Monday, June 13, 2011

Altitude: Hypothesis

My contention is that we cannot properly train kids to play low-altitude tennis at high-altitudes.  Training world-class tennis players is a fools pursuit for most of us, obviously, but humor me.  In the USTA's Intermountain Section, most of the tennis is at high altitude, Denver and Salt Lake City.  Las Vegas is at much lower altitude so I'll ignore the success of Andre Agassi in this discussion.

We have produced very, very few top-ranked juniors nationally, and almost no world-class tennis players in the higher altitudes of the US.  Utah had Brad Pearce and Greg Holmes.  Colorado had Jeff Salzenstein.  I'm sure I've missed someone, but that's about it.

Here's a testable hypothesis.  The Intermountain Section (excluding Las Vegas) produces some very highly ranked juniors in the younger age groups, but the longer the kids train at high altitude, the further they fall behind their peers.   It seems reasonable to me that we would see good little kids come along at about the same rate as other areas, but that as the kids grow and the game gets faster, the negative affects of the altitude (ball control, bad reaction habits) begin to exert their influence.  So that by the time we get to the older junior age groups and the college and professional ranks, the ratio of high-altitude players in the higher rankings falls.  In this analysis I exclude kids who spend some years here as kids, but who move to a lower altitude to train later.  I'm interested in kids who spend the vast majority of their time training at altitude.

If I get the time to go back and look at the USTA ranking data over the years, I will report those results here.  I hope that someone beats me to it.  I am quite curious to learn if my hypothesis holds.


Memory said...

although agassi left very early on for bollettieri's, 12 or 13 i believe

Bob said...

You believe correctly. Agassi bid farewell to Las Vegas at age 13, I think.