If you have been following the Crazytennis mom you know that my son has just started his journey into D1 tennis. As a tennis parent it is time for me to sit back and reflect on what kind of tennis parent I was. It is time to see if I did my job of raising an independent, mature, responsible tennis player. In this series I will share some of my insights in the form of a checklist to help you identify any areas where you may improve in preparing your tennis player for the time when he/she reaches their goal of becoming a college tennis player (whatever level they choose).
For a quick review Item #1 on the checklist was:
Is your child making independent decisions?
As a tennis parent it seemed like I had a full-time job managing my son’s tennis. I spent hours checking the USTA website for upcoming tournaments, registering for said tournaments, booking hotels, and scheduling tennis lessons. This doesn’t include the time spent running around to get tennis shoes, picking up racquets, laundering tennis clothes and uniforms (naturally the lucky socks always had to be clean for the next big match). I know many of you can relate to this.
How much of your day is spent thinking about your child’s tennis? Do you prepare the meals in the home around his/her tennis schedule? Do you make sure they get their proteins and carbs the night before the big match? Do you make sure there are sufficient snacks in the house and in their tennis bag to give them the quick fix during a practice or match? What about hydration… are you monitoring your child’s fluid intake making sure they won’t dehydrate or cramp? These are all the things I took care of for my son. I took care of it to the point that he never had to think about it. Did he know he was having a special meal the night before a match?
I can’t tell you how much time I spent reminding my son to jog or work out. Did you do your physical therapy today? Worse yet is when I sat and supervised the physical therapy or workout to make sure it was done correctly.
One day it hit me that I wasn’t going to be going with him to college. He was going to need to look after himself when he got to college. This is when I asked myself if I was preparing him to make the proper decisions for himself. If was going to be successful in college he needed to be an independent decision maker and be accountable for his own decisions. So I stepped back. I let him choose his food, drinks, workout schedule, and tournaments to play. It was going to be up to him he would succeed or fail by his own decisions and not mine. I thought it was a safer environment to hand over some of these decisions when I was still around to help pick up the pieces if everything fell apart. I certainly didn’t want him to experience failure or being overwhelmed with such decisions when he was all alone.
It was a rough senior year for our tennis family. Many of the choices he made where not decisions I would have made for him. He chose not to play USTA tournaments in the final semester of his senior year. He did spend a great deal of time in the gym lifting weights, but still felt he didn’t need to run. His diet wasn’t one that I would have chosen for him and he drank more coke than water at times. Over the summer he didn’t spend nearly enough time on the court in my opinion…but my opinion didn’t matter, this was up to him. Time and time again I reminded him that he would have to live with the consequences of his actions and he was comfortable with this.
So off he went to college and I was a nervous wreck. Would he make the right choices? Would he know how much effort it would take to be in condition to play at this level? Could he keep himself healthy?
To my surprise (and great relief) he was prepared. Without being told he began to run every day before the start of classes. He hit the gym every day and hit the court whenever he could. He was even able to find his own hitting partners while he waited for the rest of the team to arrive at the college. He is eating four meals a day and even went shopping for water and Gatorade.
If we don’t hand some of these decisions and responsibilities over to our young tennis players how are they going to be able to do it on their own? We cannot go to college with them (as much as we may want to).
So reflecting back on my experience as a tennis parent I can check of item #2 on my list of preparedness. My son has the ability to make independent decisions. Will he always make the decisions I would have made for him, probably not. Will I agree with or like all the decisions he makes, I doubt it. Will he live with the consequences of his actions and know that he made it on his own terms, absolutely, and that is a life lesson worth teaching.
Was it easy getting him ready for this responsibility…heck no, but was it worth it…you bet!