zealThis post may seem a bit off-topic for a website that is supposed to be about junior tennis and tennis parenting, but, please, stay with me!

Last week, two new upscale restaurants opened in my little suburb, so my husband, son, and I decided to give them both a try. For those of you unfamiliar with Metro Atlanta, it is comprised of many neighborhoods, each with its own personality and aura. My neighborhood, called East Cobb, is known for its great public school system and swim-tennis communities. It is NOT, however, known for its dining options. You can imagine how excited the entire community was when these two new spots hung their OPEN FOR BUSINESS signs.

The first restaurant we tried, Zeal, a self-proclaimed “farm to table” endeavor, had just opened the night before, and the owners and staff were still working out a lot of kinks in the kitchen and on the menu. The space itself is very inviting and creatively decorated with a very cozy outdoor seating area and a bar with traditional game options while you’re waiting for your table. Unfortunately, our dining experience itself was a bit of a letdown. Like I said, still some food and service bugs to figure out. At the end of our meal, our server asked us to fill out a comment card. Rather than take the time there, though, I decided to privately message the restaurant on its Facebook page.

Here’s where the tie-in to tennis comes into play . . .

Below is an excerpt from the response from one of Zeal’s owners to my Facebook message:

Zeal has been my dream since I was 14 and now the dream has turned into reality. I grew up in East Cobb. I went to East Cobb Middle, Wheeler High School and KSU. I have always had a special place in my heart for East Cobb and now I am blessed to be part of a Restaurant Group which gets to serve such an amazing community. It’s guests like yourself and your family who understand the¬†industry and the hardships that a restaurant may face during their opening week. Everyday is a work in progress for us and [filled with] growing pains. Rest assured we are working out our kinks and doing our best to elevate our service and food standards everyday.

It will be my honor to have your presence for your second trip to Zeal for a VIP/Owners Complimentary Lunch or Dinner. This is my opportunity to make you a long-lasting return guest to the Zeal family.

Today, on a return visit to Zeal for a Girl’s Lunch, I met this owner, and it turns out he is a young guy, 22 years old. But even at his young age, he is seeing years of dreaming and hard work come to fruition in the form of Zeal. He has remained devoted to his passion of owning a restaurant in the neighborhood where he grew up. He has studied and learned about the business and seized the opportunity to make his dream a reality. He is now doing everything in his power to find success, even if that means sacrificing immediate financial profit. And, I’m so pleased to report that my friends and I had an absolutely delicious experience!

Our junior players are on a similar path, sacrificing parties and sleepovers and who knows what else in the short-term to ensure success down the road. Sure, they may question from time to time whether they made the right decision to play high-level tennis. They may become disillusioned and seriously consider quitting. They may put aside their racquets for several days or even months as they re-evaluate their love and commitment to this sport.

It is our job as their parents to be their long-lasting supporters, their “return guests” so to speak. If they falter, we need to give them a second (or a third or as many as it takes) chance to show what they’ve got. We need to stand by their side – literally and figuratively – as they work out the kinks. We need to understand their hardships as they strive . . . and thrive . . . to follow their passion with zeal.