The new school year brings challenges to all children and their families. This can be increased for children who are juggling the pressure and commitment of playing competitive tennis. This can be even greater for children who are starting a new school and a new phase of education.
For the vast majority of children in this country, the big change to secondary education is at the age of 11. (I recognise that some parts of the country have middle schools and also in the Independent sector this may be at 13 or 14).
It is easy to underestimate the huge change of moving from a primary school to secondary school and hence the impact this may have on your child. At the same time your child is in the second year of under 12s tennis and you may be thinking this is the time to plot a rise up the national ranking as they are now one of the older ones in this age bracket. You may already be planning a campaign of tournaments through till Christmas alongside an increase in practice and coaching court time. Hoping to maximise your child’s increased strength.
However just pause for a minute and think about the challenge your child is facing at their new school.
They’ve gone from an environment were they knew everybody and had a very established social group and now they have to make new friends. They could be in in a form group were they know no-one and then may move to different groups with a new set of pupils. For anyone this is very nerve wracking and tiring.
At primary school they will have likely to have been in one class with one teacher. They now are moving classroom at least five times, walking across a school, carrying a heavy bag. They may have to get up earlier in the day and be on their feet walking to school or waiting at a bus stop. It is surprising how physically tiring this.
They could have fifteen different subjects with as many different teachers. Each will be pushing the children mentally. On top of this is the homework at the end of day which now can take 90minutes an evening, when at primary school this may have been 90minutes a week.
Finally your child could be having a rapid growth spurt with a cocktail of hormones running through them.
Is this the time to be upping your child’s tennis or perhaps this may be the time to just focus on the core of their tennis programme up till half term. You may actually reduce the duration of practice a little in comparison to before the summer and you may put a pause on tournaments.
I intend to watch really carefully how my daughter manages school and tennis. I think in effect the next four months is not the time to be pushing. As even when you’ve got to half term; we’ve then got the dark of November and December before the Christmas holidays. I can remember as a secondary school headteacher seeing the year 7 children looking exhausted in school assemblies prior to Christmas, thinking they just needed the break.
It is mentally exhausting playing competitions and your child considerable resilience and reserves of energy to give of their best. They may struggle with this over the next few months.
There is always time to play more competitions or do more lessons when your child is ready. What you can’t get back as easily is if your child starts to fall out of love with tennis because of the pressure they will feel during this term.