Should my competitive tennis player play the high school tennis season? This was a question I had to face every year when the high school tennis season rolled around. When you are playing at number 1 varsity you don’t have anyone pushing you to get better and often you don’t have anyone to help or challenge you during practice.
The private coach never wanted our son to play the high school tennis season because it took time away from his training and tournament play. Alex always wanted to play because he had fun with his friends and he was part of a team in an otherwise lonely individual sport. The coach would complain that after every tennis season it took one to two months to get his game back to where it should be after playing the unpredictable school season with a lot of easy wins, and unfocused practices. I had to agree with the coach on this one, his game definitely suffered technically from playing high school tennis.
As I have said before I think the kids should own their game so the decision of whether or not to play the high school season always rested on Alex. We discussed the pros and cons of playing and each year he re-evaluated his decision. Each year he decided it was more important to him to be part of the team. With the decision being his he had to take responsibility for it. If his game declined during the season he could not blame it on anything other than his own choice to allow himself to become a little lazy and unfocused. It is not the school season that brings down your game it is your approach to the season and practices that will cause your game to change.
I would like to say that Alex learned to remain focused and pushed himself on the practice court but I would be lying. Freshman year, sophomore year, junior year always saw us in a place of trying to play catch up to those players who had a strong high school tennis team with lots of competition or those who didn’t play high school tennis. To him it was worth it. He got what he wanted out of the high school season and he was willing to put the extra time in after the season to bring his game back. Senior year was a much better year finding himself a little more mature and little more focused. He landed in the state finals and there was plenty of good competition there.
There is such a discrepancy in the level of tennis from one area to the next. If you are lucky you may live in an area where your junior player improves his/her tennis during the school season because they are surrounded by so many high level players. But if you find yourself in an area like ours where you child may be one of a very few competitive players on the team you may find yourself asking “should my competitive tennis player play the high school season.” The choice should ultimately be the players. They are the ones who have to live with the decision. Although their game play may suffer there are a lot of other benefits to playing, such as feeling like they belong to a team, making friends and having fun.
I recently read a comment someone made that high school tennis needs to be changed to get rid of lower level players in order to increase the credibility of the sport. That started my thought process in writing this blog post. I was rather offended by the comment. I am acknowledging that there are draw backs to the high school tennis season and the competition isn’t always that good but there is so much more to it than competition. My other child is a more recreational tennis player and high school tennis gives him the opportunity to play and be part of a team. It should also be noted that some of the best players in the nation play the high school season, so depending on where you live, you may have the opportunity to play some of the best competition of your life.
I would love to hear from you about your opinion on this and your experience with the high school tennis season.