Here’s a provocative idea to save American tennis, entertainingly floated by Huan Hsu in today’s Slate: junk the expensive academies, the fancy training programs, and the sophisticated scouting systems, and replace them with what really produces champions: nutjob tennis parents. Huan writes:
Tennis consists of only a handful of basic strokes and strategies. As such, parents who wouldn’t dare try to teach, say, golf can read a book, watch a few videos, and give capable instruction. What separates the best players from their peers isn’t superior teaching. It’s maniacal devotion.
It’s a good point. Of course, that maniacal devotion often comes with a hefty price–namely, the generous helping of pathology, abuse, and all-purpose weirdness that goes along with it (which the article lists in frightening depth). The unspoken question is, are we willing to pay that price? Or would it perhaps be smarter to take a look at the slightly-less-insane way in which some other successful players are raised (like Federer and Nadal, for instance)?