Talking Tennis with IMG/Bollettieri’s Scott Treibly
by Dan Martin | February 25th, 2009, 11:50 am

I had the distinct fortune to play on Scott Treibly’s (click for biographical data) high school team in 1992. After a successful career playing and coaching NCAA tennis, Scott is now a major figure in shaping junior tennis at IMG/Bollettieri. He was kind enough to answer some questions on the sport we all love.

1. Scott, could you briefly describe your coaching duties? What are you doing now with tennis?

I am a head tennis coach and director of college placement at IMG/Bollettieri Academies in Bradenton, Florida. Each day I am on the court working with aspiring juniors from all over the world. I also conduct tennis clinics all over the world and write for 5 tennis publications. One of my latest articles was titled “The Case for only One Serve.” I believe the pros should adopt only one serve to make the points longer. Today so many of the points are just a serve and a return.

On the one serve proposal, I would assume we’d see more play like what we see from Rafael Nadal. What style of play do you think that would favor?

It would hurt the big serving guys like Roddick and Karlovic, but Nadal and Federer would still be the top 2 players. I think it would allow for more volleys and longer points. The chip charge would be a great play off of a second serve.

2. Who are some of the notable players you have worked with?

Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Tommy Haas … I have been on the court with all of these players. My more day to day work is with students who are getting ready for the early stages of the pro tour or college tennis. I work with students of all ages, but primary with students ages 14-20.

3. Do you have any advice to juniors aspiring to play college tennis? Has Title IX had a major impact on male and female opportunities in tennis or is that story overblown?

College Tennis in my opinion is the greatest format for tennis because it is a team environment. I would tell any kid that is hungry to compete that there is a school for them out there. Do not get caught up in DI, DII or DIII. Be open-minded and find the right fit.

With regard to Title IX I wish that football could stand on its own so men’s sports would have more scholarships. I am happy to see the growth of women’s athletics. I think Title IX has created a lot of opportunities for female sports. Men’s tennis and other Olympic sports are endangered because they are not money makers and athletic departments need to balance their books.

4. Looking at Amer Delic, Benjamin Becker and John Isner among others, do you see NCAA tennis as playing a major part in generating quality professional players?

I want college tennis to be the training ground for the pros but in reality there are less pros from college now than 15 years ago. It is hard to believe because the level of commitment has increased, but the competition around the world is so much stronger. In the 1980’s tennis did not have the international depth that you have today. Granted many international players are playing college tennis but maybe one player a year is making it into the top 100 of the pro ranks.

Do you think the days of a Todd Martin type player, reaching two grand slam finals and 4 other grand slam semifinals in his career, emerging through the NCAA to be more or less over?

No. Pros are going to come out of college. I would just like to see more pros come out of college. If you go through the ATP and WTA draws week by week, you will see only a player or two that played in college. I would like to see 20 players in the top 100 that played college tennis. I think good juniors should go to college for two years and if they have improved turn pro. The peak on the pro circuit is 21 to 24 so in essence the timing is perfect.

5. I coached a high school team for two years, and one frustration I had was that some great athletes would join the tennis team to cross train for basketball and do reasonably well despite having no formal tennis training before high school. In some cases they ended up liking tennis better than basketball, but I think we can all agree that starting serious tennis at 14 or 15 is way too late in terms of reaching one’s full potential as a junior. What does the USTA need to do to identify and attract interested talent earlier?

The USTA needs to have hands on programs in all the communities around the United States. They need to invest more in the grass roots. I would like to see them make more of commitment to high school and college tennis. For tennis to be more popular, the scoring needs to be simplified and it should be promoted in more of a team format. Very often kids get burned out by the individual competition. Prince Racket Sports is promoting the sport by having Academies from all of the country compete against each other in a team format.

On the USTA promoting a team system, I never played at the level you played at, but you mention burnout. My roommate in college had a pretty high Midwestern rating and he mentioned burnout. He and I agreed that we loved playing junior tennis but hated the hooking on calls and dealing with some tennis parents. Do you think a team environment would cut back on hooking, crazy parents etc.?

No way. You have this in all sports.

6. Scott Treibly is the most talented tennis player I ever had the chance to see play up close and hit with in my time in tennis. It was a treat to be part of the same team with him at Louisville Saint Xavier High School. Scott has done some awesome things on the tennis court in singles and doubles including a great run to the doubles semifinal at Kalamazoo in 1992 that ended in a tight 3 set loss to the eventual champions. The most amazing thing I saw Scott do was beat 2 other nationally ranked players consecutively to win the 1992 Kentucky High School state title while playing with a broken right wrist.

I have always wondered how you did that. As a 6’3” lefty serve and volley player, having a broken right wrist did not doom your chances against even regionally ranked players, but how do you beat one junior ranked in the top 30 in the nation and another in the top 75 back-to-back with a bad wing given that you hit a two handed backhand and had to slice everything?

Thank you. I had a month to prepare to play Michael Mather and Edwin Lewis. I practiced only volleys, no groundstrokes, for one month straight knowing that would be the key. The injury actually made me focus and get the job done. The other factor was the will to win.

Note – Here is an interview Scott did with former University of Florida player Jesse Levine.

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21 Comments for Talking Tennis with IMG/Bollettieri’s Scott Treibly

Mary Says:

I’m not one that thinks college is the end all be all of life; I’m glad to read about encouraging players to attend college before turning pro.

My thought has been that one reason tennis lost popularity is because we cannot identify with the players and the perception that many are pushed by parents wanting to make money off of their children. The non-education of the players is troubling. Both Sampras and Federer are high school dropouts. The Richard Williams 60 Minutes interview did much to damage tennis, as did Andre Agassi’s “Image is Everything” phase.
Also, it’s realistic that you’ve seen pro-basketball players play while in the neighborhood or high school, but pro-tennis players are whisked off to some strange world.

What is the goal of academies, such as Bolletieri? Do you think that charging $16,000 for a player to attend full time encourages psycho parent behavior and burnout?
Also, how can one turn pro without attending a tennis academy from an early age. How do you deal with a 14-year old child who has expectation heaped upon them by parents etc.?
Is a student considered a failure if they do not make the pro ranks by a certain age?
Not trying to sound negative, I’m just fascinated by sports academies.

“the hooking on calls” is what exactly?
The link for the Jessie Levine interview is broken.
Thanks for the interview!

Dan Martin Says: I undoubtedly messed up the link process and that is hard to do on wordpress. That url will hopefully work. “Hooking” is giving bad calls when calling your own lines. I can’t speak for Scott but I agree some massive commitment like an academy or constant instruction seems needed for producing pros. Still, I think golf grew in popularity when more people started playing as understanding the game deeply makes watching it more fun. Tennis not identifying interested young players and burning out the ones who do get into junior tennis seems to defeat ant hope of growing the sport. My $.02

tenisbebe Says:

One of the problems I have with US college tennis is the number of scholarships awarded to non-US student. Coaches are seeking them out to make their teams more competitive. To me, once again with college recruiting, this is backwards: the education is the key NOT the sports, but the cart is pulling the horse in US schools. Europe uses an academy system to groom their athletes, instead of relying on the educational system & subsequently taxpayer money to support sports. Looking solely at their talented crop of tennis players, it seems to be working. Comments?

Mary Says:

tenisbabe: I just don’t like an academy system. It reminds me of the old Soviet System. I don’t like grooming athletes to the exclusion of their education, which I feel the European system does. I read a Federer interview where it was his home school that sent schoolwork to him while he was at his academy. It lead me to think that the academy provided no “real” education.

I have no problem with athletes receiving scholarships. While most do not go “pro,” they do get an education. Yeah, there are abuses in the scholarships and athletic departments in some schools. For the vast majority of athletes, it allows them to afford an education they would not have gotten otherwise. It does take talent and drive to get a scholarship.

“One of the problems I have with US college tennis is the number of scholarships awarded to non-US student.”
Me, too!

Dan: thanks for the link.

tenisbebe Says:

Thank you for responding. I know nothing about the European academy system and so your comments are insightful. I need to further educate myself in that area.

Dan Martin Says:

Th one serve rule would radically change the sport and looking at volleyball’s always changing rules I am not sure that is a good idea, but it would speed up play and make each strike of the ball mean something. Change comes slowly to tennis (we still use the face of a clock for our scoring system) so it will be awhile if ever before that gets considered by the powers that be. Still, I have thought a lo about the idea since the interview. Any thoughts on your part?

Mary Says:

The game would be faster with one serve but I would not want to watch a match where all of the points are gained off missed serves.

I don’t mind long matches as long as I am watching something– something not being pis#ing around between points.

If this rule happens, what coach, or player turned coach in make belief-land, would be best suited to teach a strategy dealing with it?

Von Says:

If the game were to go to one serve, which I don’t foresee happening, again, it will be to the server’s advantage. The good/big servers hit more first serves than the other players, which would put us back to square one. Presently, there are many fans who don’t like the big servers because they like to watch long drawn out points. Just imagine what the game would be like to watch if a big server were playing against a guy who always needs a second serve to get his game going? It would be disastrous. I think the games would end a lot faster, because of the missed serves by the not so good servers. Four (4) missed first serves and the game is over. Tennis would go down the tubes.

Dan Martin Says:

I think college tennis outside of 20-30 programs is not out signing guys from all over the world who may or may not have violated their amateur status. Mid level and lower level DI and DII and DIII are simply playing tennis.

Ezorra Says:

Sorry guys, this may slightly out of topic but I think it’s kind of interesting to be discussed:

Federer: I don’t work on weaknesses
By Jaydip Sengupta, Sports Writer – Feb 26, 2009

Dubai – Talking of great tennis obsessions, you need not look beyond Ivan Lendl’s laboured attempts at trying to win on the treacherous Wimbledon grass or Pete Sampras’s failed forays on the ridiculously slow clay of Roland Garros.

At 13 Grand Slam titles and with arguments still raging about his status of being the greatest player of all time, World No 2 Roger Federer has his own goals to achieve and for the moment, the French Open isn’t one of them.

Talking to XPRESS on the sidelines of the Jura Coffee Cocktail Launch event, Federer said: “It’s difficult to judge who is the greatest of all time. Winning the French Open would of course round off what has already been an incredible career for me but right now my priority is getting past Sampras’s record of 14 titles.

I believe it’s important to chase your dreams and one of them is also to win the Olympic singles gold on the grass courts of Wimbledon in 2012. I am still young in tennis terms and still have some bit to go. And I know I have many more slams and another seven to eight years left in me.”

That recent Australian Open final defeat still hurts, but being the champion that he is, Federer has managed to get over it.

“You can’t win everything. The idea is to take positives from those setbacks and work at getting better. “I have never believed in working on my weaknesses. My serve and my forehand are my strengths and I work on them to get better,” he said.

And despite having to sit out one of his favourite tournaments, the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, with a recurring back injury, the Swiss maestro believes he has made the right call to take it easy.

“I am disappointed about not playing in Dubai, but unlike last year when I chose to play on despite not being fully fit, I have decided to recover completely before taking the court again in a few weeks’ time. I am feeling much better this year physically, but I need to be 100 per cent fit to play again,” he said. And the reason for that, according to Federer, is his desire to play on for as long as he can. “Look at Agassi and Connors, they are my inspiration.

I have already played three generations of tennis stars. I started with Sampras and Agassi, then moved on to the likes of Roddick, Hewitt and Safin and now I am playing against Nadal, Djokovic and Murray,” he said.

Federer’s feats

Federer is second in the all-time men’s singles Grand Slam titles list with 13 He trails American Pete Sampras who has won 14 titles.

He won Wimbledon five consecutive times from 2003-2007, the US Open five consecutive times from 2004-2008 and the Australian Open three times – 2004, 2006 and 2007.

The only Grand Slam to elude the Swiss so far is the French Open in which he has been a finalist for the past three years.

Polo Says:

If one does not work on his weakness, it will grow like an abscess and eat up whatever strengths are trying to cover it. Remember Achilles? He had only a spot of weakness and look what happened, Paris directed his arrow to it.

Mary Says:

Are we suppose to be interested in Fed fulfilling his contract with a sponsor?
I don’t think his wanting to break Sampras’ record or that he feels he needs to get past his AO defeat in order to fulfill beating that record? What’s new here?

sasha hartley Says:

nice article dan martin

jimbojones Says:

Promoting team play for kids is a good way to get tennis to grow as so many kids want that team interaction at a young age. I think the USTA would be wise to listen to what the IMG instructor had to say in this interview.

sasha hartley Says:

USTA has failed miserably on promoting young talent.

Mary Says:

Dan Martin: I heard an interview with the Louisville Men’s tennis coach on the Jim Rome radio show yeasterday(I listen to it at night b/c it puts me to sleep.).
They interviewed the coach as part of their interview-people-named-rex a thon. The guy was a total trip, making for a great interview. He covered topics as receruiting out of the country, player attitutes, etc.
“I don’t care if his name is Ivan or Bob, as long as he can ball.” I stayed awake for 20 minutes pondering that line.
Seeing that you are from Louisville, do you know him or have you considered interviewing him?

Mary Says:

“yeasterday” is not a word, but “yesterday” is a word.

Dan Martin Says:

Mary if it is the same coach Rex Ecarma (sp?) then yes I met him many years ago and could try to interview him. If they have a new coach well I could still try. What is the worst he can say?

Mary Says:

Yes, that’s the Rex! He is still the current coach. He was so excited to be interviewed on a national radio show. Some L’ville news station was filming him at the same time. Rex got total kudos from the listeners and Rome(not easy to get) after the interview.

He was interesting and just a laid back cool guy, lacking the bs. It was odd that we were discussing the same topic the above article addressed.
Thanks for considering it!
Here is a link to the show, Rex is in hour three:

Dan Martin Says:

I was 16 the last time I spoke with Rex (a few interclub matches with the team he coached). I beat his best player in a tight match who was only 14 if I recall. He congratulated me after the match. I think my sister took some sort of clinic or camp from him years later. KY is a small place I guess.

Big Jim Briggs Says:

Thanks for the taking us down memory lane this morning, Mr. Martin.

With the way golf is set up now as a one man show(Tiger Woods), men’s tennis has a golden opportunity to regain popularity in the U.S. like years past.

Rivalries are needed and Fed/Nadal is great but Andy needed to win a few vs. Fed to get men’s tennis ahead of golf, hockey, and nascar.

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