Monthly Archives: May 2017

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: The agony of tiebreaks!

 

Most children have a love or hate relationship with tiebreaks when they move to full ball. The advent of fast 4 tennis means children probably face more of them with the introduction of set tie breaks at 3-3. Incidentally this is one innovation that I do like. I often found that if it went to 3-3 it would go to 4-4 and would need a tie break to decide. In addition the sudden death point at 4-4 in a set tie break or at 9-9 in a championship tie break certainly adds to the love / hate feeling.

tie break 6-6For a parent there will be far more nail chewing or sitting on hands in those tie breaks than probably at any other situation in the games.

My daughter, after one competition said that she hated tiebreaks and always lost them. This was the emotional reaction to having been 8-6 up in a championship tiebreak, before losing 10-8 against a girl with the same rating as she has.

tiebreak self esteemThere is no doubt that losing tie breaks can really reduce a child’s self esteem and confidence at that point in time. Something which is clearly shown by the following graph.

If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will be aware that a key part of my tennis parent and parenting in general philosophy is wanting to raise the confidence of my children and develop their growth mindset. So my first aim was to build her up in her general. I also knew that if she convinced herself she was bad at tie breaks then she would start the next tie break low in confidence which would be a further hindrance her in coming out on top.

As she was upset at the time, I just tried to say that she had won some good tie breaks and returned to my usual mantra that tie breaks are just luck and you probably win half and lose half. She got herself back on court and played her final match, lost it, but fortunately no more tie breaks.

coin flipThis led to me think, over this year of full ball, was it luck, and was she winning half and losing half of the tie breaks she played?

I went back through her matches and found that this year of all the tiebreaks she had played she had won fifteen and lost twelve, which was broadly half and half.

I then looked into in a little more detail and the following table shows my findings.

Won Lost
Opponent with higher rating 3 6
Opponent with same rating 5 5
Opponent with lower rating 7 1
15 12

When she playing a child with the same rating the ratio of tiebreaks was even which seems to indicate that there is an essence of luck in tiebreaks in that she is winning half of them. When she was playing someone with a lower rating she won most of them, which seems to show that the tiebreak did allow the ‘better’ player to win so it wasn’t luck. I was particularly pleased that against ‘better’ players she was winning some tiebreaks but as expected the better player was coming through more often than not.

However when I’m talking to my daughter, I think I will keep with the luck scenario and give this advice.

“Just do your best, losing or winning a tie break doesn’t make you a good or bad player, its just some days you’ll be lucky and some you won’t”

I’d be intrigued to know what other tennis parents think? Are there some children that do have a very high rate of tie break wins and some who have a very low rate? If your child plays orange ball perhaps the same is true of who wins the sudden death point sets or those that go to two clear points? It is something that I will keep looking at but probably won’t make much of it.

I would suggest that you whatever you find you don’t make a big thing of it but try and remember the mindset advice:

Firstly praise the effort your child has given in making the match go to a tiebreak.

Secondly remember the power of yet. ‘You’re not winning all those tie breaks yet’.

tiebreak 7-6

No need to rush: What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

It’s the time of year when the joys of AEGON tennis introduces so many children to competition and parents find out about LTA ratings through the order their children are placed on team sheets.

 

You may be one of those parents who uses this a motivation to begin taking your child to individual competitions. Perhaps your child is an Orange / Green 3 from playing some matches last year. They attend a couple of club nights or squads a week and enjoy the game. You look at an Orange / Green 2 and think your child could / does beat them and suddenly you are on your way on the sticker book of collecting ratings.

 

It is easy for this to become addiction and before you know it, you have grappled with the LTA website and your child is now entered in six competitions over the next month.

pause

Now we all want our children to do their best but maybe just press the pause button for a moment. If your child is currently an Orange 3 or Orange 2 player, and moves to Green in September, it is going to be tough to get Orange 1 before the end of the summer as they have to win twenty matches against O2’s or better. It’s going to be even harder if your child is a green player to make the same progress.

 

I would also argue it isn’t necessary. I can think of a child who didn’t play any orange tennis and then played about ten green matches. Yet when they got to under 12s they began to practice a reasonable amount perhaps 6 hours a week and have had massive progress, racing up the ratings from 10.2 and achieving a high ranking quickly. I think part of the child’s success is their freshness for tennis. They haven’t been through the almost relentless battle of orange and green matches.

 

If your child has got the tennis bug, do not worry too much if their rating seems lower than other children. Don’t feel the need to have to play catch-up. Instead let your child enjoy their tennis. Yes play some competitions at different levels so they can see what its like and to build their experience but don’t set yourself targets too high. They will get there at the right rate for them. You will also find that by taking your time, a little your child is far less likely to burn out and more likely to enjoy their tennis. It is the latter that we all want!

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: Avoid the knockouts

Do you ever wonder what is it that makes children stop competing in tennis? You might look around at tournament fields in the second year of under 12’s or in under 14s and think where are all those children who used to enter competitions. You might be the parent of a younger child who is being asked to play up in AEGON under 12s or 14s and again wonder were have the older players all gone.

 

There are many reasons why children stop competing; different children will have stopped for a range of reasons. I think one of the key reasons is having played too many tight matches as eventually children can just lose the resilience.

 

Last week one of the major sporting events of the year was the World Heavy weight title fight between the young prince, Anthony Joshua and the aging lion, Wladimir Klitschko. We all know the result, that Joshua stopped Klitschko in round 11 with a barrage of blows. However what was most surprising was how competitive Klitschko was at the age of 41.

 

I think the key to this was that whilst Klitschko has thought 64 times and lost five times. He has not been in too many ‘wars’; fights were the two combatants had fought toe to toe. He has also been well managed in that his fights have been spread out over the years.

 

The result of this careful management is that Klitschko has not lost his resilience and as we saw last Saturday he could give an excellent account of himself against a much younger man.

 

In the world of junior tennis, I think as parents we have to try and guard our children from too many very tight losses. These are the equivalent of the toe to toe slug fests. I think the match a child loses 4-0, 4-1 does not have a massive impact on the child. Instead those two-hour matches with the result of 5-4,3-5, 12-10, those are the ones that really affect your child and too many will can make them not want to compete.

 

So if your child is the type of player who has lots of tight matches, perhaps the advice is not to play as many competitions as the child who either wins or loses easily does. It’s the not the number of matches they play, instead it’s the number of wars they have, which really have the long-term impact on a child.