Sometimes as parents we can get caught up in things. We discuss an idea, children say yes, everything gets booked in and moves forwards, but then the child backtracks. And everything is halted, putting into question, everything we’ve been paying for and working towards.  That’s what’s happened with tennis.  For the moment, N has decided no more tennis matches. He just wants tennis for fun.

Despite N claiming that he’s going to be a professional tennis player, I know he’s not got that level of talent. Not by a long way if I look at similar age children and younger.  But part of progression in sport has to be playing in matches because training itself is not going to provide the experience and progression alone.  But it seems N doesn’t equate this fact.

A first (and probably last) non-local tournament

As N’s club hasn’t enough players to make a team, it means they don’t get any match play unless they enter tournaments themselves. Part of what N (and I) enjoyed before was playing as a team. It makes it more fun going with friends, you can win or commiserate together, and there’s a lot less pressure.

N has played in the local grade 7 matchplays for a while, but they are just the same players each time. They’re fun, but long term he’s not going to learn much from them just playing the same people.

I suggested adding 1 tournament every so often (I was thinking about once a month). N would get more of a challenge, learn more, and experience playing different people in different areas. Yes he decided to do that, and we discussed options for tournaments.  I chose Grade 6 matchplays which were mostly Orange 3 and 4 levels, his level.

The first was just outside Northampton, and was a much higher standard than we see. Probably higher than equivalent team players he’s been beaten by before.  It was a little disappointing because no one really chatted, even the organiser wasn’t very welcoming given we didn’t know the club. N was put out that they didn’t even provide refreshments for the children.  (He had brought his own anyway, so I don’t know why he was moaning).

tennis courts in the sun

I’m sure it was a nervous situation. Playing in a new place where he didn’t know anyone. 

The courts were lovely but it was an over-sunny day for playing tennis.  This definitely impacted N’s serve, and after all the practice he’s done recently, it didn’t go that well.  The courts were slippy from the rain the previous day and night.  N slipped over 3 times (managing to get up and win a point on one of those times), and another boy slipped twice and hurt himself enough to cry.

He also moaned about the court layout. The orange court lines were narrower than he’s used to playing on – they have a set width, but no one actually measures, they just do it by sight. But the local matchplays have the lines very close to the normal tramlines rather than narrower.

They did 2 round robins before splitting into consolation draw and main draw semis. N lost badly in his first match, and got a few more points in the other 2 games. He seemed a bit flustered though, and not sure about scoring. At one point the organiser stepped in and corrected N’s game because they were serving on the wrong side for the points. It flummoxed N because he was right on stating the side he’d served. But correcting it back to the right serving order meant he missed out on a serve, and was told he was wrong.

After his second game he said his ear was really hurting and it felt like it was going to explode like a bomb. There’d been no sign of any pains earlier, but he was struggling to hear in that ear too.  He got through his 3rd game, but hadn’t realised he had 2 more to play. I managed to get him to stay on and he had a good game against the only girl, losing 7-10.

We left before the final was played because his ear just hurt too much. He’d had enough and just said no more tennis matches.

At the moment N is saying he only wants to play in the local matchplays.  Even when I asked about playing for a team if we had one, he said no.

Saying no to tournaments

He might change his mind, but he can be stubborn, so I don’t think he will. It’ll be detrimental to his game progression, but it’s his choice.  He is going to have to be realistic about becoming a pro player and realise that it’s not going to happen. Especially not if he won’t play in matches.

I cancelled the 2 other tournaments I’d booked him onto. We’ll just stick with him playing in group lessons and for the moment his private lessons. Maybe we’ll rethink team playing and can look into another team as an option. Junior club membership isn’t expensive, so even if he wanted to join another club to enable him to do team play in a bigger club, it’s not going to be a problem.

I wish our coaches did squad training like other clubs do for children who want to play in matches. They talked about it a couple of years ago, but nothing came of it. It is noticeable that many of these other children start playing matches a lot earlier, and are a lot further on in technique. While ours have good basic understanding, and grasp the court strategy, these other children hit harder and with topspin.

Ours are steady players. But not when you put them against these other children who’re obviously living and breathing tennis (and quite frankly, 2 of them this weekend had horrible attitudes at such a young age) and having several more training sessions a week as well as a lot of tournament play.  The older they get, the harder it will be to compete if they decide that’s what they want to do.

It’s scary to think that just one level up from last season, the gap between fun and competitive play has widened so much.

Maybe N will join the club men’s team once he’s at a junior level. Those matches are more relaxed and less competitive.

I don’t want him to be turned off a sport that up til now he’s loved playing. So after half term once he’s back to coaching, we’ll see what he says. And in the meantime we can go for a knock around at the courts if he asks to.

Tennis for fun, until he changes his mind.

Have your children made decisions to pull out from sports, or stop doing matches and just play for fun? Did they ever change their mind again?

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