What does it take to become a professional tennis player? If you are chasing the dream of making it pro, what do you need to make it? What are the ingredients that make a talented junior into a full-time, adult player.
The chances of becoming a professional tennis player are very slim. There are thousands and thousands of junior players around the world who may want to reach the top of the game and play at Wimbledon but very few of them actually make it. But what would you have to have if you did want to make it to the top? What do those who do make it have in common and what sacrifices need to be made to climb the ladder as high as you can.
The biggest commitment needed to be made by junior players and their families who want to become professional is time. If you are serious about becoming pro, there are thousands of hours you need to commit to training and competing to reach the necessary standard. It is widely agreed that to become talented in any activity, you need to commit 10,000 hours over 10 years but if you started playing tennis aged 5 years old, this would only take you to the age of 15. There would then potentially be another 10 years before you may reach the world’s top 100, where the average age is currently around 25 or 26 years old.
This commitment of time starts at a very young age where players need to start learning technique, tactics, movements patterns and how to compete. It is very difficult for players who start playing later in childhood to catch up with those who have started early. This commitment is also a commitment to competing. Those players who do not compete at a young age will struggle to ever catch up with those players who have always competed.
If you are able to commit your time to the correct number of hours of tennis, this inevitably will come at a financial cost. There is no getting away from the fact that tennis, as an individual pursuit, becomes more expensive the more often you play.
Particularly in Great Britain where you cannot play outdoors all year round and where all coaches are professional, training for tennis is not cheap. To have a good programme of training, fitness and competition requires funding to a high level on an annual basis. As players get older and the hours required increase, so do the costs. Finding the best level of competition, both domestically and internationally, is imperative to give players the competitive and mental skills to succeed at the highest level. This requires a commitment of both time and money for both the player and their families.
To be a successful player, there are several opportunities required to facilitate a players’ development. Having a venue within close enough distance to where you live is important. It different parts of the UK this can be challenging and there are still areas where court provision, particularly indoor courts, is low. Even when courts are available they are not always of the correct surface to help facilitate the development of a talented player. In particular, many indoor courts in the UK are very fast, which does not help the development of players compared to a slower surface which is better for developing technique, tactics and movement.
As well as the facilities, you need the right people to help you develop. Finding a coach who is motivated to support a player’s development and give their time, knowledge and experience to help a player achieve their dreams is imperative. There are many excellent coaches across the UK but it is important to have the right coach working with the right player at the correct stages of their development. This can be a difficult when players need to move from one coach to another but coaches who have the player’s best interests at the heart of everything they do are crucial to helping players succeed.
Tennis an extremely difficult sport in which to make it all the way to the top. The combination of time and money as well as the opportunities to succeed all need to be in place but even then it might not be enough. Factors such as injury, mental toughness and sometimes an element of luck may all come into play as well. If the reason you play (or your child plays) tennis is to become a professional then these are the commitments you need to make and there will be many things you will need to sacrifice as a consequence.
What are your thoughts on making it to the top? What do you think are the most important factors? Let me know your feedback and comments below…