One of our largest portions of our Tennis program at Western is our junior tennis lessons. We have juniors that start as young as 4-years-old playing tennis. Last year we had over 400 juniors take lessons throughout the year at Western. Some of these juniors have set a goal of playing Division I collegiate tennis, and to achieve that level of play it takes hard work, dedication, and a lot of time spent on the court!  We wanted to give you a glimpse of what it means to achieve playing Division I college tennis. We asked two former Western juniors that achieved their goal to give us a glimpse into the Division 1 tennis world:

From Norah Balthazor, Sophomore at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN:

Being a student-athlete is hard. There is no other way to describe it. I had to work hard to become a standout and get to where I am. And now, I have to work even harder to keep excelling in an environment where everyone else is on the same level as I am and the expectations disappear above the clouds. I can’t pour all of my soul into just one goal either since I'm an athlete, but also a student too.

It’s safe to say that you get used to the juggling as the time passes by- academics and athletics, school and sport, homework, and workout. The mental toughness it took to get over your worst losses and keep your composure with your greatest wins is what you need to get through it all. Missing meals due to conflicting schedules. Losing sleep to get homework done. Racing to your workout as soon as class finishes up. Collecting the mound of assignments you are going to miss for a tournament. Losing more sleep to study for tests you have to take earlier. Demanding your body keep up intensity during practice despite lack of sleep and malnutrition. It’s all a vicious cycle that, with one slip-up, can create an even more fierce backlash. There are expectations you must uphold, and, if you don’t, your immediate future and long-term career can both be majorly affected.

Now, by no means is being a D1 student-athlete all fire and brimstone, or else I wouldn’t still be one. There is something, a deep-set pride and confidence, that you gain that keeps you sane and wanting more through it all. Simply understanding that you are in the 2% of high school athletes that were granted this opportunity creates strength, not to mention the ten other women that are all in the same boat as you, encouraging each other with wild cheers as everyone races towards the finish line together. You were a sole entity before all of this began, but now you’re part of something so much bigger than just yourself. You’re representing your team and your university with every move that you make. In that, you can take nothing but pride. Putting your all out on the court and in the classroom, busting every blood vessel in your body to get everything and anything done to be at the top, giving your best to your team and getting their best in return, and getting to look back on all the crazy memories with satisfaction after it’s all over is what it means to be a D1 student-athlete.

From Elijah Zifferblatt, Sophomore at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI:

I first started competing in tennis when I was thirteen years old. My goal was to play at a good Division 1 school. I have lived and breathed tennis, and it has been my only focus since I was thirteen years old. I did a great deal of practicing but did not participate in many tournaments. Many people said starting to compete this late would be extremely difficult to play well enough to play at that Division 1 level. Once I made the Division 1 team at Marquette many people said it was going to be very difficult to balance school and play at an elite level. They were right on both counts. It is a balancing act attending college and playing Division 1 tennis, but I am determined to excel in both.

Coming to Marquette, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I knew the balance was going to be a challenge. Majoring in exercise physiology and being in an accelerated Master's program along with competing, I knew I was going to have to be extremely disciplined with my time. I wake up every day at five or six o'clock to get breakfast and head to workouts. Then, I race to class drenched in sweat for three to four hours. This is a difficult part of my day, as I have trouble focusing, and need to concentrate on the subject at hand, so I am successful in school. This has been a steep learning curve, with the workouts, having two-hour practices and getting home to study until bed. For me, there is very little social life as the daily demands are big and success can only occur with every minute focused on the goals at hand. Your mind has to constantly be working through lack of sleep and no food for long stretches between lifts, practices, and classes. Not only are you pushing yourself every day, but your teammates and coaches have expectations for you to perform at the highest level. To do well in all your classes, continue to build your strength with daily workouts, and to perform at the highest levels on the court. You’re not only a representative of yourself, but of your school and your team.

When our season begins in January things pick up in a hurry. Matches begin and practices become much more intense. Our training schedule in terms of on-court training and lifts remains the same, but now travel becomes much longer and adds a new difficulty. Traveling each weekend on a plane or in an eight-hour bus ride to go to a competition each weekend is amazing, but at the same time incredibly difficult. Leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday and missing classes consistently every week makes academics much more difficult, and you must teach yourself on the road, while staying present and focusing on the task at hand, which is competing. Knowing how hard it would be coming into Marquette, I wouldn’t change anything at all. Doing this brings me confidence and makes me grow stronger as a person and having to deal with so much coming at you at one time. I love competing and playing tennis more than anything in the world and that is the best part of my day. Most people consider that work, but for me it’s the best and easiest part. I look forward to more challenges being brought my way and the satisfaction that comes along with playing division one tennis for Marquette.

If you have a child interested in trying tennis for the first time or one with lofty goals of high level competition, consider Western tennis lesson or our junior Tennis U sessions that run all year long.

Have you ever wondered what string is best for you, what tension your racquet should be, or what are some of the technical terms surrounding strings in the racquet?

 

There are two main categories of string: Natural Gut and Synthetic strings.

 

Natural Gut

This type of string provides maximum feel and softness in the racquet.  The biggest drawback to this type of string is the cost.  It is the most expensive string to use in your racquet.

 

Synthetic Strings

These strings are made up of multiple sources; nylon and polyester are the most common.  In these strings the durability is increased while the cost is decreased.  Most hard-hitting players are using polyester strings due to the increased durability.

 

Once you have selected the type of string you want to play with, the next two large factors in strings are the gauge and tension.

 

String Gauge

This measures the thickness of the string.  The range is from 15-19 gauge.  The thickest string is 15 gauge, and the thinnest string is 19 gauge.  The gauge effects the spin potential and durability of the string.  15-gauge string has the best durability, but the least spin potential.  19-gauge string has the most spring potential but has a very short durability rating. The two most common string gauges are 16 and 17.

 

String Tension

This number represents how tight the strings are being pulled when the racquet is being strung.  You can find the recommended tension on the frame of your racquet.  The tension suggestion will either be a number range (usually from 54-59) or listed as 55 +/- 5 (which means you can have a tension of 50-60).  The chart below will outline the differences between high and low tensions:

 

Attribute Low Tension High Tension
Power Lower tension creates a trampoline effect in the center of the string surface which effectively mirrors the energy back into the ball. With lower tension, the faster the ball comes at you, the faster you'll be able to send it back. Power is not the focus with higher string tension. With a higher tension, you're going to hit the ball and have a lower 'oomph' from your efforts. Less power can be a good thing depending on your playing style.
Control Control isn't the goal when stringing at a lower tension. Speed and control don't have to be mutually exclusive. Using a lower tension to achieve more power does not automatically eliminate all control. Comparatively, you have more control with higher tension. Due to the lack of the trampoline effect, the strings won't propel the ball as quickly so there's more time for directional control.
Durability Rackets strung at lower tension tend to have more durability in the strings. Because the tension isn't as high, the strings aren't under as much pressure when not in use. You have slightly less string durability when a racket has higher tension. Without any hitting, the racket has higher pressure on the string bed.
Arm Impact If you have tennis elbow or any other arm injury, using lower tension will provide a more forgiving hitting experience. Your arm will feel more of the impact when strings are strung to the higher end of the tension range. This may be something to consider if you have or are prone to arm injuries.
Arm Impact Personal preference is the name of the game for comfort. Try out lower tension and see how you like it. Personal preference is the name of the game for comfort. Try out higher tension and see how you like it.

 

At the end of the day, string type and tension is about personal preference.  If you play your best with a certain string and tension, keep it the same.  If you are looking for a piece of your game that seems to be just missing, try experimenting with a new string or changing your tension.

This week we invited some of our Western Tennis Professionals and some of our Western Tennis Members to choose one word that speaks to their feelings about this amazing sport and to tell us a little more about what it means to them.

We invite you to share your story about one word tennis has given you the chance to understand more about yourself, just as some of our fellow tennis professionals and players have shared their own!

Nick Caramehas, Western Tennis Professional
PERSEVERANCE

Tennis has been a major part of my life and it has taught me many life lessons while at the same time allowing me to meet new friends and make many amazing memories. I have played tennis since I was four years old and it has had an impact on my life ever since. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is perseverance. Through all the long practices and hard training sessions I have put in and playing against some of the best competition from around the world I've learned that you must have perseverance if you are going to get anywhere. The feeling of working hard at practice and then facing a challenging opponent and coming out with a victory is very rewarding. It's extremely satisfying. Sometimes we don't win though. So regardless of the result you must persevere. This can be compared to everyday life as well. You will always encounter obstacles in life and sometimes you will fail but regardless of the situation or outcome keeping a positive mindset and not giving up is the key to success. There will always be those times in life, much like in tennis where no matter how hard I work, it will not always be enough to win or succeed. Even then being discouraged won't allow for improvement. I have learned that one must take things in stride and come to terms with the fact that while everything will not always go the way we hoped it simply means working harder the next time and not giving up. That goes with having a positive attitude and learning to take and deal with things as they come. One must continue the effort despite the difficulties and failures encountered along the way.

Aidan Sauberlich, Western Tennis Professional
PERSISTENCE

As I reflect on the depth of what this word means to me on my tennis journey, flashbacks roll through my mind of when I first began taking the game seriously when I was 13 years old. Back then, I was a normal kid with normal tendencies and average aspirations. I just wanted to have fun with my family and friends in whichever form that may have taken. Then, the tennis bug bit me. I began working extremely hard to hone my craft. It seemed like every day, all I wanted to do was be on the tennis court enhancing my skills. Over the next few years, I took astonishing leaps I did not know I was capable of. Random people around the area started commenting to me, how did you make so much progress in such a short amount of time?! And I owe it to one word. Persistence! Working hard every day. Getting better every day. Being persistent every day! Tennis taught me for the first time in my life that if you put your mind to something and stay persistent, you can accomplish great things. And this is the attitude that shouldn’t just apply to tennis, but everyday life.

Josh Denault, Western Director of Adult Tennis
PERSEVERANCE

I started playing tennis at age 15. Many teammates of mine were playing for years before I picked up a racquet, but I did not use that as an excuse not to give up. I’ve played every day and sometimes multiple times during the day. As a freshman I played three JV singles which is when I first picked up the racket. Three years later I jumped up to number one varsity singles. It was perseverance and determination that drove me to be better than the rest.

Charlie Ridout, UWGB Men’s Tennis Player 2015-2019
OPPORTUNITY

If I could describe tennis in one word, it would be opportunity. Tennis has given me the opportunity to travel to many countries! Tennis led me to earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I have met so many people from around the world and have many friends because of tennis. Because of tennis, I have a healthy lifestyle, keeping physically fit. Tennis can not only bring you the opportunity to travel, stay active, and make friends, but it can allow you to pursue your education and prepare you for a future career.

Carol Wilinski, USTA League Participant
OPPORTUNITY

When asked to describe my tennis experience in one word, the word I chose is OPPORTUNITY. Beginning to play tennis as an older adult has provided many opportunities. Some of these opportunities include the opportunity to increase my circle of friends, the opportunity to stay active, gaining both physical and mental agility, and the opportunity to learn new skills. Most of all, tennis has provided me with an opportunity to have fun and enjoy a drink or two after a match with my tennis friends!

Charlie Croxford, UWGB Men’s Tennis Player 2017-2019
PATIENCE

I started playing tennis at age 9 and became fond of it very quickly and knew that it was something I wanted to pursue further. I gradually started playing more and more and eventually was playing every day. Tennis for me has always been a sport that captures skills and characteristics from every aspect of life. However, the one that stands out the most to me is patience. Patience is required in every level of the game. I always expected results to occur overnight but understanding patience taught me that you must take many small steps towards the goal rather than one big one. Another element of patience comes within point play. You must be patient during a point and wait for the right moment to strike. Although both lessons have been learnt on the tennis court, they are applicable off the court as well. Therefore, I value tennis so highly. The lessons you learn on the court are applicable off the court and vice versa. It is a culmination of everything you do.

Feel free to share with us your word and the meaning behind it!

When we talk about what technology means to the game of tennis, it really means more to the game than most people know in more ways than one. Our first piece of the technology puzzle consists of the differences in generational racket technology. Back in the mid 1900’s, tennis was a growing sport and players used wooden rackets. Due to the design and capabilities of wooden rackets, the game of tennis was played much differently than the modern game we see today. There were much more slice groundstrokes, serve and volley, and shorter points as a result. As time progressed, racket technology geared toward aluminum and graphite frames. And with each generation offering more advanced technology than the previous one, the game began to change as we knew it. There was topspin. There were extended baseline rallies. The serve and volley game began to die out. All of this was thanks to the technological advancements of the tennis racket.

Today, rackets are primarily constructed from state-of-the-art carbon fiber technology. The main brands consist of household names in the tennis world such as Babolat, Wilson, Head, and Yonex, but there are many more out there. These brands have a goal in mind not just to promote their product, but to continue to push the limits of what tennis can become. The game has advanced far from the serve and volley game of old and has entered into a new world of aggressive baseline rallies and huge serves. Once again, thanks to the technological advancements of racket technology.

Another primary aspect of the progression of tennis and technology is multimedia. Capturing the game is so much easier than it used to be with camera and video technology reaching new heights every year. If someone wants to analyze their strokes, say no more. Pull out your smart phone and have a friend record on your high-resolution camera. Due to the technological revolution, these high-quality recording devices are much more affordable than even 5 years ago. Social media also plays a huge role in the progression of the game. The easy accessibility to find out the newest tennis trends, how to develop your strokes, and even just being a fan of the game is much easier than watching the majors on your living room television set just a few times a year on local programming. Social media has allowed the tennis world to connect like it never has before, and it will continue to grow with each new phase of technology.

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