What makes up “the perfect junior club champion”?
Well obviously the person needs to be a very good tennis player; usually well rounded in their game so they are competent with two areas of match play. Those are being able to attack when necessary and conversely being able to defend when necessary. Plus they need to be fit, and usually quite quick and fast. They also need to have a solid understanding of match play tactics. And lastly they need to be mentally tough.
This last area is the most difficult to master… the psychology of tennis.
In my experience there are only a few juniors who are balanced with regard to their skills for the 4 segments of tennis which I have referred to. I see many juniors who are brilliant in one or two of those areas, but often remarkably weak in other areas.
These juniors rarely become club champions. Why not? Well the game is so beautifully designed that anyone with a definite weakness will always be beaten by a player who is well balanced (I am not referring to physical balance, rather balance between the 4 components). A player who has a skill level of say 80% in all 4 components will beat a player who has 100% skill level in 2 components but only 20% in the other two components. The complete player will have many avenues for finding a way to defeat an opponent.
But all I have mentioned so far comes under the heading of the skills needed for winning match play. To be a club champion FOR the club the player needs to be much more than a trophy hunter. The junior needs to be well behaved both on and off the court. The junior needs to display good sportsmanship qualities (eg fair line calls, applaud opponents good play etc). And be able to handle defeat as well as victory. The junior needs to be a team player. The junior needs to have a good grasp of how tennis clubs work. They need to be prepared to play with weaker players if that is the only option available (without complaining). They need to enter as many events as possible, not just so they can win, but to support the club. They need to realize that they are not the only member of the club. And they need to put up their hand and HELP the club (when needed).
Summing up, they need to be a perfect role model for all the other juniors. Currently I am president of Port Douglas Tennis Club. We have just finished our annual junior club championships. We are lucky to have one of our juniors who is the perfect club champion. Her name is Kiani Berzinski; she has just recently played her last match as a junior. She has won the junior girls singles 6 years in a row.
As I was writing the above details I was mentally ticking off those items for Kiani, saying to myself “yes she has that one, yes she has that one…” I got through the whole list… and ticked every item for her!
I first met Kiani when she was 6 years old when she came to our club junior group lessons. That was in 2004 I believe. She has grown up a lot since then, but is still the very friendly girl I first met. But what an asset to our club she has been. She has won a total of 20 club championships (singles and doubles).