Laguna’s Julie Heussenstamm shares her love for the game of tennis.
Section by Somer Tejwani
Julie Heussenstamm was lucky enough to grow up with a clay court tennis facility at the end of her street in Melbourne, Australia. “For some reason, my mum wouldn’t sign me up for dance lessons, my first love, but did sign me up for tennis at 7 years old,” Julie says. “Turns out, she made the right choice for me. I was a natural, forgot all about dancing, and never looked back.”
Throughout the span of her junior playing years, Julie had three coaches who all instilled in her what she calls a classic Australian game focused on serve and volley, sound ground strokes, a one-handed backhand and an unending love of the game.
Now the director of player development at All Court Tennis in Laguna Beach, Julie conducts junior and adult classes, one-on-one training, cardio tennis and junior team tennis. Here, she shares her top tips for beginner to advanced players of all ages.
Laguna Beach Magazine: How long have you been coaching?
Julie Heussenstamm: I have been coaching for 20-something years here in California, and I have been a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association from the beginning.
LBM: Why is tennis such a unique sport?
JH: Players are competing on their own terms and making their own decisions during match play. The physical fitness, focus on fairness, need for mental toughness and the ability to bounce back up after defeat are all great benefits.
LBM: What tips do you have for new players to the game?
JH: Start with tennis-specific shoes to prevent injury and keep you light on your feet, because tennis is a running game. Always keep the ball forward of your body when hitting. Take a few lessons. The fundamentals will be the building blocks of your future game.
LBM: What tips do you have for avid players to improve?
JH: Find a teaching professional who can give you unbiased feedback and minimize your weaknesses, and build on your strengths. Also, watch professional tennis—live if possible—although the commentary on TV is free advice.
LBM: Any advice on cross-training?
JH: Cross-train with soccer or cardio tennis; learn yoga, Pilates and plyometric exercises.
LBM: How often do you recommend playing to improve your game?
JH: Getting on the court to practice with purpose and focus as often as possible is ideal. Players should practice strokes and practice playing strokes within a live point situation, and then also in an actual match. Obviously this requires more practice than one hour a week, so finding a compatible practice partner is key.
LBM: Do you prefer singles or doubles?
JH: Ultimately tennis is a game, so have fun—play singles, play doubles, hit with your children.
LBM: Speaking of children, what advice do you have on playing with them?
JH: If you are hitting with a child, bring the equipment down to his or her level: softer balls, smaller racquets, handicapped point system. Make the sport achievable by starting off with low, gentle feeds that bounce to the player, gradually moving the ball away so the child moves to the ball. Invent silly or fun games.