Engaging Tennis Hall of Famers John McEnroe and Andre Agassi, plus Claude Okin, Sportime President, led a World TeamTennis (WTT) conference call discussing the matchup between the New York Sportimes and Boston Lobsters on July 19th at the Sportimes Stadium. The WTT is entering its 37th season.
John and Andre will square off against each other to raise scholarship money for under resourced youth benefiting the Mac Project. The Johnny Mac Tennis Project (JMTP) is on a mission to find the next John McEnroe. His Academy is expanding from 600 kids on Randall’s Island Tennis Center in Manhattan, to Westchester, and Long Island, in September, 2012.
My Sports Techie question to John, the seven-time Grand Slam singles titles winner, concerned technology. I asked Mac how much tech is used in the training of young tennis players today, especially at his John McEnroe Tennis Academy (JMTA). John answered back that he is a “dinosaur,” himself when it comes to technology; something I am learning is good spin control.
Last year, I had the privilege to first learn about the JMTA during a different WTT conference call. I asked John about Social Media, and whether he will be getting a Twitter user name anytime in the near future? John shared back that he was a going to, “leave that to his brother Patrick,” and that he was a “tyrannosaurs rex,” when it came to technology. Pat McEnroe is the head of the U.S. Tennis Association’s player development program and someone we love to tweet with.
John went to Stanford and basically has a PHD in tennis. Mac shared that he will be at the London 2012 Olympic Games representing NBC Sports. If I asked him about string technology, more automation of the umpires, or whether 175 M.P.H. serves are coming, Mac would be the person to get an answer from.
When he was asked about the controversial Blue Clay that was used in a recent tournament in Madrid, his response was it, “looked weird to me.” Mac added that the new surface was “slippery,” and “rough to move on.” Players could “lose edge,” on this new surface, he wondered aloud. Mac’s spot on analysis of the Blue Clay done from here in the US via some kind of monitor is another example of how much of a Sports Techie he really is.
According to Mac, the WTT hey day was back in the 1970’s when Billie Jean King and Madison Square Garden (MSG) had the Pro League popping. ‘Players played all season,” said John. This meant missing the French Open for some.
Andre described this time in tennis history as, “The Golden Era.” The amount of parity between Champions in the Professional game today is at an all-time high. Tennis is being played at a, ‘sophisticated level,” said Andre. “They are so athletic, so talented,” while being “bigger, faster, stronger.”
Players that stand 6-6 to 6-10 have always been around, John shared. Only now they are more athletic and understand the game like a computer. Andre said that the back-to-back moves these guys execute in a single play are amazing. In comparison, he would use one move only. Stringing sequence upon sequence of mechanically correct and precise tennis shots is how the game is played today at the highest levels.
Agassi discussed tennis racket “string technology,” with a USATODAY reporter, and the margins used in today’s game. I was going to ask Andre about tennis technology, however, the presser ended before my turn came back up.
The fact that the JMTP provides scholarships, coaching, transportation and financial assistance to kids who live around the Burroughs of New York City is wonderful philanthropy in itself and deserves big props as a means of reigniting the US tennis game with our youth.
The JMTA use iPads to help kids begin to integrate technology into their daily lives. John told me he likes, “eye-to-eye,” tennis Coaching. I know exactly what he means because he sounds like my Dad. If I could pass any advice back to Mac it would be to embrace tech more than a dinosaur, and use it as a means of implementing the JMTP philosophies in ways that students like and will prosper.
Sports Techie tennis players come in all ages, shape and abilities. Andre, Martina Hingis and Bjorn Borg, are all somewhere on the Sports Techie tennis meter, just like John and I. While I was in Barcelona as a blogger at the Global Sports Forum, I learned a good deal about their Academies that are in sync with developing Championship caliber players.
American tennis is on the right track. John Isner and Serena Williams are leading US tennis right now during this European, Golden Age. With the help of the JMTP, our country’s next Johnny Mac might very well come from the New York City communities.
SPORTIME RANDALL’S ISLAND
SPORTIME’s $18 million flagship tennis facility features: 20 indoor/outdoor Deco-Turf and Har-Tru tennis courts, all enclosed during the indoor season and lighted for evening play outdoors; 20,000 square foot clubhouse with meeting, study and entertainment spaces; fitness and training center; multi-purpose class rooms; junior computer/study lounges; café, pro shop, nursery, treatment rooms. Click here to find out more.
SPORTIME operates 12 tennis fitness and sports clubs across New York State, featuring more than 150 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and numerous fitness centers, sports facilities, swimming pools and camps. The clubs serve over 25,000 tennis and fitness enthusiasts and more than 10,000 junior tennis players. Click here to find out more.
Enjoy the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open while remembering that the athletic and strategic play you are watching is why this is indeed the “Golden Age,” of worldwide tennis. Let’s support tennis programs such as the JMTP and WTT as they integrate technology into their innovative Programs.
See you when I see you, THE Sports Techie
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