Former pro and college standout Justin Gimelstob has some tips for juniors.
It’s only a game
Junior tennis is intense and emotionally draining. Children work hard; parents, for better or worse, live vicariously through their children’s achievements. The most important thing to remember, though, is that tennis is a game—and above all else, a game should be fun.
I’m old-school: getting children to try to embrace and appreciate the discipline that goes into becoming an elite athlete will get them to learn the value of hard work early on. The challenge is making tennis fun, so that it doesn’t just feel like work, even though it is.
Tennis is an international sport, but it’s still intimate. You’ll encounter lots of people and make friends. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the greatest gifts the sport has given me are my lifelong friendships. Try not to let anything get in the way of that.
Accept that tennis is work
Tennis is becoming more and more physical, so you need to be a good athlete. You need to be able to reproduce shots consistently, which comes with good technique, footwork, timing, repetition and muscle memory. This is the foundation of any successful game.
Have a support system
A lot of junior success comes down to environment and coaching. You also need good mentors and a supportive family. Your tennis team can help promote proper development and help you keep things in perspective, especially when the going gets tough.