The short answer to why you need to go to the next U.S. Tennis Congress is this:
It will change your life. Your tennis life.
How can I make such a sweeping statement? Because I know. I just got back from the first ever U.S. Tennis Congress and I'm still reliving some of the tennis-life changing moments I experienced.
And it wasn't just the incredible pros and coaches I got to work with that have changed me, and believe me – they're pretty incredible. It's also the other people I met and became friends with. Every attendee I talked to was interesting, fun, and just as fanatical about their tennis game as I am.
Although I'm now only two days out of the USTC, I keep going back in my mind to conversations I had, lessons I learned, tips I picked up, and balls I hit on court. To show you how transformative these past few days were for me, here are just a few of the many, many memorable experiences I had.
What Happens When a Club Player Gets 70 Minutes with an Elite Coach
During the USTC registration process, I completed a questionnaire asking me about my tennis level and what parts of the game I was most interested in working on. My answers were used to design a personal class schedule just for me that included spending 70 minutes on court with elite coaches Emilio Sanchez and Lucas Regas Melero in an “advanced footwork” session. Sounds pretty useful, right?
Well, it was more than useful. It was mind-altering.
If you don't know, Emilio is President of Academia Sanchez-Casal, an academy that specializes in training both elite and recreational players using Spanish-based methods that develop a student's lower body strength, agility, speed, stamina, and balance. Emilio also holds three Grand Slam men's doubles titles, the 1988 Olympic Silver medal for men's doubles, and captained Spain's Davis Cup team to success in 2008. Lucas is a former top ranked Spanish player, a Sanchez-Casal coach, and has worked with the likes of the Bryan Brothers and Maria Kirilenko. In other words, these are guys who professional players are happy to pay big bucks to for some on-court training.
So when I say I was fortunate to spend on-court time with these two in a very small group (2 coaches, 8 players) hitting tons of balls and moving my feet, frankly, like a crazy person, I am truly understating the case. The drills were intense, quick and all about working your lower body hard to give your upper body time and position to hit a great (maybe even beautiful) stroke. Up and back, in front of the cone, behind the cone, always returning to our “house,” always driving the ball over the net. We never stopped moving. Now I get why the Spanish players are such a dominant force in tennis. It's all about hard, hard work!
But what I loved most about this session was not the insight into what it takes to be a fast player who hits great shots. What I loved was that Emilio and Lucas BELIEVED that we recreational players were capable of doing these drills and expected us to do them well (or at least as well as we could). In the most encouraging way possible, these elite coaches made us perform difficult and draining footwork drills over and over and over.
I loved it. And the reason I loved it was because I came out of that session believing in myself. When Emilio Sanchez tells you that you just hit a “beautiful shot” (with a very heavy Spanish accent), you believe it was beautiful. If Emilio Sanchez thinks I can do these drills, who am I to think I can't?
Meeting (Finally) Other Tennis Fanatics
But the best part of the USTC, for me, was getting to meet and spend time, on-court and off, with so many other tennis fanatics. People who are absolutely obsessive about improving their game and playing as well as possible. People like me! For example,:
- I had Scott in several of my classes and was so impressed with the fact that, despite being a 5.0 player with a killer serve, he was still looking to tweak that serve so he could get every advantage possible in his matches. Yes! That's my entire tennis philosophy!
- I had a doubles strategy lesson with two upper-level men, a pro and me. I was the only woman but I loved playing with Lyman, who was nice enough to not play “pattycake” tennis with me because I was a girl, but unleashed his incredible top spin forehand on me once he figured out I was actually looking to play him toe-to-toe.
- I had lunch with Michelle, a 4.0 player who has what I can only call a passion for her USTA volunteer work and team-captaining duties, and who absolutely convinced me I must start up a USTA singles league NOW in my Houston neighborhood.
- And I spent lots of great meals and cardio tennis time with a group of ladies from Boston who all attended the USTC as a team, and were probably the most fun and cohesive team I've ever seen. If only I could get on that team.
Being with all of these people showed me there are plenty of people out there, at all levels, from beginners to high-level club players, who love the game of tennis and love working on their game.
Were My Expectations Met?
Actually no. My expectations were not met. Instead, they were exceeded beyond measure. And believe me – I had really, really high expectations. I signed up for the USTC just because my on-line (now in person) tennis friend P.J. Simmons (of the phenomenal Road to 4.5 blog) had this somewhat crazy idea to offer a weekend of intense, elite instruction to recreational tennis players of all levels. This type of weekend had never, ever been offered to tennis players before. So everyone involved had to have faith that coaches would buy into the idea that players would be willing to put a not-insignificant amount of time and money into this learning format and would respond to it. And players had to believe that truly incredible coaches would think it worthwhile to spend time with a bunch of “merely” club-level players. And it worked! I not only got everything I had hoped for out of my USTC experience, I got much more. And I am now anxiously awaiting the e-mail that will tell me when and where the next U.S. Tennis Congress will be held.
Because I plan on being there.
So, if you're interested in fast-tracking your game to a higher level, if you would love to experience the same type of elite coaching that the pros get, if you want to really connect with players who are just as fanatical about the game as you, then you'll be there too. If you want a once-in-a-lifetime tennis learning experience, the U.S. Tennis Congress is it.
Stay tuned – I learned so much at the U.S. Tennis Congress and will be posting some of the best tips I got right here at Tennis Fixation as well as talking about them in my Tennis Quick Tips podcast.