Stay or go? That is the question I ask every summer when it comes to my son’s tennis. Do I send him away again or should he stay with the family for the summer? Ultimately the decision is his and every year “GO” has won.
The first time we left him to train in the summer was the summer before his freshman year of high school. His coach urged us not to take him to Canada with us for the whole summer. He felt that Alex would lose too much over the summer and was at a break through point in his training. “If I can just have him for three or four weeks to work with him every day I know I can bring him up to the next level,” the coach pleaded. As always it was up to Alex in the end. Was he ready to miss out on the summer at the lake with his cousins for tennis? Unquestionably he was ready and the coach got what he asked for. I literally left him with the coach for the month of July. Was it worth it? Absolutely! His tennis was without question at a new level but that wasn’t the biggest pay off of the summer. The greatest improvement we saw was his maturity and independence. The coach taught him to think for himself and look after himself. The coach’s wife was astonished at how neat and tidy he was and that his bed was made every day and nothing ever left lying around. I too was astonished at this fact and thought that I had hit the jackpot. Forget tennis if he managed to keep his room clean and belongings together the whole experience was worth it. What he learned in tennis and maturity stuck with him, what he learned about cleaning his room seemed to disappear the moment he stepped back into our house. Oh well can’t win them all.
The following three summers we have been sending Alex away to a tennis academy in South Carolina. The first summer he went there was in an attempt to get some intensive training after a six-week recovery from an appendectomy. Once again it was his choice to give up his summer and train at the academy. Once again he came back to us a better tennis player and a better person. The academy is not a day care for over privileged teens. They were expected to help out with meals, had to do their own laundry and the fitness and tennis was very intense. He absolutely thrived in the environment. Secondary gains from this experience where the friendships he was able to make with other tennis players from around the country.
The second year at the academy he came home a couple of weeks early because of severe arm pain. Although his fitness was top shape and his strokes where great the arm wouldn’t hold up for matches. This is when we had to ask ourselves if he over did it. Did we allow him to play too much tennis? Did we allow him to push himself to the point of hurting himself? Months of physical therapy and the best surgeons in the world finally led us to the diagnosis and surgical repair of thoracic outlet syndrome. We were pleased to know that it wasn’t the amount of tennis he played that hurt his arm. Never the less we learned an important lesson about moderation. We saw a local player loose his season from a stress fracture of the leg and another from a stress fracture in the back after intensive summer training.
Last summer Alex returned to the academy again. This time he was entering the academy as a Captain. He had more responsibility and was expected to act as a mentor and role model for the younger players. A little less time was scheduled this time for fear of causing an injury or burning out before his senior high school season.
Each year he has had to decide if he was willing to sacrifice his summer holidays and a summer at the lake (which he absolutely loves) for tennis. Each and every year he made the choice without hesitation. Sending him away to play tennis versus training at home has worked for us. We don’t have access to the level of training he needs where we live in Canada for the summer so that has been a major factor in the decision process. The secondary gains he has experienced from leaving home for the summers has been the most valuable in my opinion. He has matured beyond the level of most of his peers, he has learned to appreciate his family and be a better brother to his siblings, he has learned to think on his own and make good decisions for himself. His maturity has been the greatest factor in improving his tennis.
So it is summer again and the question is posed yet one more time. Do you want to stay or do you want to go? It’s a little different this time. At the end of the summer he is off to College and will be far from home. The decision is a little harder and the sacrifice a little greater. The plan…compromise. Two weeks in June, July in Canada (bringing a tennis buddy along to hit with), August back to tennis to get ready for College (coach D I’m still working on talking him into Chicago) I can live with that. Obviously I would like to have him all summer but I’ll take what I can get. After all we all have to make sacrifices.
Stay or go, what do you do with your kids for the summer? Would you consider sending them away to play tennis for the summer?