Work in Sports
Advice for junior players
Posted: Tuesday March 14, 2000 11:02 AM
Currently ranked No. 40 in the world, 22-year-old Kristina Brandi is coming off her best season on the WTA Tour. Brandi captured her first WTA title in 1999, winning the $180,000 Heineken Trophy in the Netherlands. A resident of Tampa, Florida, Brandi is coached by her father, Joe, who played on the ATP Tour. Brandi recently advanced to the round of 16 at the Australian Open. Check out Brandi's diary every other week on CNNSI.com.March 12, 2000
Indian Wells, California
Here I am at Indian Wells enjoying a beautiful stop on the WTA tour. When I first began my pro career, I stayed with host families at this event. Their places are still my "homes away from home" in Palm Springs. Thank you to the Wolffs and the Kapells for your hospitality, friendship, and support!
I have received many mailbag questions regarding junior tennis. Hopefully I can offer some good thoughts and advice to junior players who have concerns. Please write again if I didn't cover your specific question.
Larry Sumner from Burbank, California asked, "What are your suggestions on tennis academies for juniors and because your father is your coach...have you ever been to one? Early in your junior career, did you ever 'play up' an age group or did you compete solely at your age level?" Tom from KC asked, "Did you enjoy playing junior tennis?" Sarah W. from Montreal asked if Pete Sampras had an influence on my game because my father was his coach.
Yes, I believe that academies are a very important part of junior development. The most obvious reason to attend an academy is to benefit from the other players! I attended The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Our afternoon workouts included drills, practice matches, and physical conditioning. All the juniors there were serious players and wanted to get ahead in the rankings. It's really more fun for a kid to train with friends -- this way they can learn from one another and see many different styles of play. I recommend the tennis academy concept to any junior who wants to improve and have a great time doing so. I want to point out, however, that I was able to balance the academy with a home life because my family lived in Bradenton.
I was also fortunate to have private lessons from my father, Joe Brandi. He always found time for me when he wasn't busy those years with his "top" Student -- Pete Sampras. There were a few "perks" there for me, too -- I actually got to hit with Pete in 1990. He even tossed me a small compliment. It was something like, "Hey, you're pretty good!" Or...was it "Oh, you're not so bad!" Oh well, the details aren't really important now. Anyway, working with my dad has always been positive, and I respect his experience as a junior, college, and professional player. I think most parents do not fully understand how it feels to compete. My father keeps things in perspective and has given me excellent advice throughout my tennis career.
Early in the juniors, my father/coach told me that he did not believe it was a good idea for girls to "play up" in age groups without solid proof that they were able to succeed. The criteria for me was USTA top 5 to move up. Every year I accomplished this and only played one year in each age group. This shortened my junior career a lot. I had never been selected as a member of the USTA Junior Team, so the entire financial burden was on my parents. I achieved top national rankings in all age groups, so I moved to the Pro Satellite events. There, I earned expense money as an amateur and continued on with my costly hobby!
Junior tennis can be "the best of times or the worst of times" depending on how it is approached. My advice to parents is to show your child that tennis is a joy. It should be played for fun, experience, ranking, and money -- IN THAT ORDER. Another piece of advice is to treat a win the same as you treat a loss. If your child wins a match, try not to declare it a national holiday. On the other hand, if he or she loses, don't make a federal case out of it. If a parent acts happy only after a win, a child may feel less loved after a loss. A tennis match should not hold this kind of power.
Now that I look back, I see great players in my junior draws. Hey, we all won some and lost some. My group included Lindsay Davenport, Chanda Rubin, Tara Snyder, Corina Morariu, Janet Lee, Meghann Shaughnessy, Karin Miller, Sonya Jeyaseelan, Ma. Alejandra Vento, and many more top pros. This was our own little "mini tour." I know we all looked for the best formula to stay focused and still have fun. So...don't forget to embrace competition. It's a "good thing" when a new player arrives on the block. Have fun and remember that losing teaches us to win!