In the spirit of sharing my experiences in hopes of helping others, here are some musings from this past weekend’s Bullfrog tournament in Clemson, South Carolina . . .
- Taking 5 weeks off from tournament play can (notice I said “CAN”) be detrimental. My son just wasn’t at his normal competitive level at this tournament, and I could see his confidence waning throughout his matches. Given his school schedule and our family’s schedule, along with his high school team practice and match schedule, I’m not sure that we could’ve avoided the situation, but maybe playing a local tournament as his first one back would’ve been a better move?
- Ask and ye shall receive! After a rain delay on Friday evening, my son’s first round doubles match didn’t end up finishing until 10:15pm. He was scheduled to play his first round of singles at 8am the next morning. Since we hadn’t eaten dinner or checked into our hotel yet, I sweetly asked the tournament desk if there was any way they could push his match to a later time. They agreed to let him play at 9:30am instead. I love it when the tournament officials keep the best interests of the players at the forefront!
- By the 16s, I really feel that the players should be responsible for arranging doubles partners for tournaments without parental interference. My son asked one of his buddies to play doubles in next weekend’s Southern Closed. The boy said he had to ask his dad whether it was okay for him to play with my son. Next thing we know, this boy is signed up to play with my son’s current doubles partner. NOT COOL!
- I was sitting in the stands, biding time before my son’s next match, when I overheard a dad saying the most awful things about his son’s performance on court. The dad was talking to another mom, saying things (loudly enough for his son to hear) like, “How do you expect to win when you play like crap?” and “Oh yeah, that was a great forehand!” with great sarcasm as his son hit a ball into the net. Needless to say, I got up and moved – that guy was giving me a stomach ache!
- I saw and heard a dad go off on the tournament desk about the fact that they moved his 13 year old daughter’s match to a different facility in order to get the matches back on schedule after some rain delays. He was yelling at them, saying things like, “She’s just a little girl! What are you doing to her????” I wanted to remind him that it was HIS choice to put her in a 16s tournament instead of having her play in her own age group and that the officials have different expectations of the older players and their ability to be flexible, especially at a higher-level tournament. Besides which, it is a much better tactic to befriend the folks at the tournament desk – you never know when you might need to ask them for a little favor. Sheesh!
- Be wary of coaches who talk negatively about their former players. I was watching my son’s doubles match alongside his partner’s mom when a coach came up and started watching, too. He asked me where my son went to school then started trash-talking several of the boys who play on the team with him, saying he used to coach them and criticizing their tennis skills as well as their mental toughness. I politely (!) disagreed with him then stepped away.
- Sometimes, a player just has a bad tournament. Period. As the parent, you have to dig deep to find the positives in that experience. I faced that challenge on the drive home this weekend. I took the good advice of another tennis parent and waited for my son to start the conversation. Once he did, saying over and over how he was so embarrassed by his performance, we talked about how it stinks to feel that way and how he can use that feeling to motivate himself during practices this week. Then, we talked about what he could’ve done differently to prepare for his matches. It turns out that he really did do everything right – it was just an off tournament for him. The conversation then turned to the fact that he’s got another big tournament next weekend and that he needs to put this one in the past and really buckle down during practice this week to get himself ready to compete again. I kept reminding him that he is a strong competitor, that he has what it takes to do better next week, that he now has some specific things to work on with his coach, that we all have bad days but it’s how we rebound from them that defines our character.
And tomorrow’s another day . . .