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The American Tennis Association (ATA)

By · November 25, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

ATA – The Black Tennis Mecca

Formed in 1916 by a group of African American businessmen, college professors and physicians, the American Tennis Association (ATA) has become the Mecca for blacks – from all walks of life – who yearn to enjoy the camaraderie and competition offered by a sport for youngsters from age 8 to 80.
Since its inception, the ATA, which is the oldest African American sports organization in the United States, has honored the founding fathers primary objectives:

• To bring black tennis enthusiasts and players into close and friendly relations,
• To improve the standards of existing clubs,
• To hold an annual national championship tournament,
• To regulate the dates of local and regional tournaments to avoid conflicts,
• To appoint referees and officials for each event, and
• To promote the standard of the game among black players.

The organization held its first ATA National Championships, consisting of three events (men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles), at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park in August 1917. In August 2005, several thousand players are expected to compete in more than 50 different events at the 89th annual ATA National Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla. Indeed, the ATA is the core of a growing, African American big-bucks demographic that has helped turn the tennis industry into a multibillion dollar business.
The ATA has produced several of the world’s top players and coaches. Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, the first African Americans to be ranked No. 1 and to win Grand Slam titles, were sponsored and groomed by ATA officials and coaches. ATA coaches Willis Thomas and John Wilkerson developed several top pros, including (No. 4) Zina Garrison, (No. 9) Lori McNeil, (No. 56) Rodney Harmon and (No. 67) Katrina Adams. MaliVai Washington, Leslie Allen, Camille Benjamin, Chip Hooper, Renee Blount, Marcell Freeman, Bruce Foxworth, Juan Farrow are among other former ATA players who received computer rankings on the men’s and women’s pro circuits.
Though severely hampered by the nation’s acceptance of policies and practices that denied blacks access to most United States Lawn Tennis Association events (USLTA) during that time, several black leaders were determined to cultivate an appreciation for ‘the gentlemen’s game’ among people of color. They overcame by forming their own tennis circuit. The ATA was born when representatives from more than a dozen black tennis clubs met in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, 1916, Thanksgiving Day. Dr. Harry S. McCard, Dr. William H. Wright, Dr. B.M. Rhetta, Ralph Cook, Henry Freeman and Tally Holmes were among the ATA’s founding fathers. Holmes, of Washington, D.C., won the first two ATA men’s singles titles.
Knowing that large groups of blacks would not be accommodated at most hotels, especially in the south, the early ATA National Championships were held at various black colleges, including Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), Morehouse College, Central State and Lincoln University. These black campuses provided tennis courts and sufficient housing space. The college administrators were delighted to have so many prosperous and potential donors, affiliated with their campuses. The ATA national soon became one of the most anticipated social events of the year in the black community. Formal dances, fashion shows and other activities were planned during the week of play. Today, similar social activities are planned at most ATA events.
Major Barrier Broken
The first interracial match occurred in 1940 when Don Budge, who won the Grand Slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals in same calendar year) in 1938, met ATA champion Jimmie McDaniel in an exhibition at New York’s Cosmopolitan Club before 2,000 fans. Budge defeated McDaniel 6-1, 6-2, and afterwards commended McDaniel on his skills despite his error-filled performance. “Jimmy is a very good player, I’d say he’d rank with the first 10 of our white players,” Budge said.
But the most significant breakthrough occurred in 1950 when Althea Gibson, who won a record 10 consecutive ATA singles titles, stepped across the racial divide to become the first black to compete in the U.S. Nationals. Several years later, Gibson won the first of five Grand Slam titles, capturing the French Open in 1956. She also won Wimbledon (1957-58) and the U.S. Nationals (1957-58). In 1968, Arthur Ashe, a three-time ATA champion (1960-62) captured the inaugural U.S. Open title, becoming the first black male to win a Grand Slam title. Ashe also won the Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975). Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, Dr. Hubert Eaton and Bertram Baker were among the ATA officials who played key behind the scene roles in the success of Gibson and Ashe. Johnson, an ATA vice-president, organized and developed the first ATA Junior Development program. Eaton was a long-time ATA president and Baker was a long time ATA executive secretary. The Gibson-Ashe legacy continues through today’s black pros, including Venus and Serena Williams, Chanda Rubin, James Blake, Angela Haynes, Jamea Jackson and Donald Young. The Williams sisters, who already have 12 Grand Slam singles titles, frequently have said that they were inspired by Gibson, Ashe, Garrison and other former players.

Excellence – Maintaining it

By · November 5, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

Great athletes make excellent performances appear easy, but they obviously are not. How can we prepare for excellence in performance? For me, thinking about this question starts with three quotes:
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift.
Strive for perfection, but never expect it.

The first reminds me that action is required and great gains occur as a result of consistent small improvements. The second reminds me to check my regrets about the past and my worries about the future at the door so that I can give my best effort right now to the task-at-hand. The third clarifies that I have high expectations and I set no limits on my capabilities, but I will not beat myself up for my shortcomings, either. 
There are three levels of mental toughness, according to my mentor, Harvey Dorfman:
1) Want it.
2) Know what to do.
3) Do what you know.

So, first I must find a worthy goal to work towards, and there is no better way to find it than to do whatever I’m doing now to the best of my ability and see if this sparks a passion. If it does: fantastic. It’s now time to think about both long and short-term goals. If it doesn’t, I have still trained myself in mental discipline and received the most benefits possible from that task for myself and those around me.

Obviously, if excellence is to be achieved, action is required. This action must not only include hard work,
but smart work, too. Know what to do (work smart) by asking questions constantly and by paying special attention to the second level in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: self-control, intentness, initiative, and alertness. Finally, show your mental toughness by
a)  controlling your emotions;
b)  not being denied your goal for any reason;
c)  seeking out new ways to know (figure out) what to do;
d)  doing what you know, the best you can;
e)  paying attention to all the details along the journey; and
f)  by enjoying the ride, even through the inevitable obstacles along the way.
Article provided by Coach Aaron Weintraub.  Visit Coach Weintraub at

Is Grunting Cheating? Scientists think so!

By · November 5, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »


There is a growing chorus of critics who complain that many of the top-ranked professional tennis players who grunt when they hit the ball gain an unfair advantage because the sound of the grunt interferes with their opponent’s game. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We explored this potential detrimental effect of grunting by presenting videos of a tennis player hitting a ball to either side of a tennis court; the shot either did, or did not, contain a brief sound that occurred at the same time as contact. The participants’ task was to respond as quickly as possible, indicating whether the ball was being hit to the left- or right-side of the court. The results were unequivocal: The presence of an extraneous sound interfered with a participants’ performance, making their responses both slower and less accurate.


Our data suggest that a grunting player has a competitive edge on the professional tennis tour. The mechanism that underlies this effect is a topic for future investigation. Viable alternatives are discussed. For example, the possibility that the interfering auditory stimulus masks the sound of the ball being struck by the racket or it distracts an opponent’s attention away from the sound of the ball.

Citation: Sinnett S, Kingstone A (2010) A Preliminary Investigation Regarding the Effect of Tennis Grunting: Does White Noise During a Tennis Shot Have a Negative Impact on Shot Perception? PLoS ONE 5(10): e13148. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013148

Editor: Warren H. Meck, Duke University, United States of America

Received: February 26, 2010; Accepted: September 7, 2010; Published: October 1, 2010

Copyright: © 2010 Sinnett, Kingstone. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: This work was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery grant (12R80338) to AK’s lab. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Introduction Top

Portuguese tennis had something to brag about last year. For the first time a Portuguese women’s tennis player, Michelle Larcher de Brito, made it to the third round of the 2009 French Open. Unfortunately for Michelle she lost to Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in a match where Michelle was heavily criticized for executing a loud and long grunt each time she hit the ball. The complaint is that Michelle, and many of the best players in tennis like her, such as Rafael Nadal, the Williams sisters, and Maria Sharapova (who grunts at over 100 decibels), may gain an unfair advantage by distracting their opponents with their grunts. Indeed, there is a growing chorus of critics who complain that many of the top-ranked professional tennis players are cheating when they grunt. This complaint has been voiced not only by the media and fans, but also by the athletes themselves [1], [2]. For instance, Martina Navratilova (former World number 1) recently said that grunting is “…cheating and it’s got to stop” [1]. Navratilova’s argument centered around the idea that it is important to hear the ball strike the racket, and that the sound of a grunt can mask or distract attention from this important moment. Accordingly, the governing body of the rules of tennis (International Tennis Federation, ITF) explicitly state (rule 26) that purposeful and excessive grunting is a hindrance and reason for a point penalty [3]. (more…)

Staying in the “Zone”

By · October 5, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

Did you watch the 2010 U.S. Open?  Were you inspired to go out and try to hit the ball like Nadal?  What happened?  Did you end up making more unforced errors or losing a close match?  Could it be that your actual play didn’t meet your expectations?  Maybe you just aren’t getting into – or staying consistently in “The Zone”.

If you are a recreational player and play matches several times a week and take a few lessons now and then – your game will likely improve somewhat over time, but, before long, be about where you started.  You may experience feeling in “the zone” on occasion, but this feeling will most likely remain elusive.  Frustration may occur as you do the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result (Einstein’s definition of insanity).

However, if you set goals for your achievement as a tennis player and measure your progress toward those goals, including weekly practice sessions with a partner or instructor – and learn methods of attention control, imagery and self-awareness, you will begin to experience more time in “the zone”.  You’ll be playing your best tennis effortlessly and with greater confidence and success.  No player ever stays in the zone all the time, but being it it more than not is a realistic goal.

Dave Stacho, Sports Counseling for Tennis

4236 59th St. W.

Bradenton, FL.  34209

(941) 962-1216

Affirmations and Self-Talk

By · September 1, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

We love our sports and sometimes we are completely frustrated in them; or I should say, ‘our’ performance and ‘our’ outcomes in them.  What does it take then to become an even better athlete and create even higher levels of performance?  Is this something only available to the elite, Olympic, or professional athlete? The answer is absolutely “No”!  Anyone who is willing to put in the work of mental  training can achieve greater and greater levels of success.  But like any achievement, it takes work, commitment and practice.

The late Dorothy Harris, PhD, who was a professor of sport psychology at Pennsylvania State University used to say, “The only difference between the best performances and the worst performance is the variation in our self-talk and the self-thoughts and attitudes we carry around with us.”

It is important to understand the direct link between self-confidence and success.  Using affirmations and positive self-talk are crucial in changing one’s performance and thus the desired outcome; it is the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete with all other variables being the same.  Pete Sampras, who retired in August 2003 after a stunning career, is one who used positive affirmations and self-talk to remind himself, that he can conquer an opponent even if he is behind and not playing well.

Most of us don’t realize that we spend a good deal of time talking to ourselves, and are unaware of our internal dialogue.  We ‘know’ what the right things are we need to say to ourselves, and sometimes even do say positive things, but more often than not, there is another  level of dialogue going on within us, that may not be so supportive and positive.  Those are the thoughts beneath the surface that have been there often our entire lives that we share with only a few, if anyone.  The beliefs and thoughts we hide; those are the beliefs that need to change to change our performances and thus our lives. Those are the ones that actually “rule” our lives.  What we ‘think about’ we create! (more…)

Oscar Johnson Interview Parts 1,2 & 3

By · June 19, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · 2 Comments »

It was in 1946, at age 15, when Oscar Johnson first picked up a tennis racquet. Now, nearly 55 years later, he is recognized as the first African-American ever to win a national USTA- sanctioned event. In 1987 Oscar joined Bjorn Borg, Stan Smith, Dennis Ralston and Billie Jean King in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Black Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and later into the Pacific Coast Hall of Fame.

At the time that Oscar won the National Public Parks Tournament in 1948, Arthur Ashe was 5 years old and had not yet begun to play tennis.

At age 17,  Oscar was recognized as the “Jackie Robinson” of professional tennis.  It was only a year before Johnson broke the color barrier in tennis that baseball legend Jackie Robinson broke it in baseball, by beginning his career with the then, Brooklyn Dodgers as the first Black professional baseball player.

Art Carrington’s Figure Eight Fitness

By · May 19, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

Injuries after 40

By · April 20, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

If you have reached your mid-40’s and you enjoy playing in tennis, basketball or racquetball leagues, there is a good chance that you have experienced lower back pain. Although you may not feel much different than you did in your 20’s, your body has, in fact, changed and your exercise routine needs to change as well.

Assuming you have no significant medical issue such as a herniated disc or ligament tear, and you follow your doctor’s advice about exercise, there is no reason why you cannot remain competitive in your leagues for many years to come.

An effective warm up routine help prevent strains and sprains and may help prevent more serious injuries as well. There are any number of effective warm up routines – you can use the following routine as a starting point for your own pre-exercise stretching.

Your warm up routine should become a habit. Middle aged bodies are extremely susceptible to muscle and ligament strains and tears if you begin vigorous exercise without proper hydration and warm up. (more…)

Preventing Injuries

By · April 12, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · No Comments »

Having played tennis for over ten years now, I have always been looking for effective ways and tennis tips to improve my game and my overall enjoyment of the game. In previous years, I found that with the rapid bursts of acceleration, frequent side to side motions, lunges and stretches common to tennis, I suffered from repeated injuries, especially in my neck/shoulders, knees, back and calf muscles. Also, I found that if I played long matches in the summer heat, I was very susceptible to cramping in my legs and hands, which always seemed to happen at the most critical point in the match. These injuries and cramp issues were seriously impacting my enjoyment of tennis. It was at this point that I decided to do some research.

After talking to many people and lots of ‘Googling’, it turns out that I was making the very common mistake of playing tennis not just for enjoyment, but as my primary method of keeping fit. This is a big mistake and the primary reason I was so prone to injuries. My wife (also a keen tennis player) and I decided to join our local gym and seek out the advice of a fitness professional. Fortunately, we found a personal trainer who did lots of research on tennis related exercises and conditioning and so we started on a program to improve our overall fitness. This is one of the best tennis tips I know. The exercises were specifically targeted towards the muscle groups important to tennis players. After several months, I found that my overall strength, agility, speed and stamina had improved to the extent that I was now starting to win a lot more of my tennis matches. My weight also decreased, which meant that I was faster on court and there was less stress on my knees. Perhaps more importantly, I was not suffering from the repeated injuries and cramp problems that had plagued me in the past. (more…)

Bouncing Back from Failure!

By · April 12, 2010 · Filed in Uncategorized · 1 Comment »

What is it that keeps an athlete coming back for more when the odds are stacked against them? What is it that drives an athlete tipped as the favourite to win to keep going when the gold medal is no longer within their grasp? What motivates great Olympians like downhill skier Hermann Maier to pick themselves up and carry on after a horrific spill on the slopes that left the viewing public convinced he must be dead?

Inner strength comes from a desire to succeed; an ambition to achieve goals. Those goals are as individual as the athletes who set them but research into how competitive athletes define success has shown that there are three main types of goal:


Mastery goals, also known as task goals, are those associated with self-improvement. Achieving technically excellent form or achieving any sort of personal best performance constitutes success. Athletes motivated by mastery-oriented goals strive to continually improve their performance, irrespective of whether they win or not.


Ego goals, also known as ability goals, are those associated with demonstrating high ability. Athletes motivated by ego-oriented goals constantly strive to prove their ability by performing better than everyone else – winning is everything. How they win is secondary. The majority of athletes who make it into the Olympic arena do so because of ego-oriented goals: a need to win. (more…)