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There is so much that I could say about this article!  Working with the young tennis athletes on their Strength and Conditioning presents many opportunities for these athletes to face both victory (overcoming physical discomfort and reaching new levels of fitness) AND defeat (unable to complete a physical challenge or task).  Through these trials, I constantly remind these young athletes that their ‘defeat’ by being unable to complete a physical challenge is all part of the process, and is temporary as we push through these physical plateaus onto a new level of fitness. I am convinced and have experienced it many, many times, that overcoming the physical discomfort of training helps the athlete learn how to handle defeat and to build mental toughness that will transcend the gym and help them on the court and in life!

As a child athlete myself (I started playing Little League baseball at 6 years old and later went on to All-City High School honors, MVP awards and the opportunity to play professionally), I faced defeat or disappointment in the outcomes many, many times.  Yet, through it all, the things that I remember most are how my coaches and the adults around me handled MY failures. The coaches that helped me celebrate my wins, but more importantly work through my defeats in a positive and healthy way, were the ones who left me stronger, more resolute and unafraid to continue to challenge myself.  Not being afraid of losing is perhaps one of the most important lessons we can teach our young athletes through competition.

I invite you to read this article and pay particular attention to its “3 Magical Questions” that turn losing into learning!

LaRue Cook, Certified Tennis Performance and Strength & Conditioning Trainer



So, as coaches, we have a wonderful opportunity and a great responsibility to our young student athletes. I recently came across this, and I believe it says it all.

So they call you Coach, huh?
Have you ever stopped to consider what that means?
You have taken on one of the most beautiful, powerful, and influential positions a person can ever have. Some people may call it a job, and others a profession, but in reality, being a great coach is not that at all. It is so much more than that.
By becoming a coach, you have chosen to work with young athletes. You have chosen to guide them through the trials and tribulations of learning two beautiful games: sport and life. You are in a position to change their lives forever, not only by making them better athletes, but better people. You are a leader, you are a role model, you are a person who serves your athletes, and you are a person to whom they entrust their physical and emotional well-being.
Never take this responsibility lightly.

Source: Changing the Game Project

Hitting the Wall to Improve Your Game and Conditioning
LaRue Cook
Certified Tennis Performance Specialist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

The tennis wall or backboard is an unbeatable opponent and tireless hitting ‘partner.’ In fact, when we compete against human opponents who get ball after ball back, we say that it was like hitting against a ‘human backboard!’

So, rather than dreading the thought of hitting against the wall – human or otherwise – you can actually use the wall to not only improve your game and hone your strokes, but also to improve your conditioning and your ability to outlast those ‘human walls.’ With the proper motivation, attitude and training, you can make this unbeatable foe a wonderful tennis conditioning buddy. Here’s how I train my tennis fitness training clients using the wall.

Of course, first things first! Always start with a proper warm-up (e.g. dynamic warm-up and a few easy strokes against the wall to warm-up). Now you’re ready to PLAY!

Simulated Match Play

Start by playing out a tennis point against the wall. Simulate a 20 – 30 second point by trying to keep a single ball in play for that entire time (hitting forehands and backhands). Keep a few extra tennis balls in your pocket so that if you cannot keep the single ball in play for the designated time, you can take one out of your pocket and continue with minimal delay. After hitting for the designated time, take a short break – simulating the time between points (e.g. 20 seconds or so), then begin again. Continue this process for several points, alternating your hitting time from between 15-45 seconds, and your ‘rest’ time between points to anywhere from 5-20 seconds. By using this type of ‘interval’ tennis conditioning session, you would begin to notice improved tennis-specific cardiovascular conditioning and be better prepared to meet, and beat, those human-wall opponents that seem to give us all a problem.

Let’s Bump-Up the Intensity

If you find that you want to up the intensity of your ‘wall workout’ session, you can do so by using a rubber medicine ball that bounces. Use a ball weight between 2-8 pounds and throw it against the wall, alternating between forehands and backhands. Stand close enough to the wall so that you can catch the ball on one bounce and don’t forget to move your feet as you alternate ‘strokes!” Use both arms to throw and catch the ball.

Because this is a much higher intensity exercise, limit your points to between 10-15 seconds until your conditioning and strength improves. Also. as with any type of training, I highly recommend that you check with your physician to ensure that this type of training is appropriate for you before starting.

The ‘Wall’ is a great way to practice your strokes and footwork while at the same time improving your conditioning.  So, what are you waiting for?  Find yourself a wall and starting training!

When Training for Tennis ‘Train the Chain!’
LaRue Cook, Certified Tennis Performance Specialist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Tennis requires the coordination, cooperation and synchronization of several body parts and muscle groups in order for you to be effective on the court. Yet, many tennis athletes who workout treat their bodies and their workouts as if their body is a collection of unrelated parts! They will often work one muscle at a time, in isolation. If this describes you, then please read on. These types of individual muscle exercises are called single-joint exercises and an example would be your standard bicep curl where the exercise targets that single muscle. Make no mistake, there is definitely a place in a workout for these types of exercises, for example, single-joint exercises are often used in a rehabilitation setting to specifically target an injured or repaired muscle or body part. It is also a great way to strengthen a particular muscle that may be weak and not adequately or safely doing its part to fulfill its role in more complex multi-joint movements required in tennis. By strengthening that single muscle we can make the entire chain of muscles more effective. For example, think of lining up a set of dominos so that when you tip over the first in the line, the successive domino knocks over the next and so on. Now what would happen if I replaced one of those dominos with one made of marsh mellow? It probably would not be able to perform its duty in the chain by knocking over the next, or at best, would slow-down the process; it simply isn’t strong enough. To get that domino to perform its full function we’d need to strengthen it by replacing it with a ‘stronger’ domino. Similarly, we may need to train individual muscles so that they can adequately perform their chain duties.
However, once you’ve addressed any individual muscle weaknesses, in order to get more bang for our training buck, and to strengthen your body in a more functional way for tennis, it is best to spend most of your training time on what are known as multi-joint exercises. Performing the more complex multi-joint exercises (for example a squat that requires the movement of more than a single joint and muscle group) will better prepare you for similar types of movements and strength needs that you will experience on the court. These types of train the chain exercises will help you develop speed, strength and power for tennis by training the various muscle groups together – as they would be used on the court. So remember, when training for tennis, “Train the Chain!”

About the Author: LaRue is a Certified Tennis Performance Specialist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Sports Performance and Injury Prevention Trainer and also holds specialty certifications as a Youth Conditioning Specialist. LaRue resides in Florida and Virginia where he works with tennis athletes, tennis coaches, and tennis teams, helping them improve tennis athletes’ performance and reduce their risk of injury. LaRue also serves on the Board of Examiners for the National Board of Fitness Examiners.

Enjoyed Bill Patton’s article; he did a nice job of showing that the responsibility of fair play belongs to all; especially in high school tennis.

I agree Bobbie, and as the high school tennis coach it is his or her job to bring everyone together.  Another article in that issue of TennisPro is by Styrling Strother, “What are You Really Telling Your Players?” in which he explains that what and how you communicate is important.

In my opinion it is easier to communicate when you listen to them and get to know them; one of the reasons I conducted Player/Parent meetings on the first Wednesdays of September, October and November, then we were ready to start conditioning in December and high school tennis practice in January.  Knowing the expectations of being part of the TEAM, makes it easier to communicate.

Best at, is a tough question, maybe it will be taken up during the Round Table discussion.

If I had to chose three, they would be:

1. I expect you to be the best son or daughter.

2. I expect you to be the best student you are capable of being.

3. I expect you to be the best citizen

If the players work at them, I suspect they would be good tennis team members.