Boys Varsity Tennis
The Spring 2019 Boys Tennis Team Interest Meeting will be held on Friday, December 7, 3:15-3:45 in the Cafeteria. Come hear about the upcoming season, requirements and expectations for playing on either the varsity or JV teams. You will fill out a tennis questionnaire that will provide key info about you as well as sizes for the uniform. If you are unable to attend, a second tennis team interest meeting will be held in early February, prior to the beginning of the tryouts.
Requirements BEFORE anyone may tryout/hit a ball:
1. Physical- Completed on or after May 1, 2018 (VHSL Physical Form). Turn it in to the Activities Office weeks EARLY.
2. Concussion Training- One parent/guardian and the athlete must complete the online training.
3. Emergency Care Card- One copy. Leave it in the boys tennis wall box in the Activities Office.
4. FCPS Participation Policy- Review and sign it (parent/guardian AND athlete). Place it in my BOYS TENNIS box in the Activities Office or give it to me on the first day of tryouts.
Paper copies of these forms are available on the left wall in the Activities Office OR you can download the form. Here are the links (if the link does not work, go to mcleanactivities.org and click on the "Required Participation Forms" tab at the top.:
The first day of the spring 2019 tryouts will be on Monday, February 18, and then will continue for one week to select the varsity and JV boys tennis teams. The boys tennis tryouts will be held at nearby Lewinsville Park's six tennis courts. Monday 2/18 noon-3 PM (student holiday), then Tuesday through Friday 3:30 to 5:30. The girls will be at McLean HS. IF there are any weather cancellations, plan to be available for Saturday 2/24 challenge matches (TBD- noon to 3 probably at McLean HS).
Potential team members will be evaluated on tennis skills, technique, strategy and tactics, teamwork, behavior, reliability (being on time or letting me know of any conflicts) and physical fitness. Various drills and mini-sets of singles matches will be played. Please make sure that you are physically fit, because that first week will be tiring and there won't be enough time during the early season to begin exercising. Dress warmly in layers, wear a hat/cap and gloves. It will be cold out there. Wear tennis specific shoes because jogging shoes, cross-trainers and deck shoes do not have the lateral support and cushioning, plus they may mark the courts. Two identical racquets are recommended because strings seem to always break during important match play and an unfamiliar racquet WILL impact the way that you play. Bring your own water container...repeat, bring your own water. Cuts will be made after three to five days of outdoor tryouts. Each athlete will be talked with individually and privately by the head coach.
As a general guideline, varsity players are advanced level and junior varsity are low advanced/intermediate level. The primary focus of the varsity team is to play interscholastic matches. The first two interscholastic scrimmages occur in early March. The "regular" season for interscholastic matches will begin on March 11, four weeks after tryouts begin.
The regular season is six weeks long. Matches will consist of six singles and three doubles matches. Most starting singles players also play doubles, but a lower ranked singles player may be a better doubles player and be a doubles starter on one of three doubles teams. Our varsity team may consist of 20 +/- players. Seniors must make the varsity team. Our schedule will consist of two pre-season scrimmages, 10 Liberty District matches (each opponent- one at home and one away) and four high level non-district matches. Regular season matches are normally 10 game pro-sets with regular scoring with ads and tie-break at 10-10. Post-season tournament play starts in early May and is a combination of 10 game pro-sets and the best two out of three sets.
The focus of our junior varsity team (freshmen through juniors) will be developmental to work on technical skills, learning about strategy and tactics through drills and playing intra-squad singles/doubles matches. NEW for 2019: More than one JV player may be allowed a challenge match of a bottom five varsity player and if he wins, he will be promoted to varsity. Many JV players (based on ranking) WILL have the opportunity to play "exhibition doubles" matches against the other varsity players during home and away interscholastic matches. All JV players are encouraged to attend home and away matches, whenever possible.
The boys and girls team practice locations will alternate sites on a weekly basis starting the third week. The boys will have their week long tryouts and second week challenge matches at nearby Lewinsville Park while the girls will be at McLean HS. Third week: Boys will be at McLean HS and girls at Lewinsville Park, then each week after that the teams will alternate locations. The VARSITY boys will practice Monday through Friday, 3:30- 5:30 PM. Due to the late dismissal change and the early sunset around 6 PM, Junior Varsity team practice will START when time springs forward beginning March 11 from 5:30 PM - 7 PM.
Both the varsity and JV players rankings for singles and doubles teams will be determined by challenge matches (minimum one regular set). Last season's ranking will be your early season starting point or you may move up because of those who graduated. Early season challenge matches during the SECOND week will be very important since they will determine the beginning line-ups for our first scrimmage match. Challenge matches will continue through the end of the regular Liberty District season in early May 1 and are an expectation. Once regular regional interscholastic matches begin on March 11, there will be fewer opportunities to play challenge matches since there will be two to three interscholastic matches each week along with any matches that may have to be rescheduled because of weather. The challenge match plan: (1) coach's assigned challenges,and (2) players' challenges. Players will be responsible for issuing their challenges to their opponents; sometimes there may be a waiting list for a particular opponent (first come, first serve for challenges). Players will alternate accepting and making challenges, when reasonably possible, except when assigned by the coach. Simply put, your ranking will be based on your most recent challenge win; if you lose, you move down one spot along with everyone below you.
Please remember that the FIVE most important skills for playing high level tennis are: 1. Consistency (keep the ball in play), 2. Directional Control, 3. Depth, 4. Spin (top spin, slice and flat) and finally #5. Power (hitting the ball hard without getting it in is pointless).
Consistency is the key to winning in tennis: Most points are won because of mistakes, rather than winners. How well can you handle a difficult, forcing shot that is hit to you (this is when MOST mistakes occur)? Can you consistently keep the ball deep and past the service line, preferably 3/4 court or deeper? Can you hit cross-court consistently? Can you go down the line when the offensive opportunity presents itself? Do you attack the ball when the ball is inside the service line and is in your strike zone? Can you place your serves with moderate/hard pace and spin to the "ABC" areas (Alley, Body and Center)? While power is nice when serving (if you can reliably place it), the most important fact is to focus on being able to place the ball WITH SPIN and good pace on your FIRST and second serves (both slice and topspin/kick). In pro tennis, most second serves are won by the returner, because the serve is hit more defensively which enables the returner to attack the serve. Your first serve needs to be a reliable weapon in order to consistently win (tip: varsity level serving grip "continental" and JV level I see "eastern forehand" (NOT recommended)). Practice this high level serving drill: Serve to the six locations: start from your left to the right (deuce side- A (alley), B (body), C (center); then ad side- C, B, A). Then practice each of the three types of serves (slice, top spin and flat) to the six spots. How many tries did it take to hit to the six spots? This serving consistency drill will be used during tryouts and throughout the season. Volley grip tip: use "continental" on BOTH forehand and backhand sides. In doubles, players should strive to control the net, which requires good volleying and overhead hitting ability in order to consistently win.
Sportsmanship is a KEY part of life and particularly so in sports. People remember and talk about unsportsmanlike conduct. Good sportsmanship is an EXPECTATION. Treat others on/off the tennis court the same way that you'd like to be treated. Line calls are important too and being human we all make a few unintentional bad line calls, but remember, it is better to play a ball that is too close to call, than to have your opponent(s), team members, parents or coaches questioning your line calls. If only a hair of the the ball is touching the line, then the ball is good. Racquet abuse, i.e. throwing the racquet to the ground, net, fence or elsewhere, ball abuse, profane verbal outbursts and inappropriate hand gestures, mental meltdowns will NOT be tolerated and are grounds for point, game and/or match penalties. Always shake the hand of your opponent(s) at the end of your match. Unsportsmanlike behavior is grounds for being benched for one or more matches at the discretion of the coach, or a severe behavioral problem may result in being removed from the team, depending on the offense and after conferring with the DSA/ADSA (if someone is thrown-out of a game, he cannot play in the next interscholastic match, plus McLean's Activities Director (and Principal) are notified- they notify VHSL...fortunately this has never occurred under my watch).
From experience, those players who played year-round and took group and/or private tennis lessons at indoor facilities before the season began achieved higher team rankings. If you cannot afford lessons at indoor facilities, then try to play outside when weather conditions allow it. If you don't have a playing partner, then practice against a backboard or wall (there's a tennis backboard wall at Lewinsville Park). If possible, I encourage you to play in tournaments/USTA junior team tennis because this will help you develop your skills.
Other self-teaching suggestions: Good, free youtube tennis teaching coaches include Fuzzy Yellow Balls, Essential Tennis, Jeff Salzenstein (former ATP pro and Stanford All-American), Christophe Delavaut (high level, advanced tennis), Heath Waters (ATP/WTA coach), Tom Avery, and Coach Kyril. TennisResources.com (USPTA's videos: three free per day or you can subscribe). There are some so-called tennis teachers/coaches on youtube who are terrible.
I'm proud to report that historically, the boys tennis team has had MANY players who earned academic honors. While tennis and sports are a lot of fun and great character builder, remember that academics come first. We have players who graduated during the past few years and went on to Ivy League colleges, the University of Virginia, William and Mary, James Madison, Virginia Tech, along with many other excellent schools.
A few school policy reminders: (1) you must be taking and passing at least five classes, (2) the use of tobacco, alcohol, steroids or any illegal substance will not be tolerated and is grounds for serious school disciplinary action, including possible removal from the team, or team suspension; any action will be coordinated with the high school and the parent(s), (3) ENERGY DRINK consumption is prohibited because of the risk of potential health/heart problems, e.g. 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull, Monster, etc, (4) hazing/bullying is not allowed (which includes social media) and (5) an athlete may only practice/participate if he was in school the ENTIRE day, unless his absence/lateness was authorized/excused by the school (note: one minute UNEXCUSED LATENESS to school- then you CANNOT practice or play that day)..
New players are encouraged to look up players from last year's varsity or JV teams and informally practice and play on your own.
I hope the above gives all new players, returning players and parents an overview of what is expected and the general timelines. Feel free to email me with any questions at AavoT@Yahoo.com or by cell phone at 703-869-7175. And remember, practice, practice, practice before the season begins.
Coach Aavo Tomkov, USPTA
(Certified Teaching Pro, US Professional Tennis Assoc)