Ask the Experts
A Pro Circuit Summer
by Kathy Sell Smith, 11 March 2010
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We may be amidst a frosty (and endless) winter in these early days of 2010, but college student-athletes and junior players around the country are already thinking of summer; and not just about flip flops and tank tops, but about their ambitions, opportunities, and a tournament schedule that will begin shortly after final exams. For the best collegiate and junior student-athletes, the few months of summer freedom are not lost.
Last summer I was one of four coaches selected for the USTA/ITA Summer Collegiate Team, a program designed to educate and transition the top American college players into the world of professional tennis for the summer season. With an increased focus on college tennis, the USTA expanded the team in 2009 to 24 players (12 men and 12 women). Players were compensated for their travel expenses and received coaching at the events, in addition to an expense-paid 5-day training camp.
The coaching assignment was an educational experience for me more than anything and I was inspired from the outset to write about what I was observing, not only amongst the Summer Team participants, but from all the players around me. The following is an excerpt from an entry I wrote from the women's 10k pro circuit event in Atlanta, the week after our 5-day training camp.
As far as what I have learned on this trip, the main focus has definitely been gaining an understanding of what it takes to be successful on the pro circuit. I have learned that there is a right way to do it. While there is no single path for a tennis player, there is a right way to approach the pro circuit, and in particular, the entry-level 10k and 25k events (on the men's side known as 10k or 15k "futures").
During our [training] camp last week, Jean Desdunes, a Lead National Coach with the USTA and the director of the training camp, talked about the 10k & 25k events as "the filter" of pro tennis. This level is not meant to be easy or fun. It is however, a great place to learn how to make good decisions, how to survive at a tennis tournament, and how to establish a solid, effective routine. Each player will have different needs, but everyone should be working hard, continuing to practice, and continuing to train throughout each tournament week.