Mom’s Magic Mirror

Before this past weekend’s local tournament even started, my son told me that I wasn’t “allowed” to post any pictures or status updates on Facebook about it.  I asked him why.  He told me, “Because it’s just a Georgia Level 4, Mom.  It’s no big deal.”  I, of course, respected his wishes.  (He never said anything about keeping it off my blog!)

As I thought more about my son’s request, I realized just how far he has come tennis-wise and maturity-wise in the last year.  He played this same tournament last Fall (except he played in the 16s instead of the 18s as he did this year).  When he entered the tournament a year ago, he hadn’t won a single tournament since he was in the 10s . . . not a single one!  And, last year, he won this tournament, just a few weeks after aging up from the 14s to the 16s, and it was a VERY BIG DEAL.  He was so proud of that trophy, his first Champion trophy since he was 10 years old!  It got a special place in his room where it would stand out among all the clutter on his shelves.

Now, a year later, he was feeling a little embarrassed by the fact that he was even playing a local Level 4 tournament, even though he was playing up in the 18s.  All of his buddies were at the Bullfrog (Designated) tournament in North Carolina, but we had missed the entry deadline, so he was “stuck” playing a lower level event close to home.

Eight boys were signed up to play in the 18s of this local event with two of them seeded – neither of whom was my son.  And, as luck would have it, my kid had to play the top seed in his first round match on Saturday.  He figured if he got through that match, he had a very good chance to win the tournament.  Both boys fought hard, playing some high-quality tennis.  Several other players and parents stopped to watch them banging the ball, running down dropshots, and hitting amazing passing shots.  I overheard two boys around my son’s age talking about my son and how good he was – I was beaming!  [Remember, this was a local tournament and most of the area’s top players were at the Bullfrog.]  My son wound up winning the match after almost 3 hours and came off the court very relieved to have gotten through to the next round.  His next match was much easier, thankfully, and was over pretty quickly.  It was time to go home and rest up for the next morning’s Final versus the 2 seed.

Right before my son was called on court for the Final, he caught me composing a tweet about having butterflies about his match.  He said, “Really, Mom?  You’re nervous about this match?”  I smiled sheepishly and said, “Aren’t you?”  “No,” he laughed, “it’s going to be fine.  I’ve got this.”  And he did.  He won 6-0, 6-0 in about 40 minutes but didn’t seem all that excited about the victory.  I wanted to take a picture of him receiving the trophy from the tournament director.  He asked me not to.  I insisted that he let me capture the moment so I could at least text it to my husband who was out of town – he relented.  But, he again made me promise I wouldn’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter.

On the car ride home, I asked my son if he had called his coach to let him know the outcome of the weekend.  He said no, that his coach didn’t care about a local level 4 tournament.  I knew that wasn’t true, and I didn’t respond but simply held up my proverbial Magic Mirror in hopes that it would reflect the importance of this tournament victory back to him.

We talked about the weekend and about how efficiently my son had played.  We talked about how the goal of the weekend was to earn ranking points in the 18s so he could improve his chances of getting into some of the higher-level events.  We talked about the lessons he had learned in Waco and how he applied them in his matches this weekend.  We talked about the fact that, but for the first match versus the 1 seed, my son had won his matches without dropping a single game.  We talked about how the 2nd and 3rd matches combined took less time than the first set of his first-round match.  We talked about how he dominated the final match and hit an ace to close it out.  We talked about those boys from the day before who were in awe of his ability.  We talked about how thrilled he had been just a year ago about winning this tournament and how he should take equal pride in this victory, especially since he had played up and still won.

I don’t know if any of it sunk in – only time will tell – but I’m hoping that my son was able to shift his view of his weekend accomplishment and feel good about the win.  It wasn’t the fact that he won the tournament that was such a big deal but that he won in such a dominating fashion, taking care of business quickly, dealing with the pressure of being the better player, and closing out the matches while controlling the pace and style of play.  These are all things he’s been working on, and his hard work paid off.

I hope my son looked hard at his reflection in my Magic Mirror and now realizes how far he’s come.  Of course, he still has a lot of work to do to reach his goals, but it’s crucial that he take at least a few minutes to revel in the small victories and accomplishments so he has the motivation to keep pushing and moving forward.  I’m very proud of the effort he put forth this past weekend.  I hope my Magic Mirror helped him feel some of that same self-pride, too.

Back to Work

This week, I did something I hadn’t done for 14 years – I went to work for a boss other than myself.

When it was getting close to the time for my son to get his driver’s license, I had one of those AHA! moments and realized I was going to need something else to do with my afternoons once my chauffeuring skills were no longer needed.  While I was very content with my schedule of teaching fitness classes, playing tennis, Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, and hosting my radio show, I knew my mental health was going to suffer if I didn’t find a reason to get out of my house for at least a few hours each week.  So, I started telling everyone I knew that I was looking for part-time work.

Part-time, for me, meant (1) I couldn’t work Mondays or Fridays or weekends because that would interfere with tournament travel with my son; (2) I couldn’t work Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday mornings because that would interfere with my yoga class and league tennis play; (3) I didn’t want a job that required me to bring work home, either literally or figuratively; and (4) most importantly, I needed to be home in time for dinner with my husband and son each night.  The ideal job candidate . . . NOT!  I knew it would be tough to find something that would accommodate my wonky scheduling needs, but I had faith that the Perfect Part-Time Job was out there somewhere.

My Facebook addiction paid off – a local magazine posted a job listing on its Facebook page for a young chiropractic office looking for an assistant.  The hours were Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 2:45-6:00pm.  Eureka!  I emailed the doctor my resume right away and almost immediately got a call to schedule an interview for the following afternoon.  The job description was right up my alley – answer phones, greet patients, and assist with patient communication.  The doctor and I hit it off, and he offered me the job the following day.

While it’s been a bit strange this week having to come home from my morning workout, take a shower, and put on Real Clothes and Make-Up, so far, I’m really enjoying the work.  I’m learning a lot about the chiropractic field and the different aspects of treatment.  I’m learning a lot about medical technology.  And, I’m learning a lot about building a practice from the ground up.  The people are great, and the social interaction is absolutely necessary for my mental well-being.

My husband and son have been great, too.  We had The Talk about how I wouldn’t be available to them on the afternoons I was working to run errands or drop off a forgotten book or extra tennis shirt.  So far, so good.  And, I’ve even managed to prepare food before I go to my job so we have that dinner to eat together that I mentioned above.

I know there will be days where I’m feeling rushed or overwhelmed, but I’m confident that my guys will help me find a good balance so we can make this work thing . . . well . . . WORK!  Wish me luck!

To Sum It All Up . . .

It’s been a crazy week in the world of junior tennis!  In case you’re feeling as overwhelmed as I am, I thought I’d summarize what’s going on and my recommended action items.

  • USTA has adopted changes to its Junior Competition calendar that will become effective in 2014. If you haven’t yet seen it, the new 2014 tournament calendar is here. Some interested parties who feel that the changes should, at the very least, be delayed for further study, have created an online petition and are seeking signatures. If you would like to view and/or sign this petition, click here.
  • NCAA has passed new rules affecting its year-end Championships effective September 1, 2012, for the Spring 2013 tournament.  The rules are purported to be in the interest of bringing additional fans to the sport and garnering tv coverage.  To read the new rules, click here.  To their credit, USTA is partnering with ITA to write a joint opposition letter to the rule changes.
  • A group of current and former collegiate players have formed a Facebook group to try to get NCAA to reconsider the rule changes.  They have created an event to organize a Twitter rampage on Saturday at Noon EDT.  To learn more, click here.  They have also created an online petition to overturn the changes.  To read and/or sign it, click here.
  • Sunday’s ParentingAces radio show will feature a discussion of the NCAA rule changes and what we as tennis parents can do to help preserve the integrity of the college system for our kids.  Tune in live at 6:30pm EDT by clicking here then call in with your questions and/or comments at 714-583-6853.  If you miss the live broadcast, you can hear the podcast by clicking on the Radio Show tab in the menu bar above.

Tennis Parents & Coaches: Please Read!

The following is an email that I received this morning from Robert Sasseville who runs several junior tournaments in the Southern Section.  Please take the appropriate action and feel free to pass along to others who want to be informed.  Thank you!

It was great having you in Rome for the GA Jr. Open.  I hope you had an enjoyable time.

With 650 players, 7 sites, and 4 days to play it, we didn’t get much of a chance to chat.  If we had, I’m sure the 2014 National Tournament Schedule would have been at the top of the list of things to discuss.

Since we had players from 13 sections, 24 states, and the District of Columbia, many of you are interested in play outside of your hometown, home state, and home section.  This aspect of competition is one of the casualties of the 2014 schedule.

Since USTA Southern voted AGAINST the new National Junior Competition Structure, it should be no surprise to you  that I concur with our section in opposition.

Patrick McEnroe and other USTA staff members held Parent/Coach meetings pertaining to the 2014 National Competition changes last week at the at the National Championships.  If the comments at all sites were like those at the 12’s and 14’s, it was pretty obvious that there is not a lot of support for the upcoming changes, if they are actually implemented.

If you haven’t yet seen it, the 2014 tournament calendar is here.

A petition has been constructed by interested parties who feel that the changes should, at the very least, be delayed for further study.

If you would like to view this petition, click the link below:

http://www.gopetition.com/     

If the link doesn’t work, just cut and paste the address into your browser.  In the “Search” box in the upper right corner type “AMEND 2014 USTA JR RULES”

We hope to see you next year at the GA Open.

Dreams vs. Goals

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward achieving it” – Anonymous

My son started his sophomore year of high school today.  For me, it’s been a day of reflection because I’m realizing how quickly these next three years are going to go by and how soon my son’s years of dreaming about playing college tennis are going to either become his reality or not.  I’ve got to admit it’s kind-of taking my breath away.

Lately, I’ve been talking to several different people about my son and his tennis goals.  I’ve been listening to lots of different advice about the best way for him to achieve those goals.  I’ve been trying to reconcile the advice with our time and money constraints to come up with a Plan (yes, with a capital “P”).

One of my son’s goals is to play Kalamazoo before he exits the juniors.  When I shared that goal with a higher-up at USTA, I was told that playing Kalamazoo is a dream NOT a goal because my son has no control over the performance and rankings of the other boys in his age group and, therefore, can’t control whether or not he gets into the draw.  This person told me that goals are things you can control; dreams are the same as wishes and are not within your own control.  Hmmmm . . .

I beg to differ.  As the quote above states, once you begin taking steps toward achieving your dream, it becomes a goal.  And, my son is taking very specific steps toward Kalamazoo.  He has added another fitness component to his workouts.  He has tweaked his tournament schedule so that he’s playing higher-level and stronger opponents in preparation for The Zoo.  He has altered his school schedule slightly to allow him more flexibility in terms of on-court time.  He maintains an on-going dialogue with his coaches so that they’re all on the same page about where my son is in his preparation and where he needs to amp up his training.  My son has a Plan.

Of course, we won’t know until next summer whether or not the Plan has been successful.  But, there will almost certainly be checkpoints along the way that will let my son know if he’s on track.  And, if he’s not, he and his coaches will need to revamp and to refocus to get back on track.  And, if this one doesn’t work, then he’s got another year to try a different Plan.

But, if it DOES work, wow!  That feeling of achieving a long-term goal is amazing.  It’s one I hope all my children get to experience over and over again in their lives.  But, really, what I hope they experience is the jubilation over seeing hard work pay off, of seeing commitment to a goal or a purpose yield dividends beyond their wildest imagination.  Didn’t someone once say that tennis is a metaphor for life?  I would have to agree.

What’s Really Going On?

Patrick McEnroe (General Manager of Player Development) – along with both Lew Brewer (Director of Junior Competition) and Kent Kinnear (Director of Player ID & Development) – has been at both the Boys and Girls 12-and-Under National Hardcourt tournaments this week holding Q&A sessions with parents and coaches.  The main purpose of these sessions was to discuss the 2014 changes coming to the national junior competition schedule.  Click here to listen to the session held in Atlanta recorded by our friends at High-Tech Tennis (Julie & Danny do apologize for the poor audio – the tournament site was bustling with players, parents, and tourney officials!).

I’ve listened to the session, read lots of comments from other parents and coaches, and tried to figure out what’s really going on here.  I’m totally confused.

First of all, the fact that the USTA chose the 12-and-under events as their forum for these Q&As underlines the fact that, if your child hasn’t been cherry-picked by USTA by age 12, then your child will continue to go unnoticed by our governing body throughout his/her junior career.  Patrick McEnroe even says during the Q&A, “We know at 13 or 14 who the top players are.”  Why doesn’t USTA take into account that many children are late bloomers?  That they could come into their own as late as 16 or 17?  That they are writing off several years’ worth of potentially top players?  My own son is a clear example of that.  At age 12, he was struggling just to win matches at local tournaments.  Now, at age 16, he is finally starting to win not only matches but tournaments, and not just at the local level but also at the sectional and even national level.  From last year to this year, he went from being a 2-star player to earning his 4-star status during this current rating period on TennisRecruiting.net.  What that means in real terms is that he went from being ranked 527 to being ranked within the top 200 in his high school graduating class.  And, there are several boys who train with him who fit a similar profile.

One parent asked where the top American professional players are coming from.  Patrick’s response:  “Where the top pro players are coming from has nothing to do with Junior Comp in a way.”  I thought that was the charge of the Junior Competition committee, to develop top players?  Isn’t it relevant to track where and how and with whom the current American pros developed in order for USTA to replicate a winning formula?  Patrick’s answer to that question doesn’t make any sense to me.

I haven’t had a chance to reach out to Patrick or Lew or Kent yet, but I plan to.  I simply don’t understand what’s going on with USTA and its leadership.  I don’t understand the basis for these major decisions being made on behalf of our children, and, even after spending over an hour listening to the Q&A, I don’t understand how Patrick McEnroe and the others think that these changes are in the best interest of developing top American players.  They really didn’t explain anything.

So, I will continue reaching out to USTA for clarification.  I will continue to support our governing organization in terms of volunteering and entering my kid in USTA tournaments.  But, I will also look for alternatives to the status quo, which is why I’m spending the time and the money to take my son up to Maryland later this month to play in an event that will have absolutely no impact on his ranking or star rating but could have a major impact on his development as a tennis player.  I encourage the rest of you to consider doing the same.

Another Milestone

I know I blogged last week (or was it the week before???) about my son getting his driver’s license.  Well, this past weekend, he actually drove himself to a local tournament – no mom, no dad, no coach, no backup.

Yes, I was a bit nervous letting him get himself to his warmup and then his first match.  I worried that he would get lost.  I worried that he would forget to pack something important, like his racquets or his cooler.  I worried that he wouldn’t leave himself enough time and would be late.  As usual, all my worrying was a complete waste of energy on my part!

On the first day of the tournament, my husband and I took our own car to the site to watch our son play.  My husband wound up leaving after the match – a tough loss – and I stayed with my son to watch a friend of his play.  On the second day – Sunday- I wasn’t feeling well, so my husband and I stayed home and let our son be 100% on his own.  He got himself up for an early warm-up, fixed himself breakfast, packed his gear, and headed out the door and down the driveway.  He ran into a small glitch when the gym where he normally stretches and warms up was closed, but he adapted just fine and took his foam roller to the courts to stretch there.

If all went well, he was scheduled to play three backdraw matches that day starting at 9am.  He texted us after his first match to let us know he had won and would be playing again at noon.  He asked if he could drive himself to the local Subway to get some lunch – of course, we said okay.  After the noon match, he texted again to let us know he had won, but he quickly followed up the text with a phone call.  He was out of water, out of Pedialyte, and out of chocolate milk and had very little time to stretch and restock before his final match.  He asked if one of us would mind making the 20 minute drive to bring him what he needed.  I packed up a cooler with the requested items and sent my husband on his way.  We talked about going to watch his backdraw final but decided it would be better to let our son finish out the day on his own.

Turns out he had to play the same kid in the backdraw final to whom he had lost in the main draw.  It was a great opportunity to avenge the loss from the day before.  And, avenge he did!  My son wound up winning the backdraw 6-1, 4-6, 10-7, a very rewarding end to a quick but action-packed tourney weekend.  I told him that maybe driving himself to the tourney is the new good-luck charm!

I hope that’s not the case.  I hope we have a lot more opportunities to drive TOGETHER to his tournaments.  Some of our best talks happen on those drives, and some of my best music education happens, too – who knew I would end up liking Kid Cudi and Tech N9ne so much?!?!?