Ball machines and drill-work can be great, but nothing beats match experience. Just ask the next college coach you run into.
“Kids these days, more and more, seem to just be hitting with one person or using a ball machine,” said Dawn Ketterman-Benner, the head coach at Moravian College. “Everyone looks good against a ball machine, but it’s the kid who can make decisions on their own in a match setting, and hit that key shot without someone in their ear, who you really want as a coach.”
USTA junior tennis programs, from tournaments to Jr. Team Tennis and beyond, is a great way to get that experience.
Tournaments offer a strong level of competition against players from many levels in a singles setting, providing players a tournament feel that directly applies to high school and college competition. USTA Jr. Team Tennis, meanwhile, stands out as a way to gain a variety of match experiences in singles and doubles. Doubles is a major aspect of collegiate tennis sometimes ignored by juniors.
“People get caught up in the level of play or the program they’re in, but match play is match play,” Ketterman-Benner said. “There’s no replacing that experience because different situations arise in each match, and that helps players mature and grow.”
Ketterman-Benner added that with many school districts shortening the length of the high school tennis season, players need to look outside the box to pick up extra experience. Whether it means competing in a program, or just setting up matches with others at other times, the match experience is crucial to prepping for high school, college, and beyond.
“When I recruit, I really don’t care what the players are doing to get their match experience. As long as they’re on the court and playing other people, they’re getting better,” Ketterman-Benner said. “Jr. Team Tennis should be looked at in a way that it can really help a player, get them experience in a match, and get them connected with others.”