Tennis for Adults

Old dog, new tricks? No problem.

In the “it’s about time someone looked into this” category, turns out that  dedicating yourself to something that’s hard in every way (check) and working steadily at improving despite all the odds against you (check) is a gambit that has great, multi-faceted rewards for the “non-junior” set. Writer Gerry Marzorati relates his recent experience getting serious about tennis at the ripe age of 60+.

Whip Action Tennis

First up in a new series of posts about Art’s tools: The Whip.

“However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source” — Nigerian Proverb

“From a pure source, pure water comes” — Latin Proverb

Anyone who’s been around Art knows that he loves his tools. Whether it’s ribbons, poi, bo staff, nunchakus or maracas, there’s always something cooking court-side involving rhythm, flow, circular movement, coordination, and concentration . . . and everyone gets involved: no idle bystanders are tolerated. Players, parents, fellow coaches, passers by; before long all are hooked on the fun of swinging, spinning, flexing, and rotating these implements. Compelling as these activities are in themselves, for Art they’re always a means to refine skills, coordination, and alignment relevant to tennis.

Among all the implements Art uses, the whip holds pride of place as a teaching tool. Nothing else so effectively clarifies the full process of collection, storage, transmission, and release of energy that underlies every action in tennis. The whip beautifully simplifies things because it very tangibly connects theoretical notions of energy transmission with the physical reality of — explosive, unforgettable — energy transmission. So, it seems only fitting to start off this series with a look at how it works.

A whip cracking is pure energy. When the whip moves through its arc, it gathers energy up, creating a loop or fold that moves along the whip and eventually releases as the whip straightens out at full extension. This turns out to have great application to a tennis swing.

The “crack” of a whip occurs when a section of the whip moves faster than the speed of sound, creating a small sonic boom. It’s tempting to think the cracker at the end of the whip that moves so fast is the part that causes the sound, but some curious and intrepid math researchers at the University of Arizona recently discovered that it’s actually the movement of the loop itself through the whip itself that causes the sonic boom: “The crack of a whip comes from a loop traveling along the whip, gaining speed until it reaches the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom.” (Read Tyler McMillen and Alain Goriely’s whole paper, which is full of awesome diagrams, here.) 

If you’ve ever cracked a whip, you know how concretely you feel that collection and release of energy. And this is exactly why Art loves the whip — it leads you into the motion; you can’t help but follow the wave of contraction followed by expansion that you’ve initiated, and this same collection and release of energy is the key to a smooth and powerful tennis stroke. The perfect alignment and timing that makes for a satisfying “crack” is the same alignment and timing, the same attention to the gathering and release of energy, that makes for perfectly satisfying contact with the ball.

Of course the energy that moves along the whip starts in you, the whip-wielder. Moving up from your foot, through your ankle, your hip, along your twisting torso, through your shoulder, down your arm to your hand and fingers and into the whip, moving from a big place (your body) to a very small place (the whip’s cracker). Energy that starts in a big place and funnels along an increasingly narrower channel increases the velocity of movement and the concentration of energy. Assuming alignment and posture are just right with no added wiggles or inefficiency of motion . . . CRACK.

It much easier to understand the power of the whip for tennis when you see it in action, so here for your enjoyment are some slow-motion demo videos. 

* Special Thanks to Blake Bruning of Trinity Whip Co, who makes Art’s favorite whips. You can check out the Carrington Series here.

What do you think? Are you a whip cracker? Have you experienced the whip action connection in your own tennis practice? Let us know in the comments below.

Meet the Player: Allison McCann

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We recently had the chance to sit down with Amherst Regional High School senior Allison McCann, Western Massachusetts 2015 Girls Tennis Player of the Year, who will be heading to Dartmouth for college this Fall.

Full name: Allison Maria McCann
Age: 17     
Birthday: April 1 (coming right up!)

How long have you been playing tennis? I started when I was 5 or 6, just playing with my family. My dad had been a tennis player for a long time and my mom started when she met my dad, so they were both tennis players. I started taking lessons when I was around 7.

Do you play other sports? I played soccer up until high school, and I play rec basketball, which is a lot of fun.

I hear you’re heading to Dartmouth College in the Fall?  Yes, I’m going to Dartmouth. The coach there was my team’s coach for the national teams in California, so I know I really like working with him and I’m very excited to be there.

You’ve done an impressive job of balancing school and tennis! It’s not easy! A lot of the girls I play attend private schools where they can take time off for tennis, or don’t go to school at all. But I’ve always balanced the two. I play every day after school; it’s just my pattern. It’s really busy but I love it.

How did it feel being named Player of the Year for Western Massachusetts? Exciting! I worked hard all year, so it was a thrill to be recognized that way and to have my name up on the awards board at my school.

Do you have a busy summer planned? Yes! Last summer I went to the National Team Championships, where the top seven girls from each region compete against each other, and I’m going to go again this year. It’s really fun. It’s just the players and one assigned coach per team. I’m also going to the National Hard Courts in California,  the High School Tennis Championship at Harvard, and a couple tournaments close to home: the New England Sectionals at Amherst College and the New England Hard Courts at UMass. I’m looking forward to them all!

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What do you love about tennis?  Well, first and foremost I really like competing! It’s hard because it’s an individual sport, but that’s also what I like about it. I love playing on a team too, but I like being by myself because it’s made me become a lot stronger and also shown me the importance of being optimistic. The mental side is a really big part of the game. It’s super important not to be nervous or upset, and it’s been great for learning to cope with nerves.

What do you do to combat nerves? Deep breaths really help, also a strong focus on the rhythm of your own game.

Do you prefer playing people you’ve played before or new opponents? At New England tournaments, we’ve all been playing each other for a long time, which can be fun because we know one another’s style of play. But it’s even more fun going to nationals and playing new people, or people I don’t see as often.

Are you devoted to a particular racquet? I’ve just recently switched from Babolat Aero Pro Drive to a Wilson Pro Staff. I have them strung hybrid, synthetic gut one way and a harder string the other way.

What kind of courts do you prefer? Hard courts are my favorite. I think I play better indoors, but I love playing outdoors more.

Anything special you take with you when you pack for tournaments? I usually travel with 4 racquets, three current and one fall-back. Towels, one for use and a smaller one that’s like my good luck charm; I’ve had it forever. Extra grips . . . you know the normal kind of stuff. I usually bring gatorade chews and Craisins, which I love, and I might eat a banana before a match.

Favorite soundtrack? Depends on the season and activity, and of course my mood . . . in the summer I like country and pop music. When I’m relaxing, I listen to Hozier, James Bay, and alternative stuff. Pump up music before a match will be more like Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Logic.

Advice to a 6-yr old just starting out? Have fun with it! No need to be too intense right at the start. I’ve seen some parents who are really ambitious for their kids and put a lot of pressure on them when they’re just little kids and I think it can spoil the fun of the game. I’ve worked as an instructor at a tennis camp during summers, and this Fall I helped my mother teach an intramural program at the Amherst Regional Middle School; I love teaching and I love seeing new players get started.

Your older sister is also a great tennis player. Does it feel weird playing your sister in tournaments? Well, I really know her style and I love playing with her. It was definitely strange playing her twice at Western Mass finals last year, though. She beat me there . . . but since then I’ve also been able to beat her!

How has it been working with the Carrington Tennis crew? They’re great coaches. I really like the way they teach and I love the way that they’ve improved my game.

How has your game evolved? Rather than being a baseliner and just spinning the ball in, I’ve gotten a lot more aggressive. I look forward to how my game will continue to evolve, since tennis is a game I intend to play my whole life long.

Do you have any particular tennis role models?  I really like Nadal and Federer and Serena. Also, Dominika Cibulkova, from Slovenia.  She’s short and small, like me, so I especially like watching her play.

Can you talk about the role tennis has played in your life? Without tennis my life would be completely different. It’s helped make me who I am; it’s made me so much more disciplined and determined and better at focusing in all circumstances. Also, from tennis I’ve learned how important mental control is — how crucial is is to stay optimistic and confident. And of course it’s been a constant lesson in time management, which is an important part of anything in life.

Thank you, Allison!! We wish you lots of success this summer and at Dartmouth!

Meet the Player: SAFIYA CARRINGTON

Welcome to Meet the Player Mondays, featuring interviews with our players.

For our first interview, we bring you SAFIYA CARRINGTON. We talked at ACTA home base in Amherst, Massachusetts in late October, just as Safiya was about to leave for the South Carolina ITF.

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Age: 14
Birthday: June 23, 2001
How long have you been playing tennis? 11 years, since age 3!

Do you play other sports? I used to play basketball and soccer

What do you like to do besides play tennis?  I like to hang out with friends and play music. These days I like the Buddhist Monk station and some other remix stations for things like Odessa, Skrillex, and Justin Bieber remixes.

You had an eventful summer just now… Yes, I did! I went to Aruba, Jamaica, Miami, and southern Indiana. Aruba and Jamaica were ITF Juniors Tournaments. Indiana was a Pro Tournament, a 10K, so it gives you WTA points. And I was in Miami training for a little while at the Bill Adams International Tennis Academy in Pembroke Pines. Mr. Adams is a really good family friend and I sometimes train travel with his Academy when I go to ITFs. It was a great experience! I got to hit with a lot of different players and see a lot of friends.

When you go to all these places, do you know everyone there? Well, sometimes you don’t know so many people at first, but then of course you end up making friends and it’s really fun to be with them. It’s nice because even though we’re from different countries, we get to see each other on the circuit.

At 14, are you on the younger side at these events? Well, you can start playing ITFs at 13, right up to the year you turn 19, but I’d say the average age is 17 or so, so yes, I’m on the younger side overall.

When you’re at a tournament, what’s your routine like? Is there anything you do to get ready for games? I like to listen to music and I usually do stretches and visualizations  — visualizations are especially helpful to see what you’re going to do before you go out on the court to do it — and I do swings and figure 8s and other movements that have to do with what I’m going to do on the court.

Do you take any special tools with you for when you travel for games? Not really. If it’s not too hard to pack them, I’ll take some Indian Clubs to swing, but mostly I use two racquets to do my swinging routine.

How many racquets do you have? A lot! Probably about 10. They’re Wilson Blades 18×20. I string them at 52 and I hybrid it so I use a soft string in the crosses and a poly hard string in the main because my arm is very sensitive. The soft string is actually kind of firm and the poly gives the racquet a lot of play and control.

Is there downtime at the tournaments? Well, there’s play, practice, homework, dinner, and then basically you just do relaxing things, whatever works for you. Some people buy candy, some people want to be in a group, some people need to be alone.

Do you and your coach do post-game analysis? Yes, definitely. When my coach is there we always go over what I’ve done well, and what I could have done better. My coach has an especially good memory of important points, so we go over a lot of stuff.

That’s a lot of kinesiotape I see on your shoulder… I love KT tape. It’s my life! Usually I just tape the muscle I’ve had some troubles with. Right now it’s my shoulder. The tape kind of soothes it and releases pressure from the muscle. It’s not restrictive like a brace. I have a great physical therapist, a sports specialist who has worked with a lot of young athletes, but I put on my own KT tape.

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So, what’s coming up for you this Fall? I’m going to South Carolina this Saturday, to another ITF tournament. And then, I’m not sure but I might be playing the Orange Bowl Junior Championships. Orange Bowl is probably the biggest junior tournament in the world for ages. It’s down in Florida in early December, on clay. If I’m not playing there, I’ll be doing a tournament in Panama.

Do you like playing on clay? Yes, I enjoy clay a lot. It’s slower than other surfaces, which at first may not seem like my style, but I like it because the ball sits and I can use a broad variety of strokes and angles and spins. It’s softer on your body, too, which is nice. The USTA is encouraging more clay tournaments lately so that Americans are ready for different surfaces when they play in tournaments.

Do you have tennis idols? Well, I don’t like to use the word idol, but yes definitely people that I like to watch and that I look up to. Serena, of course. I think she’s probably one of the best players ever, man or woman. I like Anna Ivanovic, Radwanska. I like watching all the pros, really. I like to see the variety of games styles and what I can learn from them.

What do you like about tennis, anyway? It’s a big part of my life, and it’s always been there, so it’s hard to say! But for kids in general, tennis teaches a lot of problem solving and other skills like how to act and react quickly on the spot. Also coordination. And it’s nice that it’s an individual sport, so you can just think about yourself and what you need to do, as opposed to a team sport (which I do love, too!).

Do you do anything special in the lead-up to going away to a tournament? I like to run really focused practices. And I like to play as many points as I can to practice what I want to do in a match situation.

How do you decide what to work on each day? In general, my coach and I talk about what we want to work on in the car on the way to practice. It’s kind of symbiotic. I say what I want to work on and he describes what he wants me to work on, and we kind of mix it together and do some of each. That’s the thing about having a great coach. When you can trust your coach, that’s the best!

Do you work with other coaches on the road? Yes, I like to work with a variety of coaches when I’m on the road. I feel like there’s a lot for me to learn from their different perspectives and I always like hearing what they recommend and definitely trying it.

How is it having your dad as a coach? Well, I’m used to it, because I’ve never had anything else. But I do see how for other kids, they set up their lesson, they work with their coach for a certain number of hours a day, and then they can go home to their parents and have a certain separation from their coach. For me there is no separation. Your parents want the best for you, they want you to be happy; your coach wants you to succeed and do well and improve in what he’s telling you. So when your dad is your coach, you never really get away from your coach, or your dad!

Longer term goals? By this time next year, I’d like to be playing more pro tournaments.

Thank you, Safiya!

10-and-Under USTA Training / October 24th, 2015

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We’re excited to be hosting a 10-and-Under USTA Tennis Training Workshop next weekend, October 24th, 10-1:30 at the Bay Road Tennis Club in Amherst, MA. These trainings are not frequently held in our area, so please take note, sign up, and spread the word about this one. It’s a useful certification for high school and college age players who may want to work with youth players either during summers or during the school year, as well as any coaches, parents, instructors, PE teachers etc. who spend time working with children 10 and under.

WHAT IT IS: The workshop is a hands-on, on-court, interactive 3.5 hr training taught by an expert national faculty member. It’s a cornerstone of the new Coach Youth Tennis program designed to provide coaches with the skills needed to engage and teach kids ages 10 and under. Successful completion of this workshop provides an ideal certification for anyone wanting to work with youth tennis and is the first step in further USTA certifications.

WHO WILL LEAD IT: Sharon Murphy, National Trainer for USTA in 10 and under Tennis and Recreational Coaches Workshop will lead this workshop. Sharon is the Assistant Director of Tennis at the East Hartford Tennis Club. She played #1 singles for the University of New Hampshire and was Professional Tennis Registry’s New England Pro of the year in 2011. She is certified at the Professional Level by PTR in both Junior and Adult Development, and is a Junior Development clinician for PTR.

Cost for participation is $15. To register please visit coachyouthtennis.com. For more information or with any questions, contact Art Carrington at 413-977-1967 or email me at whalen.molly@gmail.com.

Hope to see you on October 24th!

Adult Clinic Shenanigans

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We’re having a blast at the Fall Adult Clinics Thursday and Friday mornings, too. Ribbons, hula hoops, clubs….sometimes all at the same time! Have you ever served while hula-hooping? Come give it a try!

Join Us: Bay Road Tennis Club, 9-10 am Thursdays (intermediate-advanced) and Fridays (all levels). $25/day

For more information, call Art at 413-977-1967.

Saturday Morning Juniors Beginner Clinic!

IMG_1910 IMG_1892We’re off to a rollicking start in the Playday Beginner Clinics this Fall. Lots of kids, lots of assistant teachers, lots of new orange and red balls, lots of music, and lots of fun! (Even the adults are getting into the action.)

Join Us: Bay Road Tennis Club, Saturdays 9-10 am. $25 drop in or $170 for 10. Call Art for more info: 413-977-1967 (Don’t worry about equipment; we have racquets to lend.)IMG_1914 IMG_1913