THIS IS… WHITTIER’S GWYNETH BRITTON

JUNIOR TENNIS  |  USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
NOVEMBER 16, 2023  | BRENDEN FISHER

In the ever-growing and competitive sport that is tennis, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish yourself and earn recognition on a national level. Gwyneth Britton, however, has flourished in making herself recognizable both on and off the court from a very young age.

Born in Long Beach and now residing in Whittier, California, Gwyneth has been a Southern California resident her entire life. Playing in tournaments throughout SoCal, she currently trains at the Southern California Tennis Academy in Long Beach in addition to practicing with her father, Anthony. 

Gwyneth’s love of tennis has been rooted in her for as long as she can remember, with her first time setting foot on a court to compete coming at a remarkably young age. “I started playing tennis when I was about two or three years old and then I played my first tournament at four years old,” Britton shared. “From then on I loved it. Now, it’s my favorite thing in the entire world.” 

Now, at just eleven years old, Gwyneth finds herself in an elite group. In the recruiting class of 2030, the young phenom is ranked fourth in the state of California and eleventh nationally. Already a five-star, blue chip prospect, Gwyneth has built an impressive resume for herself, winning tournaments such as the L3 Doubles in Anaheim, L4 Verdieck Cup and most recently the L4 JP Yamasaki tournament in Anaheim. Britton has also gained recognition as a finalist in multiple singles and doubles tournaments, was awarded the MVP of the L4 Verdieck Cup and was presented with the Sportsmanship Award at the L4 Los Caballeros tournament. 

It happened to be Gwyneth’s talent on the court that led her to discovering another passion off of it–modeling. At just six years old, Gwyneth was contacted by the USTA to participate in a shoot for USTA’s Net Generation program. “They used the photos for everything. I saw myself in advertisements, catalogs and brochures for the USTA, which was really cool,” said Gwyneth. This initial gig led Gwyneth to find another interest outside of tennis, and one that has provided her the opportunity to be recognized by a variety of industry leading brands. As she still models currently, Gwyneth most recently partnered with Lucky In Love Kids, a clothing brand built on empowering young athletes that love fashion and sports. Britton has also modeled for companies such as Nike, Air Jordan, Abercrombie and Athleta and serves as a brand ambassador for Wilson Tennis.

“I really love modeling because it’s another fun thing to do besides tennis that helps save money for my future. My favorite shoot thus far has probably been Abercrombie because everyone was super nice. In the future, I’d like to work with a shoe brand like Asics or a brand that has really cool, athletic shoes.” 

While Gwyneth is the sole tennis player of the Britton household, she is not the only athlete, and at that, not the only world-class athlete. Gwyneth’s father, Anthony, is a Jiu Jitsu world champion and multiple time national champion of a variety of martial arts. Born and raised in Canada, Anthony represented his country on the national level as a member of both Team Canada Jujitsu and Team Canada Wushu. In addition to being a former professional MMA fighter, Anthony’s resume includes black belts in Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu Karate, Pankration and Kempo. A sensei and Head Muay Thai instructor, Anthony currently works as a doctor of chiropractic, operating his own practice in Whittier. 

Anthony’s competitive spirit and athletic background has been vital to the development of Gwyneth’s tennis skills. His career as a sensei has not only been vital in showing his daughter valuable lessons on discipline, competition and respect, but have also been instrumental in the transition he made from teaching martial arts to learning and now coaching her in tennis.

As Gwyneth’s skill advanced and she became more comfortable being in front of a camera, the Britton’s launched their very own YouTube channel, “That Tennis Kid Show.” Beginning in early 2021, the Britton’s now have produced 34 videos documenting Gwyneth’s life on and off the court. “We started the YouTube channel to help market her brand and document Gwyneth’s journey through tennis while providing a glimpse into the world of competitive junior tennis in Southern California,” stated Anthony.

Relating to tennis, you can find videos ranging in topics highlighting different equipment she uses, showing clips of practices, providing a look into different types of junior tennis the USTA offers her, how she trains, vlogs on her daily life, and recaps on tournaments she plays in all across the United States. While primarily touching on tennis, these videos also highlight the joys of being a kid, documenting activities such as going to a theme park with friends and spending time at home with loved ones.

As Gwyneth looks to the future, she has aspirations to play at the highest level with and against some of the most influential players of this era. “My short term goal is to win at least a couple matches at Winter Nationals, while my long term goal is to become a professional tennis player and play on the tour. I hope to someday play in the Olympics as well as travel to New York to play the US Open. I would love to play against Coco Gauff and all the other professional players that have inspired me to be my best.”

A Long Beach family’s dedication to tennis earns them the USTA Family of the Year award

The Bridge family’s impact on the tennis community has lead them to be recognized by the United States Tennis Association as the USTA SoCal Family of the Year.

The family gives back to the community through their nonprofit Bridge the Gap Tennis.

Thursday, April 4, 2024 11:56AM
 
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) — The Bridge family’s passion and commitment to tennis both on and off the court hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recognizing their remarkable contributions, the United States Tennis Association has named them the 2023 USTA SoCal Family of the Year.
 
“Very, very excited. It was it was a cool honor. I think we’re all a bit surprised. To be honest, we’ve got a lot going on in the tennis industry, but to be recognized for the work that we’re doing was really cool,” said Cooper Bridge, general manager of Billie Jean King Tennis Center and El Dorado Park Tennis Center.

 

In the Bridge family household, tennis is more than just a game. The family coaches and operates two tennis facilities in Long Beach where athletes of all levels can train through their tennis academy programs.

“We have players from all over the L.A. area. They really commute from the Valley, from Glendale, from south Orange County. Plus, we have players from around the world that train with us,” said Mitch Bridge, director of the Southern California Tennis Academy.

“I have so many friends here and coaches that are super nice. And it’s so lovely to play here every day,” said tennis player Veronika Zarovna.

The Bridge family also gives back to the community through their nonprofit, Bridge the Gap Tennis. Once a month, junior players can come to the facility for free and learn more about the game.

“It’s, you know, like a big free play day that we get to do and we have 100 to 200 kids come out here with their parents. We’ll do face paint, we do free drills where the coaches will spread out among like 10 to 15 courts,” said Jordan Bridge, assistant director of El Dorado Park Tennis Center.

“We take donations, we have sponsorships. So people can come in, they can sponsor with food, they can sponsor with banners, they can sponsor T-shirts. All the money that comes in just supports the kids that come out so they can have a good time,” said mother Kim Bridge.

The bridge family said they hope to expand the sport throughout the region and instill valuable life skills in young players.

“It’s just amazing to see their impact and what they do for the tennis community,” said Lauren Bridge, assistant manager of Billie Jean King Tennis Center and El Dorado Park Tennis Center.

Young Americans on the Rise

Watching this year‘s Australian Open was more fun than it has been in several years: The Djokovic story, Tsitsipas coming into his own,  the women absolutely crushing the ball, and the American men winning, winning and more winning. All of these storylines made the Aussie Open an overnight affair for me the last two weeks while I attempted to sleep at the right times to stave off exhaustion. While I am a vocal Djokovic fan, the pull for the American men was as strong as it has been in years. The young Americans, in droves, made such a huge statement in Melbourne that the perceived failure of American men’s tennis has once and for all been put to bed.

With no fewer than eight men in the round of 32, the US had its strongest showing in 28 years. And what’s surprising about this success is the fact that some notable American players, including Isner, Opelka and Nakashima, weren’t part of that eight. Three of those eight players made the quarterfinals. Tommy Paul, Ben Shelton, and Sebastian Korda, who took out grand slam winner and former number one Medvedev, hung around well into the second week of the slam. Michael Mmoh, a player almost no one had heard of, beat Alex Zverev in round two, and now stands at #83 in the current ATP rankings. Many U.S. players took out seeds on their way to strong showings. It wasn’t a lucky tournament where the stars lined up just right. We are simply good again . . . and young!

An interesting question for the American audience is “Why are we strong again in the men’s top 100 ATP rankings?“ Our women have never left the stage of tennis greatness with the Williams sisters dominating the tour for the last 20 years and several other American women winning the biggest tournaments. The first reason for the rise of American men is athletic development. Our guys are world-class athletes now. The American model for tennis development has been to simply play more tennis. Up until 20 years ago this “play all day” model had worked well for us. Out work everybody on the court, and you can make it with your stroke production and shot tolerance was the typical line of thinking. Meanwhile, the foreign players, especially Europeans, were training and playing in other sports, including soccer, and they were coming out of national sports institutions with overall athletic training development as a main priority. Needless to say, we fell behind. Only when Federer and then Nadal became champions did the light go off in the American development model. Roger and Rafa were so obviously athletically trained and talented that our coaches and parents of young players could now visibly see that the best approach was to become a world class athlete who plays tennis. The bar had been raised so significantly that we all could now see it. These current American men have been training to be pro athletes since they were seven or eight years old. The focus now is on strength, flexibility, plyometrics, track work, cardio, speed, speed and more speed. There is no entrance to the top of ATP tennis unless you’re athletic enough. The only exception to this rule are giant players with huge serves who do not have to rely as much on athleticism. 

Moreover, we now have the most players in the ATP top hundred because sports are so prevalent in the US. Many of our kids want to be professional athletes because we are inundated with professional sports figures in our daily lives and in our culture. Even though the sports figures are rarely tennis players, we are all inspired by our American superstar athletes that make up probably half of the worlds best sports heroes: LeBron James, Tom Brady, OBJ, Steph Curry, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, and Mike Trout are a handful of names that are ubiquitous in our social consciousness. The US has the best sporting tradition in the world by far, which helps inspire our young athletes. ESPN “SportsCenter “is an American staple. Video games like FIFA 23 and Madden NFL 23 keep our star athletes in front of our young athletes and help inspire them to be great also.

We also have so many top 50 and top 100 ATP players because the US offers so many pro events. We have always had more than our share of top-level ATP tournaments, but we have now added more Futures ($15,000 and $25,000) and especially Challengers ($80,000 to $125,000) to the American schedule. This enhanced schedule allows our players to stay in the US almost exclusively during their rise up the rankings. Ben Shelton never left the US to crack the top 100. Players can be comfortable with time zones, cuisine, and culture on their ascent up the pro rankings. It also makes touring so much more affordable, so that family, coaches, and friends can participate in the process. None of these players want to go to Europe and around the world for the minor leagues, and now they don’t have to.

Young American success is most importantly a result of the team dynamic that has become quite common. They have all grown up together, and they like each other. They’re friends. They train together, and hang out together, which allows their social and their professional lives to interconnect. Like the Spaniards 20 years ago, our young men are buddies. And this ingredient is significant. They look forward to the trips together. They go to the European clay to battle it out as well as the grass of England and Germany together. Asia in the fall encourages another another group affair led by our core of Fritz, Tiafoe, Kudla, Shelton, Opelka, Korda, Wolfe, Nakashima, Brooksby, Mmoh, Paul, McDonald, Eubanks, Cressi, Giron, Johnson and Isner. Tennis for Americans has been a sport of isolation since the 1970s, but this has now radically changed to become more of a team sport for our guys. Without a doubt, they are reaching lofty levels of success because of it. 

With much stronger athletes, a larger offering of lower level, professional tournaments opportunities, and the friendship/team atmosphere of our young Americans, we are on our way to continued success on the ATP Tour. In order to continue the success, our players results will have to continue to improve. It will be exciting to see who will crack the ATP Top 5 first, and which players will make the Top 20 together. And the all-important question remains: “Which American will win the first grand slam tournament since Roddick in 2003?” Fritz, Tiafoe, Shelton, Brooksby and Korda are several of the names that we are going to be talking about for the next 5 to 10 years. The pressure is on, but our young guns can handle it.

Mitch Bridge
Owner/Director
Bridge the Gap Tennis
SCTennisAcademy.com
949-439-6810

Forget the Rankings

Facing and dealing with pressure seems to have hit an all-time peak in today’s world. Parents and students can look up their “live” grades 24 hours per day. Everyone seems to know their body weight at all times, how many followers they have on Instagram, and how much money they have left on their debit card. Players and parents also can search for UTR, USTA, ITF and Tennis Recruiting rankings any hour of any day. While this constant scorekeeping is an exciting dopamine fix for all of us, it also creates a tremendous amount of pressure in our daily lives; this is especially true for strong academic students as well as tennis juniors.

Navigating stress can be an excellent motivator for schoolwork, as students regularly need a jolt to stay up to complete their homework. However, school is a “try harder”system where the harder you try, the better your grades will be. Tennis does not work this way. In this sport, the general rule is “the harder you try, the more you fail.” When I use this saying, I am referring to tournament play and performance. When you use the school adage of “try harder “in tennis, you begin to become a bumbling mess of nerves, which on court leads to mishits and doubt. You have to flow when you play while shutting off your critical mind. When you are constantly thinking of rankings and results, you disrupt your ability to concentrate on “playing” the game. You judge yourself, your parents criticize your performance, and your coach critiques your play when you allow rankings to determine your ability to execute what you practice during actual match play. These unwanted variants all interfere with the process of development and performance.

It is vital to set boundaries in looking up your rankings in all aspects of your life. I wish UTR only allowed one day per month for players to ascertain their rankings, but that will never happen because all of those hits bring marketing dollars. USTA and Tennis Recruiting only change once per week, but again looking only once per month would suffice. Conversely, school grading, however unhealthy it may seem, can be a strong motivator to study more, so both positive and negative aspects to “live” grading exist. In tennis, I see very little positives coming out of “live” rankings; in fact, this data only leads to stress and the wrong kind of practice. Practice and training should be about the process of game development for long-term growth. A player should go on the practice or tournament match court trying to improve and become a better overall player that day instead of wondering whether the number of wins or taking a certain amount of games will increase or decrease a UTR. It’s not whether you are focused or unfocused. Rather, it’s whether you are focused in the right mindset to enhance your game and your life.

Play the long game in your life. Focus on the process of game improvement to keep the wrong kind of pressure off, and the right type of pressure – to be good at your craft – on, while you’re training or competing. This mindset will lead to a much healthier approach where the development of a more well-rounded game and better long-term potential will be possible. Look up your rankings once per month to have a healthier outlook on these numbers. The first Wednesday afternoon each month is the best option. Tennis Recruiting is refreshed on Tuesdays for boys and Wednesdays for girls each week. USTA is updated on Wednesdays weekly. UTR is constantly updated. Parents, let’s encourage our kids to create a new ritual in tennis to look up their rankings only on the first Wednesday of the month to ensure a better development outlook that will ultimately improve their ability to perform at their best regardless of the numbers associated with their record. If you are successful in motivating them to adopt this new approach, you will soon see a level of tennis from them that you have not witnessed before.

Mitch Bridge
Owner/Director
Bridge the Gap Tennis
SCTennisAcademy.com
949-439-6810

It’s Not What You Think

Young American tennis players grow up with college sports running concurrently with professional sports at the forefront of the US athletic landscape. College football and basketball are hugely successful and compete with the NFL and NBA for top viewership ratings. Because of this large audience and the undeniable popularity of these two sports, football and basketball teams usually have high level management and coaching in their programming at the youth, high school and college levels. Tennis mentorship at these levels is often a different story.

Tennis players grow up expecting high school and college tennis programs to be similar to what they know about their favorite football and basketball programs. These popular team sport programs are run professionally as paying audiences and money generated from television contracts allows them to afford well-paid coaches and staffs as well as management teams that facilitate the production of their games. In most cases, however, tennis operates on a paltry budget, which typically only covers compensation for a head coach and often a volunteer assistant. This unfortunate reality is played out not only at the high school level but also at the collegiate level. A part-time coach on a flimsy budget has to put together a program for his university that in theory should look like his school’s football and basketball programs. The goal to have equitable resources for all sports including tennis is simply not possible. These coaches, restricted by the limits of time and the bottom line usually are forced to work other part-time jobs in the sport; given the circumstances, they nevertheless often do a commendable job keeping the programs afloat.

So, the message here is to do your homework! As the college search begins, is it crucial that you research tennis programs so that you know that you will be attending a good one. Most college recruiters cannot do this homework for you. And don’t be fooled by the belief that a Division 1 program is necessarily a strong program. The bottom D-1 programs are inferior to the top D-2 and D-3 schools. They are run less professionally with lower-level coaching and management than these smaller schools. To be sure, many players are enamored with “the D-1 dream”, and as a result, they often ignore some obvious signs of neglect and dysfunction just so they can say they played D-1 tennis.

Junior players looking to play at the collegiate level need to donate hours of diligent research into their college choices. The coach and culture are of utmost importance as are the majors offered, the costs, the location, the size of the college/university and the level of play/conference. Put the hours in on learning about the coach and the team. Message players on the current roster and befriend them. Find out if they are happy and listen to what they recommend as a possible pathway. They are often more than willing to share their feelings on their current programs, especially if they are unhappy. So, prospective college players, it is up to you to look beyond the school colors, the mascots, and the name on the front of the hoody you plan on purchasing. Dive deep into the process of educating yourselves; it is called due diligence. Hundreds of dysfunctional programs in college tennis exist, so try your best to choose a university where your academics and your tennis can thrive.

Mitch Bridge
Owner/Director
Bridge the Gap Tennis
SCTennisAcademy.com
949-439-6810