Marianne Werdel blog: Helping kids develop their on-court personality

June 20, 2017 02:13 PM

Marianne Werdel is part of USTA Player Development’s USTA Advantage Mentoring Program and uses her experience as a former player and coach to mentor young players, parents and coaches at Team USA Camps. Werdel attended Stanford University and then played professionally on the WTA Tour from 1982 to 1997. She is currently a private coach in San Diego.

By Marianne Werdel

USTA Training Camps are a great place to help juniors build on their strong technical base from their personal coaches to the next step of constructing points and further defining their game styles.  

Developmentally, the kids at this age (11-14) are now able to process the “if this, then that” part of a tennis point. The same way they are learning differently in a classroom, they are able to learn differently on the tennis court. It is no longer one-dimensional rote learning. They are able to think intuitively to apply their knowledge and skills into building points. They can also anticipate better and think more about what their shots are doing to their opponents.   

I enjoy helping juniors articulate what they do well, identifying the areas they need to improve and teaching them how to develop a game style around what they do well. You should always build on what YOU do well and then adjust to your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.  

I ask the players questions in these three areas:

  1. How do you win points? Do you hit winners? Do you break down your opponent by running down a lot of balls? Do you like finishing points at the net? Do you mix up the pace and spin on your shots? Do you have a slice and drop shot? Is your serve a weapon or a weakness?  
  2. What does your opponent do well? How are they winning points? Where do they make errors?
  3. Which pros do you enjoy watching? What game styles appeal to you? Which player do you feel you play like most?

Being able to answer these questions will help the younger players define their style of play and their personalities as competitors. We are all different – no two players are identical, no matter how similar they appear on the outside. We all have our own way of competing, our own way of reacting to stress and our own way to process wins and losses. Just as their personalities are developing off the court and in the classroom, their personalities are developing on the court. It is important to play true to their personality in order to have the most success.