The end of the school year is quickly coming upon us. Final exams are right around the corner and in three weeks my son will officially be finished with high school. So much of his high school “career” has been focused around tennis. One can’t help but wonder what next? He has been accepted onto the D1 tennis team and plans to join the team in the fal but I can’t help but wonder if it is what he really wants.
Children dream…that is a fact of life. They dream of being astronauts, superheroes, movie stars and professional athletes. But one day they find themselves awakened by reality and realize many of these aspirations are nothing more than fantasy and the chance of them ever coming true are one in a million. So instead they set up more realistic goals. They have concrete goals that they can obtain and measure to validate their efforts. For my son he wanted to make it to state in his high school tennis “career” and he wanted to make a D1 tennis team. These seemed to be reasonable and achievable goals. There were no more dreams of playing professional tennis and standing opposite Roger Federer on the court at the US Open, but he still wanted to see how far he could take his tennis.
I am proud to say he achieved his goals. He worked hard and fought back from three surgeries and serious illnesses in three years to stand on the court in Indianapolis to hear his named called as one of the eight finalists in the boys number one varsity position. Not long after that achievement he was offered a position on a D1 tennis team. But what happens next? He reached his goals and finds himself staring into his tennis future with no further motivation to push ahead. He is at a crossroads. Does he set a new set of goals to make it to a certain position on the team, does he set a win/loss ratio goal? What does he want from his tennis now?
I cannot answer this question for him. He is at a point in his life where he is also setting other goals for himself. His main focus is on getting accepted into medical school in four years. Is there room for this and tennis? He still loves tennis and has always “dreamed” of playing college tennis but is this the time to let go of another childhood dream to face an adult reality. The one thing he knows is that he still loves tennis. He loves being on the court, he loves being part of the team and he loves pushing himself to see how far he can go. What he doesn’t know is if he will still love it if it gets in the way of his bigger dream of being a doctor.
As a mother all I can do is listen, and support my child’s decisions. He has not approached the subject of quitting tennis with me yet although I have heard the concern in his conversations about his ability to balance studying and practice. It is now that I realize that I need to give him permission to quit. I will not tell him to quit or even suggest that he does, but I will let him know that he has my permission to stop if he wants to. You see, our relationship with our children has been so intertwined with tennis that we need to let them know that we will love them just as much whether they are playing tennis or not. I won’t be disappointed, I won’t be resentful, I will only be proud! I will let him know that I do not feel like any of my time or money has been wasted if he chooses not to continue. The life lessons, memories and experiences he has gotten from the sport is worth every second and every penny.
My guess is that he will continue to play. He is a competitor, it is in his blood. He will set a new goal for himself and push himself just as hard as he has for the last seven years. But if he decides he wants to lessen the pressure and play recreationally instead of competitively, I’m okay with that too.
Does your child know that it is okay to quit if they want to, that you will still be there for them with as much enthusiasm and pride in whatever they choose to do? Do they know that they are more than their tennis in your eyes? Did you feel like you could quit without disappointing your parents?