N generally enjoys playing in tennis matches, but he doesn’t want to travel to lots of new places miles away to play in tournaments. I also want to have some free weekends myself – although maybe it’ll be different in future, once he’s stopped having Saturday swimming lessons and that gives us a whole day back. N’s main goals in tennis are to enjoy it, improve and achieve his 20 mini red matches to qualify for a free mini red tennis t shirt.
Mini red and online player profiles
In mini red which is age 5-8, wins don’t count. It’s the taking part that matters. They also don’t get a specific rating, it’s just based on matches played, and you’re in red for 3-4 years. The aim is to keep it fun and avoid children feeling pressured to win.
N’s bursting to get to his 20 matches but it’s taking ages. He’s played around 34 matches, but only 18 have qualified towards his rating. Mostly because players are being entered into both team events and tournaments without a British Tennis Number (which are free for children their age). It’s frustrating because we’re told you need one to play. But N’s had 5 league matches excluded from his rating because his opponent either doesn’t have or hasn’t shared with the organiser, their BTM number.
Not having a number doesn’t just mean the player doesn’t get his matches counted, but also their opponents miss out on that match counting. Annoying if you’re mini red counting matches played, but even more frustrating when you’re in older levels and wins are counted alongside matches played. By playing matches you gain rewards (mostly congratulations emails and the first stage t shirt). As you get older, you can raise your rating in your level enabling you to play in higher level tournaments, or potentially get picked for county training.
Our tennis league is a tad frustrating too. N plays in the Warwickshire league as that’s where our club is based, rather than Oxfordshire where we live and has his tennis training. Our league hasn’t been added to any of the children’s online competitions played compared with kids in Oxfordshire where the equivalent league is logged. I’m hoping ours will eventually get loaded onto the system like last summer’s appears to have been, but I’m not holding my breath.
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N has played in a couple of match plays. These are small local cross club tournaments, open to anyone in the relevant levels. They are friendly experiences, with a focus on fun, are a great way to get match experience as well as play new people. All matches count towards level ratings as long as they’re at your level. With our league, we only have 3 matches a term, so having a couple of hours play against a handful of people on 1 day, tops up the matches played quickly.
N only started playing for his team in October, and he’s still in mini red stage until September when he’ll move up to orange. I’m hoping in the summer he might move to training in orange group as it would be good to play some stronger players and get used to playing with the orange ball and larger court. Previously, watching the orange group play at other match play tournaments, that level seemed so far ahead of N and the other reds.
Playing up in mini orange tennis
The latest matchplay afternoon didn’t have any reds signed up to play, apart from N, so the organiser suggested he could try playing up in orange stage. I wasn’t too sure. After all, there’s a big jump from red to orange. Some of the children could be nearly 2 years older than N, have played that much longer, and he’d have to adjust to the ball, court and potential different scoring.
But N decided he wanted to give it a go. I think, because they always have lots of biscuits for the kids to eat in between matches. We did go out the day before to buy some orange balls*, and went to the courts to play for an hour. I was surprised how well he did – I think having the slightly heavier ball might help him play when he moves up a group (the same as having a slightly bigger and heavier racket did).
There were a real mix of levels playing. There were 7 in the round robin, and there was 1 other mini red player, 1 who was new to matchplays but a mini green in age, and the rest were mini orange levels.
N said he wasn’t really nervous, and he got down to it. They put the mini reds on first to play together to ease them in. They both had to get used to the 18m x 6.5m court, but did a good job. N beat the girl (and did better than last time they played). The practice he’d had the day before certainly helped him.
Considering he was playing up to mini orange level, he had a great experience.
He won 2 matches, and lost the other 4, winning several points in each match.
He won all the spins to start each match, so bravely chose to serve each time.
The reds had been told they could step a little forward from the base line if they needed to serve given the extra distance, but he didn’t, and had one match when every 1st serve when in. The organiser even commented that he had a nice serving action.
He got back some rather fast and low serves. And he played up to a higher level with the challenge of playing better players.
Yes, there is still a lot to work on – not rushing his second serves, doing proper back hand action, and speed and coverage on a larger court. But he stayed calm, level headed whether he lost or won, knew which side he was meant to be serving on, and made sure he shook hands with his opponent and scorer at the end.
N’s coach popped along to see how he and the older girl from our club got on. She was proud of how he’d done playing up a level, and handily has now seen what he’s like in a match situation so knows what he needs to focus on in training.
6 of them also wanted to play some doubles, so they had a couple of matches. N and his club mate were put together and won their first match but lost their second. I think it was getting to the tired stage by then. Each of the pairings won and lost 1, which was a nice result for them.
While these matches didn’t count toward his tally, N’s excited about stepping up a level in future. Now he can’t wait until his next mini red leave matches to get that t shirt.
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