Teaching Pro Spotlight – Barry Buss
South Bay tennis professional Barry Buss said one of the reasons he began writing about tennis was the search for answers to a question that kept coming up when he would run into old acquaintances: Why weren’t their sons or daughters playing junior tennis like they had?
“I was finding that a lot of people from my age group have kids that weren’t playing tennis,” said Buss. “I asked around and they all came back with was, ‘I would never put my kid through that.’ So it’s been my searching mission to figure out what ‘that’ is. It shouldn’t be like that.
“We’ve got to make this (world of junior tennis) a healthy place to grow up and unfortunately it’s not been that. For a great majority of people they’ve been traumatized by this.”
Having recently turned 50 and dealing with death of his father, Buss has found that the writing process has helped him “come to terms with things that have happened in the past” in regards to his tumultuous upbringing as a one-time junior tennis prodigy.
Buss, a former touring pro and star player at UCLA, is the author of the book “First In a Field of Two” about the dos and don’ts of raising a junior tennis champion. You can also read his often updated blog at: barry-buss.blogspot.com, which recently included the notes from USTA Player Development meetings among various sections, and an insightful two-part interview with noted Southern California coach Michael Joyce.
Buss said his attempt at doing more writing was a way to try and spend less time on the court, but instead has led him to more time on it as he continues to teach young players at Alta Vista Park, a small public court facility located in south Redondo Beach.
“I’ve been through the whole ringer on this thing, been there and back, so I’m just trying to bring some fun and enjoyment back to the game,” said Buss. “I think that’s the part that’s been overlooked and lost in the basic mood of the tennis community right now.
“So many people are wound up right now about U.S. tennis and junior tennis,” he continued. “I’m just trying to bring a little bit of perspective and a little bit of levity back to the game and just do it for the love of it.”
He said many in the tennis community have obsession with the “so-called ‘decline of American tennis.’
“I’ve studied this intently and have been writing about it vigorously in the past year, Buss said. “The real problem with American tennis is just the attitude of American tennis and how spoiled the majority of the people are in our community. There’s just no perspective on how good we had it. We still have it great and we’ll come back with some top-flight players. It’s just a cyclical thing we’re going through.
“So my job is just to keep a healthy attitude and filter through a lot of the misinformation that’s out there and get through a lot of the angst that a lot of the fans and the coaches and the parents are feeling right now.”
Buss knows of what he speaks and that as far as his development as a player, his family did just about everything wrong. “We just didn’t have the tools to succeed,” he said. “So when I began writing several years ago I just realized how important it was to have the proper support and guidance and making sure that we’re aware that it’s a very complex and emotional terrain out there that we are putting young people into.”
Buss said it’s important for parents to realize you have to do it right the first time. “There’s no chance to do it over and we can do a lot of damage to kids, parents and family if it’s not handled right,” Buss said. “We have to remember it’s just a game that we’re going to play for a little while and just a part of our lives. It’s important that we keep a healthy perspective on everything.
“Kids are going to get as good as they’re going to get. Everyone’s out there working hard and there is no magic formula for this. You’ve just got to work hard and hope the chips fall in the right direction.”
Buss said he is in favor of the USTA’s 10 and Under program. “Name me one sport that doesn’t have intelligent, gradual learning,” he said. “It’s just mind boggling to me that there are people against it. Tennis is dying here. This is a brilliant idea by the USTA. Now more people are playing tennis more than ever.”
His goal as a tennis coach is a simple one. “My job is to build good kids who happen to be good tennis players,” he said. “They are going to be done playing tennis when they’re 20 and they have their whole lives ahead of them. The idea is to be the best that you can be and then take these experiences and apply them to the next thing you decide to do like family, or business or school.”
Buss said he’s looking forward to his next project where he will write and blog about his experience of returning to competitive tennis in the 50s national age division. “I’m going to try and get a gold ball in the 50s,” he said. “Now that I’m emotionally healthier I’m going to try and do it right at 50.
“I want to keep giving back to the next generation,” he said of his long-term plans. “It’s about staying in the game and seeing what I can give back to the game.”
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