My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It was an honor to have known your father, Steve Johnson. Someone so special can never be forgotten. Wishing your heart and soul will find peace and comfort during this difficult time. Sincerely, Frank Giampaolo
The below post is an interview with ATP Professional Stevie Johnson in 2015.
STEVIE JOHNSON ATP PROFESSIONAL
Stevie Johnson was a top US National Junior, 2 Time Singles CIF Champion and 4 Time Team CIF Champion at D-I University of Southern California (USC) and currently a top 30 ATP Pro tour player.
Frank: What qualities should a parent look for when hiring a coach or academy?
Stevie: The coach has to truly care about the student and sincerely look for what’s best for the student in both tennis and life. I feel it’s important to seek a positive learning atmosphere where both tennis skills and character skills are continually emphasized.
Frank: Looking back on your illustrious junior career, what do you attribute your success?
Stevie: Even though I was #1 in the 12’s and 14’s, that style of game wouldn’t take me to the top in college or in the pros. I had to refocus my development in the 16’s and 18’s. I was a bit lazy with my off-court training early on and relied on my talent and strong competitive nature, but to continue to grow and improve, I had to make fitness a priority. Honestly, I don’t even remember my 12 and under trophies.
Frank: It sounds like focusing on improvement versus tournament wins/rankings is a theme of yours. Why?
Stevie: In the younger divisions you can win with a limited moonball game because the rest of the field isn’t fully developed. This winning tactic is not successful in the older divisions. I really don’t see pushers in the pros. The professional athletes attack. I believe it’s important for the parents and players to be “ok” losing while developing the whole game. Just being satisfied with a limited game that wins to at the lower levels will limit your career. I recommend seeking weekly improvement versus having to always win.
Frank: When should parents, players and coaches begin to develop the mental and emotional components of the game?
Stevie: I think it’s a maturity level, not a certain age. Different people allow their mood to affect their performance more than others. If they struggle with crazy emotional ups and downs, they should focus on improving their emotional stability. The key is to develop and continually improve every component so the player can stay engaged and competitive in every circumstance.
Frank: What are the primary differences between playing national level juniors and D-1, NCAA ball?
Stevie: If you choose the right college coach and program, there’s a heightened level of dedication, developmental structure, and focused off-court training. Coaches, teammates and even the international opponents push each other to train harder.
Frank: What are the primary differences between NCAA tennis and ATP pro ball?
Stevie: It’s not so much strokes but the addition of all the seemingly smaller intangibles. The mental and emotional components are better. They include longer-deeper focus and competitiveness. They don’t give away any free points and the athletes physical, mental and emotional endurance is stronger day in-day out.
Frank: I’ve known you and your folks forever but from your side, what makes your folks’ such great tennis parents?
Stevie: Balance! On court, my father was the coach. Off-court, he was just my dad. After matches, my dad didn’t banter for 30 minutes about the performance. My mom played tennis as well so she added great perspective.
Frank: Can you share a few words of wisdom for the parents, athletes and coaches reading this book?
Stevie: Have fun with the development of your game. Remember even though it feels like “life or death” at the moment, the wins-losses in the 10’s-14 don’t mean much. It’s a blessing to play so laugh and enjoy the process.