Moving up an age bracket? Here’s how to make a smooth and successful transition.
The 14s — Grow your game
No matter what your age or gender, steady improvement is the goal. At this point, that includes strategy—no longer is tennis simply a sport of attrition. Through your mid-teens, you need to start honing your ability to detect your opponent’s weaknesses and put yourself in position to use your increasing array of strengths. Diversify your game.
The serve also becomes more important as you progress through the 14s, so it’s critical to add spin, pace and direction to your flat serve, and make your second delivery as reliable as possible.
The 16s and 18s — Consolidate, but don’t become complacent
These years are when the stakes are higher. “Ask yourself just how good you want to be,” says legendary coach Nick Bollettieri. “Do you want to play college tennis? If you’re good enough to play college
tennis, do you want to earn a letter or eventually be No. 1 on your team? Whatever demands you make of yourself in your high-school years will make a big difference.”
Emotions begin to play a major factor in the 16s, especially for boys. Besides trying to become mentally tough, boys may also be growing like a weed at this stage of their development. Try to keep up physically and stay strong.
For many girls later in their teens, scholarship opportunities make it tempting to become complacent. Remember that there is still plenty of competition out there, and that it will become only more challenging. “There’s a good chance by now you’ve learned to be pretty consistent,” says Jeff Tarango, a former Top 10 doubles player. “You have the opportunity to break the mold. Now is a good time to start hitting more for the lines, to make your strengths even stronger.”