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The following interview features an interview with Cali Jankowski, the Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) #1 ranked player! I’ve been lucky enough to have been coaching Cali since she was about 12 years old. It’s exciting to see organized teens willing to give back to the game and help the next generation. I’m sure that her advice will assist parents and athletes in maximizing their potential at a quicker rate.
Age Started: 9 years old
First Tournament: 10 years old
Residence: Southern California
- 14’s Winter National Champion
- 14’s Intersectional National Champions Team Member
- 2 Time Henry Talbert Winner
- 16’s Intersectional National 2nd Place Team Member
- 16’s National Clay Courts 5th Place
- 16’s National Selection Winner
- 18’s Yamasaki Winner
- 18’s Mike Agassi No Quit Winner
- 18’s Ojai Winner
- 18’s National Selection Winner
- 18’s National Clay Courts 4th Place
- 18’s Stanford Eve Zimmerman/Johnson National Winner
NOTE TO THE NEXT GENERATION:
An In-Depth Interview with SCTA #1 Cali Jankowski
Q: At what age did you begin your SCTA tournament career?
A: I was ten years old when I played my first ever tennis tournament. It was a small, round-robin tournament at a local high school. I didn’t come home with any hardware but definitely caught the competitive bug.
Q: Did you belong to a multi-generational tennis family or did your parents have to learn right along with you?
A: Not in the slightest! My dad played in high school and my mom played in ladies league. Neither of them had any idea what the world of competitive junior tennis was like. As a family, we were constantly learning something new about what to do and what not to do.
Q: How did they navigate the junior tennis wars?
A: It was a lot of trial and error for them. We had zero connections to the tennis world, so we had to find out for ourselves what coaches and clinics were most beneficial by trying. This meant trying a place for a few weeks and then deciding whether or not to move on or stay. My parents always had my best interest at heart and knew that there would be a good coach out there to refine my skills; it was just a matter of stumbling across that club or coach.
Q: In the 12’s, were you getting the results you believed you were capable of achieving?
A: I was awful in the 10’s and early 12’s. I didn’t win my first Open Tournament until I was 12. I believe this was because I played very differently from my opponents- I was a hard hitter. I fell in love with tennis because it was so fun to hit the ball really hard, so anytime I came across a pusher (Like in every tournament!), I would collapse mentally, and my strokes would fall apart. I don’t think I was getting the results I was capable of. While my first coach was a firm believer in making sure I stuck to my aggressive style, he never gave me the tools I needed to take down pushers/retrievers. This was my biggest downfall.
Q: What came easily to you in the 14’s… what proved more difficult?
A: I definitely started to make strides once I hit 13 or so. I was adding more dimensions to my game and adjusting my training to quality over quantity. At my peak in the 14’s, I reached about top 10 in SoCal. I was starting to understand what it took to beat any style of player. However, this mindset was very inconsistent. For me, it was difficult to maintain that high level of focus and patience for more than a few matches in a row. I finally had a massive breakthrough when I was 14; I kept my focus for an entire tournament and won the Winter Nationals, out of nowhere, as the 16 seed! This definitely gave me a huge boost of confidence.