About a year before the world knew of COVID-19, my wife and I enrolled our two young boys in a local community tennis program. They had briefly tried their hands (or feet, rather) at soccer before that; but their scrawny physiques could not handle the endurance needed to continuously run the length of the soccer field. As their enthusiasm in soccer seemed to wane a bit, we made the decision to give something else a try.
Introducing tennis to them during COVID-19 was quite a blessing. It was naturally socially-distanced, much less of a contact sport then soccer was, and it was just enough of an outdoor social activity in a time when home-schooling was mandated and kids really stopped seeing their friends regularly.
The city’s park and recreation tennis class we had them in was short lived. The teacher was an older gentleman that showed up late, used most of the class time to ask the kids what they ate for lunch, and spent a disproportionately little amount of time letting them hold a racquet, instructing them about the rules and scoring of the game, and teaching them proper form.
It did however, allow us to be out on tennis courts. And that was huge. Because just being outdoors gave us an opportunity to see other coaches on neighboring courts teaching young kids. Now, most of the tennis greats of the world were holding racquets and started playing the game by ages 3 or 4. My kids were about 10 and 6. Oops. Oh well, better late then never?
“Do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”Benjamin Franklin
As I saw coaches that I thought had impressive teaching styles, I would approach them and inquire about lessons for my own kids. At one point, my boys had lessons from three different instructors and were spending about 1 to 2 hours out on the courts every day of the week. One day, my oldest son told me that the way one coach wanted him to serve was a different technique then another coach; and asked me who he should listen to?
At first, I thought I was doing them a favor recruiting all these accomplished trainers. One coach had almost gone pro himself. Another taught university level men’s tennis. Still another had such infectious passion for the game; and not only taught form and technique but focused on and spoke to the mental acuity and emotional stability needed to really succeed at it.
As it turns out, the coach that once told me “it’s not good to have too many voices in their heads” is the last one standing. He hosts a clinic a couple times a week, and offers private lessons on weekends that we sometimes take advantage of. He’s the right amount of strict/stern, pushes the boys to advance their game, encourages them to always be ready, to strategize the placement of their shots, and has really done well to teach them the intricacies of the game.
My wife and I went on to the U.S. Tennis Associations (USTA.com) website late last year and inquired about tennis tournaments our boys could participate in. Since then, they’ve played in several and have faired better in some then others. Our oldest son, Ishaan (12 yo), is mentally confident going into matches and just has a tendency of making unforced errors. Our youngest, Krish (8 yo), has an impressive passion and skill, but struggles a bit with nerves and believing in his abilities.
Part of the reason we wanted them to enter tournaments is to desensitize them to being in competitions. It is one thing to leisurely play against your sibling, against kids in your class, etc.; but it is a totally different dynamic when you are in a match against a stranger, you are officially keeping score, and there are rankings and trophies on the line.
We want them to learn responsibility; to eat a good healthy breakfast, get a good night sleep, and to get their tennis bag ready the night before a competition. We want to have them figure out how to cope with losses, and learn from mistakes they make within their matches. We try to reward them, win or lose, by letting them decide what they want for dinner or picking the dessert of their choice.
Tennis has, in many ways, taken over our lives. I absolutely love that my kids ask if we can go play tennis at the park on the days when they do not have lessons with their coach (and even some days when they do). I love that they want to watch tennis highlights of Nadal and Djokovic and Federer playing. I love that they now coach and correct me on how to properly grip a backhand or toss my serve.
Honestly, it has been an expensive hobby. Tennis shoes and attire, racquets (not to mention restringing) and balls, lesson (both clinic and private) – it adds up very quickly. I can only hope this is a lifelong passion of theirs, and that they go on and teach their own children to love and be good at the game.
The truth is, I secretly want them to be champions of this sport. I want them to progress, work hard, and potentially turn this into something professional if they can. But if they lose interest, want to explore other passions, that is okay too. I do not ever want to be the parent that forces their child to fulfill my own desire for stardom and success.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! And spending time on my blog. As with so many topics that I discuss (investing, dentistry, medical issues, etc.), this will likely be the first of many posts about this matter. If you have any questions, or suggestions, I would love to hear from you! Be well!