but they don’t over do it, in general just very consistent in everything they do on a day to day basis.”

Ronni Bernstein – #13 University of Michigan (Women)

Ronni Bernstein - Michigan Womens Tennis

Photo courtesy University of Michigan Athletics

“The two most important traits I am looking for is someone who works hard and who competes! 

I feel like those two things will be very successful at the college level.”


Bid Goswami – #14 University of Columbia (Men)

Bid Goswami - Columbia Mens Tennis

Photo courtesy Columbia University Athletics

“The #1 character trait (by far) that determines long term success relative to potential in every field of endeavor is GRIT 

Grit = the combination of Perseverance and Passion.

Grit= the ability to “keep going” in relentless pursuit of one’s long-term goals, without excuse or blame, regardless of the perceived obstacles.”

Nancy Harris – (#18) University of Clemson (Women)

Nancy Harris - Clemson Womens Tennis

Photo credit: Clemson University Athletics

“Highly driven to achieve

This character drives everything


Willingness to train hard and prepare

Willingness to battle through fear

Willingness to take risks

Willingness to fail”

Rodney Harmon – #20 Georgia Tech University (Men)

Rodney Harmon - Georgia Tech Womens Tennis

Photo courtesy Georgia Tech Athletic Communications

“Strong Work Ethic

Ability to handle adversity

Willingness to add new aspects/strategy to their games

Love of the Game

Desire to be the best they can be”

Matt Roberts – #23 Mississippi State University (Men)

Matt Roberts - Mississippi State Mens Tennis

Photo credit: Mississippi State University Athletics

“Some of the character traits we look for in recruiting players for our team are:

1) Self-driven and goal-oriented for their future. They need to have a vision for their life and use our resources to help accomplish and develop. Time management is also a huge part of this.

2) They need to have the ability to think of their teammates before they think of themselves. This is important for their contribution to our team system and it also helps them in their development process.

3) Talent is also very important so that they can play at the level we require and also get to where they want to go. They have to have a competitive level in the main areas of tennis, which are Physical, Mental, Tactical, and Technical.”

Peter Wright – #26 University of California (Men)

Peter Wright 2015-16 head shot

Photo courtesy University of California Athletics

“The most successful players we’ve had in our program have been excited about learning and accepting new challenges. They tend to embrace the big moments, in part because they know how hard they had to work to create the foundation for their performance.

Our most successful players develop their leadership skills over time, first learning from their peers, and then developing their own style. They tend to be people who set high standards for themselves on and off the courts – all of our top players have been academically successful. They tend to be caring and compassionate people who give back off the courts.”

Claire Pollard – #26 Northwestern University (Women)

Claire Pollard - Northwestern Womens Tennis

Photo credit: Northwestern University Athletics

“The desire, hunger and thirst for greatness from themselves. 

The ability to work through and to learn from disappointment and failure to reach higher levels. 

All success is a result from failing – successful players get that.  Successful players push coaches – not the other way around.”

Kevin Epley – #29 University of South Carolina (Women)

Kevin Epley - South Carolina Womens Tennis

Photo credit: University of South Carolina Athletics

1. The “will to win”. A competitive spirit is the foundation to the best college players.

2. Consistency.

3. Proactive/assertive personalities.

4. Pressures teammates to give more. Leads.

5. Emotional resiliency/Mental toughness.

Dave Fish – #34 Harvard University (Men)

Dave Fish - Harvard University Men's Tennis

Photo credit: Harvard Athletics

“Character has been described as how one acts when no one is watching.  At Harvard, we value character (and integrity) above all other traits in our student-athletes. 

We do so not because we have proof that it makes the best tennis player, but because a young person of good character is more likely to act with integrity in the classroom and in line calls, is more likely to act respectfully towards his peers or someone he dates, toward referees and opponents, and make a better and more loyal alumnus.  

Fewer rules are needed when a student-athlete has developed good character.  Whether or not someone is the best player matters less than whether he is the right “fit” for our program.  Character determines one’s behavior across the entire spectrum of daily life.  Good character eliminates the need for too many rules.

In the end, one player or team wins and the other loses.  In the contest of character, everyone can be a winner.”

Daria Panova – #67 University of Maryland (Women)

Daria Panova - Maryland Womens Tennis

Photo courtesy University of Maryland Athletics

“I think that the most important character traits for successful college tennis player (and tennis players in general) are confidence in what they are doing and absolute hatred for losing.

I heard it from one of the coaches a really long time ago that there are 2 kinds of athletes, ones that like to win and others that simply hate to lose. The ones that hate to lose will always be more successful because they will fight no matter what, even if it is not their day, even if their game is not working, even if they hurt. 

Another thing, and it is something that we been working on a lot: for a team to be successful, there needs to be a leader that not just leads by example but is also not afraid to call out their teammates when they are not doing well. It is really rare for a women’s team but most of the teams that are successful have someone like that.”

Sean Holcomb-Jones – #67 University of Maryland (Women’s Assistant Coach)

Sean Holcomb-Jones - UMD Tennis

Photo courtesy University of Maryland Athletics

1. Competitiveness

2. Hardworking

3. Honesty

4. Focus

5. Clutch Gene

The first four I feel are self-explanatory but the last one is “Clutch Gene.” You hear so many tennis players talk about how they played better players close. I played so-and-so to 7-5 in the 3rd set but I lost 10-8 in the super tiebreaker. I always look for players that seem to live for the moment and step up their game at the critical moments in a match.

Keith Puryear – U.S. Naval Academy (Women)

Keith Puryear - Hi Res - Navy Womens Tennis

Photo courtesy United States Naval Academy

“I think some of the same qualities are necessary for success in both tennis and life:

1) Work Ethic

You have to be willing to do the work, and do the work as long as is needed. It not just about how hard you work, but its also about how long you can work hard…Work ethic can be seen as drive or passion as well. I think that they both play a part in a person’s work ethic. 

2) Attitude, Attitude, Attitude…..

It is your attitude that will drive the ship, so to speak. You know that you will sometimes have hard times, setbacks, and disappointments. How will you handle them? It is your attitude toward these things that will allow you to persevere. Without it, setbacks can become roadblocks, stumbling blocks to your future successes.

3) Character

We recruit character. I always have and will…

Looking up a definition of it, it lists the following:

“Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual’s stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.”

Each of the listed traits is equally important to the success of the athlete on the field of battle, as well as in life. For instance, empathy helps you to be a good teammate; Courage and fortitude helps you to be a good and consistent competitor. I will include one other, integrity. Which is, you are who you say you are. It implies honesty.  

Character is important because it will define who you are, what you will do, and how you will accomplish it.  Success without character, is not really success at all. 

John Wooden says, Character was more important than reputation. Reputation was what others thought of you, character on the other hand was who you really are…

4) The ability to set goals and to follow them. Setting your goals is your road map, your blueprint, your GPS to your success. Without settings goals, an athlete is just getting exercise and not truly focused on the task at hand.

They are like a ship, with no rudder….. The seas will then take them wherever the wind and/or waves will take them….”

Doug Neagle – Towson University (Women)

Doug Neagle - Towson Womens Tennis

Photo courtesy Towson University Athletics

“One question I always ask recruits is “do you love tennis?” I ask this because many tennis players are burnt out by the time they get to college and they’ll ride out their scholarship. I feel I can get a good read on if they still truly love playing, competing, and training.

Players that interact well with their teammates, coaches, trainers, and really people in general succeed in college tennis. The successful ones accept coaching. Lastly, persistence/effort on and off the court breeds success.

To sum it up: players that love the game of tennis, accept coaching, and strive to get their teammates and themselves better with effort all the time succeed in college tennis.” 

Cristina Moros – University of South Florida (Women)

Cristina Moros - University of South Florida Women's Tennis

Photo credit: University of South Florida Athletics

“Things that come to mind are:







Bob Hansen – #2 Middlebury College (Men – DIII)

Bob Hansen - Middlebury College Tennis

Photo credit: Middlebury College Athletics

“Great question!  I would say the following:

Openness to learn

Motivation to master the game

Willingness to do what it takes

Enthusiasm, joy, and appreciation for the path.”

John Browning – #5 Emory University (Men – DIII)

John Browning - Emory Mens Tennis

Photo credit: Emory Athletics

“These are some of the traits that I have seen over the course of coaching:

  1. Solid technique in every aspect of their game
  2. Athleticism: being able to be explosive and quick on the court
  3. Incredibly fit, to be able to last on the court for a long period of time
  4. Willingness to learn and wanting to improve every aspect of their game.
  5. Prioritizing their academic, tennis, and social schedule
  6. Being a team player, desire for individual achievement, without sacrificing what’s important for the team
  7. Taking responsibility, owning up when making a mistake
  8. Resilient, handling adversity
  9. Love of competition
  10. Understanding how critical the mental aspect of the game is.
  11. Emotionally consistent”

Chuck Willenborg – #12 John Hopkins University (Men – DIII)

Chuck Willenborg - JHU Tennis

Photo courtesy John Hopkins University Athletics


Work ethic



Dan Greenberg – #13 Williams College (Men – DIII)

Dan Greenberg - Williams College Mens Tennis

Photo Credit: Kris Dufour, Williams College

“In my mind, the most important traits are hunger (always wanting to learn and improve) and resilience (being able to bounce back from tough times).

The guys I’ve coached who have both these traits are seemingly unstoppable and a great inspiration for their teammates. But I also think a sense of perspective and humor go a long way in tennis and life, so keeping things balanced is important.”

Results: What are the most important character traits?  

The following is a list of the Top 7 Character Traits based on the responses above (feel free to double-check my math):

1. Work Ethic – 11

2. Competitive – 11

3. Battle Adversity – 10

4. Integrity/Honesty – 8

5. Self-Motivated – 7

6. Passion – 6

7. Team Player – 5

Mental toughness, confidence, and a positive attitude were also mentioned several times in the responses.

These character traits, when combined, will produce exceptional, top-tier results, as evidenced by the accomplishments of the coaches and their tennis programs.

If you possess or strive to develop the character traits above, there is no doubt in my mind, or the minds of the top coaches in the country, that you will be extremely successful in your personal, athletic, and professional career. 

I want to thank each and every one of the coaches and their media/communications staff for working with me to produce this unbelievable goldmine of tennis and life advice. I know you are all quite busy and I really appreciate your time.

Take the advice from these experts seriously. Choose one of the top character traits above that you need to improve upon and concentrate on developing it. If you do, your chances of success and happiness will improve by leaps and bounds.

If you enjoyed this article and want more helpful tennis advice, subscribe to my newsletter below and get your free eBook!

4 Bouchard Mental Roadblocks Tennis

3 Mental Roadblocks That Destroy Your Tennis Progress

I want to help you overcome three of the most destructive mental roadblocks that prevent you from improving your tennis game: Laziness, Fear, and Doubt.  

I fight against these demons from hell every single day and it isn’t easy. After struggling with laziness, fear and doubt for many years, I have figured out strategies to help overcome them.

Below I explain these mental roadblocks and provide you with actionable tips that will help you play better tennis, increase your confidence, and reach your tennis goals.

Mental Roadblock #1: Laziness

“The only time I can play tennis tomorrow is at 7am, but I’m not a morning person. I just can’t wake up early enough.”

“I should work on my tennis game today, but I’d rather stay at home and watch Game of Thrones. This show is just too good!”

“I need to practice my backhand. It really let me down yesterday. But I’d rather go to Happy Hour with my buddies because it is [insert crappy nightly-gimmick] night tonight!”

If you have had thoughts like the ones above, I don’t blame you. But if you also wonder why your tennis game isn’t where it should be, the answer is staring you straight in the face: laziness.

Laziness is in the mind. Some of you may think that being lazy is a physical deficiency. But when you take the easier path, it means you lack mental fortitude. You can overcome just about any physical limitation with a focused mind. Look at the quotes above: you choose to take the easy road with your brain, not your body.

The problem with humans is that we naturally prefer to do what is most comfortable. We rather follow the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, if we always take the easy route, we will never achieve anything, except perhaps an award for most worthless human of the year.

If success was easy, everyone would be successful. Why isn’t everyone a millionaire? Why do only a tiny fraction of tennis players play on the ATP Tour? Why does only one person win a tennis tournament?

The answer is because it is freaking hard to be at the top and it takes a lot of work that most people are not willing to put in.

Here’s the good news: If you are willing to put more work and effort into your passion than everyone else, your chance of success in that field is greater.

Imprint the two sentences above permanently into your brain and use them as motivation.

The following will be your mindset moving forward: I am going to kick everyone’s butt the next time I compete, because no one will put in the amount of work that I will.

You have to break free from the chains of laziness and pursue your dreams. Don’t let insignificant, unimportant things stop you from reaching your goals.

What will truly make you happy in the long run? Watching an episode of a worthless fictional T.V. show, saving a couple miles of gas, sleeping an extra hour? 

Or kicking the bejeesus out of every player you face and raising a trophy to represent the blood, sweat and tears that you poured into your training while everyone else was sleeping or watching the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars?

And whatever you do, don’t make lack of time an excuse. The following maxim holds true for everything: If you want something bad enough, you will make time for it.

I bet that if you examine everything you did last week, you could replace at least three of them with activities that are higher on your list of priorities, like improving your tennis game.

Knocking low-priority items off your schedule will free up the time you need to pursue your tennis and life goals.

Take Action: I want you to make a playlist of your favorite songs that pump you up and save them on your phone or MP3 player. Then make a commitment to exercise early tomorrow morning (set an alarm clock if necessary).

As soon as you wake up, I want you to start listening to your playlist. I have struggled to wake up early in the past (I am a serial snooze-button hitter), but this tip helps me overcome the urge to sleep in. I am more energized and productive throughout the day when I work out in the morning, and I bet you will be too.

You should also listen to your playlist whenever you feel lazy. This tip will help motivate you to put in the hard work you need to improve your tennis game. Sometimes when I feel lazy, I listen to my playlist, and within 30 seconds I am ready to train like a madman.

Mental Roadblock #2: Fear

“I don’t want to play this tournament. It would be fun to compete but I am afraid I will lose in the first round.”

“I know he asked me to play, but he is way better than me. I will be embarrassed on the court against him.”

“I hope they don’t put me on center court. Everyone will watch my match and I am going to be nervous.”

Get rid of this weak mindset. Are you a weak person? Do you want to keep being weak? Who gives a crap if people are going to watch you? Focus on your opponents and how to defeat them, instead of worrying about the obese lady in the front row eating a cheeseburger and checking her iPhone for most of the match. 

Fear is a creation of our own minds. You can use your mind to to make yourself feel any way you want about a situation. When I sit in my room at night, sometimes I picture a demon-child or floating ghost coming toward me to send me to the underworld. Then I wonder to myself, what the hell am I thinking? By letting fear creep into my mind, I make myself scared for nothing.

This is exactly what you do when you let fear mess with your mind. Don’t worry about what other people think about your tennis skills. Focus on what you need to do to improve. Who you can play with to get the best practice possible. What tournaments will get you where you want to be in your tennis career. Then go for it.

When playing in Mexico many years ago, another kid was on the court next to mine. His father kept repeating to him “Sin miedo!” It means without fear. The son followed his dad’s advice, and when I watched him, I saw nothing but sheer determination in his eyes. He played fearlessly on the big points and defeated a strong opponent. He played without fear.

Keep your focus, be brave, play to win, and great things will happen for you.

Take Action: The next time you are nervous or scared before a match, I want you to repeat the phrase “Sin miedo!” Tell yourself to play without fear, to take control of the match, and focus on doing what is necessary to win.

Remember that fear is a creation of the mind, and can be overcome by focusing your mind on the goals that you want to achieve.

Mental Roadblock #3: Doubt

“She is the number one seed. There’s no way I can win this match!” 

“Why play this tournament? With all these great players, I don’t stand a chance.”

“I’m not good enough. I’m not improving and I don’t think I ever will.”

Here’s another mental roadblock that you need to toss into the garbage can. Why doubt yourself? How is doubt going to help you succeed? If you don’t believe you can win, you’ve already lost.

Doubt is a common feeling among tennis players. It is natural to feel nervous before a match. But if you have doubts in your head, you should send an army of mind-soldiers to destroy them. Turn your nervousness and self-doubt into confidence and use it to your advantage.

Remember all the time and effort you spend training, your strengths, and strategies you have used to defeat players in the past. You have won before, and you can damn sure win again. Put your best foot forward and do everything you can (legally!) to succeed.

Every tennis player is human. If somebody wins a tournament, or achieves a #1 ranking in your section, so can you. Dedicate yourself to your goals and replace self-doubt with self-belief. It will make a huge difference in your life.

Take ActionThe next time you have doubts about your ability to win before a tennis match, remember matches when you played well and defeated a quality opponent. Think of the strategies you employed and visualize shots you hit that won you the match. Then you will be more confident in your game and ready to kick some butt.

You can overcome all three of the mental roadblocks above with one thing: focus. Whether you experience laziness, fear, or doubt, if you can focus on your goals and what you need to do to achieve them, you will push past any mental roadblocks that come your way.

Whenever you overcome a mental roadblock, give yourself a pat on the back. These small victories will help you stay positive, motivated, and increase your mental fortitude. Making the right choice will start to become a habit.

I’ll leave you with an amazing quote from Ghandi, which the President of my alma mater used to quote often.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

3 Roger Federer Thumbs Up Puns

The 54 Best Tennis Puns on the Planet

Everyone loves a good pun. I’m quite fond of them, so I wrote down 54 of the best tennis puns I could think of in 30 minutes. Many of my friends say I have a talent for creating puns. Read them all and let me know what you think.

Tennis Puns – Read at Your Own Risk

1. Is your eyesight as bad as your cell phone reception? Because that was a terrible call.

2. The walls in this tennis factory are so thin, that when I try to get some work done, all I hear is people making a racquet.

3. Do you always play this badly at the net? Because I don’t like your approach.

4. Fred is so condescending about my tennis strokes. I can’t take any more of his backhanded compliments.

5. Did you see the guy with quad-arms play tennis? He has a great four-hand.

6. Pick-up line: You might as well play be a tennis player, because I’m about to court you girl.

7. Is your nickname cream cheese? Because you’re about to get bageled.

8. American Indians used to have their own professional tennis tournaments, and provided free housing to players from other tribes. They called it the A Tee Pee Tour. (I mean no disrespect to American Indians!) 

9. I can’t believe I framed the ball in for a winner. Shank you!

10. Oh, I thought I was playing the first round, but I guess I got a free pass. Bye.

11. Is there a bathroom in this tennis club? Because I’m about to drop a deuce.

12. Djokovic to his friends the morning after winning the U.S. Open: Is anyone hungry for some Denny’s? Because I would like another Grand Slam. (disclaimer: I don’t think he’s ever said this 🙂 )

13. I know my shot was in. But I won’t argue, because I’m not up for the challenge.

14. An orange and an apple signed up for a tournament. No one was surprised to find out they were both seeded.

15. I prefer the new system to reviewing line calls. When Hawk-eye came around, I breathed a big Cy-clops of relief.

16. The guy missed both his serves on match point. I won by de-fault.

17. Both tournament directors published the schedule at the same time. It was a draw.

18. You can never get short balls over the net! Solution: Drop shot from arsenal.

19. Too bad my serve hit the tape. Well, at least they’ll LET me hit it again.

20. Federer is such a legend that they named the Roger’s Cup, and Fed Cup after him.

21. Tennis is a lot like waiting tables. The most important thing to get right is the first serve.

22. I wish they’d change the scoring system, but tennis is set in its ways and doesn’t see the point.

23. I tried to hit the picture cleanly over the fence, but it was framed.

24. Why can’t I ever win a game returning serve? Give me a break.

25. I have one animal in my farm who I look up to more than Federer: GOAT.

26. I like my breakfast like my tennis grip: Continental.

27. I really hate these strings. I can feel it in my gut.

28. Does this guy work with computers? He looks like a hacker.

29. The density of this concrete leads me to believe one thing: it is a hard court.

30. Two birds played a tennis match. Ironically, the one that made the worst calls was a Hawk….aye!

31. I want to practice my forehand outside, but it will be wet in the morning and nice later on. So here’s the plan for today: inside-out.

32. I’d like to throw away my old can, but my pusher friend here says he loves junk balls.

33. Mary didn’t miss a first serve the entire match. It was not her fault she lost.

34. My friend Elmer’s has gotten really good at tennis ever since he stuck to a healthier diet and went glue-ten free.

35. What time should I book the court? Let’s shoot for around tennish.

36. I want to play my match outdoors so I can hit the ball higher in the air. I’m not good at persuading people, so I’m going to hire a lob-byist.

37. I used to hate tennis, but ever since I’ve started winning 6-0, I love it now.

38. The last thing I can remember was the yellow ball speeding toward me. I swung the racquet, and then things got fuzzy.

39. I’m a baseliner and I don’t know how to volley: my game would disappear if I went to no-man’s land.

40. A hippie when his opponent disputes his calls: That’s pretty far-out, man!

41. A man named Martin Draw was campaigning for the Senate. He printed up shirts saying “I’m with Draw” to support his campaign. The next day, he wore the shirt to a tennis tournament. When he walked up to the tournament desk, the director handed him his money back and asked him why he couldn’t play.

42. I like my matches like my tennis balls: Pressureless.

43. I got so mad at my partner hitting moonballs, I had to pusher off the court.

44. They call me Ace, because you just got served.

45. Is it ad-out again? I’m going to hit my breaking point.

46. Ana hits a lot of floating shots that her opponents destroy for winners. We need to sitter down and have a talk.

47. I am disappointed that you are taking such a closed-stance on my footwork advice.

48. If you want to impress the crowd, hit overheads. Every point will be a smash hit.

49. Two racquets started dating. Unfortunately, one was stringing the other along without any intention of tying the knot.

50. Jack has a large neck so he decided to wear a bowtie to his wedding. Otherwise, he’d end up with a tiebreak.

51. The classiest indoor tennis facilities serve bubble tea.

52. The injured player wanted to congratulate the winner, but he couldn’t walkover to the other side of the court.

53. Most of your players never make it out of the lower-level tournaments. I highly doubt their Futures as a professional.

54. It feels great to hit the ball again. It spin a long time.

Congratulations! You made it through the entire list (or scrolled down as fast as you could out of frustration)! I hope you got a laugh out of at least a few of my tennis puns and didn’t get the urge to hit your head against the wall too many times.

If you enjoyed this post, please like my facebook page!

Thanks for reading!

2 Top 7 Reasons to Play Tennis

7 Reasons Why You Should Play Tennis

One of my main goals for Tennis Files is to get more people to play tennis.

I have a lot of wonderful friends who have never picked up a racquet, and others who are deciding which sports to introduce to their children.

Below I make my best salesman pitch to you with 7 reasons why you should play tennis.

1. Learn How to Succeed

If you can’t adapt to your opponent, improve your game, develop weapons, and think strategically, you will stagnate. Guess what? This is exactly what happens in life. Everyone must challenge themselves, whether it be on the tennis court or in their careers. Stagnation and complacency are an insult to the abilities that you were given when you were born and the multitude of opportunities presented to you throughout your lifetime. Tennis will teach you to use your brain and a wide array of skills and shots to win. There will always be better players than you, but the fun thing about tennis is when you put the work in, improve your game, and move up in skill level. So get out there and improve your game.  

2. Health Benefits

Tennis requires endurance, agility, strength, speed, balance, coordination, and a host of other skill sets to excel at the sport. This means you are in for one heck of a workout. The physical demands of tennis have been traditionally underestimated in favor of higher-contact sports. The average person burns around 600 calories per-hour playing singles.  That’s two slices of pepperoni pizza (don’t eat that!). Running from corner to corner and swinging a racquet a few hundred times will get you in shape. And the mental demands of tennis keep the brain engaged which is extremely important as one gets older.  Not to mention, winning matches and playing well can be extremely good for a person’s mental state and attitude. Playing tennis can really brighten a person’s day. I guarantee it.

3. Mental Fortitude

There are a lot of things tennis players have to deal with in a match besides their opponent’s skill level. Wind, heat, sun, a nasty opponent, the crowd, injuries, expectations, pressure on big points, money and bad line calls are a few things that come to mind. If you can’t deal with those things, then you won’t win many matches. Tennis players have to learn to ignore the things they can’t control, and take command of the things they can control (strategy, performance, attitude). Tennis is a wonderful platform for developing your mental strength.

4. Dealing with Defeat

Losing a match can be tough on a player’s psyche. Yet it is how the person deals with the loss that determines his or her success later on. Playing tennis will teach a person how to bounce back from tough circumstances. The key is to analyze how you were defeated, the weaknesses and strengths of you and your opponent, and how you will improve upon your weaknesses in the future.

5. Learn to Plan

Another skill that must be developed when playing tennis is planning. There is a lot of planning required, from figuring out your practice routine and scheduling tournaments, to charting out a timeframe for fixing your technique on a stroke. Without a plan, tennis players will never improve. This is another great skill to learn from tennis because it is directly applicable to your success in life. Set goals and make plans that will achieve them.

6. Social Connections

You can meet a lot of great people playing tennis. Whether you play in the highest level tournaments, USTA leagues, or at the local park, you will have a chance to meet a diverse range of people.  Individuals who enjoy playing tennis like you. I have met many successful doctors, lawyers, bankers, and people from many other interesting professions. I even landed two jobs because of the friendships that I made through tennis. I’m not saying you won’t meet these types of people playing other sports or doing other activities, but there sure seems to be a heck of a lot of well-off people playing tennis. Tennis can get pretty expensive after all.

7. Tennis is a Lifetime Sport

You can play tennis your entire life. Have you ever seen a group of 90-year olds go for a game of football? If you have, please take a picture and send it to me.  The USTA has tournaments for 70, 80 and 90-year old men and women. I have met many older tennis players and nearly dropped on the floor in astonishment when they told me their age.  In my experience, tennis makes people look 10-20 years younger. I have some great friends on a USTA 40 and over team who all look like young 30-year olds. Here’s looking at you Reggie and Jon! It makes sense: think of the sports that seniors play. Tennis and golf usually come to mind first. And if you start playing tennis relatively early and continually improve your game, you will rack up the wins for decades to come playing one of the most beautiful and challenging sports ever created.

I hope that the list above will convince you to play more tennis. Tennis is a truly wonderful sport that has vastly improved my life because of the lessons learned and connections I have made throughout my tennis career.

For those of you who haven’t tried tennis, I highly encourage you to give it a try. And if you already play tennis, remember the reasons why it is so advantageous so you are motivated to keep playing. See you on the court sometime, and thanks for reading! 

Aggie Women's Tennis

The NCAA’s Move to No-Ad Scoring is a Big Mistake – Here’s Why

Last week, the NCAA decided to implement no-ad scoring for the 2016 men’s and women’s Tennis Championships.

The decision to shorten collegiate tennis matches will negatively impact student-athletes and the reasoning for the change is flawed.

The Demise of College Tennis

Most student-athletes and tennis fans feel that college tennis has been under attack for decades.

The ITA reported that 204 tennis programs were cut between 2000-2009. This is nearly double the number of tennis teams cut from 1990-1999. An additional 40 programs have been eliminated since 2010. Some of the best, brightest, and most hard-working student athletes have seen their tennis aspirations cut short because tennis has been shortchanged in lieu of bigger sports such as football and basketball.

But the curtailing of college tennis doesn’t end with eliminating tennis programs. In the past few years, the NCAA has proposed a myriad of ways to shorten matches, from replacing third sets with a tiebreak, to cutting doubles from a pro set to one set to six.

Now, the NCAA’s Division I Competition Oversight Committee has approved no-ad scoring for all matches during the men’s and women’s tennis championships starting in 2016. This form of scoring will in all likelihood extend to all regular-season college tennis matches at the Division I level.

Three Reasons Why the Move to No-Ad Scoring is a Mistake

There are three important reasons why no-ad scoring has no place in college tennis.

First, the move to no-ad scoring severely alters the outcome of collegiate matches and emphasizes luck over skill. When two players fight their way to deuce, either player must win two points in a row. The deuce-ad-game format ensures that the player who deserves to win a close game is the victor. Now, with the change to no-ad, whoever wins the game becomes more of a crapshoot. A couple big serves or lucky bounces at deuce can determine whether the score of a set is 3-all or 6-0.

Second, no-ad scoring de-emphasizes physical fitness. Physical fitness is paramount to success not just in tennis but in life. College tennis teams, such as the Division I program I played for, practice for 3-4 hours a day and have fitness sessions several times a week. This does not count additional hitting sessions that many dedicated players participate in voluntarily to improve their games.

The NCAA/ITA’s decision communicates to collegiate tennis players that they do not have to worry as much about their fitness. The games will be quicker and the matches will be shorter. If I were playing now, I would be more concerned with developing a huge serve than running wind sprints, because there is no way a match is going to run over X-amount of hours with the no-ad format.

Third, no-ad scoring fails to prepare collegiate tennis players for competition after college, whether it be high-level sectional tournaments, futures events, or higher-level ATP/WTA events. Division I tennis is packed with talented and hungry players who want to continue competing after their four years are up.

How would the no-ad format prepare our highly-skilled collegiate players for future competition if no other tournament utilize no-ad play?

The best way to succeed at something is by performing in the same conditions over and over again. Therefore, the most optimal method to prepare student-athletes for future competition is to play ad-scoring, because that is the format used by virtually all bigger USTA tournaments, futures, and ATP/WTA tournaments.

The NCAA’s Arguments Supporting No-Ad Scoring are Flawed

The NCAA makes several arguments to support their decision for no-ad scoring. Let’s take a look at why none of their reasons merit the change.

First, the NCAA contends that it “made the recommendations to modify the tennis championships with hopes of reducing the length of the championship matches.”

What exactly is the benefit of reducing the championship matches? How does this really help the student-athletes? Collegiate tennis matches are already short enough with the “clinch-clinch” rule, where once a team clinches enough courts to win the doubles point or the match, the remaining matches in play are stopped.

Further, the NCAA/ITA has decided that doubles matches will be one set to six, with a tiebreak at 6-all.  While this move also unnecessarily shortens doubles by a couple games, it highlights the fact that collegiate tennis players aren’t as overworked and in need of rest as the NCAA and ITA may think.

One thing is for sure: shortening matches does help television and cable stations who broadcast tennis matches. We should care about what is best for our student-athletes, not broadcast networks.

Supporters of the move contend that tennis matches need to be shortened. But what about 7-hour college baseball games and 4-hour basketball games? Has the NCAA ever implemented rules to shorten the length of the major college sports? To the contrary: the NCAA has instituted rules to lengthen the “big-money” sports and curtail the smaller ones. Shortening collegiate tennis matches makes it seems like the NCAA wants less tennis and volleyball, and more football, basketball, and baseball.

Second, the NCAA posits that “with the health and well-being of student-athletes, the overall championship experience and fan engagement at the forefront, the ad hoc committee felt that the best direction for collegiate tennis was to move forward with the recommendation”

As noted above, tennis players work extremely hard on their fitness. By shortening the matches, the outcome is drastically changed and the game is increasingly left to chance. The physically superior players who can outlast their opponents are put at a disadvantage. Less of a premium is placed on endurance.

And who is to say that that fans prefer shorter matches? The last time I checked, fans love watching elite athletes battle it out for long periods of time. Division I tennis is the cream of the crop and only the best players and teams participate in the NCAA Championships.

Therefore, wouldn’t fan engagement increase by providing longer matches that are usually close because of the parity of the opponents’ skill level? These types of matches are the most exciting ones.

Using fan engagement as a reason for shortening matches can only suggest one thing: the NCAA/ITA thinks that fans do not enjoy watching tennis matches, and therefore would prefer that matches end quicker. Because if tennis fans truly enjoy college tennis, which is presumably the goal of the NCAA/ITA, then fans would want to see more tennis, not less of it.

Third, the NCAA states that “The ad hoc committee took into consideration feedback from all sides of the debate and was comfortable that this recommendation is in the best interest of the student-athlete experience and well-being.”

The contention that this decision is in the best interest of the student-athletes is tenuous at best.

Take a look at this survey of match format and scoring preferences of student-athletes and coaches based on a survey that ZooTennis published on its website.  The survey shows that a huge majority of student athletes (71.7% of males and 88.2% of females) and a solid majority of female head coaches (72.7%) are against no-ad scoring in the team competition.

Only a slight majority of men’s coaches prefer no-ad scoring.  The same goes for the singles and doubles championships.  It is very clear that student athletes prefer longer matches that adhere to traditional, regular scoring of tennis matches.

Top U.S. juniors have also sounded off on the no-ad format in college tennis.  Tennis prodigy Frances Tiafoe called no-ad scoring in collegiate tennis “a joke.”

Fourth, the NCAA similarly contends that “The goal of the scoring format change is to help improve student-athlete well-being at the ever-increasing high level of competition while maintaining the integrity of the game.  It emphasizes that every point counts and should make our championships matches even more exciting for fans.”

College tennis athletes are fit enough to play a set of doubles and a singles match in one day. This has been the format of college tennis for years, and there have been no major incidences or health-scares at the NCAA tournament that necessitate a move to no-ad scoring.

The contention that no-ad scoring emphasizes every point counts also doesn’t really make much sense.  Does the NCAA suggest that student-athletes don’t take every point seriously? Perhaps no-ad is good “big point training.” But we already have enough big points in the game. Clearly, every point, from deuce to ad-in/out to set and match point, are all extremely important and “count.”

Finally, maintaining the integrity of the game would be keeping the scoring as it has always been, instead of shortening the game to try and get more fans.  By the way, where is the study that shows increased attendance? And even if we do get a few more fans, respect for the game and the student-athlete playing it should come first.

Comments from UVA Coach Brian Boland

Inexplicably, the majority of the committee was in favor of the rule change. All but one coach, Brian Boland of NCAA Division I champions UVA, supported a change to the scoring of the storied game of tennis. You have got to wonder why such a convincing majority approved of the move.

Mr. Boland told Zootennis blog:

“I have voted against these absurd changes every single time. It hurts our game, I am fine with the no-ad in doubles, but this hurts us. The college coaches want to skip the hard work to get people engaged. This is not the answer at all. I am beyond disappointed.”

“I went to the College World Series (in Omaha) to support my good friend and neighbor and several of the games lasted over four hours, but I doubt they’re looking to go to six innings. They respect their game and have tremendous leadership. The atmosphere was amazing. The solution is to find a final site that can accommodate the number of teams (at the NCAAs). We have a circus-like atmosphere now and this like swallowing a pill to fix our problems.”

It is also curious that the only member speaking against the decision was not in the U.S. at the time of the decision.  Boland told Zootennis: ” I would have been much more vocal, but I have been overseas.

Closing Thoughts

The NCAA hopes that shortening matches will increase the visibility and popularity of men’s and women’s college tennis. However, this flawed approach shortchanges the student-athletes and fans who want to see high-level tennis played according to the traditional and more equitable scoring rules used in virtually all other levels of competition after college.

Instead, the NCAA needs to focus its efforts on promoting collegiate tennis matches from the ground up and developing a lasting popularity of the sport among the masses. The NCAA should work together with the USTA and ITA to restore tennis to the popularity it enjoyed during the era of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Chris Evert.

Hopefully the NCAA realizes that no-ad scoring benefits no one and restores regular scoring in collegiate tennis. At this rate, if we keep shortening the length of tennis matches, we won’t have anything left to watch.