Tennis coaches, instructors and teaching professionals around the country have had to adjust their methods during these unprecedented times of quarantines and social distancing. That means converting their curriculum on the court to one that works digitally, and the team from SPORTIME and John McEnroe Tennis Academy has put together an array of programs, webinars and interviews to keep its students, red ball players through yellow ball players, engaged during this crisis.
Each week, students in the JMTA and SPORTIME programs have access to an array of online resources so they can continue their tennis training and maintain their fitness. There are live fitness classes hosted with instructors three days a week, as well as workouts posted to social media two days a week for the students to do at some point during the day.
From a technical standpoint, Lawrence Kleger, the JMTA’s co-Director, does a segment twice a week where he focuses on a different aspect of the game each time, such as anticipation or weaponizing your forehand.
For high school players who are missing out on the opportunity to meet with coaches or visit campuses, JMTA College Combine Director Jay Harris leads a weekly discussion with coaches and former collegiate players currently in the professional ranks where they talk about the recruiting process and the collegiate experience.
“Jay has a wealth of knowledge on college tennis, and we’re at the point in the year where players are supposed to be doing their searches, but with everything closed this has been very helpful resource for the players,” said Mark Bowtell, JMTA’s Senior Associate Director, who coordinates the virtual training. “We also have sessions on mental tennis and vision training, and those are very interactive as well…We’ve done the best we can considering the circumstances. The feedback has been great and everyone has been positive about what we’re trying to do. I think they really appreciate us taking the time to try and make this work given everything that’s going on.”
In addition, JMTA Co-Director Patrick McEnroe hosts a live show where he interviews current and former professional players. Before each show begins, students can send in their questions for McEnroe to ask the players live on air, something that makes the kids feel a part of the conversation.
“At JMTA, our entire team has really stepped up and contributed to make our virtual academy second to none,” said Patrick McEnroe. “From strategy sessions, fitness workouts, mental training and interviews with current pro players, I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish.”
The show has brought on a number of illustrious guests including John McEnroe, Caroline Wozniacki, Milos Raonic, Karolina Pliskova, Noah Rubin, Neal Skupski and many more. On May 20, McEnroe will welcome the legendary Billie Jean King to the show.
“We have been very inspired to see that most are very excited to participate in this initiative and to pay it forward to our young, aspiring players during this tough time,” said Bennett Schlansky, SPORTIME’s Vice-President and Managing Director of JMTA. “The Q&As have continued to grow in popularity, and having Patrick McEnroe as our in-house interviewer certainly doesn't hurt on that front!”
Despite the distance, students are still able to get personalized instruction. Through JMTA Associate Director Perry Aitchison and the Tennis Locker app, players continue to be able to improve their stroke technique.
For example, players can take a video of their forehands, backhands, serves, etc., on the app and assign them to Aitchison, who will then analyze using side-by-side with pros, voiceovers, annotations and more, and send them back to the students.
“The ones who are doing it are finding it very beneficial,” said Aitchison. “I had one player who sent me his serve, and we went back and forth a couple of times until he had the final version. I put the before-and-after video on social media, and you can definitely see the difference in his serve…The app allows them to take the video through the app and then assign it to me to analyze. I think this type of thing will gain traction even after all of this is over. It’s difficult now because most people don’t have access to a court, or unable to hit with somebody. Once things open up again this will become easier for the user, and will be a lot more helpful.”
This has clearly been a difficult time for everyone involved, and we all look forward to returning to the courts soon. But in the interim, all of this has combined to create JMTA’s virtual academy, providing an invaluable resource for its members while keeping everyone in the SPORTIME family connected during this difficult period.