Many coaches and parents would have us believe that the county closed tennis week, historically taking place in the final week of August, is the high point of the junior tennis year. The result is that many parents feel under pressure, that their children have to play. In the past I have arranged holidays and work so that they did not clash with these few days.
As a tennis parent, this week has brought some of my children’s biggest highs and also some of their worst lows in their junior tennis. I have also seen some of the worst behaviour from young people on finals day which I have observed on tennis courts and appeared to have been tacitly condoned by spectators.
If you are not from the host club, your child can feel like the world is against them, as seemingly the majority of spectators are players from the club or members. There is also a considerable pressure on players, that this small group of matches decides who is the ‘best’. However, in the long term, does this really matter? Afterall it is not who is number one at fourteen, it is who is still enjoying the health benefits of tennis at twenty-four or even sixty-four!
It is not who is number 1 at fourteen but who is still playing at twenty-four…
There are some children who thrive in this environment and are fully committed to the style of competition. They will learn important lessons for the next tournaments that they play in which will help them perform to their maximum. Some children will use the losses to help motivate them for the journey ahead. This will not be true of all children. For some it will be opposite and it can damage their long-term tennis enjoyment.
Many parents feel that their children have to play. Yet who does this come from? And are those people actually considering the interests of your individual child?
I made the decision that county closed week was not a healthy experience for my children and they were better away from that claustrophobia. Instead, it was the ideal week for a family holiday to make the most of the final days of being off school before the unrelenting Autumn term began. My children were pleased to be away from that spotlight. I have received some criticism for this, which at times did hurt but over time I tried to think of what had the biggest positive impact to my children rather than the expectations of others.
What had the biggest positive impact to my children?
If you have found this week an emotional experience and have wondered whether it was a positive experience for your child, then you can choose to do something different. Consider carefully about what is the best interests of your child, supports their progress and make your decision accordingly. You can make a decision each year according to how your child is feeling. After all what is more important, one pressurised week of competition or the whole tennis year in front of your child?