Do you ever wonder if you have allowed your child to be sucked into a constant round of one competition after another? Then ask yourself, is this healthy? Finally consider, how will this impact on your child’s long term love of the game?
I realised in the last few months that my son has played competitions pretty much none-stop for the last three years and he only turns eleven in a month’s time. Three years ago it was red ball and the race to get the Red 1 rating as well as chasing medals. Two years ago he moved up to Orange ball and there was the challenge to get from Orange 4 to Orange 1, with a final push in the summer of getting those 20 wins in regional competitions and the holy grail of the Orange 1*. This was delicately balanced with his aim of winning the summer county leaderboard. Competition soon changed to Green ball and whether it would be possible to get his Green 1* through Grade 3 competitions and still play enough grade 4s and 5s to see if he could win either the winter or summer Green county leaderboards. Hopefully this will become more straightforward nows with Grade 4 and Grade 5 competitions also counting towards the race for Orange and Green 1*.
When he moved up to Full Ball, there was an enforced rest during September whilst school priorities took over before I (in all honesty) pushed him back in the fray of more competitions, with ratings, leaderboards and now rankings proving the new collectibles. As his growing body began to creak, I realised that he had been constantly competing for a long time.
I began to think of the comparison to other sportsmen and women; they would all have some kind of break. There has been a debate over a number of years about a mid-season break in the football season and that is in addition to the summer break. It has often been commented on, that after World Cups footballers often struggle the following season due to the lack of rest.
Whilst in tennis, players will generally have a break from competition in November and December. There has also been discussion over whether the window should be longer prior to the Australian Open. John McEnroe was insistent a few seasons ago that Andy Murray should have taken a break and Roger Federer did take a break before the grass court season that year.
It is important to remember that young athletes are constantly growing which places considerable stress on their joints and muscles. Hence they are at more risk of injury than adults. Finally we need to question does the constant round of tournament to tournament run the risk of taking the fun out of the game?
I am already thinking should I begin to plan specific breaks from competition over the next year. When is the best time to place these? Should I follow the pro’s and place one window from October half term to Christmas holidays and then maybe have another break prior Easter before Aegon Club tennis starts? What of my daughter, who is starting Orange Ball, should I do the same thing and plan breaks for her?
After all, my aim in the tennis journey is that they have a skill which they enjoy using in their teenage years and all through adulthood and not that they are burnt out and jaded before they turn thirteen.