Hug Your Kids

In the past week, I have learned of two families dealing with devastating issues involving their teenage sons:  one a tennis family, the other a football family.  In both cases, the issue surfaced seemingly from nowhere to turn the families upside down and inside out.  The road to recovery will be long for both of them.  It will involve anger, frustration, perseverance, and, above all, belief.  My heart is breaking for both of them.

First the football story . . . At a prominent private school here in Atlanta, a 17-year-old member of the high school’s varsity football team was arrested and is being held without bail for sexually assaulting a classmate in the gym shower.  He is from a “good” family.  I have friends who are friends with his parents – they are just like the rest of us, doing the best job they can at this parenting thing.  Their son, in the company of some teammates, made a grave – GRAVE – error in judgement.  The victim is going to be okay physically, but may never recover emotionally.  According to our local newspaper, the charge against this young man is one of the more serious criminal offenses under Georgia law, one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” for which there is no parole unless the sentence is life.  A conviction carries a punishment of 25 years to life in prison.  In other words, if convicted – and even if NOT convicted – this young man’s life as he knows it is over.  This incident will follow him and his family the rest of their lives.

And the tennis story . . . In Tennessee, a 17-year-old 5-Star high school senior who had recently committed to play at the University of Tennessee next year was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.  He had been complaining of back pain, and once it got too severe to tolerate, was admitted to the hospital for testing.  Sadly, the tests confirmed that he had cancer.  His first course of chemotherapy is underway and will last 29 weeks.  Thanks to the power of social media, his story has been shared and his family is receiving support from all over the world.  His mom reported that he got a signed autographed picture of Andy Roddick from Babolat that is hanging above his bed, reminding him of how important the “grind game” will be.  He is literally now fighting for his life.

I share these stories with you not because I’m trying to scare you but because sometimes we all need a reminder to hug our kids.  To appreciate them.  To shower them with love.  To support their goals and dreams.  To laugh with them.  To cry with them.  To tell them how much we love them.

Life is short.  Tragedy can strike at any time.  We have to savor our time with our children, giving them a foundation of strength.  Just.  In.  Case.

As the mother of the Tennessee boy shared on the family’s CaringBridge page, “Even though I have moaned and groaned over the years about the time, energy and $ we have spent on junior tennis, Sean will totally reap the rewards of this experience now.   He will have to have goals, overcome adversity, learn to be coached (the Dr.’s), be mentally strong, and fight his pants off…all the while staying positive.  So, I am now totally grateful of our tennis experience and wouldn’t change it for the world.  The life skills learned in junior tennis will prove to be invaluable.”

Please join me in sending prayers, healing thoughts, and positive energy to these two families.  Both are battling.  Both will continue to battle for quite some time.  There, but for the grace of God . . .

Please.  Don’t forget to hug your kids.

College Players Soar at US Open

With all the proposed changes NCAA is trying to make, you would think there was a problem with US college tennis.  This first week of the US Open is proving otherwise.

We have seen some incredible wins by our young guns in Flushing.  Stanford’s Mallory Burdette took out Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in her first round match in straight sets then did similar work against Lucie Hradecka (you may recognize this name as one of the silver medal doubles winners at last month’s London Olympics) of the Czech Republic in Round 2.

On the men’s side, USC’s Steve Johnson (NCAA Singles Champion in 2011 and 2012) beat former University of Illinois player Rajeev Ram in the first round then partnered with Jack Sock to oust the top seeds in the Men’s Doubles draw.  Stanford’s Bradley Klahn had an incredible 5-set win over Jurgen Melzer – I’m guessing playing out those tight 3rd sets during the college season was instrumental in helping him get the W yesterday!  And UCLA’s Dennis Novikov, who is also the 2012 Kalamazoo champ, won a hard-fought battle against Jerzy Janowicz in his first round match.  Our best-known college player and former Georgia Bulldog, John Isner (this year’s 9 seed), had an uneventful first round win over Belgium’s Xavier Malisse.

Both the men and women are having success in the doubles as well.  Besides Johnson and Sock’s win, Ram partnered with Belmont College coach and Comeback Kid Brian Baker to beat Emmrick and Sijsling in the first round.  Novikov partnered with fellow junior player Michael Redlicki to get a win over veteran Americans Bobby Reynolds (former Vanderbilt standout) and Michael Russell (1997 NCAA Rookie of the Year at University of Miami).  And former Georgia Tech star, Irina Falconi, partnered with former USC standout, Maria Sanchez, to win their first match versus Cadantu and Johansson.

To be fair, not all of our college players fared so well.  University of Tennessee grad, Rhyne Williams, had a very tough match, drawing Andy Roddick in the first round.  Williams put up a good fight and definitely made Roddick earn the win.  And Jesse Levine, a former Florida Gator, fell in 5 sets to 14 seed Ukranian player Alexandr Dolgopolov.

It would seem that the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is applicable here.  The young men and women mentioned above are living the dream of countless junior players – going to college, getting a degree, improving their tennis, then parlaying all those skills into success at the professional level.  While I realize that a first- or second-round win doesn’t prove that college tennis is a viable stepping stone to the pro circuit, it certainly shows that a young player can take that path and have positive results.

Good luck to our players as they move on to Round 2 and beyond!

Happy Birthday!

I guess one of the perks of writing a blog is having a public forum in which to wish the impetus BEHIND the blog happy birthday.  So, happy 16th birthday to my one and only son!  I wish for you a day and a year filled with dreams, happiness, love, success, and striving.

We are planning to celebrate tonight by attending the BB&T Atlanta Open to see Andy Roddick play Nicolas Mahut, weather permitting.  My son is a long-time Roddick fan, not so much because of Andy’s antics but rather because of his strong work ethic and dedication to the sport that has given him so much.  We have had the opportunity to see Andy play a few times now – in Atlanta, at the US Open, and in Davis Cup in Austin last summer – and he never disappoints.  I expect tonight to be more of the same!

So, Andy, if you’re reading this and you hear a crazy woman in the stands yelling to ask you to pose for a photo opp, that would be me.  Please make the Birthday Boy’s day and say yes!

And to my readers, I promise to get back to our regularly scheduled program later this week!  I have lots to report and share with y’all but little time to write – I’m volunteering at the BB&T Atlanta Open all week (with some very late nights, I might add).  In the meantime, please note that the Tennis Recruiting Network 8-week fall rating period begins next week, so please take another peek at my article on how that works so your junior doesn’t miss any opportunities.

One last happy birthday wish for my son before I close:  May all your dreams come true!

What Can We Learn From the Pros?

Going back to my last post on active viewing, I wanted to expand and talk a bit about what we – and our kids – can learn from watching the pros in action.

I have been spending a lot (understatement!) of time watching the Aussie Open this week.  I’ve seen some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff, all of which has taught me lessons that I can share with my son.

Did you see Marcos Baghdatis play Stan Wawrinka?  Did you see Marcos have a meltdown then start destroying his racquets on the changeover?  I’m okay with a player venting frustration – tennis is a very frustrating game, after all.  However, the fact that Marcos was only fined $800 (or $750 depending on which source you believe) for annihilating four perfectly good racquets is inexcusable to me.  What lesson does that teach our rising junior players?  That it’s okay to abuse expensive equipment?  That your anger and frustration warrant throwing money down the drain?  Interesting to read some of the comments by junior players on Facebook:

  • haha he got an $800 fine for it… thats just pocket change to them so it was completely worth it lol
  • Only $800?! That’s how much all four of those rackets cost…
  • yeah seriously…. Serena’s blowup at the uso was $2000 haha
  •  It’s completely pointless, what would REALLY get to them is a code violation. Junior refs seem to love to give those out.

While I was secretly entertained <shhhh!> by Baghdatis’ antics, I would NEVER tolerate that kind of blatant disregard for property from my son.  That said, my son has been known to smash a racquet on the ground in disgust.  However, our rule is:  you break it, you buy it.  He has had to dip into his savings account more than once to replace cracked frames – not something he enjoys doing!

And what about Andy Roddick’s match versus Lleyton Hewitt?  These two seasoned veterans (can you call a 29 year old and a 30 year old veterans?)  have been playing each other for years.  Roddick worked extremely hard in the short off-season to prepare for 2012, only to have his run at the AO cut short with a hamstring re-injury in the 2nd set.  How disappointing for Andy and for his fans!  But, Andy stuck it out through that 2nd set and the 3rd, finally retiring the match after losing the 3rd set 6-4.  He showed immense respect for his opponent while playing injured.  He didn’t milk the injury.  He didn’t hobble around the court or start whining about how badly his leg hurt.  He continued to compete.  He ran hard.  He served hard.  He played until he couldn’t play any more.  Say what you will about Roddick, but I was very impressed by his competitive spirit out there and would hope that my son would compete just as hard in that situation.

This morning, I heard American Vania King sing a capella after winning her match against 15 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Vania has a beautiful voice!  And, she’s not the only accomplished musician currently on the pro tour.  The Bryan Brothers have released a CD of their music, and former French pro, Yannick Noah, is a rock star in Europe.  It just goes to show that it is possible to be a top tennis professional and develop other skills and talents, too.  Life for these players isn’t only about tennis – they have found a way to round out their lives by pursuing other passions while still achieving the highest levels in their chosen sport.  It’s a great life lesson for our kids to learn – it doesn’t have to be all tennis all the time!

What lessons have you picked up from watching the pros at this year’s first Major event?  Please share them in the Comments box below.