college tennis

The American Tennis I Want To See

Proud To Be A Buckeye

Growing up in Columbus, OH Ohio State Football was inescapable. Everywhere I turned I would see a t-shirt, a hat, a sweater, a bumper sticker, a license plate, a house flag, or a football with the Ohio State logo stamped on it. The Buckeyes consumed all of the available coverage on television and radio. All of my friends and family were Buckeyes fans. We would even exchange gifts on Christmas and on birthdays that consisted of new Buckeyes hats and jackets. The Buckeyes were everything.

This continued from birth until I left Ohio for Florida in 2009. Fortunately, the Ohio State Buckeyes travel well, so I would regularly come across Buckeyes fans in my daily travels. A quick shout of “O-H” would always illicit an “I-O” response. It was a little piece of

Target Sports Section
I can see Seminoles, Gators, and Dolphins all in one picture

home in a faraway place. The same cannot be said of American tennis. Tennis fans are much harder to find.

In my line of work I come across many different people and visit many different places. I visit College campuses, neighborhoods, and shopping centers and can point out the fandom of just about anyone by the clothes they wear. I can tell what city I am in by the merchandise hanging from the racks. Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes, Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Rays are in every store, reminding visitors that they are in Florida. The same cannot be said of American tennis. Tennis merchandise is much harder to find.

Ubiquitous: def. existing or being everywhere; omnipresent.

My Vision of American Tennis

Sports like football and soccer are popular because they are everywhere. The ubiquity of basketball and baseball make these sports a gathering place for the community. The local sports franchise is as much a part of the city as the Town Hall. After work, or after school, if you’re looking for something to do, or someone to hang out with, you can buy tickets to a game or meet friends at the local sports bar. Sports are an experience you can share with your friends. These shared experiences become the memories you carry with you the rest of your life; the glue that binds people together. Individual sports

youth tennis at Wide World of Sports complex
AATT at Wide World of Sports complex

struggle to live up to this metric; choosing separation and isolation as their chosen method of delivery. My idea of American tennis is very different.

My vision of American Tennis is one where cities across America have professional Tennis teams to represent the people of that city. Players are not playing for themselves, but rather for civic pride. I envision College tennis stadiums full of people supporting players they believe are playing for the “love of the game” or can make it to the next level. I can imagine every Parks and Recreation department in America offering Team Tennis to their residents as a means of bringing people together: players, parents, and extended family. My dream is to see tennis as a Gathering Place.

Ask Yourself These Questions

As currently constituted, and marketed by those in charge (USTA), American tennis is a challenging, individual, adversarial game requiring thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars just to participate. Am I the only one who sees these as reasons why people turn away from tennis? Am I the only one who hears the people saying that tennis is a game for ‘rich’ people? Am I the only one who can see the deluge of football, baseball, and soccer merchandise

The new home of American Tennis?
Why Does The USTA Need A Facility This Size?

at my local retailer while tennis merchandise is mysteriously absent? Am I the only one questioning the brand new, $60 million facility the USTA built in Lake Nona while the tennis courts in my neighborhood have cheerleaders practicing on them? True story.  Am I the only one hearing the lack of conversation about tennis in the general population? Am I the only person who hears the cries of “I love tennis. I just can’t find someone to play with”? What’s missing?

Those in charge of the game of tennis (USTA) have positioned tennis as a goal to be achieved rather than a game to be enjoyed. If someone enters tennis and refuses to be ushered along the ‘path to enlightenment’, they are quickly written off and told to find something else to do. There’s no “hanging out” in tennis. You must be prepared to work. On the other hand, Tailgating is a $20 billion industry with nearly 20 million people participating in some sort of tailgating activity on Game Day. Entire businesses have sprung up to meet the demands of those who are as content sitting outside the stadium, eating and drinking with friends, as opposed to going in to watch the game. If I were in charge of tennis, growing the fanbase would be my first priority.

Living Outside of The Top 5 Most Popular Sports

Out of all the sports available to those in High School, tennis is the 7th (girls) and 8th (boys) most popular sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. More boys would rather wrestle, and more girls would rather play volleyball than play tennis. I believe the most effective

FAU Owls come to Palm Springs

way of turning that around would be if tennis told a better story. A story that compels people to pay attention, maybe sit down and watch for a while. People are drawn to things that draw crowd. Think about it: how many of us slow down to see what slowed down traffic on the freeway? (hand raised) If you hear music pouring out of the gym, are you going to swing by to see what’s going on? Yes! Why do football games have cheerleaders? To draw more of a crowd! Increasing your audience means you can then secure sponsors to pay for the stadium, the concession stand, the training facilities, even the bobble head dolls to give away on Game Day. It’s a numbers game and there’s strength in numbers.

My vision for American tennis would see the rise of the Home Town Tennis Team giving residents something to be proud of… Because Life Is A Team Sport! WHO’S WITH ME!?

GO TEAM!

Why Does the USTA Need a National Campus?

Why does the USTA need a National Campus?

USTA National Campus road sign
Road sign at entrance to USTA National Campus

For years the USTA has partnered with tennis facilities to use their many resources to fund programming for both recreational and competitive tennis. But in January of this year, they USTA launched their very own, state-of-the-art National Campus to raise the the level of American tennis? The $60 million facility holds 100 courts of every type of playing surface as well as programming for touring pros, aspiring juniors, adult leagues, and beginner programs. It sounds like a good idea, on paper, but why would the USTA get into the coaching business by offering its own tennis programming? Why would the USTA build a facility they could rent for $15 per hour? Why would the USTA spend so much money on what they are calling a “public” facility? What’s really happening at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona? Why would the USTA feel the need to compete with the thousands of Coaches across the country currently running tennis programs? Is this something they plan to do in other parts of the country? If the idea is to make tennis more accessible to people living in Central Florida… what about Central Kansas? Or Central Ohio?

They’re Building a New Walmart!

The purpose of a governing body is to oversee operations, or to “draw up the rules that govern the actions and conduct of a body such as school, university, or sport”. The actual work of delivering the product is done by individuals in various parts of the country while the governing body makes sure administrators are compliant to the rules established by the governing body. You have to trust those who have committed to doing the job to actually DO THE JOB. But what happens when the bosses come down to the factory floor and start doing the job in place of the workers? Or rather when they go across the street and take business from the factory? What happens to smaller businesses when Walmart comes to town?

By the USTA building a facility to perform the duties already being carried out by others in the Central

USTA National Campus post card
No one does it like the USTA?

Florida community, have they undercut those businesses and doomed them to failure? What happens to the “National Training Center” in Boca Raton when resources are diverted away from their facility and absorbed by the National Campus outside Orlando? Unless the overall ”pie” gets bigger, the USTA would have to cherry-pick the best players from each facility and bring them in to fill their courts and make back the money they’ve spent on their own facility. Otherwise, the USTA would have to find NEW players to fill their courts, and believe me, starting from scratch is a steep hill to climb. Considering tennis’ core player demographic is aging and playing less often, is a new, 100-court, country club outside of Orlando a good investment? Only time will tell.

 

So What Happens To Us?

So let’s say that the USTA is successful in recruiting the best players from the Orlando area, maybe even the rest of the country, to train at their facility… what happens to the facilities the players have left behind? What happens to their programming? What happens to their membership? What happens to their revenue? How will people look at ‘Facility A’ after the best players have left for the USTA National Campus? How does it feel to be one of those left behind, knowing you’re not good enough to play at the National Campus? What does that do to morale?

Now let’s look at it another way: why would someone leave their Home courts to play in an unfamiliar setting? Why would someone leave their friends and family to play/train at the National Campus? Does the USTA have the “secret sauce” needed for you to reach the next level? What do they have that my club doesn’t? One of the things that bonds an individual to something is their level of enjoyment. It can be hard to quantify, but familiarity is a very real thing. Players often go to the same tennis program at the same place and time for years because humans are creatures of habit. When we find something we like, we hold onto it. We all have our favorite restaurants, hangouts, our favorite room in the house, or our favorite TV show. When we make friends we want to see them as often as we can because we like them and we know how hard it can be to make new ones. Leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar is a hurdle every business has to overcome. Why would the USTA choose to put people in unfamiliar surroundings?

Palm Springs Feels Like Home

The USTA National Campus is a world-class, state-of-the-art, high tech facility with 100 courts consisting of every playing surface. It is a marvel of engineering and a monument to the game of tennis. No other facility can boast of having the amenities (restaurants, locker rooms, pro shop) of the National Campus. It is in a class by itself. But I would rather play on the public courts of Palm Springs, FL than on the Team USA courts of Lake Nona. Why? Because Palm Springs feels like Home.

Given everything the USTA has put into the construction of the National Campus, there’s one thing it

does not have: it doesn’t feel like Home. The USTA National Campus feels sterile and impersonal. And since none of my friends made the trip to Lake Nona, playing in Lake Nona means I am playing by myself. I wonder how many people would give up the comforts and familiarity of Home for the privilege of playing in, what amounts to be, unfamiliar surroundings.

FAU Owls Men's tennis team
The FAU Owls of Boca Raton

I hear this when I speak to College tennis teams because they feel the same way. Many of them would rather play at Home on their Home courts in front of their Home fans instead of a neutral site because they were told “it’s special to play here”. When the Ohio State Buckeyes play in Columbus, OH the majority of spectators are Ohio State fans. The same can be said of FAU in Boca Raton, or Texas Tech in Lubbock. There’s a reason why we refer to it as “Home Field Advantage”; playing in familiar surroundings keeps you relaxed and allows you to play your best. And as a fan, playing at Home means I don’t have to spend a lot of time or money on traveling to support the team. As much of an honor as it is to play at the National Campus, most players would rather play at Home in front of their fans. It’s a win-win situation.

Give Me $60 Million And See What I Do With It!

Which brings me to my last point: did the USTA build a facility of their own because they were dissatisfied with the efforts of every other coach in America? Did the absence of an American man in the #1 position for so many years discourage the USTA on the efforts of coaches across the country? Is the USTA bringing in, not only the best players, but the best coaches for greater control over American representation on the international tour? Did the USTA just deliver a virtual ‘backhand’ to every other tennis program in America for not producing better tennis talent? Why would the USTA put $60 million of membership money into their own campus when that money could have gone to the thousands of tennis programs across America that need new tennis balls, nets, and coaches? Was this move an indicator of something even more problematic within the sport of tennis? Would that money have been better spent here (USTA) than there (locally)?

The sport of tennis has been choked into submission by the USTA’s strict adherence to tennis tournaments. Tournaments are sterile and impersonal, much like the USTA National Campus. If players wish to compete at the next level they must leave home to train and travel with the 3 or 4 other players on their level. But what about the fans, friends, and families back home? Tennis has seen a steady decline in popularity for the past 30 years. But a shift from individual tournaments to the Home Town Team will inject life back into this dying sport. There are literally hundreds of NCAA Division 1 College

Virginia Cavaliers NCAA Champions 2017
The best thing to happen to Charlottesville? The National Champion UVA Men’s Tennis Team

tennis teams all across America with talented players playing for their respective communities. They play for the entire school body; students, faculty, and the surrounding community, not just themselves. They wear the uniform with pride, they play with pride, and they embrace the fact that they are not out there by themselves. To many College players, and even professional players, their College days are the best days of their lives. Why would the USTA endeavor to take that away from them by bringing them to the National Campus to play?

…Because Life Is A Team Sport

Social interaction is the bedrock of any society. Whenever an individual is taken away from familiar surroundings there is an adjustment period that many never recover from. Has the USTA overlooked the basic human needs of safety and social acceptance in some misguided attempt to produce world-class tennis talent? And what does it mean to be really good at tennis? Can it pay your bills? Put food on the table? For some, yes. Unfortunately, for the overwhelming majority, playing tennis may pay for college, and that’s it. But does it need to be more than that? And is the time-tested tactic of tennis tournaments the optimal vehicle for delivering players to empty tennis courts? Would America be better served by abandoning tournaments and adopting the Tennis Team, exclusively? I say ‘yes’. Is there anyone else who agrees with me?

It’s Lonely At The Top – Pro Tennis

Pro Tennis is a Very Lonely Game

I saw this Twitter post from a recent Pro tennis tournament and my first thought was “that looks awkward, lonely, and uncomfortable?”


How many of us like it when people stare at us? Judging us with their little eyes? Yet this man is placed on a pedestal, all by himself, surrounded by nothingness, while people who believe they are sharing in the victory are really staring at someone having a private moment. Why do I say ‘private moment’? Well, what is he doing? Is he performing? Is he interacting with the crowd? Is he on the microphone? No. He’s focused inward, on himself and his feelings, patiently waiting for the ceremony to end so he can be with his loved ones. “I’d rather be somewhere else”… this is what it must feel like to be a really good tennis player. It’s different than being a part of a team where you can share these moments with your friends. This is almost hard to watch. Who dreams of being in that position? Is this what Pro Tennis feels like? And if this is what it feels like to win, how does it feel to lose?

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Back in 2004 I started my career as a tennis coach at a tennis club in Columbus, OH. A friend invited me to assist with the junior tennis program one afternoon. So what began as a part-time ‘assist’ would become a life-long journey of discovery. I remember consuming tennis wherever I could; TV, magazines, on court, because I wanted to be a part of something. I wanted to be accepted by the tennis community. I did what I  could do to “fit in”. It wasn’t what I expected.

Along the way, I tried to share my passion for tennis with the players I worked with, but it didn’t travel well. On many occasions I would ask club members (both kids and adults) if they saw a match on TV. The answer was usually ‘no’. And after the kids in the junior program repeatedly refused to participate in junior tournaments, I stopped encouraging tournament play and instead set out to figure out ‘why not?’. Why are kids ‘too busy’ to play tournaments? Don’t they know that’s how they’re going to improve their ranking? Don’t they know that tournaments are how they’ll be taken seriously? Don’t they understand that junior tournaments today could lead to them playing Pro tennis tomorrow? Isn’t that why they practice twice a week? But they came up with a myriad of excuses: birthday party, vacation, school work, whatever. But it became very clear when a player said they couldn’t enter the tennis tournament because they had a soccer game that day. Here we have a player IN the junior tennis program that would rather play soccer than tennis?!? Hmmm. Maybe tournaments aren’t that important to kids?

Where is the Tennis Community?

When I was a child my parents put me in baseball. My brother and I played from 5 years old all the way through High School. And I remember my little league days with a certain fondness that I believe youth tennis players never have a chance to experience. And that makes me sad.

I remember my baseball coach taking the team to Dairy Queen following the games. I remember the parents watching the game from their lawn chairs and cheering every time a player got a hit. I remember being selected to the All-Star Team and traveling to locations I had never been before. In my mind, when I make a side-by-side comparison of my days

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs Pro Tennis
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs

playing baseball and what tennis players experience today, it makes me sad because baseball is a more enjoyable experience than tennis. I believe the soccer player I mentioned earlier would say the same.

Month after month of turnover in the junior tennis program forced me into action. When I realized that no one else was going to do anything to improve the tennis experience, I decided to do it myself. It has proven to be a fool hardy endeavor but one I am comfortable pursuing because, I believe, children are suffering in most tennis programs but the coaches don’t see it. It’s too much work and not enough fun. (Adult tennis is something completely different.) Yes, we can play silly games with prizes and stuff, but there needs to be more. The sport of tennis doesn’t address the more significant needs that humans are born with and need to be met. Needs like security and acceptance and self-esteem. And it all hinges on one simple feature; the same feature that makes tennis unique also makes it unappealing:

Tennis is an individual game.

The Trophy Doesn’t Love You Back

Pro tennis player Serena Williams
Is it worth losing your friends?

Plain and simple. That’s where it starts. And for some strange reason, the tennis establishment seems to be ignorant of this critical error. Tennis does not appeal to the masses because no one wants to be lonely. So even if you win the tournament, and take home the trophy, you’re still alone. That trophy is not your friend. The trophy doesn’t love you back. Your friends are the ones you abandoned in pursuit of the trophy. Your friends are back at home while you’re out of town traveling to your next tournament. Your friends are hanging out with each other while you spend hours on the court practicing your passing shot… alone. Your friends left you because YOU chose an individual sport. Your friends are hanging out with each other. Who are you spending time with? And none of your friends are watching the tennis matches you are watching because they are not interested in tennis… period! So you can’t even TALK to your friends about tennis. And they’re not waiting for you to come back to town, either.

On the other hand, your friends are all playing team sports like soccer and volleyball. Your friends are hanging out at Pizza Hut because their Team won the championship. Your friends are going to Dairy Queen after the softball game. Are you going with them? Your friends are gearing up for a trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World for the AAU Wrestling competition. Where are you playing this weekend? And with who?

Good Friends Make You Happy

Being alone sucks. That’s why I started All American Team Tennis. Most human beings are afraid of being alone because we have a basic human need for companionship. I think it has something to do with endorphins, or dopamine, or something. When something good happens we look for someone to share the experience with. When something bad happens we look for someone to comfort us, to make the pain go away. Isolation and loneliness are what people

Sidney Crosby Stanley Cup
You’re never alone when you’re a part of the Team

feel before they commit suicide. It is also a form of punishment (ie. “go to your room”, “you’re grounded”, or solitary confinement). But Community can bring a person back to life. Which reminds me: what do people mean when they say “Get a Life”? Just curious.

I wanted to bring a more enjoyable experience to tennis players. It’s an idea that has been tried multiple times to little success because we keep holding on to the things that people are not interested in: tournaments and rankings. High Schools have tennis teams. Colleges have tennis teams. Country clubs have tennis teams. Serious tennis players, those who play 1-2 times a week, play on a team. But tennis on television remains individual. Why? The ratings for tennis are minuscule because Professional tennis LOOKS lonely. And lonely isn’t fun.

Everyone knows that social interaction is the building block of society, allowing for proper development of individuals. And that no one wants to be alone as evidenced by the fact that people gather together at restaurants and concerts. We can do the same for tennis; we can make tennis a gathering place for people of all ages. And you don’t have to pick up a racquet to do it. Tennis needs more fans. And that is why, on this website, you’ll hear about what’s happening in College tennis in addition to the Youth tennis league… Because Life is a Team Sport!

GO TEAM!

Hometown Heroes Pt. 2 – NCAA Div 1 National Champions

NCAA Div 1 National Champions

If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook then you know that the Virginia Cavaliers men’s tennis team and the Florida Gators Women’s tennis team are the 2017 NCAA Div. 1 National Champions. For the Cavaliers, becoming Back-to-Back-to-Back National Champions (three-peat) puts them in the same conversation as the ’98-’00 Yankees, the ’00-’02 Lakers, and the ’13-’16 UConn Women’s basketball team. For the Gators, this win marks their

Florida Gators Womens tennis 2017 NCAA National Champions
2017 NCAA Women’s Tennis National Champions

7th National Championship, making the Women’s tennis team the most prolific team in Florida Gators history! The closets to the Gators are the Men’s golf and the Women’s gymnastics teams with four championships to their credit. Congratulations.

The NCAA Championships began at regional sites across America as each of the top 16 seeded teams would host the first and second rounds. The Sweet 16, through the Finals, would be held on the campus of the University of Georgia. And in case you are new to College tennis, these are the teams that hosted Regional matches:

Men’s Seeded Teams:

  1. Wake Forest
  2. Virginia
  3. Ohio State
  4. USC
  5. UCLA
  6. TCU
  7. Baylor
  8. California
  9. UNC
  10. Texas
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Georgia
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Florida
  16. Stanford

Women’s Seeded Teams

  1. Florida
  2. UNC
  3. Ohio State
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. Georgia
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Stanford
  8. Georgia Tech
  9. Oklahoma State
  10. Michigan
  11. Auburn
  12. Perrerdine
  13. California
  14. South Carolina
  15. Duke
  16. Baylor
TCU Men's tennis team
Big 12 Champions: TCU Horned Frogs

A couple of things jump out at me when I look at this list:

  1. Do any of these teams look familiar? They should. Many of the biggest Universities in America have not only football and basketball programs, but tennis teams, too!
  2. Florida isn’t the only place where they play tennis.
  3. Texas and Oklahoma seem to be the hottest tennis states.
  4. Lesser known “football” schools like Vanderbilt and Pepperdine have stellar tennis programs.

What is Your College Team Doing?

Watching the NCAA Championship play out over the course of 2 weeks was enjoyable, for me, primarily because of the Season that preceded it. From late January right up to the start of the Championship, players are growing together and developing into a Team. We see this in their interaction on Game Day and on their Instagram posts and Twitter timeline. We watch them struggle to overcome the opposition. We see them encourage each other after a loss. We see them celebrate together after a win. We see them playing practical jokes on each other, clowning in the gym, and being recognized by the student body at basketball games.

 And then comes the NCAA National Championship.

A season of struggle all comes down to one, meaningful, tournament. Noticeably different than their professional counterparts, College tennis only has one Major tournament. There are numerous invitationals during the course of the school year, but they are merely exhibitions designed to prepare teams for the NCAA Championship. In fact, there’s an individual tournament for both singles and doubles following the NCAA Championships, but by then the crowds have gone home, moving on to the College World Series, or something.

Tennis Night in America

Pac 12 Mens tennis Champions USCHere’s the point: tennis as a Team Sport is infinitely more enjoyable than tournaments. When cities like Charlottesville (Virginia) and Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Malibu (Pepperdine) have a team to gather around, the sport takes root in that territory. When the Oklahoma State Men’s tennis team makes the news it brings attention to tennis in Stillwater. When the Texas Tech Women’s tennis team visits the local Children’s Hospital in Lubbock the Red Raiders become a greater part of the Community. When the citizens have a tennis product they can be proud of they begin to display their tennis proudly. Much like the fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (me) everyone knows where we belong. We are Buckeyes. We say it loud. We say it proud. And if you’ve got a problem with that, we can take it outside!

We Are the Arsenal
The Community supports Arsenal

But seriously, Team Sports inspire a passion not found in individual sports. Which is why professional tennis SHOULD BE a team sport like it is in College. Just imagine what Sundays in the spring would be look like if it was Tennis Night in America; a day for the Community to embrace the local sports franchise, gather at the sports stadium, wear matching jerseys and t-shirts, and cheer in unison for their Home Town team. And when the Championships come around, tickets go on sale for $1,000! Can you see it?

We don’t have it yet, but I’ll keep dreaming it until we do. In the meantime, you can help me by supporting your local University; attend their matches, buy a hat and t-shirt, take pictures with the team and post them on Facebook. Make College tennis a part of your Community and let’s see how far we can take this thing!

GO TEAM!

A Greater Part of the Community

Disappearing Act

There is a problem plaguing tennis and it stems from the persistent use of the ‘tournament’ as our chosen method of delivery: the exclusivity of tennis has led to America turning its back on the game. 

Americans are missing from upper levels of professional tennis.

American television ratings are minuscule compared to other sports.

Public tennis courts are empty.

And College tennis teams consist of rosters that are 50% foreign-born players… if they still have a team! If the sport doesn’t adapt, it could go away, completely. What are we going to do?!?

Keep in mind: I am only speaking of the American cultural landscape; because this is where I live.

Team Sports = Community

A look at the top 10 most popular sports in America illustrates something very interesting: the Top 5 sports are Team Sports, while the bottom 5 are individual sports.

Individual sports such as wrestling, gymnastics, and track realized this and made the switch to implementing their own teams. Gymnasiums and studios across the country have formed wrestling and gymnastic schools dedicated to training athletes together. And when the school enters a competition… everyone competes together. Participants wear matching uniforms to represent the gym where they train, parents buy matching t-shirts to support their son/daughter’s team, they even travel in a van wrapped in the logo of the school. They have, in essence, created their own Community that every student is now a part of.

The basketball Community

Humans are social beings, requiring the company of others to bring out the best in themselves. We seek out people that we have something in common with to avoid being alone. On the other hand, tennis players are taken away from the group to train and compete individually. This kind of isolation leads to separation not only physically, but emotionally and socially. Tennis players have become society’s outcasts. And as a result… so has the sport. This is the reason why so many students are unaware of their school’s tennis team, along with the other problems identified above.

We Have A Choice

People choose to participate in the things that make them happy. They’ll even watch others having a good time if it makes them happy. The same cannot be said for tennis. Unfortunately, children are often forced into tennis lessons because their parents want them to play. This leads to children choosing to play something other than tennis. And with this kind of exposure to tennis, society chooses not to watch it, either.

To remedy this situation tennis must become a greater part of the Community. It must become the sport embraced by society as a whole. And the only way to do that is to promote tennis as a game that is played/watched IN community with other people; meaning we have to embrace the Team as our primary means of distribution. Tennis is NOT a game that you or I play, it is a game that we play Together. But more importantly, it is a game that we WATCH together.

The New England Patriots Community

Every major metropolitan city in America has at least one sports franchise: from baseball to football to soccer to hockey. They build stadiums, sell tickets and jerseys, and hire people to work on Game Day. The team is embraced by the Community as evidenced by the campaign to bring a team in, and the outcry when a team leaves. The team is as much a member of the Community as City Hall.

If tennis is to remain a part of American culture it must embrace the Team philosophy from beginning to end; from recreational to professional. Otherwise it will be lost and forgotten, on the outside looking in on the overcrowded marketplace of activities.

Hometown Heroes – NCAA Div. 2 Tennis

The Men’s and Women’s NCAA Div. 2 Tennis Championships are taking place at the Sanlando Tennis Center in Altamonte Springs, Fl. Thursday May 11 would feature the semifinals for the Men and determine the semifinals for the Women. Representing the best NCAA Div. 2 tennis teams in America are:

Women’s Tennis Semifinals

Lynn University

Hawai’I Pacific

Barry

Armstrong State

Men’s Tennis Semifinals

Barry

Columbus State

West Florida

Southwest Baptist

These are the final 8 teams to battle it out for the right to call themselves “Champion”.

But what does that mean to you? Well, unless you attended one of these schools or live nearby, not much. But for the students, faculty, alumni, and surrounding community, it means everything. See, the local sports franchise is a Community asset. It is something for the People to be proud of.

For example, when I’m away from home, and someone asks me “where are you from?”, and I tell them “Columbus, Ohio”, images pass through their mind as to current events from my home town. And as a former resident, I can be proud of my home town because Columbus is home of THE Ohio State Buckeyes; and they’re awesome! Did I play a sport for the Buckeyes? No. But I lived there most of my life. I went to school there. My whole family and all of my friends are Buckeyes fans. And they’re awesome!

So for those of you in Boca Raton Florida, Honolulu Hawai’i, Miami Shores Florida, Savannah Georgia, Columbus Georgia, Pensacola Florida, and  Bolivar Missouri hold your heads high because your tennis teams are awesome!

GO TEAM!

Infinitely More Enjoyable Than Tennis Tournaments

Intrigue, Drama, and Suspense

The Cleveland Cavaliers trail the Golden State Warriors 1-3 in the 2016 NBA Finals. What does that mean? Well, in a “best-of-seven” series, the Cavaliers need to win three games IN A ROW to win the series while the Warriors only need one. As it turned out, the Cleveland Cavaliers would do the unthinkable, winning 3 in a row, and taking the series 4-3 over the dazed-and-confused Warriors.

The Cavaliers come back from 1-3 to win it all

The Cleveland Indians lead the Chicago Cubs 3-1 in the 2016 MLB World Series. At this point, everybody wants to know if the Cubs have what it takes to turn things around or can the Indians hold on for ONE MORE GAME to win the World Series? Believe it or not, against all odds, the Indians would blow that lead, allowing the Chicago Cubs to break a 108-year-old “goat curse” and pull off the unimaginable. “Unimaginable” in the sense that throughout the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been six teams to come back from a 1-3 deficit to win it all.

While these are tremendous accomplishments for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Cubs, what does it mean to the FANS of these two teams? How does it feel to be a fan of the winning team? Of the losing team? How does it feel to be a fan of the team that is down 1-3? Or up 3-1? Imagine the intrigue, drama, and suspense of watching this best-of-seven series. And what does this have to do with tennis?

Best-of-Seven versus One-and-Done

I’m glad you asked. And the answer is “not much”; other than the idea that pro tennis would be infinitely more enjoyable if it was a best-of-seven series rather than a one-and-done tennis tournament. The reason: in a best-of-seven series there are more opportunities for momentum to swing in both directions. “But who would want to play a best-of-seven match” you say? “Isn’t a best-of-five match long enough? Who would want to watch/play THAT?!? It would take forever!!!” And to that I have to shake my head at the short-sighted, myopic view of most tennis “fans”. Many of them are unable to see beyond the tennis tournament (or the top 4 players in the world) to realize there’s a lot more to tennis that they know nothing about. I’m referring to what I like to call exciting tennis, or Team Tennis.

The Gators: following a recent best-of-seven match win

American Universities employ this best-of-seven Team format where every player on the team contributes to the end result and, honestly, I find it infinitely more enjoyable, interesting, dynamic, satisfying, entertaining, and exciting than tournaments. Seeing players working together to accomplish their goal speaks to me instinctively. No one person can be good at everything and asking one player to carry the entire burden of winning is unreasonable. Besides, what good is winning if you have no one to share it with? And no one should have to suffer through a loss alone, either.

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More                    

Tennis Tournaments Lack Real Signifigance

From a spectator’s point-of-view, watching a match between two peripheral players, where the outcome is of little significance, is boring. And unfortunately, tennis tournaments are chock full of players on courts 5 thru 14 that couldn’t be identified without a name badge and in

US Open winner…. whats-her-name!

introduction, just waiting to be eliminated. Just pull up the draw sheet for any recent ATP or WTA tournament and you’ll see what I mean. They aren’t bad players, there just isn’t enough room in the winner’s circle, or in the Game Day program, for more than two people. On the other hand, the best-of-seven series, combined with a full Season of matches between Big 10, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 schools, gives the audience a compelling story that is not only significant… but easy to follow.

See, in Division 1 College tennis, games are often conducted in a best-of-seven format. Meaning, they will play tennis on 7+ courts simultaneously and the team that wins 4 courts wins the match. In the First, of two Rounds, players will pair up to play doubles on courts 1, 2, and 3. The team that wins two-out-of-three courts wins the Doubles Point. Then the teams move on to the round of singles and doubles teams will split up to play singles on courts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Here, each court is worth one point apiece. Together, with the doubles point, the team to win four out of the seven available points is the winning team. In Div. 2, 3, NAIA, and JUCO each doubles match is worth a point, resulting in 9 total points, so teams play best-5-out-of-9.

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the World Series or the NBA Finals, doesn’t it.

Now, the team that wins the doubles point has the advantage going into the round of singles, but that does not guarantee a win because there are still 6 points remaining. So much drama leaves the audience guessing as to who will come out on top. And that’s exciting! What if one team is full of individuals who don’t play well together? What if one team is made up of primarily doubles specialists (aka. Team Players)? What if one of the doubles-winning teams is being carried by one of the players, so when they split up and play singles, they win one and lose one?

The Coach’s Contribution to Best-of-Seven

Coach Paige and one of her Lady Hurricanes

All of those are things that can factor into the end result. And we haven’t even talked about the Coach’s contribution yet!  In College tennis, the Head Coach is responsible for determining the lineup for each team. That means some players will play both doubles and singles while some will play ONLY doubles or singles. It depends on how they perform in practice, how well they work together as a team, if they are injured, and who the opponent will be that day and the following day.

The Head Coach, along with the Assistant and Graduate Volunteer Coaches, must take all of these things into consideration. And on Game Day, all 3 Coaches monitor their players’ performance making corrections and adjustments when needed. And it is that complexity that makes College tennis an infinitely more intriguing product than tennis tournaments. By the way, ever wonder what a professional tennis coach does for a single player when the draw is pre-determined and coaching is ILLEGAL at tennis tournaments? It doesn’t sound like they have much to do!

On a side note: why is Coaching illegal at tennis tournaments? Name another sport where this is the case.  What’s wrong with giving/receiving advice during competition? Is this why kids avoid tennis like toxic waste? Is this why so many lopsided tennis matches end 6-2, 6-1? Is winning not important? Is it really better for a player to carry the entire burden of competition by themselves? Is tennis a superior game and are tennis players superior individuals because they endure such torment (tennis coaches believe this)? And what kind of people are we producing as a result (If they last more than a month)? But I digress.

In terms of excitement, things like unpredictability, uncertainty, and facing adversity factor into a spectator’s enjoyment of a sporting event. Predictability, sameness, and a lack of creativity are what makes something boring. I believe College team tennis falls into the first category. Granted, when the #1 team hosts an unranked opponent, on paper, it can lack some of the flash. But when you consider a College tennis match is best-of-seven, every match is compelling. For example….

Watching a Best-of-Seven Tennis Match

Let’s say that the #45 Miami Hurricanes women’s tennis team were hosting the #17 Duke Blue Devils in Miami, and AATT had planned a field trip for some of our players to see it. What if the Duke Blue Devils were riding a 4-game win streak while the Hurricanes were on a 2-game losing slide? And the game was being played in Miami which means the Hurricanes have “Home Field Advantage” (there are no “Home teams” in tournaments).

On paper, this looks like a sleeper match. I mean, it’s #45 versus #17. But remember: College tennis is best-of-seven. Now you have to wonder: Can the Blue Devils continue their dominance, or can the Hurricanes turn their negative momentum around? Which team came ready to play? Is every player on the roster ready to compete? With the fandom of both Hurricanes and Blue Devils hanging in the balance, this is much more than a “sleeper” match. Because they are playing for more than themselves.

Duke would win two of the three doubles matches to take

Miami Hurricanes versus Duke Blue Devils

the doubles point and go up 1-0. Duke would also win in straight sets on Court 3 to go up 2-0. And then on Court 1, the Miami player would roll her ankle and be unable to finish the match. Duke now leads 3-0.

On a side note, if I were in charge of tennis, and a player was unable to finish a match or was just playing poorly, I would substitute them. I mean, we want to win, right?

Anyway, with a 3-0 lead Duke would only need to win one of the 4 remaining courts to win the match. And the Hurricanes would have to win ALL 4. Miami would win in straight sets on Courts 2 & 5 making the score 3-2 in favor of Duke.

The Hurricanes would need three sets to win on Court 6 and now the score is tied 3-3 and it all comes down to Court 4. Court 4?!? You mean the fate of the entire team comes down to the #4 singles players for both squads?!? Wouldn’t you rather have your superstar in that position? How much faith do we have as Hurricanes/Blue Devils fans that #4 can win his match? Will the pressure of the situation get to either player? Or have they been preparing their whole lives for this moment? The remaining players from both teams are now watching from Court 3 and encouraging their teammate in this critical moment. And all of the fans are crowded around Court 4 to watch the final match play out. This feels a lot like Game 7 of the World Series! And we’re only 3/4 of our way through the SEASON!

When the Hurricanes player scores a point, the Hurricanes fans cheer.

When the Duke player scores a point, the Duke fans cheer. This is intense!

Everyone in the stadium is experiencing a wide range of emotions. When your team is ahead, there’s confidence that she’ll get the job done. When they’re behind, there’s fear. Fear that your player is beginning to press, to get in her own head, unable to block out the sound of cheers for the other team, and groans from her supporters when she misses. Hundreds of eyeballs are watching her every move, hoping the ball stays in, second-guessing that last shot, waiting for one of the Hurricanes or Blue Devils’ shots to land in the net. We’re up, we’re down, we’re inside-out! (Fans don’t do well in handling their emotions.)

Are you proud of me?!?

And then the final ball is struck, it sails beyond the baseline, and players from the winning team come pouring onto the court, arms held high, shouting at the top of their lungs, to embrace their teammate, and share in the feeling of joy at having won the match for their team. It really is a sight to see.

While players from the losing team walk slowly onto the court, arms open wide, not in celebration, but to console their teammate after having lost the match. They know their teammate may be having a difficult, five-stages-of-grief, time dealing with the knowledge that they lost it all for their team; that theirs was the game to determine the entire match, but let’s be honest: everyone shares in the loss. It was a best-of-seven match which means no one has to carry the burden of winning/losing alone. That is what makes the Team so valuable.

There are a number of reasons why players join teams, and why spectators gravitate towards team sports. Team Sports satisfy the need for companionship in ways that tennis tournaments do not. As a fan, I may not be able to play at that level, but I can experience the highs and lows of competition through my favorite Team. And when my friends and neighbors are fans, too, I have someone to talk to about it. I am not alone when I belong to a Team. Ever wonder why sports fans “live and die” with their teams? Because the wide range of emotions that can only be experienced through competition are what make life so exciting. And those emotions are more readily experienced at a College tennis, best-of-seven, team-versus-team tennis match where my favorite Team is playing. One-and-done doesn’t do it for me.

And that, my friends, is why College tennis is infinitely more enjoyable, interesting, dynamic, satisfying, and entertaining than professional tennis tournaments.

What do you think? Which would you rather watch, best-of-seven or one-and-done, and why? What are your thoughts on the best-of-seven format? Who are your favorite teams? Have you attended many of their matches? Where is the best place to watch? Which teams have the best chance of making it in the NCAA Championship? I would love to hear your thoughts.

GO TEAM!

Youth Tennis is Better With Field Trips

Check out that backhand!

On Sunday February 26, players from the All American Team Tennis youth tennis league would travel to Boca Raton to witness the Florida Atlantic University Owls men’s tennis team take on the Florida A&M Rattlers. Players had high expectations for this field trip and the FAU Owls did not disappoint. Having personally attended a number of tennis matches in the past, Coach Ken was prepared for an afternoon of college tennis. Armed with his trusty Shade Tech canopies and Coleman portable propane grill, he would escort his players onto the hallowed grounds of the brand new FAU Tennis Complex. Ok… maybe ‘hallowed’ is a bit much. But it is a really nice facility!

There are a number of reasons why Field Trips are such a phenomenal part of any youth tennis program. First, College Tennis is the best and most readily available tennis product for

Doubles on Court 3

those most interested in the game. Both players and non-players can enjoy an afternoon at the local university watching some of the best players in the world. 

Next, College Tennis teams play all of their Home games at the same location. Which means you have multiple opportunities to take in a match. Compare that with the pro tour where players sweep into town once a year for a week and then they’re off to the next exotic location. As a tennis fan, it feels kind of empty when there’s no tennis going on. Fortunately, the College Tennis season is 4 months long! And it’s 6 months if you count the pre-season matches in September/October. That’s what I call a “Full” season!

We found a shady spot

Third, giving players the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company away from the tennis court strengthens the bonds they’ve built on the court. From the anticipation leading up to the field trip, to arriving at the gathering place, to driving to/from the games, to the matches themselves, field trips are fun. Plain and simple.

This field trip would feature a matchup of the Florida Atlantic Owls of Conference USA hosting the Florida A&M Rattlers of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The energy level is always high when watching FAU but things really ratcheted up when the third court of doubles would need a tiebreak to see who would take the doubles point (“Why are the doubles only one point?” you ask. We’ll talk about that later). With all of the spectators watching the action on only one court, everything felt much bigger. And when the referee took a point away from the Rattlers

Our players getting autographs from FAU players

for one of their players hitting the net with his foot, things really heated up. Fortunately, the Owls would keep their composure and hold on to win the doubles point and roll in the singles to take the match 4-0, moving their record to 9-3. The win puts Florida Atlantic in a two-way tie for second place in the Conference USA standings.

There’s much more to tennis than tournaments… and Field Trips are a big part of that. Attending a tennis match by yourself is good, but traveling with friends is what makes Field Trips so much fun. And the FAU Owls appreciate it, too.

So join us on our field trip and see what all the excitement is about!

GO TEAM!

 

Watching a College Tennis Match Part 1

Ohio State BuckeyesVirginia CavaliersVanderbilt Commodores, and the Florida Gators. What do these Universities all have in common? We are all familiar with the universities who have top-shelf programs in football, and basketball (Ohio State and Florida), but these schools also have world-class talent in tennis. Believe it or not, the World comes to America to find the best facilities,
the best training, and the best competition. It starts at the tennis academies like IMG and Saddlebrook and it continues on our College campuses. Players from countries like Brazil, Columbia, England, and Germany continue their education while continuing their playing careers right here in the United States. And seeing some of the world’s best tennis players in action, in person, is so much better than watching them on TV. Am I right!?!

Before we get into HOW to watch a College tennis match I though I would give a little background as to WHY watching College tennis is such a tremendous value, how is it different than what people may be watching on television, and why the Team is the premier vehicle for bringing tennis into the mainstream.

First, watching a Collegiate tennis match, while fundamentally similar to the professional game,

Playing on a Team means you’re never alone

is a very different experience because the rules are more relaxed allowing the fans to become more involved the matches. And I say “match-es” because there can be up to six being played at the same time and they all count towards the team’s final score. Unlike professional tennis where it’s every man for himself, College tennis is a Team Sport, a group effort, where every player contributes to the outcome. Some people (me) prefer it this way.

 

For example, a College tennis match consists of two rounds; Round 1: three doubles matches followed by (Round 2) six singles matches. In some cases, all three doubles are counted as one, best-of-three set match, giving the team one point, the Doubles point, while in other situations all three doubles matches count as a point apiece (three total points). The singles always count as one point each, so the winner of the match must win four out of seven (best two-of-three doubles) or best five out of nine (three doubles points).

The FAU Owls supporting their teammate during the deciding match against St. Johns

This best-of-seven format lends itself to all kinds of dramatic situations: after all of the doubles have been played, and 5 of the singles matches have wrapped up, if the match is tied at three points apiece, that means the last court to finish will be the deciding point, much like a Game 7 in the World Series or NBA Finals. And the last match to finish can be a different player each week: this week Court 2 went to three sets, but last week it was Court 6. So depending on how the coaches determined the lineup, and how evenly matched the players are, any player can be the hero (or the goat) for that day. It gives me goose bumps! I mean, is there anything more exciting than a Game 7?!?

But the #1 reason to watch a College tennis match (in my opinion) is because the players represent not only themselves, but the University. More significant than a bunch of random athletes, from a bunch of random countries, coming together to showcase their talents, competing for a trophy that represents nothing more than how good they are; College tennis teams play for their community. They play for their friends and classmates, the faculty, alumni, those who live in the surrounding area, and even those who have moved away but are still loyal to the university.

As a former Ohio State student living in Florida, I am a part of the larger Buckeye community… and we are everywhere! It’s always good to see someone wearing an Ohio State t-shirt or hat, or someone with an Ohio State license plate on their car, or flying an Ohio State flag outside their house. It reminds me of where I came from. It says to me that no matter how far I go I’m never far from home. So when I check the box scores and see an Ohio State football / tennis / basketball / baseball / gymnastics / wrestling victory, it lifts my spirits. Seeing Ohio State tennis at #3 on the Men’s side and #4 on the Women’s (as of 2/15/17) makes me proud to be a Buckeye, because whether they know it or not, they’re playing not only for themselves, but for me, too.

Now that we know WHY College tennis is so important, we can talk about HOW to watch a match. But we’ll save that for next time.

Who is your favorite University tennis team? I would love to hear from you. Send an email to aateamtennis@yahoo.com or visit our Facebook page to be a part of the conversation. Then go to your team’s website to find their schedule and see when they’re playing. Most tennis matches are admission-free so they’re easy to afford. Cheer for your favorite team and have a good time. Tennis is always better in person.

GO TEAM!

 

Do I Have To Wear the Jersey?

Why would Indiana Pacer, Paul George, take a picture of himself on vacation wearing his OWN jersey?

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Big Jon is a proud a Dolphins fan

Why would John Wall, who plays for the Washington Wizards in the NBA, be criticized for wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey to watch the Cowboys against the Washington Redskins… in Washington, D.C.?

Why would a grown man be seen walking around town in a jersey with another man’s name on it?

Why is that kid wearing her softball uniform as she walks through the Wal-Mart?

Jersey sales are an indicator of an athlete’s popularity. In the NBA, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson are the Top 5 jerseys sold on NBAstore.com. How many of these names sound familiar? Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady, Odell Beckham, Jr., Cam Newton, and Rob Gronkowski lead the NFL in jersey sales according to NFLshop.com. How many of THESE names sound familiar? In addition to listing the Top 5 player jerseys sales, overall, NFLshop.com also lists the Top 5 selling jerseys by position: QB, RB, WR, TE, and Def. That’s a minimum of 25 jerseys being sold on the NFLshop.com website. Can you name the Top 25 players on the ATP tour? Or on the WTA tour? I didn’t think so. How about the Top 5? Maybe. Jersey sales are an indicator of an athlete’s popularity. But tennis doesn’t sell jerseys.

buckeye-vs-wolverine-fans-faceoff
GO BUCKS!

The jersey also has tremendous psychological significance. It not only represents a personal accomplishment; the ability of the individual to overcome adversity and to pass the test of “tryouts”. In terms of jersey sales, it represents a player’s overall popularity. But more importantly, the jersey represents acceptance by the group. When an Ohio State Buckeye fan sees another fan in an Ohio State jersey, there’s an instant bond between the two of them. They have something in common. They’re on the same team. But when they see someone in a Michigan Wolverines jersey, their eyes glow red. Just kidding. It’s ‘scarlet’.

skydiver
Why?

There are billions of people on the planet. Each of us is unique in some way, but we all have one thing in common: a desire to be noticed. We need attention. For some, the desire leads to a loving, caring, long-term relationship full of family and friends. For others, that desire leads to jumping out of a hot air balloon at 25,000 feet without a parachute hoping to land in a net 100′ square (what?!?). But for many of us the desire to be noticed leads us to tryout for the football or volleyball team. And we stick with our sport for a very long time because we like the people on our team. And they like us, too. Sport is something we have in common, and a friendship grows out of that.

But how do you know who to be friends with? Look at your jersey. What starts as an obligation to work together for the good of the team can blossom into lasting friendships where players spend time together away from the playing field, at a birthday party, going to the movies, or on a trip to Walt Disney World. The more time people spend together, the more their friendship grows. But the same is true when teammates split up.

burning-lebron-james-jersey
Burning a LeBron James jersey

LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to play for the Miami Heat. The “decision” was met with mixed reactions. In Miami they welcomed him with open arms, believing they now had what they needed to bring a title to Miami. And while the Cavaliers’ fans felt the same way about their chances of winning with LeBron on the roster, losing him was equally devastating. There was outrage coming from every corner of

burning-lebron-james-jersey-heat
Burning a LeBron James jersey

Cleveland, from the fans to the front office. Even the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, wrote a letter expressing his disappointment. Cavaliers fans were seen burning ‘LeBron James’ jerseys. It was a very dark time. LeBron would go on to win 2 titles for the Miami Heat and return to Cleveland in 2014 and the reaction was very much the same, but in reverse: Cavaliers fans were excited to have him back, while Heat fans were devastated, vowing to hate him for the rest of their lives.

Why the visceral reaction to someone coming or going? Why did one person’s “decision” affect so many people to the point of lashing out and destroying property? Because LeBron James was a part of their Team. It’s really very simple: if you can help us, we like you. If you can not help us, we hate you. It’s not about you, it’s about ‘Us’. This is true not only for really good players, but for the not-so-good players, too. Like when a player is under-performing, the fans ‘boo’ him and take to social media calling for the player to be traded because he’s hurting the team. The same reaction is not witnessed in tennis when a player is playing poorly. Why don’t tennis fans ‘boo’ the bad tennis players?

tennis-fans-cheering
Who are they cheering for?

Professional tennis players do not represent the fans. But rather they play only for themselves. And as a result, tennis fans are much less animated when a player wins/loses a match. Of course, the USTA/ATP/WTA will show snippets of crowd reactions that make tennis appear to be as exciting as a soccer match, but that’s all stock footage, and isn’t necessarily tied to any one player. How do we know this? Tennis players don’t wear jerseys so you never really know who the fans are cheering for. Sports fans wear their hearts on their jersey. I guess tennis fans wear their hearts… in their chest?

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Our players are “OWL IN!”

That is why, when All American Team Tennis takes its players on field trips, we go to see college tennis teams: because they play on a team! We know who to cheer for. They are playing for all of us. And since I can’t be out there, they’re playing for me, too. And as a show of support for what they do for me, I wear their jersey. And if I can’t find one, I make my own because…

We’re on the same team.

The state of Florida has a number of very good tennis teams to pay attention to including the Gators, Hurricanes, Seminoles, Seahawks, Owls, and Sailfish. But we have a number of great players playing for the Buckeyes, Hurricanes, Sailfish, and Seminoles of Palm Springs, too. And you can find the jersey of your favorite player’s team at franchiseteamtennis.com.  So take in a match. And remember to wear your jersey to the game.

sailfishseminoles-2hurricanes-smallbuckeyes

GO TEAM!

There’s More To Tennis Than Tournaments

Warning: The views and opinions expressed in the following blog post are exclusively those of Coach Ken and are the reason why All American Team Tennis is a Youth Sports League and not a series of tournaments. Reader discretion is advised.

One of my players entered a “tournament” here in West Palm Beach. All things considered, it went well. He played some points, he won some, he lost some, they gave him a water bottle, it was fine. No big deal. But I took from the event a few observations. Let me start by saying that attending a USTA tournament reminds me of why I don’t like USTA tournaments. Having played baseball and football as a child, and ice hockey in my 20’s, what I saw was very disappointing. It failed to capture not only my attention, but that of the players. And the tiny dictator, uh, I mean Tournament Director telling the parents to be quiet and reading off a list of rules the players have to follow, really put a damper on things. There has to be more to tennis than tournaments.

How's the view from where you sit?
How’s the view from where you sit?

This was a Level 9 tournament for players 10 and under*. We won’t go into why there are 9 levels of tournaments when every level is essentially the same. With many of the same players playing in multiple levels of tournament! That’s beside the point. But, with this being a Level 9 event, the director brought teenage volunteers to monitor the courts to help the players who are new to the game. That was a good idea, but the execution needs work. The monitors need to be trained or at least have some playing experience in order to do the best job possible. But the kid monitoring my players match had NOT been trained and it showed. First, he asked another monitor how many games they would be playing. Then, during the warmup, he kept feeding balls to my player preventing the other player from hitting any serves. There must have been 15+ balls on the court. Then, instead of instructing the players to retrieve tennis balls, themselves, he went around the court picking up balls while trying to watch them play. That doesn’t work very well and, needless to say, he missed a couple of points.

Huh?
Huh?

But this one really got me: my player served the ball into the box and the other player returned it. But he returned it high so my player moved in to take it out of the air. My player missed the shot so the other player got the point, anyway, but the monitor then began to admonish my player saying that the ball has to bounce and that’s why the other player got the point. my player lost the point, so it really didn’t matter, but the monitor continued to explain that the ball has to bounce because you are “not allowed to take it out of the air”. Clearly this person has limited knowledge of the game because my player was simply going for a volley. My player argued the volley thing, but the monitor brought over another monitor to explain that he was right. Now my player is confused as to what to do. We hit almost nothing but volleys in practice and this person is telling him that volleys are not allowed?!? EVERY 8 year old is ill equipped to handle this situation. This would have been take care of if monitors were trained properly and/or tennis players had Coaches.

Every player needs a Coach
Every player needs a Coach

Which brings me to my next point: Coaches. Every player needs a coach. Not some of the time… ALL of the time. Have you ever heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees”? That means when you stand too close to a single tree, bringing your face close enough to the bark to see the ants climbing it, the tree blocks your view of the rest of the forest. The same applies to athletics and sport: participants can get so focused (tunnel vision) on what’s right in front of them (hitting the ball) they can’t see anything else that’s out there. But the coach can. The coach sits on the outside watching EVERYTHING that’s happening. He sees things that the player doesn’t and can instruct the player to focus on something else, if necessary.

But my biggest complaint is for the people holding on to the status quo. The attitude of people who blindly defend how tennis tournaments are conducted by saying “it has to be this way” or “the kids have to learn how to do this”. Why? Why does it have to be this way? Do I need to learn this if I’m playing soccer? Why are there no referees? Why is coaching not allowed? Why are the parents asked to watch from outside the fence? Why separate a child from their parent? Because it’s tennis?!? That’s not a good enough reason.

Please don't hurt him!
Please don’t hurt him!

You’re gonna have to do better than that because we don’t have to play tennis. There are plenty of other options for people to play games or get exercise. In fact, there was a BOXING class in the grass just outside of the tennis courts. Why not take up boxing instead of tennis? Not only is it exercise, but you learn how to throw hands if you need to defend yourself. Listen, if I don’t LIKE what you’re doing, I’m not going to do it. So a greater emphasis must be placed on LIKING rather than learning.

That’s the bottom line.

But tennis has done very little to make the game appealing to a larger audience. It’s a simple game that places a tremendous amount of pressure and stress and innumerable restrictions on its participants. For example, you have to hit the ball over the net and keep it inside the lines. Do you know how many people can’t do that? Roughly 98% of America. It’s one of the reasons why more people don’t play. But instead of adapting the game to reach a broader audience, some people hold on to tradition and expect other people to change to accommodate a game they don’t have to play. It’s very bad for business.

To make that point, I was looking at the “tournament bracket for the event one of my players was supposed to play last weekend and I noticed something very troubling: in a bracket consisting of 16 spots, there were 13 players entered, and 6 of them were from outside Palm Beach County. I understand that not everyone is able to play every week at every location, but that is part of the problem: a lack of commitment from the players. Tennis players come and go as they please. And the fact that this event pulled 7 kids from Palm Beach County ages 10-12 is embarrassing when there are literally 10’s of thousands of children in middle schools in this area. Football, baseball, basketball, and soccer get hundreds of players every Saturday morning. Ice hockey and lacrosse do the same. And we pull 7?!? Once a month?!? Something has to change.

All American Team Tennis is the solution to all of tennis’ problems. Much of what we do can be found on your local college campus. First, every single one of us has a desire to be included, to feel like we’re not alone, to interact with other people. It’s how God made us. So All American Team Tennis is a team sport where players are placed on teams and given a uniform so they know where they belong. The uniform says “you’re with us.” The team says “you’re not alone.” Now you have someone to talk to.

Seminoles v Terminators 8/6/16
Seminoles v Terminators 8/6/16

Someone to hang out with. Someone to play with. Someone to travel with. Someone to invite to your birthday party. Someone to tell jokes to. Someone to talk to about your favorite tv show. And if you think none of those things are important when it comes to playing tennis, your head is in the wrong place. Because humans are social creatures, designed to desire the company of other people. And if we don’t get that social interaction we become very selfish and bitter and inconsiderate and rude and condescending. I know this from first-hand experience because I’ve crossed paths with them repeatedly over time. How does a person learn respect when their opinion is the only one that matters?

See, in other sports, superstars still have to FIT IN with the group. Even in individual sports like wrestling, gymnastics, and karate. Their desire to be better than everyone else is balanced by what’s best for the TEAM. Not so in tennis. I do WHAT I want, WHEN I want, HOW I Want, and if I don’t WANT to, I ain’t doing it because MY results are the only results that matter. I’m out here by myself, me against the world, so what happens to you does not matter to me because we’re not CONNECTED in any way. And that seed of selfishness gets watered every time they play. So players become very unsympathetic, inconsiderate, unable to relate to other people, yet very demanding in their interactions with others because they are the only person that matters. That’s cold!

Next, Game Day is every Saturday. That requires a commitment on the part of every player because the team is counting on them. Accountability is not required in individual sports, but makes for a much better member of society. An understanding that you are not alone, and that your actions affect those around you leads to greater maturity. That’s what it means to be a Team Player.

Our Referees are the difference
Our Referees are the difference

Third, we put a referee on every court, similar to what you’ll find at colleges like Miami and Ohio State (GO BUCKS!), and I train them personally. Relying on the players to conduct their own matches is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. And those who defend it are missing a few synapses. Every type of competition should have someone watching the participants to make sure the game is played according to the rules. I don’t care if it’s tennis, football, or Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, there should be a referee. In the heat of the moment, when the stakes are so high, players can not be trusted to make the right call. There’s an inherent bias to officiating your own match that leads to players making calls in their favor. That’s called cheating. So we make sure to have someone that I’ve trained, personally, on every court. It’s the right thing to do.

Not only does every match need a referee, but every player needs a coach. Period. So we invite our parents to act as coaches during practice and on Game Day. We don’t relegate them to the outer limits, or the vast wasteland beyond the fences where they are forced to watch their child play through the wind screen**. But we invite them to come inside and set up a

Back-to back National Champions, the Sailfish!
I am not the only Coach. Thanks, Coach Josh!

chair to view the matches along the sidelines. They can talk to their kids, they can cheer for them, on the changeovers the parents can give their kids a bottle of water or grapes. It’s a much better experience for everyone. And because the players are on a team they don’t have to spend their changeover alone. Kids enjoy talking to each other. Surprising, isn’t it. Coaches keep players on the right track because they can see the entire forest, not just the trees.

Never underestimate the value of community. Community creates emotional stability by lending perspective to any situation because when you realize you’re not alone things are not as bad as they seem. And when you win, having someone to share it with makes it even more memorable.

Tennis doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. In fact, it can be a very memorable one. All American Team Tennis is unlike your typical junior tennis program. We’re different.. on purpose. Teams, uniforms, Game Day, coaches, parents, field trips, community, camaraderie, a support system, and that’s only the beginning. We haven’t even talked about the marketability of team sports! There’s room for everyone on the team. Including you. So join us next season and see what all the noise is about.

GO TEAM! 

I would love to know your thoughts. Send me an an email at aateamtennis@yahoo.com with your ideas.

*The USTA decided it would be a good idea to implement a series of tournaments for players under the age of 10, as a way of introducing children to tennis competition. The switch to shorter courts and low-compression balls is necessary to make the game easier for children to play. We do this, too. Unfortunately, they continue to use tournaments as their primary vehicle of transport. As my mechanic would say “Well, there’s your problem!”

**And can anyone tell me why we have wind screens, anyway? They block your view more than they block the wind. If it’s purely cosmetic, and you just want to put your logo on the fence, why not get a chain link with smaller holes and paint it? It’ll last longer than nylon. Or put up sections of screen with your logo on it. Maybe along the back but not the sides. I’m just sayin’.

The Great Tennis Divide

Parent: “I’m calling to get information on your tennis lessons. I have a 6 year old daughter. How much are they?”

Coach: “First, has she ever played before?”

Parent: “No. But she did some gymnastics.”

Coach: “That’s a very good place to start. That means she’s athletic. And don’t worry, most of our players are playing tennis for the first time. In fact, many of our players had never heard of tennis until their parents signed them up. So she’ll fit right in. We start on Monday and the cost is $XX.”

Parent: “Thank you. We’ll see you Monday.”

(Later that evening, after the child has come home from school, the parent approaches the child about playing tennis.)

Parent: “I saw they’re offering tennis lessons at the rec center. Do you want to play?”

Child: “I don’t know.”

Parent: “I spoke to the instructor today and he told me there would be other children there who are new to the game, too, so you should fit right in.”

Child shrugs their shoulders.

Parent: “Well, I’m going to sign you up to see if you like it. We’ve got to find a way to get you out of the house. If you don’t like it we can always try something else.Ok?”

Child: “I guess so.”

I imagine this conversation taking place on a regular basis because no matter how many calls I get asking about “tennis lessons”, 1 out of 5 actually show up for practice.  But why would they decide not to play? Was it something WE did? How could it be? They never showed up to see what we’re all about. And seeing as they know so little about the game, why won’t they entertain the idea of playing tennis? I can only assume that tennis doesn’t interest them. At all.

Coach Ken
The Great Motivator, Coach Ken!

My childhood was spent playing baseball, football, and basketball. In college I tried intramural ice hockey. I’ve coached baseball and hockey. I even dabbled in lacrosse back when I worked at a sporting goods store in Ohio. Along the way I’ve attended a great many sporting events such as high school football (I was in the marching band), Minor League baseball, Blue Jackets’ hockey, as well as the Western & Southern Tennis Open in Cincinnati. Now, I know tennis people don’t like to compare tennis to other sports because they believe it is unlike every other sport. But that could not be further from the truth. “What do you mean” you might be saying? “What does the Miami Open have in common with the Miami Heat or the Cincinnati Bengals”? Spectators. (Or rather the lack of spectators.) And from a spectator’s point-of-view the in-game experience of a tennis match pales in comparison to an Ohio State Buckeyes football game.

In an article written back in 2008, the USTA claims to have “made a financial commitment to growing and developing tennis in the U.S.” But when you read it carefully it states that while 30 million people played tennis that year, the USTA only has 740,000 members. Wait a minute: the governing body of tennis, that sanctions leagues and tournaments, has a membership of 2.4% of all participation?!? And how do we know the 30 million number is accurate? Where did that number come from? Because when you look at the television ratings for the 2014 U.S. Open, 30 million sounds veeery suspect.

Empty seats at a Serena Williams match?

If these numbers are to be believed, there is a fundamental disconnect between those who play tennis and those who watch tennis. What could be the cause of such a sizable disparity? Why would someone choose to play tennis but not watch it on television or attend a match in person? Why have so many tennis tournaments been relegated to the desolate wasteland of ESPN3? And why does it look like tennis stadiums are empty when I see them on TV? Shouldn’t people who play a game be inspired to watch the game they play? Maybe to get a few pointers? Learn something new? Or simply enjoy a night out on the town? Or invite some friends over for a viewing party?

Everyone can join the team!

Did you know: according to USTA Florida president, Bob Pfaender, a meager 10% of High School tennis players play one (1) tennis tournament per year, leaving 90% who play for the Team, exclusively. Why is there no interest in tennis tournaments? And on the club level, the greatest participation at most tennis clubs are in the Leagues and Socials. Drive by the tennis club in the morning and you’ll find it full of seniors and stay-at-home moms, but in the afternoon the courts are empty. And if you’re looking for something fun to do, stop by on a Friday or Saturday evening for the “pizza and wine” social (I made up the name, but you get the point). So you could say that 90% of country club members also play in groups. Why are so few people entering tennis tournaments? Seeing as tournaments are all that’s being shown on television, shouldn’t it inspire more people to play more tournaments? A better question would be “Why are we constantly being fed singles tournaments when 90+% of all participants play tennis in groups or teams?” There is a fundamental disconnect between the tennis fan and how tennis is marketed.

GO KINGS
Playing game with friends

I run a youth sports league called All American Team Tennis (you’ve probably heard of it). And much like the baseball and hockey teams I’ve coached over the years, our kids practice twice a week with Game Day on Saturday. And while I have my own set of goals for my players, I realize that they have their own personal goals, too. So my job is to meet them where they are in order to bring them along for the journey. So what are their goals? Observing the players during practice allows me to find out where their heads are at. I see how much they enjoy playing games like Caterpillar and Fruit Salad (ages 6-10) or King of the Court and Rodeo (ages 11+) versus drills like 2 forehands across the baseline. I also observe their interaction with me versus the other players. This has led to the conclusion that children would rather play games* with their friends* than run drills or compete on Game Day. Believe it or not, the majority of my players enjoy practice more than competition, which is strange because, apparently, they don’t see Caterpillar as competition. Hmmmm.

Given the thousands of hours spent by the USTA getting children to play, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to play professionally… wait a minute. I’m sorry. I’m only going to divert for a second. But shouldn’t professional athletes be getting paid to play, rather than paying to play? Isn’t that what it means to be a professional? Good job, tennis!

Sony Field Trip
We used to go to tournaments. But…

Anyway, given the time and effort we put into getting people to play tennis, and considering the results of said time and effort, why don’t we try something else? I have an idea: How about we spend more time and money encouraging people to watch tennis? Let’s create a product that engages the fan and adds to the in-game experience in order to fill our stadiums with people. Because an empty stadium looks bad on TV. Then when people are talking about tennis, more people will end up watching it, in person or on TV. And with more people watching it, you’ll see the participation numbers going up. I know what you’re thinking “I went to the Miami Tennis Open and had a great time. The atmosphere was electric!” Well, good for you. But if the experience was sooooo great, why do we get it only once a year? Why do I have to share tennis with the rest of the world? As a spectator, I want more tennis. Roland Garros is a great event, bit it’s in FRANCE! I’m in Florida. Do the math. And speaking of “electric”, there’s plenty of energy all around the tournament grounds, but what about in the stands? How’s the energy in the stadium? And why is the chair umpire always telling the fans to “be quiet”? Don’t you want the fans to make noise? Isn’t that what fans are there to do? Or are the players so sensitive they can’t handle a little noise from the people they’ve taken money from to watch them play?

crowd cheering basketball
What’s up with the big heads?

When I attend a basketball/football/soccer/hockey game, the arena is noisy for 3 hours. And fans will do their best to become a part of the action on the court. Is it sportsmanlike to distract a player while shooting free throws? Who cares! It’s fun! And when I go to a baseball game, between innings, someone with a microphone comes out onto the field with a kid from the stands to play some silly game. What does that have to do with baseball? Who cares? It’s fun! Why doesn’t tennis do this? Why don’t we get fans to participate during the match like in baseball?

I remember attending a hockey game where prior to resurfacing the ice they brought out 2 pee wee hockey teams to play each other in front of the entire arena. Can you imagine the butterflies the kids  must have felt playing in front of so many people? I guarantee it was an experience they will always remember. See, I’m talking about it today! But as long as we conduct these pointless one week tournaments, full of players we don’t know, and keep the spectators behind glass so as not to disturb the players’ concentration, the sport will continue to be ignored by 90+% of Americans. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is an alternative.

UF men doubles blue shirt
World-class tennis talent

College tennis teams such as the Miami Hurricanes, the Ohio State Buckeyes, or the North Carolina Tarheels are full of players who dream of one day playing tennis professionally. They attended the tennis academies, traveled to all of the junior tournaments, and spent thousands of dollars doing it, much like every other player on the tour. The difference is their parents must have run out of money and could not afford the $200,000 a year to play tennis professionally (Professional? Really?) These players are just as strong, just as fast, just as smart as any player on the tour. Many of them even have professional rankings. Attending a College tennis match is much more exciting because you’re so close to the action, too. I mean, you stand beside the fence that borders the court! How cool is that!?! And following the matches the players are available for pictures and autographs. Try getting Sharapova’s autograph as she comes off the practice court. Her bodyguard will shove you to the ground!

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GO TEAM!

We can bridge the gap between tennis and its fans by putting Team Tennis front-and-center. 90+% of America plays tennis on a team so it just makes sense to market the sport to them and their friends. College tennis is a Team sport full of world-class tennis talent so I encourage you to take in a match. There are more opportunities to do so as there has to be a college close to your home. In fact, I attended 9 matches between February and May this year. I saw the Miami Hurricanes, Central Florida Knights, Florida Atlantic Owls, Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish, and Keiser Seahawks play this season. I even took some of my players with me (everyone loves a field trip) because they play on a team, too. Their season is 4 months long and they even have an NCAA Championship at the end (Men’s bracket. Women’s bracket). It’s everything professional sports are supposed to be. Now it’s tennis’ turn.

GO TEAM!

World-Class Tennis On Your College Campus

“Ohio State is going to dominate the 2016 NFL draft. “

“His team could have as many as five players taken in the first round next year, with underclassmen such as Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way.”

“Here’s an early look at the NFL talent who will be lighting it up for Ohio State this fall.”

These are lines from an article posted on the Bleacher Report website from May 5, 2015. The article goes on to give a breakdown of each player and his contribution to the Buckeyes for the coming season. Every day journalists across the country reach out to their numerous sources to gather information for reporting on their chosen team and its players. Television, websites, newspapers, even smartphone apps are flooded with valuable information concerning the players from your favorite team/sport.

But not tennis. Why?

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AATT is ‘Owl In!’

College tennis rosters are full of players that any coach would give their non-dominant arm to work with. Players that have spent most of their lives training, traveling, and testing themselves against the best competition in their given region, both here and around the world. These are players that, if we were to play them ourselves, would make any one of us look like a clumsy, 5-year-old, uncoordinated, special needs child. And they all come together, at the same time, to go to college. So what happens to them after what many believe were ‘the best years of their life’?

Illinois vs Ohio State
GO BUCKS!

When a top college prospect in football or basketball decides to go pro and declares for the draft, it sets a number of things in motion: agents, Pro Day, the Draft, visitations, contract negotiations, etc. Much of it taken care of by the player’s handlers so the player can focus on playing. In tennis, the player must be the CEO, CFO, HR, travel agent, administrative assistant, chief, cook, and bottle washer all at the same time. Once they leave college they are essentially on their own to navigate the treacherous waters of professional tournament tennis. And for what? A couple hundred dollars at the end of the week? It doesn’t seem worth it. In fact, a great many top college prospects burn out before ever realizing their dream of playing on the bigger stages. We can’t let this talent go to waste.

Virginia 2015 Champs
2015 NCAA Champs – Virginia

Tennis tournaments are a process of elimination designed to find out who’s #1. But how many #1’s can there be? You know the answer. But when the Denver Broncos, the Golden State Warriors, or the Kansas City Royals win a championship, how many #1’s are there? When the Vanderbilt women’s or the Virginia men’s tennis teams win the NCAA Championship all 11 players win the trophy. Unlike the Miami Open or US Open where only 1 player can take home the trophy, a greater number of people benefit from the success of the Team. And that number includes all of the fans, too.

A third of the top 25 college tennis rosters feature the names of players born outside the United States. And while some believe this to be problematic, the real story is the global nature of college tennis. When saddled with the responsibility of filling a roster of 10+ players, college coaches search far and wide for the best players available. Players who come up through the tournament ranks believing they might one day play professionally, are now filling college tennis rosters. In other sports they refer to college as a period of ‘maturity’. In tennis, college is the final destination. Washed up at 22?!? That is a very short-sighted view.

Follow me on this one: Imagine tennis as a Team Sport at the professional level, like it is in college.

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Top College Prospects

It changes the entire tennis conversation from “who will be the next #1” to “my team just signed a prospect out of the Ohio State University to a 3-year contract worth $1.2 million. He could be a starter right away. How do they fit into the system Coach Ken has in place? And can the veterans on the team bring along the rookies to put the team over the top?” I’ve just given you more content for TV and radio than most tennis tournaments (mind blown). Imagine the growth of the tennis industry when we have more than 2-3 people to talk about; the talk shows, segments on ESPN, news crews covering the High School State Championship. Things really begin to open up.

So the next time you’re looking for world-class tennis, skip the tournament (you’re not missing anything) and visit your local university. Players who understand the value of the team are definitely worth cheering for. GO TEAM!

More Than Your Average Tennis Program

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These guys LOOOOOOOVE to travel!

The two things that separate All American Team Tennis from your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill tennis program are the two things kids enjoy the most. Remember the feeling of excitement when you would wake up on Saturday morning and put on your football pants and shoulder pads for Game Day? Remember the feeling of anticipation when your school was planning a field trip to the aquarium and you needed your parents to sign a permission to go with the class? Or maybe when the baseball team was entering a tournament out-of-town? Or when the marching band was scheduled to participate in the Citrus Bowl parade in Orlando, Fl and in addition to marching in the parade they were planning a visit to Epcot and  staying in a hotel on the east coast just a few miles from the beach? (That last one happened my freshman year of High School). More than anything else, children enjoy spending time with their friends doing the things they find fun.

Game Day + Field Trips = All American Team Tennis

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You missed a spot!

On Saturday February 20, All American Team Tennis held its first Car Wash Fundraiser in Greenacres, Fl, and it was a huge success. We’ve toyed around with fundraisers in the past (t-shirts, shoulder buddies) but this was probably the most visible fundraiser we’ve conducted because in crossing paths with so many new people it afforded us the opportunity to introduce them the the Youth Tennis League. The players and parents worked hard, we washed a bunch of cars, and received almost as many donations as cars washed. The atmosphere surrounding the event was very positive as the community really appreciates what All American Team Tennis does for the children of Palm Springs and Greenacres. But it doesn’t stop there.

UCF Field TripThe Car Wash Fundraiser was geared towards raising money for our upcoming field trip to Orlando to watch the University of Central Florida Knights Women’s tennis team take on the Green Wave of Tulane (they’re from Louisiana. I didn’t know that, either). The trip is scheduled for Friday March 25 and includes a visit to Disney Springs for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.

Now, this isn’t the first field trip our players have attended. In fact, this will be the 2nd of 3 field trips we are going on this season. And it isn’t the first time we’ve traveled to Orlando to watch UCF play or visited Disney Springs. It just so happens, our very first field trip was prior to the start of Season 1 back in November 2011. UCF hosted an Invitational with Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, and Florida Gulf Coast so I invited the players and parents I was working with at the time to drive to Orlando with me.

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Our First AATT Field Trip

It was a memorable experience as rain interrupted play, causing 10am matches to start at 2pm. This would push back everything we had planned for the day including dinner at the T-Rex Restaurant at Downtown Disney. Looking back, I don’t remember who won the Invitational, but I do remember the animated dinosaurs and simulated meteor shower during dinner at the restaurant and spending more money than I had budgeted. (I learned so much that day.)

AATT at WWOS
Home Sweet Home!

Since then we’ve been to see the Miami Hurricanes play Florida State in Miami, the Florida Atlantic Owls host the Owls of Kennesaw State in Boca Raton, and the UCF Knights host Florida A&M (FAMU) followed by lunch at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. We’ve taken players to Dave and Busters in Hollywood, FL, Boomer’s in Boca Raton,  the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World resort, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where Florida State now hosts their November Invitational (my personal favorite).

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AATT is “Owl In”!

And we are not stopping. As All American Team Tennis continues to spread across America, children everywhere will be given the opportunity to witness some of the best tennis available: College Tennis. Players from around the world are filling college tennis rosters and these players play not only for themselves but for their team and their school. They understand the importance of being surrounded with a good support system. They realize what cooperation and teamwork can accomplish. They are always available for pictures and autographs. And they play for more than just one week out of the year. Yes, I believe, college tennis is a superior consumable product when compared to the professional game as far as accessibility is concerned because one week doesn’t compare to 6-7 months. So we will continue to schedule field trips to college cities so players who participate in All American Team Tennis can be inspired by what could become their Alma Mater.

You’re invited to join us on our next field trip. It could be the beginning of your child living out their dreams.

GO TEAM!

AA Team Tennis is ‘Owl In!”

When was the last time you took your kids to a tennis match? Was it the

Why is this taking so long?
When are they coming back?

Delray Beach Open in February? Was it the Miami Open in March? Are you traveling to the US Open in August? For most people, tennis doesn’t rate high enough to set aside the time to take in a match. There are just too many other things to do. And given the infrequency of professional tennis tournaments coming to town, we’re just too busy to step away from our everyday lives to see the “Best in the World”.

But if you live in Boca Raton or Orlando or Coral Gables (or any other college town across America) you’re in luck! Because every January thru April the College tennis season kicks things into high gear! The great thing about College tennis (besides playing all of their Home games in one location) is that these players REALLY ARE the best in the world. Most college rosters are 50% international players meaning every team is loaded with the best college-age players making College tennis World Class tennis.

FAU Field TripOn Sunday February 14 All American Team Tennis traveled to Boca Raton to watch the Florida Atlantic University Owls host Army West Point. It would be a very tight match requiring all 7 points to be played (college tennis matches are Best of 7 so once a team wins 4 courts, the other matches stop playing) with Army West Point coming out on top, 4-3. There was a lot of yelling and cheering and shouting throughout with players AND spectators for both teams pumping up the players on the court. It was an experience much like a football or basketball game. The only thing missing was taligating!

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GO OWLS! We’re “Owl In”!

And following the matches the Head Coach for the FAU Owls invited our players onto the court to meet the players where they would sign our jerseys and take pictures with us. Where else are you able to find this kind of accessibility?

Field Trips are a regular occurrence for All American Team Tennis as we take them EVERY season. We take our players to College tennis matches because College tennis players understand the value of playing on a team; the camaraderie, UCF Field Tripteamwork, friendships, and support all combine to make an overall enjoyable college tennis experience. In fact, our second of 3 field trips for Season 13 will be to Orlando to watch the UCF Knights host the Tulane Green Wave! At All American Team Tennis we endeavor to create memorable team tennis experiences… Because Life is a Team Sport.

GO TEAM!

What I Look For in a Player Pt. 1

IS THIS EVER GOING TO END?!?

Have you ever to listened to someone tell a story that kept going and going and never came to a point? Have you ever sat down to watch a two hour movie that should have been over in 90 minutes? Why do some tennis tournaments play additional games to determine a winner rather than could play a simple tiebreaker? The point is that, just like a story that goes on forever, many Americans feel tennis matches are just too long. Is this because matches really are too long, or because the product isn’t interesting enough to hold a viewer’s attention? We see this in other sports: when a basketball team leads by 26 points with 2 minutes remaining, timeouts make people mad. In fact, the NCAA recently adopted changes to their match format to produce what they believe to be a more television-friendly product (shorter matches). Today’s sports consumer has too many options available to waste time on a sport that takes too long to complete. Which means more is needed to make the game more exciting, rather than shorter.

This leads me to what I look for in a tennis player / team. I am a busy person. I don’t like wasting time. So I look for players who don’t waste time on the court, either. I look for players who play intelligently. I look for players that make the game more exciting, players that take chances, players that can bring more viewers to the television, and growing the game as a whole. These are the types of players I want to see.

I enjoy watching Aggressive Net Player, players who finish >50% of points inside the service line with either volleys or overheads, because baseline tennis is boring.

PLAYING THE NET IS A SKILL

tangled in net
That’s too close to the net

Rather than jumping to conclusions and simply stating “I like net rushers,” allow me to explain. There is a certain skill to winning points at the net that many of today’s players either do not possess or refuse to use. That is why many players choose to play from behind the baseline leaving all sorts of opportunities on the table… and not a single footprint inside the service box. Their rallies last too long, making it too hard to explain on a broadcast, or to your players, and ultimately too hard to bring new players to the game. Most commentators aren’t able to get out more than a “Good Shot!” on most rallies leaving the viewer in the dark as to what just happened, unclear about how the game is played, and ultimately disinterested in the sport.

On the other hand, Net players play shorter points, they take chances, and win or lose THEY will determine the outcome of the match.

WAITING FOR THE BIG PLAY

crowd cheering basketball
Cheering fans cheering for their team to score

I look for players who recognize an opportunity and seize it rather than simply waiting for their opponent to make a mistake. I look for players who know how to set up AND finish a point. Players who hit to the middle of the court or allow their opponent to change directions show a lack of understanding (and the killer instinct), that would make the game exciting for the spectator. For most of America this passiveness is boring. Like in the UFC, we want to see the finish. In baseball we look for the home run. In football we look for the big hit. In basketball we look for the slam dunk. In NASCAR we look for the crash. In soccer we look for the goal to be scored (which is why we don’t watch).

Look at it this way: in other sports they draw up plays. The team’s coach carries around a dry erase board, with a picture of the playing field on it, and he tells the players what to do in a given situation. Football does it, basketball does it, they all do it. In fact, I remember playing baseball and the coach explaining to us “it the ball is hit here, you throw it there.” There was a plan, there were x’s and o’s, we knew what to do.

Most tennis players do not.

HOW DID THEY DO THAT?

They can rally. They’re fast. They’re in great shape, but they’re too passive in their game planning. Just listen to their post match interviews and you’ll hear “I made my shots” or ”I wasn’t playing my best.” It almost sounds like they don’t know how they won or lost. They were told by their coach if they are able to perfect their technique, they’d win. Is that what baseball coaches do? Throw a better ball and you’ll win? Where’s the strategy in that?!?

I was watching an FSU match on ESPN3, recently, where Mark Bey was one of the broadcasters and there was a moment that really stuck out in my mind. One of the players throws in a drop shot and follows it in. Mark saw this and pointed it out to the audience. He said something along the lines of ‘I like how he started coming in after hitting the drop shot. That way he’s in a better position to win the point when the ball comes back.” It may not sound like much, but that kind of insight can help people understand what just happened. When I watch football on TV I see replays, close-ups, yellow lines on the screen, and all of it is narrated by the commentators. The commentators are teaching the viewer how the game is played by explaining what is happening on the field. They will even go so far as to predict or suggest what should happen next. Tennis commentators are unable to do that.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?

Midi Head Scratcher
That’s a real head scratcher

When I watch pro tennis I see players who don’t understand the basic geometry of a tennis court. It’s pretty simple when you consider we play on a big rectangle, with no one to defend us, and the biggest obstacle is a stationary net dividing the court in half. Exactly what is the objective of this game? Is it to get the ball by the other person? NO! It is to create a SITUATION to get the ball by the other person, or to make your opponent miss. So hitting a “better ball” is of little value. The real challenge is Manipulation.

A good tennis rally should last no longer than 10 shots. If you know what you’re doing you should be able to win/lose a point in under 10 shots because once you get to the net, you only have 2 shots left. The goal should be to create an opening for yourself, and finish your opponent. As another, high profile tennis coach would put it “control, hurt, and finish.”

THE RULES ARE VERY SIMPLE

xs and os
A simple diagram can explain everything about tennis

From the baseline, the safe play is crosscourt; Change direction when you get a short ball, after you pushed your opponent off the court, or when you can hit it by them cleanly.

On the approach: The first question is when do you come in? And when you do come in, hit the approach down-the-line to make it easier for yourself on the next shot, the volley.

And of course, volleys always go to the open court. The only exception is when the open court is so obvious, your opponent sees it, too, and takes off running. In that case you hit it behind them. This is all basic stuff (or should be) but I believe the top players believe they can overpower their opponent rather than trying to outsmart them. I mean, a Swing Volley?!? What’s wrong with a firm flat volley to a part of the court as far away from your opponent as possible? Or maybe a drop shot? And if they return it, hit it to the other side! You’re welcome. That will be $80.

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

Coaches and commentators spend much of their time talking about technique because it’s easier to recognize a technical mistake than a tactical one. We don’t draw up plays because the rallies are too long to diagram. So we wait until a player makes a mistake and talk about why they missed the shot, technically, rather than identifying the situation they were in and how they got there, an opening they missed, or how to get out of it.

But if more players were able to recognize an opportunity, and were not afraid to seize it, I believe the on-court action would be much more exciting and much more interesting to the spectator so there would be no need to shorten match… because they could do it themselves.

NCAA Individual Tournament Results

NCAA Individual Championship

In my opinion, tennis tournaments are probably the hardest to report on because there are too many players playing too many matches, too many consecutive days with not enough time in between to prepare for the next. I can only imagine what it is like to be a player, but as a spectator, it’s my job to sort through the clutter of activity to gather what’s important to the reader. Because other sports operate on a periodic schedule of games, rather than week-long tournaments, commentators are able to build anticipation for the next game on the schedule making it more exciting when following your favorite team.

I understand the thinking that ’More is better’, but what about “Too much of a good thing”? College tennis is the best method of conducting the sport and should be implemented on the professional level. Why? When you follow a team over the course of a season you begin to identify with them. It becomes appointment viewing. Every game matters and every game is important. Plus the players have enough time to rest during the season, they take fewer days off. This keeps the fans interested.

For example, have you ever heard someone, in reference to the weeks leading up to a Major tournament refer to those tournaments as “tune-up” events? That would imply that the tournament is of little value other than to prepare the favorites for the next big one. By diminishing the importance of Indianapolis or Atlanta or New Haven you diminish every player in the tournament making the event less appealing. Why would I go to this event if it doesn’t mean anything? It’s like watching your favorite football team: why would I pay to watch a game that doesn’t matter? When college tennis teams work their way through a schedule of matches, against teams from across the country, all for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship at the end, every game is important. The season is not a “warm up” to the tournament, but rather a qualification FOR the tournament. A loss at the wrong time could drop a team in the standings and out of the Championship. A win at the right time could mean an easier draw when they’re accepted. Institute a season of scheduled matches and add significance to professional tennis.

Below you will find the results of the individual NCAA Singles / Doubles Championship for 2015 for players on Florida teams. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s important to at least hear the names of players you are going to want to watch next season. Enjoy!

We can talk about why we’re playing this tournament another time.

For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!

WOMEN

florida-gators-logo

Gators Doubles

#6 Doubles team Sophomore Courtney Keegan and Freshman Brooke Austin

Defeated Shayne Austin/Briar Preston of Arizona, 6-2, 6-2

Defeated Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3

Defeated Taylor Davidson/Carol Zhao of Stanford, 6-0, 1-6, 6-4

Lost to Klara Fabrikova/Zsofi Susanyi of California, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4

May 22, 2015 – The Gators’ top doubles team of Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan advanced to the Round of 16 with a win over Arizona’s #27-ranked Shayne Austin and Briar Preston, 6-2, 6-2. Brooke Austin: “I thought we played really well… really aggressively.” Kourtney Keegan: “I don’t think it’s always easy… getting into a rhythm…. Getting a lead early helps you relax a lot…. You just feel more comfortable out there, and I think that helps a lot because you get more momentum that way.”

Gators Singles

#3 Freshman Brooke Austin – Lost in Round 1 to #47 Jennifer Brady of UCLA, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

#56 Sophomore Kourtney Keegan – Lost in Round 1 to #20 Carolina Price of UNC, 6-1, 6-3.

#28 Junior Brianna Morgan – Lost in Round 1 to #57 Madison Westby of USC, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4

#58 Sophomore Belinda Woolcock – Defeated Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine, 6-2, 6-3

Lost in Round 2 to Sabrina Santamaria of USC, 6-3, 6-3

#13 Freshman Josie Kuhlman – Defeated Kyle Phillips of UCLA, 6-4, 6-1

Defeated Viktoriya of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 6-4

Defeated Maegan Manasse of Cal, 6-4, 6-1

Defeated Sinead Lohan of Miami, 6-3, 6-4

Lost in Semifinals to Carol Zhao of Stanford, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0

Miami_Hurricanes mascot

Hurricanes Doubles

#17 Doubles team Senior Lina Lileikite and Junior Stephanie Wagner

Lost to #11 Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 6-2, 6-2

Hurricanes Singles

#37 Freshman Sinead Lohan – Defeated Lauren Herring of Georgia, 6-1, 6-4

Defeated Caroline Price of UNC, 7-6 (3), 7-5

Defeated Natalie Beazant of Rice, 7-5, 6-1

Lost to Josie Kuhlman of Florida in Quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4

#11 Junior Stephanie Wagner – Defeated Blair Shankle of Baylor, 6-3, 6-2

Defeated Beatrice Gumulya of Clemson, 6-2, 6-4

Defeated Saska Gavrilovska of Texas A&M, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4

Defeated #1 Robin Anderson of UCLA, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2

Lost to Jamie Loeb of UNC in Semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

 stetson flag

Stetson Singles

#91 Freshman Alizee Michaud – Lost to Jasmine Lee of Mississippi State, 6-0, 6-4

 

May 20, 2015 – #91-ranked Freshman Alizee Michaud endured an 0-6, 4-6 loss to Mississippi State’s Jasmine Lee in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship. This would be the first singles match Alizee has lost all season. Jasmine Lee was a first-team All-SEC selection and the #23-ranked player in America. A very tall order considering Michaud was playing for the first time since April 18, when Stetson lost to FGCU in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote: “I believe her slow start had to do with her going about a month without playing any meaningful tennis… the second set was more of the quality level of play that we are accustomed to seeing from Alizee.” Alizee Michaud finished the regular season as the 2015 Atlantic Sun Conference Player and Freshman of the Year.

MEN

north florida flag

North Florida Singles

#96 Sophomore Jack Findel-Hawkins – Lost to Roberto Quiroz of USC, 6-4, 6-3

Jack was playing in his first match in over two months after being sidelined with an injury which makes his #96 ranking even more impressive. He won the Bedford Cup in the fall and the first Osprey to earn entry into the NCAA Singles Championship.

USF logo brick wall

South Florida Doubles

#28 Doubles team Senior Oliver Pramming and Freshman Justin Roberts

Defeated Denis Nguyen/Brian Yeung of Harvard, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

Lost to Harry Jadun/John Patrick Mullane of Michigan State, 7-6 (0), 6-4

Congratulations to Oliver Pramming on a successful season with the Bulls, helping the team achieve a #18 ranking and capture its first AAC title. Looks like Justin Roberts will have to find a new doubles partner next season. But one-half of the #28 Doubles in the nation shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to play with.

South Florida Singles

#21 Junior Roberto Cid – Lost to Austin Smith of Georgia, 6-2, 7-6 (1)

Florida State Seminoles

Florida State Doubles

#16 Doubles team Juniors Benjamin Lock/Marco Nunez

Lost to Arjun Kadhe/Jakob Sude of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Florida State Singles

#44 Junior Benjamin Lock – Defeated Uros Petronijevic of San Diego, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (4)

Lost to Ryan Shane of Virginia in Round of 32, 6-2, 6-1

3 Florida Teams in the Sweet 16

Florida Representin’ In The NCAA Championship

4 teams from the state of Florida entered Round Two of the NCAA Championship on Saturday with 3 teams moving on to the Sweet 16. On the Women’s side we have the University of Florida Gators and the Miami University Hurricanes. On the Men’s side we have the Florida State University Seminoles and the University of South Florida Bulls. Four teams ranked throughout the year, two of them hosting regional matches, one of them winning their Conference Championship.

Let’s start with the bad news. I started by saying 3 out of 4 teams made it to the Sweet 16, so who missed the cut.? It saddens me to say that the Florida State Seminoles were knocked out in less-than-glorious fashion by the Georgia Bulldogs, 0-4.

FSU loss 0-4 georgia

Here’s the promo the Seminoles put out following their loss to the Bulldogs. Not sure if I would have made such a big deal out of such an embarrassing loss. But, anyway. The Seminoles now move into the off-season where Juniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez were selected to compete in the 2015 NCAA Div I Men’s Tennis Championship. Lock will compete in singles while Lock and Nunez will compete in doubles. Good luck!

Now for the good news!

Gators Liang Porter Thornqvist

The University of Florida Gators women’s team played host to Georgia Tech on Saturday, but could learn a thing or two about hospitality, dismissing the Yellow Jackets 4-0 to move into the Sweet 16. For the #5-ranked team in the nation, this match was never in doubt. The Gators won the doubles 2-0 thanks to the gritty play of Josie Kuhlman/Belinda Woolcock and Brooke Austin/Kourtney Keegan. Both matches lasted less than an hour with the final scores of 8-2 and 8-5, respectively. Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter were close to finishing their opponents when the outcome was determined.

In the singles, the Gators took the first set on 5 out of 6 courts. Securing the finish for UF would be Belinda Woolcock, Brianna Morgan, and Josie Kuhlman. Brooke Austin, and Kourtney Keegan were in the lead when the outcome was determined. According to Head Coach Roland Thornqvist: “Our doubles play was just exceptional all weekend. …I was very pleased to see that we were the aggressive team. If we weren’t, things could’ve been a little hairy… because their [Georgia Tech] No. 3 team has been on fire.” In singles, “Belinda [Woolcock] was just outstanding, as she was off the court right away (1:09) that certainly helped our momentum. We are playing, in my mind, the best tennis we have played all year and that’s certainly coming at a great time.”

The Florida Gators now travel to Waco, Tx to face Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. The Cowgirls are 22-5 on the season and 7-2 in the Big 12, a very tough conference. Florida, however, is advancing to the Round of 16 for the 32nd time in team history. They are 28-3 in the Sweet 16, 24-4 in the Elite 8, 13-11 in the Final Four, and 6-7 in the Championship match, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. GO GATORS!

Miami sweet success

The University of Miami Hurricanes had a more difficult time in their Regional match against Ole Miss on Saturday. It started with the Hurricanes dropping the doubles point 2-0. The pairings of Sinead Lohan/Stephanie Wagner and Monique Albuquerque/Silvia Fuentes would both fall 8-4 to Ole Miss before Lina Lileikite/Wendy Zhang could finish their match. Lileikite/Zhang were leading 7-5. Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews “The job at that moment is calm them down, get then focused, get them on target, get them believing in themselves, and put it behind them.” Which is what they did.

In singles, Miami would need ‘all hands on deck’ to pull out the win. Freshman Sinead Lohan would be the first to finish downing her opponent 6-1, 6-3. The score is tied at 1-1. Miami would take a 2-1 lead thanks to a win by Senior Monique Albuquerque, 6-4, 6-1. Ole Miss would get a win over Lina Lileikete evening the score at 2-2. The next match to finish would be a Miami win thanks to Freshman Wendy Zhang, 6-2, 6-3. Miami now leads 3-2. But Ole Miss would tie it up again with a win over freshman Silvia Fuentes. Which means it all comes down to court #1, and the Junior from Amberg, Germany, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner had taken the first set handily, 6-1, but her opponent decided to show up for the second, keeping things close the entire time, holding serve and even taking a 5-3 lead. Stephanie would need a break of her own to keep things from getting out of hand. And she would do just that, winning 4 games in a row, and finishing her opponent 7-5 in the second, giving the Miami Hurricanes the 4-3 victory and a berth in the Sweet 16. The Hurricanes are now 3-1 when dropping the doubles point this season.

Up next for the ‘Canes are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tarheels. This could be a tall order as the ‘Heels are 28-1 this season, 14-0 in the ACC, and beat the Hurricanes 5-2 on April 4. Keep your fingers crossed!

USF bulls team NCAA

Rounding out the Top 3 are the University of South Florida Bulls who would down Virginia Tech, 4-0, to make it to the Sweet 16. As simple as it sounds, the win would not come easy. Roberto Cid and Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz would win their doubles match, 8-3, but the pairing of Sasha Gozun/Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would need a tie break to take the set 8-3. Oliver Pramming and Justin Roberts would not finish, but were behind 6-7 when the doubles point was decided. “Virginia Tech has very good doubles, especially No. 1 and No. 2. I thought our guys did a great job of playing smart and competing really well throughout” Head Coach Matt Hill would say afterwards.

In singles, Justin Roberts would step up to take the first point with a crushing 6-0, 6-2 defeat of his VT opponent. The freshman from the Bahamas has continued to perform following his contribution to the Bulls’ second straight AAC Championship. Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would be the next to finish his opponent with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) tiebreak win. The sophomore from Ukraine had been a major contributor to the Bulls’ success all season long. And rounding out the top 4 for the Bulls is Sasha Gozun, the sophomore from Moldova, who would need three sets to finish his opponent, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The win marks the first time in program history the USF Bulls have made it to the NCAA Round of 16, and are booking their trip to Waco, Tx for the Championships.

Up next for the Bulls are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the Baylor Bears, who will be hosting the NCAA Championship on their home courts. Talk about “home field” advantage. The bears are 23-5 on the season, 4-1 in the Big 12, and would lose to Oklahoma in their Conference Championship. On the other hand, the USF Bulls won their second Conference Championship in dominating fashion, and are now on a 7-game win streak. Can #19 defeat #2, we’ll find out May 14 at 8pm.

For more on your favorite Florida College tennis teams, follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.

Florida Teams Representing in NCAA’s

Friday May 8th marked the kickoff of the 2015 NCAA Tennis Championship. 7 Teams represented the state of Florida. On the Men’s side: University of South Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University. On the Women’s side: University of Florida, Miami University, and University of North Florida.

 

Many of the Florida teams would have a favorable draw coming into the tournament given how they finished the regular season. But there were a few notable exceptions.

 

FGCU men conference champs

Florida Gulf Coast Men – Finishing the season without a ranking, but winning their conference championship, would mean the Eagles would have to face UCLA in the first round. Not good. UCLA is the #15 team in the nation and would go 5-2 in the Pac-12, a very tough conference. Needless to say, FGCU would lose 4-0 to the Bruins to end their season. Better luck next year.

 

UNF women conference champs

North Florida Women – The UNF Ospreys went 17-4 this season, 6-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and would win their Conference championship. And for all of that they would receive #15 Miami Hurricanes in the opening round. The Hurricanes would go 12-2 in the ACC, another very tough conference. The ‘Canes were knocked out of their Conference championship so they were primed for revenge. They took it out on the Ospreys 4-0 in a match that wasn’t very close.

 

Other Florida teams received they draw they wanted, but one team did not get the result they were looking for.

 

UF men doubles blue shirt

University of Florida Men – The #21 Gators had the momentum coming in having won 3 of their last 4 including a win in their Conference championship. But the #42 Pepperdine Waves have had the Gators’ number going 5-3 in previous meetings and 2-0 in the NCAA tournament. Today would be no different as the Waves would drown the Gators 4-3 to move on to Round Two of the tournament.

Coach Paige and Wagner

Now, for the winners. Representing the southern part of Florida and moving on to the second round of the tournament would be the Miami Hurricanes women who soundly defeated the North Florida Ospreys 4-0. The doubles teams of Lohan/Wagner and Albuquerque/Fuentes would secure the doubles point while Lohan, Wagner, and Fuentes would put the finishing touches on the victory. Next up for the ‘Canes are the Runnin’ Rebels of Mississippi.

UF doubles Liang Porter

University of Florida Women – The Gators would receive one of the more favorable draws in the tournament, hosting the first two rounds at home, and facing Bethune-Cookman in the first round. They would make quick work of the Wildcats winning by a score of 4-0 and moving on to face Georgia Tech in Round Two. Georgia Tech would finish the season ranked 27, making it all the way to the finals of the ACC Championship. This could be tough.

USF NCAA first round

Florida State Men – The Seminoles would have to travel to Athens, Ga. to begin the tournament. Finishing the regular season at #33 would mean starting in the middle of the pack, no easy task. Up first would be the Troy Trojans, winners of the Sun Belt Conference Championship. The ‘Noles were up to the task, soundly defeating the Trojans 4-0 and moving on to face the host team, the #7 Georgia Bulldogs. Could this be the end of the line for the Seminoles? We’ll find out May 9 at 3pm.

 

USF men doubles green shorts

Rounding out the top 7 Florida college tennis teams are the Bulls of South Florida men’s team. The Bulls are repeat AAC champions and would travel to Blacksburg, Va. to face the Mountain West champions, the Boise State Broncos. These two teams faced each other in the regular season with The Bulls coming out on top. Today would be no different as they would rattle off a 4-0 win to move into Round Two, and to face host team, Virginia Tech.

 

Day One of the NCAA Championship is in the books and our teams are getting some rest for Round Two. Good Job, Florida!

 

For more on Game Day match results be sure to follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.

 

FSU Falls Short Against GT

The Florida State Women’s tennis team were riding the ‘success’ wave going into the semifinals of the ACC Championship. Having defeated Pitt, Notre Dame, and Miami in consecutive days, the Seminoles were poised and ready to squish the Yellow Jackets.

The start time for the match would be pushed back and moved indoors because of the poor weather conditions, which would prove more beneficial to Georgia Tech than Florida State as the Jackets would take the doubles point 2-1. A rough start for the underdog Seminoles as they would need to win 4 out of 6 singles to win the day.

The Seminoles tried turning things around in the singles in an effort to break through to the ACC Finals. Georgia Tech would get the win on court 2 giving them the lead 2-0. But on court 6, despite needing a third set to finish the job, Emily Fanning would score the first point for the ‘Noles. Georgia Tech leads 2-1.

On court 4, the Georgia Tech player would down her opponent to give the Jackets a 3-1 lead. But the Seminoles had an answer for that as Daneika Borthwick and Gabriella Castraneda would win both of their courts in tense third sets. The score is tied 3-3.

Lastly, on court 5, the day would rest on the racquet of sophomore Daniela Schippers, a third ‘deciding’ match in as many days. Also going to a third set, Georgia Tech would take the early lead. Things were not looking good for Schippers as she fell behind 3-5 late in the third set. Schippers would regroup, tying the score at 5-5, but that would be all she could muster as her opponent would right the ship, taking the last 2 games, and win the match for the Yellow Jackets, 7-5. A difficult loss for the Seminoles.

“Today’s match was a matter of points,” Head Coach Jennifer Hyde said. “We played hard for close to five hours tonight. This match literally boiled down to a couple points and that is hard to swallow because you wish that those points turned out a little differently.”

“What a week,” Hyde said. Something definitely clicked this week. It has been clicking the last couple of weeks, but we really were able to show that in this tournament. We continue to be a very dangerous and motivated team. We look forward to the opportunity to continue this wave of momentum that they started early this semester, but really executed in the last few weeks.”

The Florida State Seminoles would finish just outside of the top 64 eliminating them from NCAA Championship play. Better luck next year.

For more on Florida College Tennis follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis and on Facebook at Facebook.com/aateamtennis.

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