I Want to Quit Tennis

The following article was written by Eric Buterac, former top junior player and now a top professional doubles player and president of the ATP Player Council. Eric’s experience through junior tennis just reinforces the point that there’s more than one way to tackle this journey – there’s certainly no One-Size-Fits-All way to get from A to B. Sometimes we parents need to be reminded of that fact and also the fact that points and rankings DO NOT make the player. Eric is a wonderful example of a player who took time away from competitive tournaments to hone his game and his love for the sport then came out on the other side a stronger and more passionate player.

The article below originally appeared on the Universal Tennis Ratings website and is reprinted here with UTR’s permission. Be on the lookout for future articles from Eric over the coming weeks and months (of course, I’ll be sharing the links to those articles as well via Facebook and Twitter).

Eric Butorac is the ATP Player Council president and an accomplished doubles specialist. Eric’s tennis journey started in a small Minnesota town and has taken him to tennis’ top level circuit. His story has been in some ways cliche, at times unbelievable, and for many quite unexpected. Here is the first in a series of accounts shared by Eric.

I want to quit tennis

As a junior player, I was ranked no. 7 in the state of Minnesota. Who really cares, right? Well, I guess I did. At that age, my tennis success was tied directly to my happiness. If I won a weekend tournament, I walked into school on Monday with my head held high. If the tournament didn’t go so well, I hardly wanted to go to school. I stressed about wins, losses, and especially the rankings. I was 12 years old.

After a long drive home with my mom from a national tournament in Oklahoma, I had a moment of clarity; I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to spend my weekends driving across the state, only to stress out about my matches, be cheated by other teenagers, and on many occasions end up leaving the court in tears.

I spent the next two years playing no sectional tournaments and definitely no national ones. I went to to my local club and played for fun with my friends. I played doubles on the weekend with my dad’s group of 40 year-old men, and occasionally I played a local club tournament. I didn’t care where my absence left my sectional ranking, but it didn’t matter because I was playing tennis for the experience, not for the result.

When I eventually came back to USTA events at age 15, I realized two things. First, I was no longer just a good player in the section; I was now one of the best. Playing at home had developed my overall game—and maybe more importantly, my approach to the game—beyond those of the kids who were racing around the country chasing points. Second, I was now playing on my terms—not for the points or the coveted top spot in our section. I was playing because I’d re-learned how much I loved the game, and because I wanted to be out there. I still followed my ranking, but now it was a gauge to monitor my progress as opposed to a source of stress.

Butorac playing in the 2011 US Open
Butorac, shown here playing in the 2011 US Open, reached a career-high ranking of no. 17, and finishing as the no. 9 team in the world with partner Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands.

A lot of kids deal with the stress of junior rankings, but I don’t think it’s talked about. Kids just assume that’s the way it has to be. It took my literally walking away from them to find the proper balance.

If you ever had a moment where the stress of junior tennis almost drove you to quitting, I encourage you to share below.

You can follow Eric Butorac on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

Coming soon from Eric Butorac: For the Love of the Game

While you wait for the next in the series of articles from Eric, have a listen to his recent interview with Sports Illustrated.

Author: Eric Butorac

Eric Butorac has won 17 doubles titles on the ATP Tour, made the finals of the Australian Open, and achieved wins over Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and the Bryan Brothers. In 2014, he took over for Roger Federer as President of the ATP Tour Players’ Council. As a volunteer assistant, he also helped lead the Harvard tennis team to two Ivy League titles and a national ranking of #16.

One Comment on “I Want to Quit Tennis”

  1. Lisa,

    I wanted to make your readers aware of an issue that is going on with the SCTA and their seeding. They claim to use the “All Factors Method” but are basically making it up as they go along. When confronted, they are outright lying and claiming the seeding is done by computer.

    Here a blog started by one parent that is very detailed and frankly disturbing regarding seeding at the upcoming SCTA designated tournament this weekend:

    sctacomplaint.blogspot.com

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