loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

Tennis Australia-How young should we start and why?

Tennis Australia is embarking on a massive youth policy. That is great. Having a broad base with kids who have the skills is a real need. But the evidence never stacks up  that tennis is a young sport. The average age for women top 100 is always 24 approx. and for men high 24’s approx. Grand Slam fields are usually 24 to 25 average for men. Grand Slam male winners average out at 25 over many eras. Forget prodigies. Forget awesome talents like Hewitt. Tennis is the same as all other running “eccentric” sports. So  why do we train 12 year olds like adults?  Why don’t we track players into their 20’s? Junior ITF results keep a lot of coaches in jobs yet really are fairly meaningless like most junior sport is. Junior sport is about providing experiences and pathways. Not an end itself. Important for the player of course. But even there the average age of Male players is 17 plus and 16 plus forFemales. So when a 13 year old boy is missing out on school and not getting a multilateral physical development I cringe.

Tennis is littered with failures and broken dreams. When we will wake up. Training immature skeletons like adults is almost a crime. Parents want to see their kids flogged. It is just friggin the dumbest thing I have seen.

And when Tennis Australia encourages players to not attend normal schools what are we developing? Misfits? Do they tell the parents the truth? There is very little chance of  making money in tennis? Unlike AFL where young kids earn hundreds of thousands. Where is the evidence. Who says a kid cannot play AFL till  13 then choose tennis. I think this might be a real problem.

Tennis academies throughout the world push all this of course.

Strength and Conditioning coaches need to be always aware they are dealing with children in tennis not adults.

Parents need to know that on average players enter the rankings in their 20’s.

Let’s think about all this? Maybe Australia has to hang on to players of the 15 to 20 year old bracket and keep them going instead of always going back to kids in the hope of finding a diamond. A good 18 year old male might take till 22 to go from 400 to 76 in the world. But in Australia it is too hard. Next and the same again.

Women’s Rankings NOV 2009
1 to 100 24.10
100 to 200 23.55
200 to300 23.55
300 to 400 22.39
400 to 500 22.21
500 to 600 21.23
600 to700 21.14
700 to 800 20.26
800 to 900 20.56
900 to 1000 19.58
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October 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Model for Success in the AFL. Does one exist?

I listened with interest to a SEN radio interview that said Geelong now had the model for success. Does a model exist? The AFL is a very small, totally controlled and in fact non-elite “youth biased” competition. Salary caps, drafts etc. Players drafted well before they are even close to full maturity. The funnel starts at 16 then 18 then pours kids in.

I presented at an AFL conference on the optimal age for success in sport and as we know (or should) it is very predictable.  Things happen around 25.  I found that AFL champion teams had an average age of approx 25.7 and 70/75% of players were between 22 and 28 in general. There were more young players than old and if a player was < 22 they had to play approx 50 games. Most players need to be around 25/26 and maybe 27. A BELL curve slightly weighted on the youth side. When this hit me on paper, I understood my years in AFL. Even the 93 Bombers teams I was with was a lot more mature than people realized. Hills had been there 5 years and the other 4kids 2 to 3. The rest were hard nuts.

So when clubs self destruct and keep throwing players out and going young they simply will have to wait 5 years as a minimum. Forget amazing sports scientists and gurus. That is the problem. A good accountant and CEO are more important to a club given the impact finance and stability has on a club.

Geelong had the bulk of its player by 2002. By 2005 they had played 5 finals with the odd old player leaving. Sanderson and Graham for example. They simply were out thought in 2005 (and only played one Rickman, a massive mistake) and also that year most of the young crew was not ready. Some were still “sowing wild oats” and for some it had not sunk in yet what was required at the elite level. Guess what? That is normal and if a club tries to beat that good luck! Might happen but rare.

So when Leigh Matthews knew the era was over they simply went young in general. A young team went closish in 2008 to finals but fell apart and then improved a squeak in 2009. Getting to 25 average! Thus 2005/2006/2007/2008 was development. Normal!

Voss has simply tried to get mature players to top this now mature squad up to get ahead & win quickly. This is a slight variation on a model.  Just has to make sure they are the right players

So if a club poaches coaches and staff from the current Grand Final team then will that work? Probably not! Rarely does.

Clubs simply forget that Luke Hodge needed as many pre seasons and games as did Bartel to get to the stage where he could help the HAWKS win flag.100 odd games and 5 to 6 pre seasons. Simple.

So these AMAZING people will go to a club and have to deal with 18 to 22 year olds with average talent in general and wait years. That’s it. In the end there is not that much talent in Australia in any sport so development and maturity is the key. The superstars start early and late. Then often they get edgy and at 22 good development is thrown out in a bad year and dumb comments like culture are made. What does culture mean? Weird comment.

So does a model exist? Yes and it doesn’t guarantee success but guarantees relative success. Collingwood missed its last opportunity in 2007 when older players nearly snagged a win versus Geelong. The model is simply make sure the club is financial given people are happy when they are paid and everything is available. Make sure a group has been together for a number of years and has developed their skills and bodies and also developed a combative nature to their game.

Steven King was captain of an immature young group. Tough gig and that was after years of carrying the ruck duties at Geelong.

Geelong was smart. They kept the playing group together. They stabilized a dodgy political situation. They had played 5 finals. Done 6/8 pre seasons together. Teams will be able to do it quicker than Geelong given players come into the system better prepared now than Corey/Ablett/Mackie etc. But there you go. That’s the model. Get your group to an average of 25.  Tweak it as long as you can so it stays like that. Probably a window of 5 years. Have heaps of dough and resources and be slightly better.

The AFL is so predictable now. We are going to have so many teams of the century in the next 20 years. The reality is that the talent pool is very thin. So many clubs simply keep starting again and then get edgy on the way.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment