Finally we’ve had a good performance in tennis. Ok, it still wasn’t a win – just. We’re still trying to get over that hurdle. But it’s been great to finish off the season with a good attempt, a more even match (especially we I expected us to be trounced), and a lot of close matches.
The older the children get, the wider the disparity between teams seems to get. The larger clubs have performance squad training, and multiple training sessions a week. They also tend to hold a lot of tournaments at their club, and children enter a lot more tournaments in general. They have a lot more children to choose from for their team.
Our team just love to play. They’re keen to learn and improve, and they love to win. But they also enjoy playing and want to have good matches where they can show what they can do.
Compared to other teams, we have 3 players new to matches this year. We have no performance squad (although we did have 2 team sessions ahead of matches to help them understand Fast4 scoring and playing with differen ball and full size courts). 2 of the team only play once a week outside of any school lessons. The others have a casual club session, and standard group training, N also has a private lesson, and the odd county training session. Occasionally some of ours might play in tournaments (although N’s not having much luck with 2 recently having been cancelled).
Our team also have a great team spirit. They train together, some go to school together, but they all gel well and that’s noticeable compared to some of the larger teams. With larger teams, sometimes they don’t even know their other team mates. Ours are able to support each other and it’s a fun and friendly environment to play in. I want that to continue because that really does help with their enjoyment in playing and removes the pressure from performing. If they lose, they learn from it, but still know they’ve tried their best and enjoyed it.
This season has been hard. Ours are at the top age of the age group (it’s 9-10), some players from other teams play up or play across our age group and the 8-9 age group. We know that our team will be one of the weaker teams. Back in mini red we were playing the C teams from big clubs. Now those clubs are playing with just one team, so it’s going to be the really good players.
Our team haven’t been fazed by this. They’ve just got on, turned up, and done what they can. As a parent and captain of the team, I’m there to support them, check they’re ready to play, and that they enjoy it and want to continue. We’ve had no arguments, no stroppiness, no tears over losing.
But they’ve also had one win. (actually they thrashed the opponents – such a shame it was the one week N couldn’t play in – so he’s the only one without any wins this season despite being the no.1 in the team!). And a couple of players have also won the odd game.
The season’s improvement
What I’ve really loved is seeing the improvement through the season. It might only have been 4 matches, over 3 months. But from where they started out, they’ve improved so much.
They’ve taken on new scoring – from just tie breaks, they’re now playing Fast4 (normal tennis scoring without the advantage). Best of 3 sets – which includes 7 point tie breaks at 3 games all per set. And at 1 set all it goes to a 10 point tie break. All of them are able to keep score, know which side they’re serving from, and when to change ends. Several matches they’ve had to explain the scoring to opponents who’ve not known it.
Faster balls, having to hit deeper and cover a full court. They’re only 9 or 10, so it’s a big court to cover and further to serve.
Increased confidence in knowing when to leave a ball, calling balls out and also having a fair challenge on a line call when their opponents aren’t always being truthful. The boys all need to be more aware when they’re receiving a serve though – they all miss points they’d win by not calling serves out. The girls are obviously more observant because they’re better at calling these.
Stronger rallying and much more awareness about placing the ball. They can all hit deeper, and sometimes I’m surprised by the balls they can get back that I’d expect to be winners. Two of the boys love volleys and often other parents comment on their skills there.
Doubles understanding. The cohesiveness in the team really helps here. N usually plays with the same partner, but because we switch the team round to give everyone the same number of match opportunities where possible, the others do have to switch around. It’s interesting to see one of the quietest step up to take charge when playing in a partnership, and they do talk a lot to each other between points. One does sometimes forget to move and switch depending on her partner’s position, but she’s one of the least experienced. It comes with time and practice.
They ended the season with their best playing of the season despite the overally loss. I hope they’re proud of themselves for how far they’ve come, and hopefully they’ll be keen to continue playing into the winter season.
Now to organise an end of season get together – we just need a decent spell of weather for picnic and play.
Are your children part of a sports team? How do they find the team atmosphere and support?