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Striking the Perfect Balance

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The college tennis season is in full swing, and with that a whole new reality. Ready or not here it comes!

Off season practice and work-out schedule seemed rather daunting to me but it is nothing compared to the tennis season schedule. These young men and women who take on the challenge of playing college tennis while trying to maintain their grades are truly amazing young individuals (and I don’t mean because of their tennis skills!)

My son’s new schedule includes four hours of tennis a day (to the maximum of six times per week), hitting the gym with the trainer for a couple of hours a few days a week, and travelling every weekend for matches unless they have a home match (Friday classes are a thing of the past.) Now let’s look at the class schedule…Physics, Physics lab, Chemistry, Chemistry lab, Biology, Biology lab and Communications. Now that is some kind of balancing act to manage to stay on top of that kind of schedule!

I am thankful for the intense practice regime and travelling schedule he had during his years in the junior USTA as they have helped him to transition to the strenuous college schedule. However, during those years mom and dad did a lot of managing of the little things like laundry, shopping, meals, etc that he has had to learn to take care of himself now. I am certainly glad that during those years we never let him slack on his school work and held the high expectations for him to balance his tennis, school and social life himself. We never allowed him to fall behind in school and never helped him in finishing his assignments, and I am grateful for those choices since there is no-one there to do it for him in college.

If there is one piece of advise I would give a parent raising a tennis player who wants to play college tennis it would be this: Don’t hold their hand! Allow them to stand on their own in the early years because this is the skill they will need the most when they finally reach their goal. I saw so many tennis parents who hold there chid’s hand through every step their tennis, seldom allowing the child to worry about anything other than walking onto the court and playing their match. They never had to take care of finding their tournaments, packing their clothes, getting their racquets strung, packing their tennis bag. I’ve watched parents check their kids into the tournament desk, hold their tournament cards, choose their meals, find out the match times for their kids, while the child does nothing more than show up on the court when directed by their parent (who is often carrying their bag and water jug.) I’ve seen parents doing the homework that they know the child will never get done if they make it to the finals on a late Sunday afternoon. I ask myself… who will take care of those young men and women when they are at college? Unless you plan on going to college with your kids, I suggest you teach them how to take care of themselves before they go!

Playing tennis is the easy part… balancing the schedule and dealing with the stress is the hard part. Teach them when they are young how to take care of themselves, physically and mentally before they go. These are the skills that will not only make them successful but will allow them to survive the schedule and maybe even enjoy it!

Good luck to all of the young men and women signing with the colleges and seeing the results of your hard work and effort throughout your junior years. You have put in the work that has gotten you to this point and it is these skills that you will need to draw upon to cope with the hectic schedule that lies ahead. Take the work ethic you have developed in your tennis train schedule and apply that to your college schedule and you will be successful. Just know that it is not the end but merely the beginning. As hard as you thought you worked as a junior tennis player is nothing compared to how hard you will work in college. So why do it? Because you love tennis and you will make some of the best friends and create some of the best memories of your life.

Parents… if you haven’t already, start now! Prepare your child to stand on their own and balance their schedule, because the coach is not going to hold their hand when you are not there to do it!

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Dream On!

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All eyes are glued to the television.  The days, and unfortunately the nights, are spent watching the first big tournament of the year.  The Australian Open is always the favorite in our household, it marks the beginning of the season and warms the cold January evenings with the hopes for the upcoming tennis season.  My son has always found that his motivation to practice and improve his game is at its greatest during the Australian Open.

How many young eyes are gazing upon the greatness of Federer, Murray, Djokovic, the Williams sisters and Sharapova (to name just a few) and dreaming of following in their footsteps?  They hit the practice court with a new vigor, stars in their eyes and hope in their heart for that day when they will walk onto center stage of one of the Grand Slam tournaments.  Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that only one or two of these young, enthusiastic tennis players will ever set foot on the court of a professional tennis tournament.

As a parent is it our job to tell our children that they will never be a pro tennis player?  Time and time again I have been asked by parents when they should give up on their children as a tennis player, when should they tell them that they will never make it to the pros.  I remember asking my son’s coach the same thing when he was around 13. “Why break his bubble and kill his dreams”the coach replied.  “If he doesn’t feel like he has anywhere to go with the sport why would he put in the time and effort.  He is just a boy and boys dream he will figure it out on his own.”  So that is what we did, we said nothing and let him dream.

What we didn’t do is allow his schooling to fall behind or throw away good money after bad for a pipe dream.  We kept him focused on what was important to take away from tennis…the life lessons.

  1. If you have a dream you have to work hard to accomplish it, nothing in life is just handed to you.
  2. If you want something you have to go after it with everything you have.
  3. You don’t always get want you want
  4. When you do something you do it the best you can
  5. If you don’t try you never know
  6. Education is the most important asset you can have
  7. If you love it, do it!  Regardless of how good you are at it.

I never had to kill my son’s dreams, he figured it out on his own.  They grow-up and mature and their dreams change.  As a parent make sure your own “dreams” are realistic, not everyone is good enough to go pro or make D1 tennis and your child may be one of those that no matter how hard they practice they just don’t have that natural talent.  It doesn’t make them less of a person or you less of a parent and it doesn’t mean tennis can’t be a focus in their lives.  My son will never be a “great” tennis player, he is a “good” tennis player.  He knows he has to work a little harder than the others to keep his position on the team and when college is over tennis will remain a passion but just not a living.

So enjoy the beginning of another great Grand Slam season.  Watch with your kids and listen as they share their dreams of someday walking into Rod Laver Arena and smile.  You don’t need to burst their bubble, they will figure it out on their own.  Just enjoy the moment!

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Coolest Courts

We may not be in Melbourne, Australia playing tennis and perhaps we have not been able to play at Wimbledon or Roland Garros  but we have seen our share of  interesting tennis courts.  Some we love and some we hate, some are fast, some are slow, some are lucky and some are cursed.  Each tennis court is unique and has its own special beauty.

What is the coolest court you have ever played on?  Share a picture or description of your most memorable tennis court and tell us why you loved or hated it.

Here is a picture of the club my son is currently playing at.  It is an extremely fast court so it is difficult to play on but it is one of the most beautiful courts he has ever seen.  The building is made by the Amish and the craftsmanship is absolutely incredible, it is like playing within a work of art.

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West End Racket Club, Allentown, PA.

 

 

 

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Expose Your Weakness

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Your game is generally it’s best when you are physically fresh and full of energy but what happens when you begin to get tired?  What happens to your strokes when your legs start to feel like noodles or your racket seems to have gained an extra four pounds, when your back feels like a vice is being gripped around it, your mind can’t focus?  This is when your weaknesses are exposed.  Most matches are lost with a tired body or mind.  How can you prevent yourself from losing when your body and mind start to betray you?  The most common answer and approach to this dilemma is to workout and increase your fitness.  I completely agree that fitness gives a player an upper hand any match but realistically everyone will become less fresh at the end of two or three-hour match then they were at the beginning. No amount of training can make you immune to fatigue on the court, just ask Nadal.

My son has been working with a new coach for the last six months (when he is home) who deals with this issue.  The first twenty minutes of his lesson (after warm ups) is spent running extremely exhausting drills.  He is forced to continuously move and remain in a low stance while drilling balls deep into the court.  Rather than feeding balls the coach is dropping the balls to increase the pace and decrease the height of the ball.  The purpose of the drill is two-fold, while my son is improving his foot work, leg strength and hitting he is also exhausting him in those first few minutes to expose his weaknesses.  Within the first twenty minutes when the legs start to get tired, the arm sore and the mind frustrated the balls start to spray long on the forehand and hit into the net on the backhand.  BINGO!  The coach has exposed those shots that cost him so many matches.

The rest of the lesson is spent on dealing with what is going wrong when he feels fatigued.  He knows how to hit a forehand and backhand he needs to know what part of the stroke is breaking down when he gets tired.  In his case, when his legs get tired he struggles to stay down on his shots.  When his arms are tired he feels the extra weight of the racket and takes the lift out of his swing.  It is like a light going on, an insight into those frustrating moments when he feels like his forehand has let him down and he doesn’t know why.  Now instead of reacting to the frustration he can deal with the problem.

Does this give you a free pass on fitness training?  Absolutely not, and the drills he is doing are designed to strengthen his legs and increase his endurance.  It does give you insight into why your shots aren’t doing what you want them to when you are tired and you can add simple cues to help you deal with the issue.

Think about practicing when you are tired or not feeling well, or distracted by other issues and see if you can expose your weakness.  If you don’t you know your opponent will.

If you had to guess what would your weakness be?  What part of your body would give out first and what part of your game would it effect?  Do you know how to correct it?  Share your thoughts and insights and maybe you can help a fellow struggling tennis player.

Good luck and have fun!

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A Day in the Life of a College Tennis Player.

I have had the pleasure of spending the last three weeks with my son as he unwinds from his first semester of college.  The maturity I have seen in him is overwhelming.  I sent a teenager away to college and a young man has been returned to me.

We have had a great time catching up on all that he has done over the last five months.  His schedule is overwhelming to me and that was the off-season for tennis.  I remember how busy I was in college and I didn’t play a sport.  My time was completely filled with classes and studying.  I marvel at the fact that this young man can balance his classes and studying with his tennis schedule.

I have heard many people ask what a typical college tennis schedule is like, I don’t know what it is like at other schools but I can share what it is like for my son.  He gets up for six a.m. workouts  two or three times a week, each workout lasting an hour and a half.  From there he heads out to his eight o’clock class.  His schedule is set up so he is generally done in the early afternoon.  From class he runs to the cafeteria to load up on food and takes some time to do some homework while he eats.  He has a second round of work-outs in the afternoon six days a week and then heads to the tennis court for at least two hours six days a week.  After practice he heads to the cafeteria to once again load up on as much food as possible.  After dinner he has his power nap to prepare for studying for the rest of the night (thank God teenagers function at their best after ten p.m.)

Next semester will be the tennis season so things will get a little more difficult for him.  He will have to start traveling for the week-ends and Friday classes will be missed.  Not a great situation when you have your lab on Friday afternoon.  Fortunately the college allows their athletes to go to labs on other days if they will be traveling with the team on their regular lab day.  They also offer free tutoring to their athletes so he can stay on top of his classes and keep his grades up.

So basically that is what the day in the life of a college tennis player looks like.  Is your son or daughter ready for it?  If you had asked me a year ago if my son could handle such a routine while maintaining his GPA I would have been doubtful.  What I didn’t account for was the fact that he would grow up and mature so much.  Tennis does take a lot of his time but it also taught him to manage his time, stay out of trouble and make good choices.  College tennis helped him to fit into a social group that supports each other,  they study together, and unwind together.

My son won’t be the next American professional tennis player.  Hopefully, he will be one of the next great American doctors though and his tennis will help him to get there.  His tennis has taught him discipline, hard work and has kept him out of trouble.  If he can balance his school schedule, maintain a 3.96 GPA and play D1 tennis he will be well prepared for medical school.

I hope this sheds a little light on what college tennis is like.  Trust in your child and know that if they can get through these four years they will be well prepared for the rest of their lives.  It isn’t for everyone that is for sure.  I am glad that it is working out for my son, I haven’t seen him happier than he is now.  The only warning I have for my fellow tennis parents is to be prepared for losing the junior tennis player you have come to know.  That child will be gone and a mature young man or woman will take their place.  You won’t have to nag them to practice, or workout or eat right again.  Somehow in this grand transformation they have found the drive within themselves to do all of these things without mom (or dad) holding their hand.  So let go and watch them fly…it is a beautiful sight!

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Preparation Checklist: Item #3

Time again to look at how prepared your son or daughter is for the adventures of college tennis.

First a quick review of the first couple of items on our preparation check list:

Item #1: Have you spent enough time teaching your child to behave on the tennis court?

Item #2:  Is your child making independent choices

 

Item #3 is one that we will all struggle with and if someone has the magical answer please let me know, because I failed on this one.

Item #3:  Can your child get up at 5:30 in the morning for 6:00 workouts!

I received a text from my son today stating that he would not be home for Christmas do to the fact that he will be dead.  Apparently he feels that the 6:00 am workouts four times a week are killing him.  I had to chuckle when I read the text but then thought to myself “did I ever consider preparing him for such a schedule?”  Obviously I did not.  I always found it hard enough to get him up to go to school in the morning so the thought of waking him any earlier to workout was not within my scope of reality.

If your junior tennis player is serious about playing college tennis and in particular on a  D1 tennis team, he/she may want to take into consideration the schedule that will need to be followed.  If I had to do it over again I probably would have encourage my son to develop a workout program that incorporated some early morning workouts during the school year.  How I would have managed this is beyond me and I am glad that I don’t have to face this battle.  Getting him up early to actually play tennis is a far easier battle because he always loves to be on the tennis court, but to be in the gym running sprints and doing abdominal workouts for ninety minutes straight is, as he so eloquently put it, “hell.”

So good luck parents and let me know how you make out in preparing your junior tennis player for the     6:00 am workouts!  All can do know is laugh and remind him of what a great body he will have for the beach this summer!

 

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Stop Complaining…Start Enjoying!

If you can’t fix it, learn to live with it.

If you don’t have a dog in the fight walk away from it.

If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.

All of these are sayings we have grown up with and heard our parents repeat to us time and time again.  Most likely if you are a parent you have heard yourself utter these very words to your children.  Yet in the tennis world all we seem to hear is complaining, complaining, complaining!

A fellow blogger and tennis mom, Parenting Aces,  wrote an excellent article about this the other day and it sparked a fire in me.  Her article allowed me to think about why I had distanced myself from the tennis community lately and why I was having trouble sitting down to my computer to give words to the Crazy Tennis Mom.  It is the complaining, the nonstop complaining that seems to go along with the competitive tennis world.  There seems to be nonstop complaining about changes to the USTA schedules or rules, changes  to the College Tennis format, poor high school coaching,  allowing “lower level” tennis players play in tournaments, lack of quality American tennis players…it is always something.

My goal in starting the Crazy Tennis Mom blog was to remind parents and players to enjoy the sport of tennis.  I wanted to remind the tennis community that we all came to this place because of the love of tennis. I came to a point where I  realized that I had become so involved with the “politics” of the game that I had forgotten about why I had become involved with it in the first place.  The Crazy Tennis Mom was born of my desire to let other parents learn from my mistakes.  I wasted time and effort on being the Crazy Tennis Mom, and worse yet I allowed it to affect my child’s view on the game as well.  Perhaps if I had kept a better perspective on the game I may have helped him to do the same.

It all began with a young boys passion and absolute love for the game.  When he picked up his first tennis racquet he never even knew what the USTA was, he didn’t know about TennisRecruit.com, or what a ranking was, all he knew was that when he was on the court he felt more alive than he did anywhere else.  I started out with those same innocent eyes, just a pure pleasure from seeing my child happy and passionate about his sport.  His enthusiasm spread through our home like wildfire and before we knew it his brother and sister had racquets in their hands too.  Never once during those early years did we study rankings, plan family vacations around tennis tournaments, have arguments about work-out schedules, or debate the fairness of National Level Tournament Schedules.  In the early days we did nothing more than enjoy the game.

So how did we get to the place where tennis seemed to consume our every moment?  It starts rather innocently at first.  You become part of the tennis environment, listening to the talk at the club or tournaments.  You start off just listening but before you know it, you are joining in on the conversation.  The conversations begin to spill over from the club to the car ride, to the dinner table.  The kids are hearing as you repeat the local gossip about the terrible officiating at the Southern Open, or how little Joey’s mom is picking the “easy” tournaments to improve his rankings.  It creeps in slowly and soon begins to grow, much like mold on a stale piece of bread, and just like the mold, it spreads to the rest of the loaf.  Before you know it, instead of being a wide-eyed, naive, tennis parent and player you have created an environment of negativity, pessimism and complaining.

It doesn’t take much to see how our innocent complaining about rule changes or officiating, or draws, translates into a poor attitude in our junior tennis players.  If it’s okay for the grown-ups to complain why can’t they.  Suddenly, their accountability for their game has changed.  No longer is the bad match or attitude their fault.  They got a lousy draw, or their opponent made bad calls, or the official was a jerk, or their strings where terrible.  What did we expect?  That is what we have taught them.

When my two younger children decided they didn’t want to join their brother in the competitive tennis journey, I was shocked.  I could see that they had as much or more talent as he had.  Why would they not want to follow in his footsteps?  This was my first opportunity to realize how off track we had become in our tennis journey.  Instead of seeing the passion and love my son had for tennis, they saw the negative side.  They heard the complaining, saw the battles, and witnessed the heart-break that came with the game.  As they so innocently put it “we just want to enjoy playing.”

Isn’t that what we should all want?  Isn’t that why we all came to tennis in the first place, because we loved the game and enjoyed playing or watching it?  Our family was lucky, we learned to step back walk away from the “crazy” tennis world to find a place within the tennis community and game where we could just enjoy it again.  The funny thing is it didn’t cost my son anything.  He didn’t fall out of the Tennis Universe to become a lost soul that no one ever heard of again.  He did fall out of the rankings and his name wasn’t known in the tournament circuit for the last few months of his senior year but he didn’t stop or forget how to play tennis.

Not so long ago all the tennis talk seemed to revolve around the changes to the College tennis tournament schedule.  Quickly I jumped on line and began to research what the changes were, but then just as quickly, I stopped.  It really doesn’t matter to me what these changes are and more importantly my D1 tennis playing son doesn’t care.  He is just thrilled to be playing.  Now if that isn’t a reality check I don’t know what is.

So please stop complaining, and start enjoying.  If we are really concerned about the future of American tennis than shouldn’t we be trying to get more people playing and loving the sport.  We already have a reputation of being an elitist sport, so let it go.  Let’s open the doors to as many players as we can and when we do let’s make sure the environment they see is one that is welcoming, positive and passionate.

Please visit Parenting Aces and read her article  Complain, complain, complain…DOso if you really must complain you can find a positive way to do so.

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