College tennis…the time of your life!
College tennis…the time of your life!
Tennis season has finally wrapped up for my college tennis player. It is hard to believe that an entire school year has already passed. It seems like only yesterday I was nervously packing him up to begin his long journey as a college student and tennis player.
So many questions and fears I had as I tried to prepare both him and myself for the virtually unknown experience. Was he good enough to make the team, would he be able to balance both school and tennis, would he like the coach, would he make the starting line up, did he make the right choice in college’s and was it the right choice to try and take pre-medicine and play D1 tennis? I know there are a lot of parents asking the same questions today as they watch their young daughter or son walk down the aisle at their high school graduation.
My advise to you is simple…relax and enjoy the moment. Don’t spend so much time worrying about tomorrow that you forget to enjoy today. It all goes so quickly and you can never have the answers to all of your questions. All you really can have is faith in your child. Faith that they know what they are doing, faith that they will always do their best and faith that they have listened to the advice you and their coaches have given them along the way. Have faith in what you have taught them and that you have done the best you can to prepare them for their journey.
My son didn’t win any major titles this year but he seized the opportunity to explore his country, meet new people and find a work ethic within himself that he never knew he had. When all was said and done he knew he made the right choices and none of us could ever have known what playing D1 tennis would really be like.
I never had the opportunity to see him play a college match but I was able to share in his victories and be there for him when he felt defeated. As the crazy tennis mom this was a whole new experience for me to completely let go of his tennis. Don’t get me wrong, I sat glued to my phone when I knew he was playing just waiting for the text to come to tell me how he did. I still felt the thrill of his victories and the weight of his defeats. I listened when he was telling me the play by play of his match or when the phone was silent in the shadow of a bad loss. It is different but it is still good. You learn to adapt and you learn to let go.
I watched my son grow into an amazing young man this year. He became a man of faith, a man of integrity and a man who has an unstoppable drive to succeed. Tennis has not been accidental to any of these things but rather an intricate part of shaping him into this fine young man. The people he has met, the places he has been and the choices he has learned to make are from his involvement in tennis.
So my fellow tennis parents I encourage you to sit back and relax for a while. Don’t drive yourself crazy worrying about which tournament to play, which racket to buy, how many private lessons to take this week. Slow down and have faith in both yourself and your child. Stop worrying and start enjoying. No decision is a bad decision. Each one will give you a different opportunity and it is what you do with that opportunity that is important.
Enjoy the moment because before you know it…it is gone!
If you are at least as old as I am you will remember the old “forty-five” records. As you know the artists recorded their new hit single on one side and on the “flip-side” was some little known song that seldom made the charts and was hardly ever heard. Isn’t that the way with so many things in our life, the “hits” are played over and over again for everyone to hear but the flip-side of our life is seldom played.
When we talk about tennis we usually focus on the big wins, big losses, the training regime, dedication, mental game…everything is focused on the game, but what about the “flip-side?” What else is happening in the life of the tennis player…is there more than just the game?
If you have been following my blog you have learned that I am the proud mother of an average D1 tennis player. He isn’t a super star but he is a hard-working, dedicated young man who has set goals, had dreams and worked hard to achieve both. You have read about our trials and tribulations of surviving the world of junior tennis and the eventual achievement of making a D1 tennis team. You have heard about the training the college athletes have to go through and the rigorous schedule they have to maintain, but you haven’t heard about the “flip-side” of my college tennis player.
Yes there is a life besides tennis that my son is living. It is a life that involves the friends he has made in and through the team. What I have learned is that there is so much more to these young men and women than just tennis and it is something to be far more proud of then the wins on the court. Last weekend my son was baptized and sitting in the congregation wasn’t his parents but rather his team-mate. On Facebook you could read the congratulations and well wishes of his other team mates as they supported him in the choice he had made. Although we provided our son with a Christian upbringing it was the influence of some of his fellow team-mates and a very special mentor at the college that lead him to his decision to follow Christ.
So what does this have to do with tennis and being a tennis parent? It is simple…on those days when you ask yourself “what am I doing? Is this really worth it?” When you find yourself frustrated with your child and wonder why you have spent the last three weekends on the road and your last paycheck on hotels, lessons and rackets, remember, there is a “flip-side.” There are opportunities and experiences beyond the court that your child will be exposed to, opportunities that we can not even imagine. The game is only one side of the life of a tennis player. Perhaps the best song is yet to played and is just waiting to be heard. It is about more than the game…it is about the life experiences they get through playing the game and the people they meet along the way.
Off season practice and work-out schedule seemed rather daunting to me but it is nothing compared to the tennis season schedule. These young men and women who take on the challenge of playing college tennis while trying to maintain their grades are truly amazing young individuals (and I don’t mean because of their tennis skills!)
My son’s new schedule includes four hours of tennis a day (to the maximum of six times per week), hitting the gym with the trainer for a couple of hours a few days a week, and travelling every weekend for matches unless they have a home match (Friday classes are a thing of the past.) Now let’s look at the class schedule…Physics, Physics lab, Chemistry, Chemistry lab, Biology, Biology lab and Communications. Now that is some kind of balancing act to manage to stay on top of that kind of schedule!
I am thankful for the intense practice regime and travelling schedule he had during his years in the junior USTA as they have helped him to transition to the strenuous college schedule. However, during those years mom and dad did a lot of managing of the little things like laundry, shopping, meals, etc that he has had to learn to take care of himself now. I am certainly glad that during those years we never let him slack on his school work and held the high expectations for him to balance his tennis, school and social life himself. We never allowed him to fall behind in school and never helped him in finishing his assignments, and I am grateful for those choices since there is no-one there to do it for him in college.
If there is one piece of advise I would give a parent raising a tennis player who wants to play college tennis it would be this: Don’t hold their hand! Allow them to stand on their own in the early years because this is the skill they will need the most when they finally reach their goal. I saw so many tennis parents who hold there chid’s hand through every step their tennis, seldom allowing the child to worry about anything other than walking onto the court and playing their match. They never had to take care of finding their tournaments, packing their clothes, getting their racquets strung, packing their tennis bag. I’ve watched parents check their kids into the tournament desk, hold their tournament cards, choose their meals, find out the match times for their kids, while the child does nothing more than show up on the court when directed by their parent (who is often carrying their bag and water jug.) I’ve seen parents doing the homework that they know the child will never get done if they make it to the finals on a late Sunday afternoon. I ask myself… who will take care of those young men and women when they are at college? Unless you plan on going to college with your kids, I suggest you teach them how to take care of themselves before they go!
Playing tennis is the easy part… balancing the schedule and dealing with the stress is the hard part. Teach them when they are young how to take care of themselves, physically and mentally before they go. These are the skills that will not only make them successful but will allow them to survive the schedule and maybe even enjoy it!
Good luck to all of the young men and women signing with the colleges and seeing the results of your hard work and effort throughout your junior years. You have put in the work that has gotten you to this point and it is these skills that you will need to draw upon to cope with the hectic schedule that lies ahead. Take the work ethic you have developed in your tennis train schedule and apply that to your college schedule and you will be successful. Just know that it is not the end but merely the beginning. As hard as you thought you worked as a junior tennis player is nothing compared to how hard you will work in college. So why do it? Because you love tennis and you will make some of the best friends and create some of the best memories of your life.
Parents… if you haven’t already, start now! Prepare your child to stand on their own and balance their schedule, because the coach is not going to hold their hand when you are not there to do it!
All eyes are glued to the television. The days, and unfortunately the nights, are spent watching the first big tournament of the year. The Australian Open is always the favorite in our household, it marks the beginning of the season and warms the cold January evenings with the hopes for the upcoming tennis season. My son has always found that his motivation to practice and improve his game is at its greatest during the Australian Open.
How many young eyes are gazing upon the greatness of Federer, Murray, Djokovic, the Williams sisters and Sharapova (to name just a few) and dreaming of following in their footsteps? They hit the practice court with a new vigor, stars in their eyes and hope in their heart for that day when they will walk onto center stage of one of the Grand Slam tournaments. Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that only one or two of these young, enthusiastic tennis players will ever set foot on the court of a professional tennis tournament.
As a parent is it our job to tell our children that they will never be a pro tennis player? Time and time again I have been asked by parents when they should give up on their children as a tennis player, when should they tell them that they will never make it to the pros. I remember asking my son’s coach the same thing when he was around 13. “Why break his bubble and kill his dreams”the coach replied. “If he doesn’t feel like he has anywhere to go with the sport why would he put in the time and effort. He is just a boy and boys dream he will figure it out on his own.” So that is what we did, we said nothing and let him dream.
What we didn’t do is allow his schooling to fall behind or throw away good money after bad for a pipe dream. We kept him focused on what was important to take away from tennis…the life lessons.
I never had to kill my son’s dreams, he figured it out on his own. They grow-up and mature and their dreams change. As a parent make sure your own “dreams” are realistic, not everyone is good enough to go pro or make D1 tennis and your child may be one of those that no matter how hard they practice they just don’t have that natural talent. It doesn’t make them less of a person or you less of a parent and it doesn’t mean tennis can’t be a focus in their lives. My son will never be a “great” tennis player, he is a “good” tennis player. He knows he has to work a little harder than the others to keep his position on the team and when college is over tennis will remain a passion but just not a living.
So enjoy the beginning of another great Grand Slam season. Watch with your kids and listen as they share their dreams of someday walking into Rod Laver Arena and smile. You don’t need to burst their bubble, they will figure it out on their own. Just enjoy the moment!
We may not be in Melbourne, Australia playing tennis and perhaps we have not been able to play at Wimbledon or Roland Garros but we have seen our share of interesting tennis courts. Some we love and some we hate, some are fast, some are slow, some are lucky and some are cursed. Each tennis court is unique and has its own special beauty.
What is the coolest court you have ever played on? Share a picture or description of your most memorable tennis court and tell us why you loved or hated it.
Here is a picture of the club my son is currently playing at. It is an extremely fast court so it is difficult to play on but it is one of the most beautiful courts he has ever seen. The building is made by the Amish and the craftsmanship is absolutely incredible, it is like playing within a work of art.
Your game is generally it’s best when you are physically fresh and full of energy but what happens when you begin to get tired? What happens to your strokes when your legs start to feel like noodles or your racket seems to have gained an extra four pounds, when your back feels like a vice is being gripped around it, your mind can’t focus? This is when your weaknesses are exposed. Most matches are lost with a tired body or mind. How can you prevent yourself from losing when your body and mind start to betray you? The most common answer and approach to this dilemma is to workout and increase your fitness. I completely agree that fitness gives a player an upper hand any match but realistically everyone will become less fresh at the end of two or three-hour match then they were at the beginning. No amount of training can make you immune to fatigue on the court, just ask Nadal.
My son has been working with a new coach for the last six months (when he is home) who deals with this issue. The first twenty minutes of his lesson (after warm ups) is spent running extremely exhausting drills. He is forced to continuously move and remain in a low stance while drilling balls deep into the court. Rather than feeding balls the coach is dropping the balls to increase the pace and decrease the height of the ball. The purpose of the drill is two-fold, while my son is improving his foot work, leg strength and hitting he is also exhausting him in those first few minutes to expose his weaknesses. Within the first twenty minutes when the legs start to get tired, the arm sore and the mind frustrated the balls start to spray long on the forehand and hit into the net on the backhand. BINGO! The coach has exposed those shots that cost him so many matches.
The rest of the lesson is spent on dealing with what is going wrong when he feels fatigued. He knows how to hit a forehand and backhand he needs to know what part of the stroke is breaking down when he gets tired. In his case, when his legs get tired he struggles to stay down on his shots. When his arms are tired he feels the extra weight of the racket and takes the lift out of his swing. It is like a light going on, an insight into those frustrating moments when he feels like his forehand has let him down and he doesn’t know why. Now instead of reacting to the frustration he can deal with the problem.
Does this give you a free pass on fitness training? Absolutely not, and the drills he is doing are designed to strengthen his legs and increase his endurance. It does give you insight into why your shots aren’t doing what you want them to when you are tired and you can add simple cues to help you deal with the issue.
Think about practicing when you are tired or not feeling well, or distracted by other issues and see if you can expose your weakness. If you don’t you know your opponent will.
If you had to guess what would your weakness be? What part of your body would give out first and what part of your game would it effect? Do you know how to correct it? Share your thoughts and insights and maybe you can help a fellow struggling tennis player.
Good luck and have fun!