Andy Brandi blog: Advice to parents of young players (ages 12-14), Part 1

April 3, 2017 01:51 PM

Andy Brandi served as a partner of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute since 2007 before joining the USTA staff in August 2010. From 2001-06, Brandi was Director of Tennis for IMG at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, and from 1984-2001, he was the head coach of the University of Florida women’s team. During his career, Brandi has worked with top professionals, including Elena Dementieva, Shahar Peer, Maria Kirilenko, Lisa Raymond, Ryan Sweeting and Jesse Levine. While at the University of Florida, he led the Gators to three NCAA Division I Team titles, coached four NCAA women’s singles champions and four NCAA doubles champions. Brandi will be writing a blog for for the next several weeks. In his first entry, he gives advice to parents of young players developing their games.

By Andy Brandi

As tennis parents, we all want the best for our children. We want them to experience success for all the sacrifice, passion and hard work they put into the game of tennis.

My son Christopher, now 34, was a good junior player who became an All-American at the University of Florida. I lived many of the frustrations, joys and concerns that many parents are experiencing today with their kids with their tennis development.

When he began playing, I taught him a one-handed backhand. In his younger years, he struggled losing to players he later on began to beat regularly. My vision was to see him as an all-court player. This takes time and is a longer developmental process. At 14, he came into his own. The idea is to visualize what he was going to look like and play like when he turned 16, 17, 18.  That sets the tone for his development and pathway. After college, he chose to go into the tennis coaching profession rather than playing on the tour.

Tennis for youngsters is a long journey. It is like a marathon. The pathway is all about the process and development. Winning in the 12s does not translate into winning in the older age groups. In the journey, there are a lot of ups and downs. The final product is completed when they turn 17 or 18. The focus then is to compete, learn, get experience and become the player you envisioned. You will always continue to tweak with their game throughout their tennis career. Learning never ends. Look at Federer. He learned to play with a bigger racquet and improved his backhand in the last year! In winning the Australian Open, his backhand was the key factor.

The goal until 14 is to have a very solid fundamental base. The technical phase of tennis lasts until about the end of their 14th year for boys. Girls would be about a year earlier. We need to be sure that there are no visible holes in their game and that they have developed all the tools they need to continue the journey. A handyman does not come to your house with just a hammer. He has a full toolbox. We want the youngsters to have a full toolbox by the time they turn 15. They need a complete game to succeed. How we structure the base will determine their playing style.