Jon Glover blog: Thoughts from the Clay Courts

July 24, 2017 12:37 PM

USTA National Coach Jon Glover has more than 15 years of coaching experience and joined USTA Player Development from Legacy Youth Tennis & Education in Philadelphia, where he was the Director of Player Development since September 2009. He was a top junior player and went on to play four years at the University of Florida, where he was the team captain his junior and senior years and left the Gators with the fifth most wins in program history. Glover will be writing a blog for over the next few weeks. In his third blog, he shares his thoughts after watching players compete in the Boys' 12s and 14s National Clay Court Championships.

By Jon Glover

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending two days in Fort Lauderdale at the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center watching the Boys' 14s Clay Court Championships. I spent the rest of the week home in Orlando observing the Boys' 12s Clay Courts at the USTA National Campus. Here are some of my thoughts from watching the boys compete:

The overall level of play around the country seems to be improving. I see less players with technique and grips outside of the proper parameters, which speaks to the quality coaching being done by primary coaches around the country. There were a lot of players with very diverse skillsets: good feel on the drop shots, the ability to hit and recognize opportunities to hit swing volleys and finish at the net. In both the 12s and 14s, the players who were still in the main draw late in the week had more tools and took advantage when they hurt their opponent by finishing inside the court.
While the players have better strokes and more tools, in general, they need to get better at using those tools, especially in the 12s. Too many players are relying on their opponents to miss during the pressure points of the match. Instead of trying to win the point, they are hoping their opposition loses it. This may work in the younger age groups, but as the players get older, it will not be effective against quality opponents.

It’s interesting to see the difference between the players in the 12s and 14s from an emotional perspective. A lot of times the matches in 12s (and sometimes in 14s) are decided less by forehands and backhands and more by who can control themselves emotionally in the clutch. These players are so focused on the result of the match that they lose track of the big picture, which is to improve as tennis players. If they aren’t developing the proper tactical skills, wins are pyrrhic in nature. As a group, the boys in 14s do a better job of playing the right way, regardless of the score, but still could use some improvements in this area.

I would love to see coaches spend more time practicing doubles with their players. Most of the teams I saw play did not stand in the proper place when their partner was serving or returning. They could also have a better understanding of basic doubles strategies and formations. I think the players would improve more if they were using doubles to practice their transition skills and net play.

To sum things up, as a country, we’re teaching better technique than ever before but need to get our kids to play better tactically (especially in the deciding moments of the match), both in singles and doubles.