Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do’s and don’ts of parental involvement in tennis

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

Parents can be the most supportive and influential people in our lives. They raise us, care for us, and teach us everything they know. Not only are they crucial in teaching us right from wrong, but they’re probably the ones endorsing their child’s tennis game--mind, body and soul. Whether or not they’re players themselves or are learning the game, having your parents come watch your tennis matches or lessons can sometimes be a blessing. However, it can also be a huge headache if they don’t respect their boundaries. So to avoid the headache, here are some do’s and don’ts on how parents should handle themselves when it comes to their children’s tennis game.

Private Lessons
  •  Don’t disrupt - The whole purpose of private lessons is to let your child learn from a trained professional. An ideal parent will watch their child’s lesson in leisure. A disruptive parent will interrupt the lesson by criticizing either the student or pro, or trying to coach their child themselves. The biggest thing to remember here is to let the pro do their job. If you have something to add, try discussing it with the child or pro before or after the lesson in a constructive and positive manner.
  •   Do encourage - The best thing you can do to help your child perform to the best of their abilities is to encourage them. Compliment them on what they are doing right and let the pro focus on what needs work. This way, your child has more confidence and will feel completely at ease during their lessons.

 Group Lessons/Clinics
  • Don’t disrupt - Sound similar? Clinics should be handled very similarly to private lessons. Again, what is most important is that as a parent, you don't interrupt what is happening on the court, especially when there are other kids in the lesson! If you are constantly trying to tell your kid what you think about their game then not only does it distract and upset them, but it is distracting to everyone on the court and makes everyone uncomfortable.
  • Do distance yourself - If there’s a balcony or designated viewing area, try watching from there away from the lesson. Maybe even bring a magazine or a book to help pass the time. This allows your child to learn at ease with the rest of his peers.
  • Do use constructive criticism - If you have something you want to say to your child, wait till after the clinic is over to discuss it with them. Tell them your thoughts in a positive and helpful manner. The same goes for the clinic itself. If you have any comments or thoughts that you would like to discuss with a pro, try calling or sending them an email if you don’t get a chance to talk to them in private after the class is over.

  •   Do provide guidance - Tournaments are a great opportunity for your kids to finally put all of their hard work to the test! If you’re attending a tournament for the first time, here’s a couple things to keep in mind. First, explain to your child what to expect. How many times are they expected to play (is there a consolation round, single elimination or is it a round robin?), are there particular rules (are they playing a 3rd set tiebreak in lieu of a set, or playing a standard pro-set up to 8?), will there be an official around and how do you use them in your favor? Second, help your child learn how to properly check in at the tournament desk. Going to their first match can sometimes be intimidating, so help ease that anxiety by walking them inside and checking in with them. After that, wait for their match to be called and offer words of encouragement and luck before they go on. After a few tournaments, your child will learn the routine and might prefer to check in on their own.
  • Do ask for an official - If there are any match discrepancies that require an official, try to remain calm and make a request at the tournament desk so that they can make sure someone is available to come solve the issue. Most tournaments will have officials out there to handle any problems. For those that don’t have one, you can ask the tournament desk for their help, otherwise you will have to sit back and let the kids solve the problem on their own.
  •   Do relax and have fun! -  Tournaments can make kids feel the pressure, and as a parent the easiest way to handle that is to not show them how you’re feeling. Sit up in the stands, watch their match, and even clap for them when they do well.

High School Tennis
  •  Do build independence - Parents tend to be very involved in their child’s high school teams. Whether that means bringing the snacks, driving kids to matches or practice, or just being a part of the cheering squad, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their lives. By all means come to the matches and cheer them on, but try to avoid coming to practices while watching their every move. It will be very difficult for your child to get acclimated to the team environment if their parent is constantly around. If you plan to stay throughout the practice, try sitting in the car and finding something to do while they practice. Let them figure out how to handle life on the team on their own.
  • Do trust the coach – Most of the time, these coaches are taking on the job of a high school season primarily for their interest and love in the sport. Trust them to handle any discrepancies that might be within the team or during a match. This is also a great time for your child to communicate to your coach of any issues they might need help resolving. If you must, email or talk with the coach before or after a practice/match just to give them a ‘heads up’ on something you’d like them to address.

 Tennis is one of those sports that provides kids and adults alike with incredibly beneficial life lessons. While your child is learning to figure out the ropes and critique their own game in a conducive manner, parents are learning how to be supportive while giving their child the independence they need for later on in life. So whether they are playing in a lesson or match, continually let your child know how proud you are of their effort and progress no matter the outcome, because at the end of the day—it’s just a game!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dealing with favoritism on a team

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro
Being a part of any team is great. Making friends with your teammates and sharing countless memories of hard fought matches is something truly unforgettable. However, good memories aside, not everything on your team can be picture perfect all the time. In many cases, whether its high school, college, or a USTA team, favoritism is very common. Sometimes so much so that it can be extremely detrimental to not only the players themselves, but the overall success of the team. Here are some different scenarios involving favoritism and how to deal with them.

Playing Friends

This is a very common problem especially on USTA teams. In many cases, if the captain is making their lineup, it isn’t unheard of for the captain to play their friends (regardless of what their playing level is) instead of other players who may in fact actually be better than the “friends” of the captain. Not only is this an incredibly frustrating situation, but it makes the team dynamic both awkward and uncomfortable. The best way to deal with this? Begin with talking to the captain yourself. Sometimes it even helps to get your teammates opinions as well and maybe approach the captain as a group (if your situation allows). Another option if talking to your captain isn’t working is to get an un-biased pro involved to hopefully help sort out the situation. Try to emphasize that the current situation you’re in is very detrimental to the team’s success especially with not having the best possible players in the lineup. Hopefully the pro will then be able to step in and help to resolve the situation.


In most cases coaches and pros are completely unbiased towards the players that they coach, however, sometimes you can find yourself caught in a situation of pay-to-play and I’m not referring to paying to play on your high school team. This version of pay-to-play is where coaches favor certain players over others because of how much money they are paying towards their program at the specific club they play at. What this means is that players who are willing to spend the most money on the tennis clinics, programs, etc., will be favored to play higher in the lineup over players who might not be paying as much.

This can be incredibly difficult because it doesn’t leave much option for players who might not be financially able to pay as much as others, or because they work and cannot attend as many drills. And if these players are incredibly talented, is it really fair to downgrade them if they don’t play as often? Solution—if you are willing to pay and have the time commitment available then great! Otherwise, deal with the position you will be placed in even if it’s not where you think you should be playing. But the best and most logical option would be to find another club. Do your research ahead of time before making the commitment to go somewhere else and make sure you talk to whoever is in charge of the programs there to get a good grasp on how the club handles things and what their staff is like. Then make a judgment call from there and go with whatever will work best for you.

Tennis Pro’s and Coaches Picking Favorites

Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught in a situation of your coach or pro picking favorites. This is very common especially on high school and college teams. So what do you do when you know someone is playing higher then you because the coach likes them better? Well there aren’t a whole lot of options but the best way to approach the situation is to try talking to the pro/coach about your position on the team first. You can even try to gauge how some of your teammates feel and see what they think and then try to approach the coach as a group discussing how all of you feel about where you are being placed on the team. If this doesn’t work, your best bet is to talk to either the athletic director or person in charge of the overall program and have them handle it. After all it is their job to deal with those situations and hopefully fix them.

Overall the best way to deal with a situation of favoritism is to begin with talking to the person in charge of your program and go from there. Try to approach the individual or head person in charge with the best attitude possible and emphasize how your biggest concern is the success of your team. 

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to communicate with your doubles partner the RIGHT way

Katelyn Caniford & Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributors

In honor of our 3.0 40 & Over Men's USTA team competing at Nationals this month, we wanted to tie in how vital communication is in doubles and how to create a winning method. Communication with your doubles partner is by far one of the most critical components of succeeding together as a team. Whether your partner is your best friend who you’ve played with for years or someone on your USTA team who you’re meeting for the first time, those skills will be a huge factor on whether or not the two of you will work well together in your matches.
front row (l to r): Matt Birbeck, Scott Altman, Michael Kramer, Bill Fox, Adam Stopka
back row (l to r): Ron Bassak, Curt Binder, Ron Novak, John Ragner, Steve Wilt

Often times, communication on the court can be both verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication can consist of talking between points, during points, and in between changeovers about various strategies as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. Sometimes verbal communication can even just be helping to lift your partner up if they are struggling to get their confidence back.

Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. This could be hand signals identifying where one of you will be moving on the court, fist bumps to stay connected with each other, or simply making eye contact or giving an encouraging smile. Even if you agree not to talk during the match (some players prefer it that way), non-verbal communication is still a must. So whether it's verbal or non-verbal, let’s go over how to communicate with your partner the right way.  

·         TALK BETWEEN POINTS - In many cases, it doesn’t matter what you are saying to your partner, as long as it’s something positive, encouraging, and helpful. I know from experience that playing with someone who didn’t speak to me at all both during and in-between points is incredibly difficult and frustrating. Whether or not you are talking strategy or just playing therapist to your ailing companion, it is always helpful to speak to each other. That way both of you will be more comfortable as the match goes on and will be able to have enough trust in each other to be successful. Which brings me to my next point

·         TRUST YOUR PARTNER - If you don’t have trust in your partner’s abilities then it’s going to be extremely difficult to be on the same page with your communication skills.  A lot of times, especially in USTA you can get paired with someone that maybe isn’t at the same skill level as you, but the best advice I can give with this is, make it work! Just because your partner isn’t Serena Williams doesn’t mean they don’t have their own strengths to be successful. As their doubles partner it’s your job to build their confidence up and use their strengths to create the best possible match-up you can have. If your partner is incredibly patient during points, use that to your advantage. Get them involved in those long rallies so they can hopefully set you up to hit a winner. If their weakness is the net, maybe try having them stand at the baseline with you so you can be the one to go up and play the net.

·         STAY POSITIVE - There is nothing worse than having a partner that’s negative about every little thing that goes wrong or who knocks your confidence down. Doubles is about teamwork. In order to work together as a team, both people need to have a positive attitude about the match. If you screw up a point, high five your partner and get the next one. Even if your partner is hitting every single ball out, the best thing you can do is keep them calm. Help them to get their confidence back by lots of encouragement and really showing that you believe in them and their abilities. Being as positive as possible even in the worst of situations is the best remedy for a partner who is struggling. Tennis matches can go on for a while. There’s always enough time to come back from any terrible situation as long as you have the right attitude.

·         SHOW FRUSTRATION - If things aren’t going well for you or your partner is having difficulty, one of the worst ways to react is by visibly showing those frustrations. If you are unhappy with something, do your best to change it. Again this means encouraging your partner even if on the inside you want to scream. If you’re playing bad, don’t show your opponents your frustration. Instead, slow your game down and focus on trying to be consistent until you can get your confidence back. That way, your partner doesn’t start to deteriorate as well.

·         STOP TALKING TO YOUR PARTNER - Duh! You could be beyond annoyed with your partner, feel the heat of a partner that's frustrated with you, or you could simply be cruising along in a match before you realize your communication has completely deteriorated. How to prevent this? The obvious solution is to remain talking, even if it's about your weekend plans. The more difficult solution is to keep talking when one partner is frustrated. Despite being intimidated, I once walked over to my obviously frustrated partner who clearly didn’t want to talk and sparked up a fun, non-tennis related conversation...guess what it worked and we were able to turn the match around!

·         TEACH - There’s nothing I hate more than having a doubles partner that feels they need to correct what I’m doing wrong when they’re not my tennis pro, especially when that partner could use a little help on their own game. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to sit back and watch your partner make the same mistake over and over without a little help, but it’s imperative you approach it encouragingly. It’s best to use ‘we’ in situations when you want to help your partner improve: “We might have better luck lobbing the net player.” “We should try laying off of our shots to reduce the margin of errors.”

Now here's the biggest tip-have fun! Remember that you and your partner are out there playing together because you both love tennis! Even when things seem tough, as long as you help each other, and have fun, you're already setting yourself up for success.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quick Fixes for Tennis Strokes

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro
We all know the feeling. We’re shanking our forehand long, hitting serves into the net, and it feels like nothing we do is working. We start questioning our game that we’ve worked so hard on and begin to doubt ourselves. However, even though it may not seem like it, everyone has those days where everything feels off. Sometimes even the littlest adjustments can make the biggest difference in regards to our strokes. Here are a few quick-fix tips on your different shots that can help you get your confidence back!

Overall Tennis Game

Use a mirror or have someone film you! 

Sounds simple enough right? Mirror your groundstrokes. Sometimes it is difficult for us to figure out exactly what we are doing wrong. In many instances, it can be difficult to pinpoint just what part of our motion is suffering or that we are doing incorrectly. 
Quick Fix - One of the best ways to figure that out is to practice your strokes in front of a mirror so you can see what your form looks like. Another great option is to have a friend film you! This way, you are able to watch yourself and see where you need to make corrections.

The Forehand
Figure out where you are making contact with the ball.
      In many cases, when we feel like a shot isn’t working, we start to get hesitant. This oftentimes leads to hitting the ball way later then we should. Sometimes we even end up getting too close to the ball or too far away which can really make it difficult to have a proper follow through on our shot. 
      Quick Fix - Figure out where you are making contact. Are you hitting the ball too far behind you and you’re falling back? Do you feel yourself running into the ball with your arm too close to your side? Then the answer is simple. Make contact with the ball in front of your body and step into your shot. Make sure your dominant arm is close to your body but not so much so that your elbow is glued to your side. If it helps, keep your other arm out in front of you for balance. In the picture below we can see Roger Federer making contact with the ball in front of his body and shifting his weight forward.  
      The Backhand 
      Use “the wall” drill.

      For many players, the backhand can be the most complicated or difficult shot to execute. 
Quick Fix - A good option for when your backhand feels like it is suffering is to line your body up against a wall or a door and practice the motion of your stroke. To begin, stand in front of a wall or even a fence and get into position to hit a backhand. When you practice your swing, don’t hit the racket against the wall but instead keep your string and face of the racket in line with the wall and practice your full backhand motion. This will teach you how to get the spin on the ball that you are looking to achieve. 

      The Volleys

      Figure out where your feet are going. Are you stepping forward or cross stepping into the ball?

One of the biggest problems I believe people encounter with their volleys is not moving their feet. Many times I see players volleying with their feet straight underneath them and not moving forward into their shot at all. 
Quick Fix - Move those feet! Volleying is all about where the rest of your body is going in relation to your shot. If you are not in position to hit the volley correctly, it does not matter how good your stroke is. Take a moment to evaluate your shots and think about if you are either cross stepping or moving forward into the ball. A good way to do this is after you take your shot, freeze and look down at where your feet are. Are they in the same position as they were when you began the stroke? Or are your feet in front of your body like they should be? 

The Overhead

Make sure you are behind the ball.

One of the biggest reasons people miss their overheads is because they are not in the correct position. 
Quick Fix - Get into position as soon as possible and make sure that you are behind the ball when you are making contact. As soon as you see your opponent opening their strings to try and lob is when you need to start getting into position. This means turning your body and shuffling backwards so you can be lined up to hit the overhead. Make sure you are behind the ball enough that you can propel yourself forward. It is much easier to go forward into the overhead rather than having to backup more to be in the right position. Finding the exact point where you want to hit the ball will help too so you can focus on hitting that point and letting your body do the rest. 

The Serve

      Keep your head, neck, and chest up through the serve.

A common problem I see with the serve is players not keeping their head, neck, and chest up when they are following through. It is very easy especially in a long match for fatigue to set in which then results in your upper body falling during the course of the serve. In most cases, this then causes the ball to land in the net. 
Quick Fix - Keep looking at the ball through contact. This way you are forced to keep your head up while the ball is traveling to the other side of the court. 

      Here's one more quick tip--write these tips down! It's quite the task to remind yourself how to fix a stroke when your game is already spiraling out of control. So do yourself a huge favor by grabbing a couple of index cards and write down some keywords to give yourself that little mental kick; Backhand=Wall, Volley=Step in, Serve=Look up, etc. Now go out and kill it!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New Tennis Rackets for Spring 2016!

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro

With the start of a new year, comes a new line of rackets from some of the most popular dealers from around the world! Starting with the new Babolat Pure Aero line all the way to the club exclusive Wilson Ultra XP’s, these rackets are sure to enhance the level of play for anyone who is serious about their game! Check out these rackets that are available for sale online at towpathtennisshop.com or straight from our pro shop!

Babolat Pure Aero

Headsize: 100 sq. in.
Length: 27"
Beam Width: 23/26/23mm
Weight Strung: 315g/(11 oz.)
Racquet/Player Type: Advanced
Color(s): Black/Florescent Yellow
Composition/Construction: Graphite
String Pattern (Mains X Crosses): 16 x 19
Recommended String Tension: 50-59 lbs
Balance: 32cm/ (12.6 in.)
Stiffness/Flex: 72 RA
Grommet Technology: FSI Spin
Frame Technology: Aeromodular 2
Grip Type: Syntec Pro
Swing Weight: 290 kgcm
Swing Type: Fast, Long
Towpath Recommended String: Babolat RPM Blast

What’s so great about it?
Coming straight from Babolat’s previous generation of Aero Rackets, the new Pure Aero Line offers an aerodynamic frame which enables the racket head to move much faster, therefore increasing ball speed. This is due to the combination of woofer and cortex technologies that have been integrated into the racket. The brand new redesigned grommets allow the string bed to move freely which optimizes the lift on the ball. The pure aero comes in the original Pure Aero, the Pure Aero Team, and the Pure Aero Lite. The Pure Aero Play, Pure Aero +, Pure Aero Tour, and the junior rackets will also be available in November 2015!

Why do we like it?
The spin! The new Pure Aero, compared to the older models of Aero rackets, has more interaction between the ball and the strings which increases the amount of spin being generated. Players are able to maximize their spin on the ball without losing any power in their swing. It's perfect for the players who want optimum spin and have more aggressive play styles. Not only is this racket made up of the latest in tennis technology, but with the matte fluorescent yellow finish, it looks great!

Headsize: 97 sq. in.
Length: 27"
Beam Width: 23mm Flat Beam
Weight Strung: 285g/ (10 oz.)
Color(s): Black/Red
Composition/Construction: Braided Graphite + Kevlar
String Pattern (Mains X Crosses): 18 x 16 (S.E.T.)
Recommended String Tension: 50-60 lbs.
Balance: 32.5cm/ (12.8 in.)
Grommet Technology: Spin Effect Technology
Grip Type: Sublime Grip
Swing Type: Moderate to Full
Towpath Recommended String: Luxilon Big Banger

What’s so great about it?
Not only does this racket have better maneuverability compared to its heavier pro-staff counterpart (donned by Roger Federer), but it is a great ultra-lightweight alternative that is able to generate lots of power as well! With the new 18x16 Spin Effect Technology, players are able to generate spin by placing a tighter grip on the ball. With this latest model, you also don’t have to worry about sacrificing power for control because the ULS offers players the perfect combination of power, spin, speed, and control!

Why do we like it?
The lighter weight! This racket is a great choice for players who love the control of the original pro staff, but need a lighter weight frame. It's also perfect for beginner or intermediate level players who are learning to generate their own spin and power. This racket is a great alternative for players that love to hit lots of balls from the baseline. The extreme maneuverability is also excellent for controlling the rackets speed and angle through contact with the ball.

Wilson “Club Exclusive” Ultra XP 
Specs (Ultra XP 100S)                                                      
Headsize: 100 sq. inches
Length: 27.25”
Weight Strung: 290 g/ (10.2 oz)
Racquet/Player Type: beginner
Color(s): black/blue/grey
String Pattern (Mains X Crosses): 16 x 15
Recommended String Tension: 50-60 lbs (53)
Balance: 33 cm/ 5 pts HL
Grip Type: Wilson Sublime
Swing Type: Fast, Long
Towpath Recommended String: Wilson Sensation 16

What’s so great about it?
Not only is this racket modeled after the classic Wilson Profile, but it is very versatile and easy to use. The new technology in this racket makes controlling the ball an easy task especially for beginner and older players who need a racket that is not only lightweight, but has a bigger head size for better ball control. The new technology also allows for easier access to good power without having to exert too much effort.

Why do we like it?
Head size and ease! This racket is obviously a great choice for players that are a fan of the classic Wilson Profile.  Not only is this racket a popular choice among beginners and 55+ players, but it's incredibly maneuverable and easy to swing with. It's also a nice alternative for tennis pros who are looking for an easy racket that can feed balls quickly and with lots of depth.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Was Venus and Serena's US Open match staged?

Katelyn Caniford | Towpath Tennis Pro
Rolling Stone

The story could not have been written better. One of America’s favorite sibling athlete-duos squaring up against each other in the quarter-finals of the biggest tennis tournaments in the country, the US Open. On Tuesday September 8th, 2015, Venus and Serena Williams faced off against each other for the 27th time at Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC. After 98 minutes of back and forth tennis culminating in a somewhat close third set, Serena took the victory 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 to put her just two matches short of not only winning the US Open, but also achieving a calendar-year Grand Slam. If Serena wins her next few matches, she will become one of only a few women to ever win all four major singles titles in a season.                                                                                       
The importance of this tournament for Serena is huge--so huge in fact that one might ask the question as to whether or not this match, or at least some parts of it, could have potentially been predetermined. Now I will say that I’m a fan of both of the Williams sisters and think that they are two of the greatest women’s players of all time, however, after witnessing their match Tuesday night I had a hard time believing that 100% of everything that I was watching was not staged in some sense. From the over the top reactions from Serena, to the absolute dominance of Venus in the second set, I think there might have been some talks between the two beforehand as to how they wanted their match to go. It was so tightly contested that it almost seemed too good to be true. Serena dominating the first, Venus dominating the second, and then Venus creeping up slightly near the end of the third--it was textbook perfection! Not to mention, I’m sure that Venus absolutely would not have wanted to be the one to take away her sister’s chance of becoming one of the few women to ever achieve all four Major singles wins in a season.
To me, what seemed like a dead giveaway to what was potentially going on were the strong reactions from Serena when she would miss her shots. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to react strongly when I’m not playing well too, but it almost seemed that in this match she was forcing herself to react that way for drama-sake. And then to do so against her sister of all people? It’s almost like she had to tell herself to freak out for the crowd.
This then made me think of what other majoring sporting events that have possibly been predetermined beforehand, because it’s no shocker it’s been done before (Hellooo 2014’s World Cup, 2002’s NBA Playoff scandal, or the WWE!) Now granted, I'm not undermining professional athletes or the hard work they put into their sport, but I do think that when it comes to “Cinderella stories” or huge moments in the world of sports (or whatever will draw big ratings), there is a possibility that some, if not all, parts of them are predetermined or at least discussed beforehand by the participants/officials. Who knows, maybe this is just all speculation but I am curious to hear thoughts from others about this match, as well as thoughts on the potential of fixed results in all sports today.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Williams sisters revive their sibling rivalry at Wimbledon

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Store Manager

Serena Williams knocks older sister Venus Williams
out of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships in the 4th
Playing against your sibling plain sucks! So it may not be all bad but it sure has it's sucky moments. Watching the Williams' sisters come head to head at this year's Wimbledon (which unfortunately was a bit anti-climactic), made me reminisce about the good ole days when these legendary meetings against the sisters were essentially left up to a coin toss on who was going to win.
While watching this year's 4th round match-up between Venus and Serena, I was commenting on how unfortunate it is to play a sibling when some fellow viewers claimed the sisters were actually at an advantage of playing against each other and probably basked in the hype. While I don't entirely disagree, my past experiences have led me to think quite differently. 

I grew up in a tennis family with four siblings, one in which became one of my biggest rivals on court--my twin sister. A few things about my twin: She's taller than me, 4 minutes older, and according to the number of crushes boys had on her probably prettier than me. Whatever, I can live with those disadvantages, but when it came to tennis being better than me wasn't an option. Neither one of us wanted to be better than the other. And being sisters, particularly twins, my parents ensured we got equal treatment. So how was it fair that one of us had to win while the other had to lose? 

A lot of emotions cross your mind when playing against a sibling. At the beginning of the tournament you're always rooting for the other to win in the chance that you might meet later in the draw or the final--what fun! And when the moment arises you take a sigh of relief that you're only playing your sister rather than some tough seed you don't particularly like--even better right? Then you realize that neither one of you wants to back down which means someone's in for a big disappointment. Even though you can joke and crack a smile more often when playing against a sibling, the main struggle is keeping the match from feeling like an afternoon of backyard tennis. I actually prefer those matches because you can let loose and have a bit of fun, but there's a fine line between relaxing and slacking since your game can go south, fast! Then there's those dreaded matches when you're sibling is struggling. Her serve is off, she's shouting out in frustration or worse she's on the brink of tears (we were young alright). It's so hard to watch anyone hurting let alone your own sibling. You find yourself absentmindedly laying off the power, maybe not go for as deep of an angle, flub some shots of your own all because of this sympathetic distraction. Next thing you know, you're the one struggling! And worse, you both have to endure that long ride home together. The most memorable matches I had against my sister were when we didn't care about the outcome (truly). We just focused on playing good tennis, which in experience has proven to be the best recipe when playing a sibling. 

The Williams sisters always want the best for each other but over the course of their careers, Serena's really pulled away as the top dog in the family, which I can only imagine to be more difficult than ever to play older sister Venus because who doesn't like rooting for the underdog? The best thing they can do is just enjoy the moment, because there might not be a lot of them left. I think Serena said it best, "She's my sister today, she's my sister next week and she's my sister next year. We'll leave everything out on the court. When it's done, we'll go back to regular life." There's no turning off that sibling meter in your head no matter what anyone says. You both can only hope for a memorable and fun experience with only a few sucky moments. 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to win on clay courts

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Store Manager
It's the end of another exciting French Open where as expected underdogs, such as Lucie Safarova and Stan Wawrinka, rose among a sea of upsets by defeating past Open Champions, Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer, along the way to the finals. Even the domineering Serena Williams struggled to fight for the title on the red clay (and maybe due to a little cold). Nevertheless, the question is raised every year, 'Why do the top seeds in tennis perform poorly on clay?' Many players already understand that you need to adjust to the slower court surface, but many still don't know exactly how to adjust.

In northeast Ohio we don't see that many red clay courts. In fact, there's only one red clay court facility in the entire State of Ohio (Perry Twp). What we do find a lot of are Har-Tru courts, which are green clay versus the red clay we see at the French Open. The main difference between the two is that the speed and height difference of Har-Tru is not as extreme as it would be on red clay, because of the layer of crushed stone on the surface. However, both clay surfaces call for a game adjustment in order to win and this is how you do just that:
  • Play in the right shoes. Clay is a slippery surface and if you were playing on red clay, it would be imperative that you find clay court shoes to help with traction. However, with Har-Tru all you need is to find a pair of All-Court tennis shoes that are in good condition (so ditch those worn-smoothed soles). To help you, we have a huge selection to choose from at towpathtennisshop.com
  • Be patient! The pace is considerably slower than playing on hard courts and it's quite tempting to rush your shots. To help counter that urge, go back to the basics and as the ball approaches tell yourself, "bounce, hit." It may sound mundane and tedious, but it helps you focus and maintain a proper rhythm.
  • Use topspin. Why you may ask? It makes the ball bounce that much higher! Higher bounce=more difficult to return, not to mention tiresome!
  • Learn to slide. Har-Tru is not as slippery as red clay, but it sure is slicker than a hard court. 
  • Buckle in for longer rallies. Guess what? Those winners you make on hard courts will be easier for your opponent to get to on clay, so be ready to tire your opponent out by mixing up the shots and moving them around the court. 
  • Practice ahead of time. Even if you've played on clay before, it helps to warm-up ahead of time to get a feel of the court since most clay surfaces don't play the same. 
  • Check a bad call. Don't you always wish to have video replay on those points your opponent called out but looked clearly in? On clay you can! It may not be a video replay, but the ball may leave a distinctive mark that you can double check for yourself. Cheaters beware! 
  • Prepare to get dirty! Playing on clay can be downright filthy, so if you're fussing about keeping those sparkling white tennis shoes clean then clay is not your game. And unless you want to be coated green from head to toe, watch out for sliding into those lines that like to bubble up!
So there you have it, all the tips you need to be the next King/Queen of Clay-Nadal you've been warned!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Common tennis foot issues & home remedies

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Store Manager

Painful? Sometimes. Embarrassing? Yes. Uncommon? Absolutely not! People of all walks of life will experience many problematic foot issues. Unfortunately for us athletes we're more prone to them because we're sweating in our stinky shoes for long periods of time. But have no fear, we want to help you find remedies for the most common foot issues us tennis players face all in the comfort of your home. 
Take care of your feet and they'll take care of you.
Bunions - Is an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe primarily due to genetics, poor foot structure or ill-fitting shoes!   
What you can do: 
  • Massage to grind down the soft tissue. The accumulation of tissue is what makes the bunion painful. It's always best to have a professional who specializes in deep tissue to show you some techniques before you try doing it at home. 
  • Drink or directly apply chamomile to the bunion. Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the size of your bunion as well as relieve pain.  
  • Avoid tight fitting shoes!
  • Surgery is only necessary when the bunion becomes painful & is disrupting daily activities. 
Athlete's Foot - This fungal infection brews in warm and moist areas which is why a sweaty tennis shoe would be a hotbed for it if you come in contact with this contagious fungi. Symptoms vary but typically there's cracking of the skin, blistering and of course that itching/burning sensation. If symptoms are mild, good news it usually can be treated at home!  
What you can do:  
  • Clean and dry between your toes-yep its that easy!
  • Wear shoes that breathe. Look for shoes with mesh outsoles such as the K-Swiss Hypercourt Express or Nike Zoom Cage 2 tennis shoes.
  • Use talcum powder on feet.  
  • Avoid going barefoot even in the house.  
  • Wear absorbent socks and change socks when sweaty. Allow shoes to dry for at least 24 hours.  
  • Apply nonprescription medicines such as Clotrimazole to the affected area. If you have blisters, soak several times in Burow's solution prior to using an anti-fungal cream.  
Fungal Toe - Similar to athlete's foot this fungi thrives in warm, moist conditions so it's important to follow the same prevention as mentioned above as well as trimming your toenails and avoiding hosiery (not that you'd wear tights during tennis but maybe for you ladies in the office).  
What you can do: 
  • There are a multitude of remedies that include treating your toes with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar or soaking them in Listerine mouthwash!  
  • Dab a few drops of Tea Tree Oil onto your toes to help fight the fungus. 
  • It's not uncommon to find some of these home remedies ineffective, therefore if problems persist, consult your doctor.  
Blisters - Broken or not, blisters are painful! They are generally due when too much friction of a material is applied to moistened skin, so it's quite common to have one after your sweaty foot's been rubbing against your shoes, whether they're new, worn or you're wearing them barefoot. 
What you can do: 
  • Small blisters tend to heal easily on their own so the best advice is to give your foot a break from the activity you got the blister from. 
  • If small or unbroken, applying a band-aid will suffice. If putting pressure on it is unavoidable, place a donut-shaped moleskin pad over it.  
  • If large or painful, the blister may need to be drained. Puncture a small hole with a sterilized pin or needle at the edge of the blister and apply pressure to drain. Wash with soap and water only, then apply anti-biotic ointment. 
  • Wear thick padded socks and change them often. 
Plantar fasciitis - Is when the fibrous band that expands from the toe to heel becomes inflamed. It's described as painful because the plantar fascia is overstretched which can bring on a heel spur.
What you can do: 
  • Get off your feet! 
  • Watch your weight. Taking off a few extra pounds will definitely make you feel lighter on your feet.  
  • Avoid or space out new intense exercises because you are prone to over-stretching, wearing out or weakening your arch support.  
  • Stretch you feet prior to playing. Pedicure toe separators help stretch as well. 
  • Ice the bottom of your foot to reduce inflammation.  
Corns & Calluses - These hardened patches of skin develop after repetitive pressure and friction is applied on your foot. Corns and calluses aren't necessarily painful, they're just a bit unsightly.  
What you can do: 
  • Give yourself a home-pedi after a shower. There are tools such as a pedi-egg that help file down the excess skin, or simply use a nail file or emery board to smooth away the dead skin cells.  
  • Moisten skin and give your feet a rest from the repetitive activity.  
Ingrown toenails - Are just the worst! They can develop just by stubbing or improperly trimming your nail, or by wearing ill-fitting shoes! What's worse is they can become incredibly painful and infected if not tended to.  
What you can do: 
  • Soak in Epsom salt to soften nail and prevent infection. 
  • Trim nails straight across-not rounded. 
  • Keep toe raised by putting a small piece of cotton under your toenail if causing pain.  
  • If infected apply Neosporin and wrap with a band-aid until nail improves. 
General prevention - To keep those twinkling toes healthy 
  • Don't neglect - Cut nails often, moisturize daily, apply ointment when needed, and rub your feet down with a pedi egg.
  • Massage - Give your feet a good run down after a long day on the court to help loosen and grind down accumulated tissue.  
  • Find the right fit - Ill fitting tennis shoes do more harm than just feeling a bit uncomfortable. Talk with one of our front desk staff about what your looking for (breathability, wide toe box, correct sizing), and we'll be happy to find the right shoe for you. 
  • Finally kick your feet up and rest!  
 If symptoms persist or spread, or if you have any medical issue such as Diabetes or a contagious infection, then consult your doctor before trying any of these home remedies. If left untreated, you are at risk of developing a more serious long term ordeal that could include infection, loss of a toenail, surgery, inability to play, or developing a much more debilitating disease such as gout which affects the foot and body.

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