Category Archives: Tennis Competition

County Closed Week: The highlight of the year?

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.

Trophies, tear and line calls: The guide for tennis parents written by the @tennisdaduk is available. The book contains many strategies and reflections that parents can use to support their children.

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?

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ is now published . Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

Support in silence… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

It is likely that if our children are committed to junior tennis they may not play sunday morning football, rugby or hockey but instead their team sports is something they do through school.

football parentWhen I talk to football referees and fellow school teachers whose children play football, one of their regular comments concerns the shouting that comes from other parents and coaches on the sidelines. At best it could be the over repetition of phrases straight from ‘Match of the Day’ which the children do not understand let alone know how to respond too. At worse it is the over aggressive nature of the shouts from parents which can be on the boundary of abuse. A few years ago Gary Linker said youth football needs revolution in parent behaviour.

In other team sports, be it rugby, hockey or netball, there are likely to be regular interjections from parents but they tend to be less aggressive than for football.

‘Trophies, tear and line calls: The guide for tennis parents’ written by the @tennisdaduk is available. The book contains many strategies and reflections that parents can use to support their children.

It is an interesting contract to our life as tennis parents were we are not really allowed to say anything to our children. We may say good shot or well-played but this has to be much quieter and we are always trying to be fair to our child’s opponent too. Anything beyond this can be seen as coaching by tournament referees. In fact I was warned by a referee for symboling to my son that it was time for a change of ends in a tie break.

It is very hard to stay silent, especially when our child is having a bad match and we just want to give them some encouragement to keep going and perhaps just give them a hug because it so hard out there.

parents code of conductThough, overall I do think the peace is a good thing as the tennis is our children’s sport. In addition in a individual sport the battle can already appear gladiatorial and the last thing that needs adding to the emotions our children may be struggling with, is the views of parents. Admittedly at some point we will have seen an argument between parents when it has just got too much for them. Such parents are usually apologetically embarrassed the next day as they recognise their mistake.

So we know that keeping silent is globally best for our children but is there any further detail as to why? I saw the following infographic which was written for parents of children playing other sports which highlights 15 advantages to children for their parents remaining quiet as the performance of the children can actually increases.Benefits of spectator silence

So the next time, you feel you are suffering in silence or wishing that your child was playing a different sport as you just want to shout some encouragement, remember your quiet will actually be helping your child’s sporting development over time. So whilst you will encourage them as much as you can before or after the match, whilst the contest is taking place you are supporting in silence.

Thank you to @BelievePHQ for a fantastic and thoughtful info graphic they are well worth following on twitter.

If you have suggestions or stories of your own, then I’d love to hear them. Why not leave your thoughts as a comment below for other readers to see.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ is now published . Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

6 ideas for staying calm… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

196385-green-sports-playing-soccer-sports-training-net-tennis-photocase-stock-photo-largeIn my last blog I raised the ‘parent sportsmanship’ challenge; can you keep your emotions in check and stay relaxed so it is not obvious whether your child is winning or losing?

Though in fact the real challenge is trying to remain calm. This is the best support you can give your child during a match and then immediately afterwards.

Trophies, tear and line calls: The guide for tennis parents written by the @tennisdaduk is available. The book contains many strategies and reflections that parents can use to support their children.

This blog recommends six techniques that I have tried in the search for inner calm or other parents have suggested to me.

  1. Smile! Yes it sounds simple yet also so hard but it is true that if you can smile you will stay calmer. I particularly like the idea of breathing to calm down  and then breathe out with a smile.breath in
  2. Make two lists. The first list is all the things that your child has done right. It could be individual shots or rallies and certain points in the match or it could be tactics or strategies that they have employed. The second list is things that have frustrated you during the match. It could be when your child has struggled with their tactics or it could be the way that they have managed their emotions. Before the match ends, pick up the negative list, rip it up and throw the bits in the bin. There is nothing to be gained by sharing these with your child and the act of destroying the list is a way of emptying your mind of them. The positive list are things to share with your child and you choose when is the most appropriate time.
  3. Do some counting! Why not count different aspects of your child’s tennis. I have found that by doing this, you reduce your stress over points in the match. You could count how many shots each point lasts or much more complex things too. Below is some counting I have done and here is the explanation. (http://ow.ly/BAJr30gCWEK)tennis recording
  4. Try and sit where you do not have an exact view of lines. Don’t sit immediately behind the courts or on the baseline. If you have a view akin to that of a line judge you will inevitably see mistakes from both players which are likely to be purely accidental as you actually have a better view than players who are also trying to hit their shots at the same time. If you sit a little distance from the court you can try and enjoy watching their rallies and at times being unaware of the exact score can be a good feeling.
  5. thermosI always have a flask of coffee with me and pour myself lots of small drinks. I never fill my cup as I find the act of taking the top of the flask, pouring a small slug of coffee, putting the lid back on and then sipping the drink quite therapeutic. It is also a small physical activity to do with my hands.
  6. just-be-in-the-momentTry and practice mindfulness, so stay in the moment rather than trying to work out the rest of the draw and the possible result of each win and loss. See my blog on mindfulness.

If you have suggestions of your own, then I’d love to hear them. Why not leave your thoughts as a comment below for other readers to see.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. If you’ve found this blog interesting, then please buy a copy of my guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ which is available from Amazon. Equally please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

Responses from Twitter:

@jameswweir1 – A great article, I’ve been to many competitions with my girls and keeping calm and giving the right support is not easy, enjoying the blog!

@handwtennis – One of the best blogs out there.

@Rayner96P Just enjoy the tennis and appreciate the play from both players. It is a fantastically entertaining sport to watch and I am amazed at the level kids can play at.

@1tennisgeek Great tips although 11year olds can be difficult to please. Last week at Matchplay I was accused of smiling and writing things down – Unfortunately you can’t win them all!

@adkinsred I’m going to try all 6 this Sunday!

@Andy_J_Davis I think you learn to take pressure of kids as you and they learn more. Tough enough for them out there!

Parent Sportsmanship…What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

I really love this quote from Jim Courier. The idea that your child could walk off court and win or lose and they show their pride. It is very similar to the some of the lines from ‘If’ by Kipling:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

I suspect that for many of us, we would love to see that in our children. The ability of remaining positive and proud even when faced with disappointment and personal agony. That would be a lesson that could be applied to all their lives not just the tennis court.

However it it one of the hardest things to achieve. Our children are striving as hard as possible to win every match, they will give their all and when in their eyes that hasn’t been enough, they will feel that they have failed and will show that emotion in their own, unique way, ranging from tears to screams. After all they are children and learning so much every day about themselves and about life in general.

federerI have previously written that children will follow our examples in many different ways. We are the people they spend the most time with and whether we like it or not, they will notice the little things that we do and without them even realising, they will display our traits. Now that is a truly scary thing!

Can you be as cool as Chrissie,

as calm as Bjorn or 

as sanguine as Roger?

chris evert calm

 

So if we would like our children to play the game like a Federer, a Borg or a Chrissie Evert. To show that relentless outer calm in the face of whatever is thrown at them, then we must try to show an equal lack of emotion.

So can you show an outer exterior of tranquility no matter what happens over the course of a tournament? No matter how disappointing the loss, however bad the line call or whatever let service that lady luck allows at match point in Fast4 tennis, can you keep that easy smile? Can you show that ice cool calm temperament? Can you meet the parents sportsmanship challenge? Maybe that is something you could try this weekend!

Chrissie Evert like

If you take the challenge I wonder what techniques you use to appear chilled. In my blog next week, 6 ideas for staying calm, I’ll suggest some of the strategies that I have used but I would love to know yours too so that I can include them.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ has just been published. You can follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

Balancing the move to secondary school with tennis: What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

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.

 

secondary schoolFor 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.

thinkHowever 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.

homeworkAt 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.

unhappy teenager

 

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: Mindsets

What is it that some children and adults appear better able to cope with the ups and down of sport, life and academia? How is it that some people do not see that a match has been lost but instead seize another opportunity to learn? As a parent, sportsman and an educationalist, this has fascinated me and I researched many books to try and explain this. The book which in my mind has come closest to unlocking these mysteries is written by Carol Dweck.

Her book ‘Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential’ has been widely used in the UK and the USA. Certainly in the world of education it is a set of ideas that have been seized upon by teachers and school leaders to try and help children achieve their potential.

It is just as applicable in the world of sport particularly junior sport as it provides some suggestions as to how we can encourage our children to get the most out of their practice and more importantly deal with that thin line between triumph and disaster which flows through all sport and is amplified in individual competition. As tennis parents this seesaw between happiness and tears can define many a weekend for our children. In the world of fast four tennis, one point can be the difference to whether our children love or hate tennis.

In the following three blogs I have aimed to give an introduction to the theory of Mindsets with a foundation in the world of tennis so that you can use the ideas to support your child or the children that you coach.

Blog 1: ‘Growth and Fixed Mindsets’ introduces you to the two different mindsets and you will no doubt begin to ponder where you or your children are on the mindset continuum.

mindsets

Blog 2: ‘Identifying Mindsets’ provides a set of points, which delve into the different mindsets in more detail.

impossible-possible

Blog 3: ‘Towards a Growth Mindset’ is perhaps the most important of the three blogs as it gives suggestions for questions or praise that you can use to help your child develop a growth mindset and also explains the power of yet.

yet-butterfly

 

As with all things that you will work on with your child, this is not a quick process and there will be days when you see your child picks up their racquet shows an obvious growth mindset and probably more days when they do not. Try not to criticise your child if they seem locked in negativity about a certain aspect of their tennis and do not expect to immediately turn your child’s mood round. It just means they haven’t solidified their growth mindset, yet! All children struggle at times and we know what a brutal sport tennis can be. What we must do is be there and just try to do what we can to support them.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents is written and I’m now looking for a publisher. You can follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

 

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: Children struggle

One of the most challenging things for all tennis parents to deal with, is what to do when your child is ‘behaving badly’. It is likely that we have all encountered it at some time. It could be smacking the racquet on the ground, the shouting,the crying, the arguing over line calls or even bad calls.

crying-tennis

If you’ve not said it yourself, there is no doubt that you will have heard a parent tell their child. ‘If you do this again, you’re not playing’. You may have heard more critical comments than this from other parents towards their children, another punishment threatened or even dished out.

I think this is were the quote at the top of this blog is so important, rather than thinking your child is badly behaved and then reaching for a punishment. Think of your child as being distressed and struggling to handle their emotions. They are after all only a child.

Consider the following questions:

  • How is your child behaving in squads with their friends?
  • How do they behave when they practice with their coach?
  • Are they having fun or just being much calmer?

If this match behaviour is not replicated in these situations, perhaps one of the answers is to reduce the number of competitions that they are playing in so that they don’t get so distressed. What about selecting the competitions more carefully so that they are not up against people they don’t like playing against such as their friends, children they’ve had arguments in the past with or children they always seem to lose to?

In addition many children will react to their parent emotions and getting cross with a child because ‘they have behaved badly’ is often counter productive. So again don’t think ‘badly behaved’, think ‘distressed’. (In a future blog, I will give some suggestions as how parents can stay calmer).

breathe-in

As a loving parent it is our duty to look at the situations we place our children in? You may reach for the comment that they’ll only learn by going through such events. However the question is what will they learn? That tennis is not fun and competition is bad. For most of us that is not what we want our children to learn!

 

Choose Smiles…What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

This morning on my long drive southwards. I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Evans interviewing the cast of Trainspotting. I imagine this places my age, but ‘Trainspotting’ along with ‘Pulp Fiction’ are two films with their bouncing sound tracks and killer lines, that can’t help but take me back to a simpler time. I hear Renton’s monologue and can’t help but smile.

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family…

Choose your friends…

Choose your future…

Choose life.”

As Chris chattered to Danny Boyle and the boys, I couldn’t help but grin as they laughed and joked. You could tell that that they were enjoying being in each other company. They were looking back at the fun they had in the 90’s either from them making the films or for Chris Evans his lifestyle at the time.

However what also came over very strongly was how much pleasure they had got from the making T2 twenty years later. They knew this was another moment in their life that wouldn’t be repeated and they wanted to make the most of every second of filming.

The interview ended with Born Slippy by Underworld, ‘The Trainspotting’ theme, being played. I turned up the radio volume and let the thud of the bass fill my car and a smile cover my face.

underworld-born-slippy

My mind wandered to my theme, ‘What I’ve learnt from junior tennis?’. Well in this case rather than the final words of Renton’s monologue, ‘choose life’. I think what I’ve learnt is to choose smiles. My daughter won a tournament on Sunday and it is too easy as a parent to start rushing onto the LTA website to choose that next tennis tournament and to plot that next victory.

Instead I think we have to really enjoy the smiles along the way. We don’t know when the next big win will be. We can always hope it will be next week but it might be next month, next season or even next year so enjoy that moment.

So my advice is…

Choose life… Choose smiles.

choose-life

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents is written and I’m now looking for a publisher. You can follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.