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Understanding the Value of Competitive Match Pressure

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After 28 years as a teaching professional, I see a distinct shift in players’ attitudes toward competition and playing matches. Like most teaching pros today, I come from an era when the way junior players reached the highest levels was to play sets . . . lots of sets. Taking private lessons, and even group lessons, was the exception, not the norm. As a player, I remember that when we did do a drill, we always pestered our pros asking, “When are we gonna play?” Almost everyone I knew growing up had the same attitude - we wanted to play more than we wanted to just drill or hit.

Fast forward to the present and virtually all of my students seem to be exactly the opposite. Today’s junior players all want to be in group lessons (some up to three times a week) and they all want to take privates, but no one wants to play any matches. Tournament play is even a tougher sell to today’s junior players.

As I speak with my fellow pros and friends at clubs around the country, they all relay a similar story. The unfortunate consequence is that we are creating an army of players who can strike the ball well, but who do not know how to compete or win. We pros have slid to “teaching” and are doing less “coaching”, which is why I ask my players to refer to me as Coach.


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