Player Development enjoys visit to America's Top Team

March 10, 2011 03:46 PM
By Erin Bruehl,
Andy Brandi noticed Jay Berger reading a book called "The Fighter’s Mind" about mixed martial arts and had an idea.
What about taking their boys training full-time at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., to visit one of the country’s largest training centers for mixed martial arts (MMA), America’s Top Team?
Berger, USTA Player Development’s head of men’s tennis, thought it sounded like a good idea. Brandi, a USTA National Coach, then started making arrangements for their 30 boys, aged 13-17, to make a visit to the nearby America’s Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., along with fellow national coaches Michael Sell, Nicolas Todero and Kent Kinnear.
The kids received some hands-on training in the self-defense moves of jiu-jitsu and learned just what it takes to be a successful mixed martial arts fighter and how some of the same principles will also make them successful tennis players.
The visit began with Master Ricardo Liborio speaking to the group of kids about the training regime required for mixed marital arts fighters, and then one of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters explained to the kids just what it takes to succeed in MMA.
After that, it was time for the young tennis players to try some jiu-jitsu, the Brazilian martial art and self-defense system, inside the 24-foot Octagon Cage – to their delight.
"Master Liborio had a couple of his instructors and amateur fighters assist the kids in teaching them some of the self-defense moves that are taught in jiu-jitsu as part of the normal program," Brandi said.
"They all enjoyed it. We got such a special treatment there, and they took their time talking to us," he added. "They were just all taken away by how welcoming they were to us there and that we were with one of the great masters of jiu-jitsu in the world."
The most important messages, however, were that it only takes a lot of hard work and training to become a mixed martial arts fighter, things that are also essential for a developing, young tennis player.
"The experience was seeing how difficult it is to become a successful mixed martial arts fighter, and we just wanted them to understand the message that only hard work and dedication will make you succeed in any sport or discipline," Brandi said.
The Player Development coaches are now considering taking some kids every so often to America’s Top Team to take some boxing classes with Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Howard Davis, Jr. The plan being considered is to take a few boys every once in awhile for a non-contact class, a different kind of workout, which will also help show them the proper way to box and to gain some more insight into what it takes to succeed in a sport from another highly accomplished athlete.
And with the good time had by all, it might not be the last of jiu-jitsu for them, either.
"I think it was a great experience for all of us, and we look forward to maybe going back to visit a second time as follow-up for the jiu-jitsu," Brandi said.