Coaches Corner Interview: Andrian Raturandang

Andrian Raturandang is our featured guest for today’s edition of Coaches Corner. Andrian has devoted his junior tennis and coaching career to Indonesia – rising through the ranks as a talented junior in the National Team, winning medals in the SEA Games, before joining the coaching staff and coaching 2 of Indonesia’s top tennis players to a Gold Medal win in the 2018 Asian Games.

Your father and uncle are very involved in tennis, was tennis something that they decided for you to pursue, or it was your dream growing up to be a tennis player?
So yeah, when you are born in a tennis family, you get introduced to tennis at a very early age. I started hitting the ball when I was 3 years old. No one in my family pushed me to play tennis, though. I always loved playing tennis, but, I also play other sports like basketball and soccer, and was actually good at both. I joined a division 2 national basketball league team a few years back and I’m still playing soccer regularly. My Dad encouraged me to continue playing basketball, but I said “nah, I want to play tennis,” because it’s a sport that reveals character – the individual nature of the sport exposes you to both the triumphs of wins and the pain of losses, and I loved the duality of that.

You currently coach a lot of top players like Christopher Rungkat and Aldila Sutjiadi (Gold Medalists in the 2018 Asian Games), and the National Team. What can you share about this experience? How does it compare to when you were a player in the National Team?
Back then, sport science didn’t really exist, at least not in Indonesia. There was not much knowledge on how to be a better tennis player. If we had the current technology and knowledge during my playing career, we would’ve been so much better. I’ve implemented the current knowledge and all the sport science theories in my personal training at the start of this year, and to my surprise, it made a tremendous difference to my performance, even in my current “golden age”! I feel much better, and I move better and faster. Today’s sport science is more specific to each individual player’s needs – giving players greater opportunities to reach their full potentials – an opportunity that wasn’t available to me when I was playing competitively. However, we don’t completely dismantle the old ways because the old ways also have the basic parts that are still important. The foundations – like intensity and repetition don’t change, we just add more varieties to the practice menu. Also, nowadays, players have their own trainers specifically assigned for them. For example, a player might have a total of 5 persons that can be their coach, trainer, psychiatrist, nutritionist, and a buddy. 3 of them usually travel with the player when they have a tournament to play. It really takes a whole team to support and develop an athlete to get him/her to reach their full potential.

When and how does a junior tennis player decide if he/she should pursue tennis professionally
When they are 15 or 16, athletes need to decide whether or not tennis is for them to go pro. Back then, not many tennis player in Indonesia went to college and played tennis at the same time. Going pro used to be the favorite option because the government provided financial support for players to turn pro. Now, the support is not there anymore, but the option to play tennis and go to college still is. Now, parents can use college tennis as a stepping stone for their kids to polish their tennis before turning pro. It’s essentially the re-allocation of resources from turning pro, towards playing U.S college tennis. I think college tennis is the most logical step for junior tennis players. Most American players turn pro after they go to college. They know that college tennis can help them develop their game and prepare them for the professional route because the gap between the juniors and the pros is huge. Not only the Americans actually, my friends from the Philippines, the Netherlands = they all did college tennis before they turned pro.

Aldila Sutjiadi (2018 Asian Games Gold Medalist) went to Kentucky for college tennis, do you think she’d be a great advocate to the junior players of how college tennis doesn’t just serve as a backup plan because you have a degree, but also a good training ground to prepare you for professional tennis?
Yes, some players like Aldila, Beatrice, and Jessi played college tennis in the U.S. and returned to Indonesia as significantly better tennis players. However, it all depends on the athlete – it depends on what they really want. College tennis has all the factors for players to be excellent, but, if the player does not use that opportunity wisely, they may not achieve the improvements that they had initially sought after. They need to maintain their focus and really use the opportunities given.

What would your advice be to the current junior players in Indonesia who are really keen on tennis or your hope for the junior players?
First of all, every kid must be introduced to sports at early age. Maybe at 5 or 6. Sport supports the growth of motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and physical development. Don’t simply focus on one sport. Try as many sports as possible, and by the time they are 10 or 11, they will start to develop strengths in certain sports, and parents can start directing them towards those sport. With the right support, they will eventually get better and can make a bigger impact in the sport. The key is to start early. It is very rare for a kid to start tennis when he/she is 11 years old and become a successful professional player. Michael Stich from Germany probably was the only player who started tennis when he was 11 and became a Wimbledon champion.

What do you think about the current tennis industry in Indonesia? A lot of juniors are aspiring to be professionals, and a lot of them are in the crossroad where they cannot decide whether or not they should pursue professional tennis route because of the school work. Where do you think the trend is going right now?
Actually, after Christo and Aldila won a gold medal at the Asian Games, there was a huge turning point – a surge in interest in pursuing tennis professionally. Junior players developed tremendous excitement and motivation from seeing their role models become champions in Asia. It encouraged them to continue playing tennis. Another factor that now encourages them is the fact that the Indonesian government has increased its financial support towards sports. Now, Indonesian professional tennis players can actually make a living. But again, I always tell junior athletes and parents two things: you can turn pro right away, or you can play college tennis and turn pro after. What I’m seeing right now is that the trend is going leaning towards the college tennis route before jumping into the pro route. We’ve had quite a lot of examples of players who’ve gone to U.S college tennis and came back to play for the national team or turned pro. And this route is not only for the top junior players, but also available for middle tier players who want to develop their games and see how far tennis can take them.

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