Interview with Tennis Parent Coach Steve Johnson: Part 2

I’m excited to share Part 2 of my Steve Johnson Interview. This information exchange shares a wide range of topics from tournament travel, high school tennis, college tennis to terrific pearls of wisdom for parents and coaches.

What is your opinion on pre-match preparation (Being present to win)?

Let me answer this question as it relates to tournaments, especially tournament travel.  This is what I expect a player to do before traveling to a tournament:

•Begin acclimating to the time zone prior to going to the tournament. For example- if you live in California and you are playing a tournament in Florida, wake up at 5:00 am and begin your day for several days before you leave for the event.

•Arrive at the tournament a few days in advance to get use to the weather, courts and accommodations.  This may include hitting on all courts you may likely play on during the tournament.

•Do not bother going to the tournament if you plan on flying in the night prior to the beginning of the tournament for your morning match.  I call this “Confirming the Loss”.

•If you want to save money by flying in at the last minute- save all your money and don’t go…

•Pre-match preparation before each match is mandatory- stretch, nutrition, stroke warm up, game warm up …the player should be ready to compete at match time.

Why did you decide to train Stevie at home versus the common avenue of shipping him off to an academy?

Stevie is a real family guy.  He loves being with his family.  He trusted that I would lead him in the right direction. At about 16, Stevie needed additional coaching to join our team and help take him to the level.  We all worked together with the common goal of helping Stevie to continue to improve.  In addition, Stevie had decided to attend USC and was committed to play for Peter Smith.

NOTE:  Academies are not needed and usually not beneficial if a player already has a team of coaches, hitters and trainers all working together.

Stevie’s High School Career:

Stevie played High School tennis for three years.  His school team was division 5 -which is a relatively low division. Many of the division 5 players did not even have a racquet bag.  Stevie would go to practice and games with one or two racquets so he did not stand out.

Even though most of the players could not even return Stevie’s serve, I believed playing High School ball was a valuable learning experience.  The coach was quite surprised that Stevie was at every practice.  I believed that if Stevie was on the team, he should play as team member and that meant attending practice.  Stevie develop a love for team tennis, as seen with Stevie’s huge USC success- winning 2 Individual Championships and 4 Team Championships.  Stevie looks forward to someday playing Davis Cup and Olympics!

To all the parent’s that think their children are too good for high school tennis, I tell them High School tennis will help develop life skills.  No one is too good for high school tennis.  Yes, your child’s tennis skill set will regress, but they will gain valuable life lessons.

Stevie has a distinguished NCAA career at USC with our friend Peter Smith. Tell us about that experience?

Stevie has an incredible college experience at USC. His coach, Peter Smith had a terrific coaching philosophy, similar to mine, in that his players were playing for something bigger than themselves.  Stevie really excelled under Coach Smith- winning 2 Individual titles and 4 Team Championships.

Stevie chose to attend USC because of the coaching style of Peter Smith and because of the coaxing of his good friend and mentor, Kaes Van’t  Of, who also played for USC.  Stevie was able to play on the tour during the fall of his senior year so he could take advantage of the wild cards offered by the USTA. Stevie’s decision to play college first before turning professional was not supported by many- but as it turns out- it was a GREAT decision.

NOTE:  When considering a college, think about the coaching style and how his/her style will get the most out of your child.

Can you share some insider secrets about Stevie’s experience as the United States Top Young ATP Professional?

The professional tour has been a real roller coaster for Stevie.  He jumped into the top 100 in his first year on the tour, but in his second year, the players began to know him and his game- so winning became more difficult.  Stevie was not used to losing.  He became very mentally and emotionally tired from losing.  (I was very concerned how he would handle losing in the PRO’s because he was not used to losing…)

I tried to put it into perspective for Stevie:

“You won 2 tournaments lost 24 last year and you won about $200,000.   Tomas Berdych, didn’t win any tournaments and lost 24 tournaments, but he lost in the semis or finals and he won over a million. ”

Stevie knows he must continue to work harder and harder get as fit as possible to make it into the top 10- which is a challenge he is taking on! His dedication to fitness was evident with his first round win in the 2014 Roland Garros Tournament- coming from behind and winning in 5!

What would you like to share with struggling tennis parents around the world?

Keep it fun.  If your children are enjoying tennis, keep it up.  I always say, “Fun on the court- win in life!” But if you are asking me, will tennis lessons get my kid a full college scholarship or a ticket into a professional tennis career, I would say find a different form of investment- tennis is a bad investment.  The greatest investment a parent could ask for with regards to tennis is developing life lessons.

In regards to parental involvement, I believe it is better for the parent to be a bit less involved than over-involved.

What would you like to share with coaches around the world?

The same message goes for coaches, fun on the court- fun in life. I suggest the coach meet with each player and their parents.  Explain to them that tennis development is like a well running wheel- coach, player and parent all doing their part.  But if one of the three is not supporting the wheel, a triangle develops and the wheel will not roll smoothly.  And as a coach, if the player or parent chooses not to do their job, then I don’t care- I don’t have to care.

“In one car ride home after a loss, Parents can undue everything positive that I have taught in the past year”

A parents job is to support, love, nurture and encourage their child and not to coach.


Contact Steve Johnson:
Steve Johnson Tennis Academy
Rancho San Clemente Tennis Club
Cell: (949) 492-1515
Web Site:


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