Wayne Bryan Hits the Nail on the Head

I urge you all to read Steve Bellamy’s Open Letter to the US Tennis Industry published online at http://tennisinsiders.com/?post_type=featured_story&p=1323

Below is Wayne Bryan’s comment on the Letter . . .

Preamble:

a) The most important aspect of this is to get lots of input and opinions from all over the country – – – from experienced club pros and public park coaches and college coaches and high school coaches and academy coaches and veteran ‘n passionate parents from Florida to New York to Georgia to Texas to Nebraska to North Dakota to California to Oregon and everywhere in between.

b) Study the history of the National Schedule and Rankings over the past 30 years.

c) Remember that when the USTA asked my pal and great coach and mega junior champion producer Jack Sharpe how to improve Player Development and the National Tournament Schedule he told them to “Go back to 1987 and just do what worked!! Simple!!”

Goals of a National Schedule:

a) Fairness to all.

b) Simple and understandable.

c) A clear pathway from bottom to top.

d) Bringing the best juniors from all over the country together to create friendships and improve their tennis.

e) Various surfaces, times of the year, and locations.

f) No meddling by USTA PD.

Back in the Day:

a) I never heard one single word of criticism about the Sectional or National Tournament Schedule.

b) Rankings were so accurate that when our SoCal juniors flew back from Kalamazoo at the end of the Summer, I would give the kids each a piece of paper and I had them write down what they thought the top 20 in the SoCal rankings would be and what the top 50 in the National rankings would be. I was always astonished to see that each ranking list was almost exactly the same and lo and behold when the rankings came out the were the same as the kids had predicted. The rankings were fair and there was unanimity and agreement on the rankings. They were spot on.

Now:

a) I have never heard so much rancor across this country about the National Schedule and Rankings and the Green Ball U10 Mandate and USTA Player Development and the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis and not enough doubles tournaments and doubles rankings.

b) The USTA is seen as heavy handed and top down and non responsive to the membership they are employed to serve.

c) The USTA is also seen as even attacking clubs and pros and players and the USPTA that do not follow their party line. I have a computer full of e mails complaining about their tactics. There is fear and there is anger everywhere. Witness the harassing letter from the USTA to the great and venerable Little Mo Tournaments and volunteer organization.

The Way SoCal Tournament Schedules Used to Be:

a) I walked the junior tennis trails as a coach for decades with thousands of players and even my own two twin sons. I knew those paths like the back of my hand. I believed in playing tournaments each and every weekend of the year. You wanna be a player you play. Players play. Soccer has schedules. Baseball and Football and Basketball have schedules. Players at our club had junior tournament schedules. I have always felt that scheduling is as important as coaching. You can make a player with a great schedule. And you can ruin a player with a bad schedule. It’s like riding a big wave in Hawaii – – – if you get too far out in front on your surfboard you get crushed by the wave, if you get too far behind the wave, you sink down in the dead calm waters – – – but if you get right in the middle of the tube, you get maximum speed and thrills and you can take that baby all the way to shore. Mike ‘n Bob usually played about 100 competitve matches each year in the juniors. Same at Stanford. And, interestingly, they play aobut 100 matches on the tour each year.

b) Some of our 85 juniors would play our local Ventura County Junior Tennis Assn. (VCJTA) Tournaments. Some would play Southern California (SCTA) Tournaments. Some would play a hybridized schedule of both. Some would play SCTA and National Tournaments. Some would play only National and International Junior Tournaments.

c) During the school year, tournaments were always two weekends and there was always singles and doubles. Typically, the juniors played two singles and a doubles each day. Perhaps one singles and two doubles. During the three Summer months, most tournaments were week long events.

d) In SoCal I served on the Junior Tennis Council for many, many years and we would make changes and adjustments very slowly and we had the many of the top pros and parents in our group. We never made knee jerk reactions or massive pendulum swings. Players and coaches and parents could count on and trust the system.

e) To get a ranking and to qualify for Nationals, players had to play three of the six designated tournaments – – – our largest and best tournaments (including, if memory serves, Santa Barbara, Whittier, Long Beach, Downey, and San Diego) – – – plus two other tournaments and, of course, the Sectional, which was held in June right after school was out. The idea, of course, was to get all the top players together several times during the first six months of the year.

f) In those days, SoCal was allowed 8 players into the National Tournaments Clays, Indoors, Grass, and The Nationals. and, of course, more into the tournaments on the National Schedule like Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, the Westerns, and the Texas Open. All of those events were 128 draws and all had doubles.

History of Pedulum Swings as it pertains to the National Schedule and Rankings:

a) Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, rankings were based on the Star Computer System. It was the quality of your wins and losses that mattered on the computer. If you beat #7 in your Section it was given much more weight than if you beat the #83 player in your Section. If you beat a player that was #4 in the Nation, it was given more weight than if you beat a player that was #63. College Football has a very similar system. The rankings were very, very accurate that way.

b) There were singles and doubles rankings.

c) Then, for some reason, there was a massive pendulum swing and they went to points and they offered all kinds of regional and national tournaments all over the place. Regional Tournaments sprang up like weeds. Kids started avoiding their sectional tournaments to go and find weak regional events that they could do well and scoop up points. I could go on and on about this, but it knocked me in the head a few years ago when I learned that of the top twenty U18s players in SoCal, only one played the Sectional!! Back in the day, every single one of the top twenty 18s played our SoCal Sectional.

d) The rankings became so inaccurate that college coaches no longer relied on them for recruiting. Players that were 60s often were much better than a player that was 30s.

e) There were tournaments that had only singles and back draw singles and they did not offer doubles.

f) The USTA removed doubles rankings. Huh? As I say in all my talks: If we had more doubles programming, promotion, and coaching we could quadruple the number of kids playing tennis. Doubles gives our sport more width and breadth. Doubles is fun for juniors and it really rounds out skills and teaches additional life lessons – – – and some youngsters just love the “team thing”. Plus, it gives them a second chance if they lose their singles match at a tournament. And don’t forget Mixed Doubles – – – boys and girls truly love that and there are also great life lessons inherent in Mixed.

And now the Pendulum Swings Radically Again:

a) Now in the past few months a small USTA committee takes out the meat cleaver and cuts down many of our old growth Redwood Junior Tournaments along with the too many regional and national events.

b) They only just a few National Tournaments? Some National Tournaments with just 32 draws?! Lots and lots of WCs to be abused by the USTA PD.

c) They have only one 64 draw for the National 12s?

d) Their explanations are many pages long.

What does Coach B suggest?

a) Ha. Yeah, go back to the Preamble c) above and do what Jack Sharpe suggested. Good back to 1987 before the system got ruined.

b) Simple: For each age group from 12-18s, four USTA nationals with 128 draws.

c) Keep all the great Redwood Junior Tournaments on the so called national schedule. Restore (somehow) those that have been cut down and ruined. Make sure there is a Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Texas Open, Western, Southern Open, Easter Bowl, Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl. And others.

d) Cut back on some of the Regionals, but keep those that are thriving and doing well and liked by the juniors, coaches and parents.

e) Immediately return to the Star Computer System that weights the quality of your wins and losses.

f) Let each Section determine their requirements for Sectional Rankings and who qualifies for nationals. They can specify how many tournaments their juniors have to play in Section to get a ranking and to go to nationals.

g) Yes, tweak how many players each Section gets into the Nationals. Do not base it on membership, but base it on the quality of the play of the various Sections. If SoCal has four top ten players on average in all their divisions, and nine top twenty players and 36 top 100 players, give them many more spots in the nationals than a Section that has only 3 players in the top 100. This can all be worked out by fair minded people. But, strength of play in a section should lead to more spots in the nationals. And this can be organic and ever changing each season.

h) Tweak the weight of the various tournaments. For example, in SoCal, weight the regular tournaments a 1, the designated tournaments a 1.1, the Sectional a 1.2, a regional a 1.3, a tournament on the National Schedule a 1.4, and one of the four Surface Nationals a 1.5, and The Nationals and 1.6. I have no pride of authorship here, and this could be worked out by mathematicians and those much smarter than I am. It should be fair and equitable to all – – – and it should lead to accurate Sectional and National Rankings. And it should all be integrated – – – sectinally and nationally.

Addendums:

a) Get rid of USTA Player Development altogether. I am all for those folks coaching, but not from the top down. They need to get out in the trenches with the rest of us and coach. National Federations do not create champions. Ask England. Spain. Canada. Switzerland. Sweden. They harm the growth of tennis in their countries. I, and many others, have written extensively on this and I will leave it at that.

b) Take those $18 million dollars and give it to the Sections to help juniors players as they see fit. Perhaps the money would be spent by the Sections on club memberships; free entry fees; rackets; shoes; balls; string; coaching; trips to national tournaments; trips to watch the US Open for deserving juniors; trips to Davis and FED Cup Matches; trips to college matches’ trips to the NCAAs. Surely local Sections know how to help their juniors much better than White Plains coming to Ventura County to tell us how to do it – – – all the while we have 3 of the 4 Davis Cup Players from our little area and they have zero. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

c) Give money to our top junior developers and tell them to bring five more kids into their program that are deserving and, perhaps, can’t afford to be in their club or program. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

d) Put more money into Junior Team Tennis. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

e) Value our great American Coaches!! If I want to talk tennis I may or may not call Patrick McEnroe. I do write or call or talk in person through the years with Billie Jean King or Jim Courier or Larry Stefanki or Rick Macci or Stan Smith or Vic Braden or Robert Lansdorf or Dick Gould or Brad Gilbert or Paul Annacone or Tom Gullikson or Nick Bolletteiri or Zina Garrison or Larry Mousouris or Jack Sharpe or Jay Berger or Brad Pearce or Martin Blackman or Greg the General Patton or David MacPherson or Billy Pate or Benny Simms or Pankie Salazar or Lori McNeil or Marty Davis or Tim Mayotte or Manny Diaz or Taylor Dent or David Roditi or Dennis Rizza or John Roddick or Doug King or Steve Clark or Bob Hochstadter or Tim Heckler or Steve Stefanki or Mark Bey or Lynne Rolley or Billy Martin or Will Hoag or Scott Kooper or Ron Woods or Luke Jensen or Rodney Harmon or Phil Dent or Nick Saviano or Allen Fox or Peter Smith or Rich Gallien or John Whitlinger or Chuck Kriese or Bobby Bayliss or Mark Weil or BJ Stearns or Mike Kernodle or Bill Tym or Doug Pielet or Brian Giffin or Hank Pfister or Mark Speardog Spearman or Randy Mattingley or Chris Bovett or Billy Stearns or Jeff Tarango or Chuck Waldron or Murphy Jensen or JP Weber or Chuckie Adams or Cici Louie or Mark McCampbell or Cornelius Jordan or Craig Bell or Cheryl Shrum or John McCampbell or Chris Bradley or Susan Evans or Dave McKinney or Steve Loft or Traci Curry or – – – I’ve got several hundred more, but I’m running out of ink and I profusely apologize to those many great coaches I am leaving out.

f) Take money from those truly outrageous USTA salaries and use $1 million dollars and have the best Junior WEB Site in the world! Pattern it after the ATP WEB Site. Have current National Rankings at the flip of a switch; Sectional Rankings; Tournament Results immediately from the previous weekend; pictures; articles; schedules from each section; national schedules; and each players record. Doubles Rankings for teams and individuals. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

g) Take a stand on the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis. Millions upon millions are going to foreign tennis playing juniors whose parents do not pay dollar one in US educational taxes, while we are in the midst of our toughest economic crisis since the great depression. That is criminal it seems to me.

h) Get rid of the ludicrous and laughable U10 Green Ball Mandate that most every pro and parent and kid in this country is against. Again I say, have all the Green Ball and Soft Ball and Nerf Ball and Polka Dot Ball tournaments you want, just don’t tear down regular tennis for U10s that want to compete against their peers. Soft balls are a tool and not an end unto itself. Soft balls from age 6 to 10 may be fine for some, but man oh man, certainly not for ALL our best young players.

i) Stop attacking pros and clubs and parents and players that don’t play ball with USTA PD. Stop threatening and bullying Little Mo and everyone else. Stop it immediately. And, in fact, write letters of apology. Ya know, I have this down here at the bottom, but really this is issue number one for me.

j) Fire all foreign coaches that are funded by the USTA. Again, we have thousands of incredible US coaches and in these harsh economic times you are going overseas to hire coaches that are not as good as the ones within these borders. Huh?

And in Conclusion:

a) Ha. You may use some and probably none of these ideas.

b) But do build consensus and get everyone under the same tennis tent.

I wish you good luck, Steve, with your meeting in Chicago. Ha. Send me one of those USTA first class tickets ‘n a limo and buy me a Chicago Pizza and I’ll go with you . . . thanks for all you do for tennis each day and thanks for coming out to support our Tennis Fest at Spanish Hills last Friday Night and thanks for helping promote the event and pack the place to overflowing.

Best,

Wayne

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.

Complain, Complain, Complain . . . Do!

There is a lot of complaining going on in the Tennis World – from players, from coaches, from parents, from tournament directors, from journalists – I hear it all the time!  And blame – WOW! – every organization is getting blamed for the demise of American tennis, from USTA to ITF to USPTA to NCAA . . . the list goes on and on.

This blog was born out of complaints that I had myself and that I heard from other tennis parents, so I get it – I’m not innocent in the Blame Game; in fact, far from it!  But, if we just continue to complain and do nothing to change the status quo, then where does that get us?

A group of brilliant tennis minds is coming together to DO SOMETHING.  There’s a brand new resource online called American Tennis Journal that y’all need to visit (click here to see it).  The Mission Statement, as published on the site is:

The mission of the American Tennis Journal is to become…

  • a source of news concerning relevant issues in American tennis
  • a platform to discuss ideas and new developments in American tennis
  • a resource for American players, parents, and coaches

The developers plan to offer forums, live chats, and other methods for tennis players, parents, and coaches to connect and share information.  And, they’re hoping to get the attention of USTA and other relevant organizations so that change can actually occur.  Best of all, the folks involved in creating the website don’t have a dog in the fight – they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by providing frank, open, honest discussion of where tennis needs to improve in order for our players – juniors, college, and pros – to reach their own highest levels.  As site creator, Brian Parrott, said, “This could become a vehicle for positive exposure to what is happening . . . the goal is to facilitate the development of American talent.”  A worthy goal, indeed!

USTA 2014 Jr Comp Update, Part 2

ZooTennis.com posted the following email sent from the outgoing and incoming USTA presidents to Tim Russell and others involved in the Junior Competition Committee and Player Development – it confirms my wariness (click here for the link to the full email):

USTA 2014 Jr Comp Update

Yesterday afternoon, I received a link from the folks at TennisRecruiting.net to the following article on their website:

This week, a group of people concerned with junior tennis – Steve Bellamy, Robert Sasseville and Kevin Kempin – were able to spend several hours speaking with USTA leadership (i.e., Dave Haggerty, Gordon Smith, Kurt Kamperman) about the planned upcoming changes to USTA Junior Competition. That group is pleased to say that there was a very open and candid exchange of ideas.

The group shared many, if not all, of its concerns about the proposed new competitive structure, and the USTA definitely listened. The group also got a better understanding of the USTA’s long-term objectives for making these changes. Long story short, the group requested that the USTA hit the “pause button” for the 2013-2014 junior comp changes before instituting them. That approach would obviously come with some procedural challenges for the USTA, but the USTA was open to the recommendation and said they will discuss it internally and give it full consideration.

In addition, the USTA acknowledged that, moving forward, they wanted to seek input from a broader group of constituents, i.e. parents, college coaches, and tournament directors. To that end, the USTA will be getting back to the group with some suggestions. All in all, the feeling is that the meetings with the USTA were very productive, and the group believes that everyone should hit the “pause button” for a short time to allow the USTA to come back with their plans for moving forward. Recognizing that time is of the essence, the group expects to hear back from the USTA within the next two weeks.

Just so you know who the players are in this saga, Steve Bellamy is the creator of the Tennis Channel and the father of high-performance tennis playing sons, one of whom is under the watchful eye of USTA Player Development.  He also created the interactive website, TennisInsiders, for tennis coaches, parents, and others to voice and share opinions and information.  Robert Sasseville is a long-time tournament director and USTA referee in Georgia.  Kevin Kempin is the CEO of Head, Inc.  Dave Haggerty is the First Vice President and incoming President of USTA.  Gordon Smith is the Executive Director and CEO of USTA.  Kurt Kamperman is USTA’s Chief Executive of Community Tennis.

While I am hopeful that USTA will, indeed, hit the “pause button” and seek input from those directly affected by the upcoming changes to the junior competition schedule, I am a bit wary since Lew Brewer, USTA’s Director of Junior Competition for USTA Player Development, told me a few weeks ago that this is a “done deal” and that no further changes to the plan will be considered before 2014.  Maybe Lew and his cohorts have reconsidered their position and have realized it may be in the best interest of US tennis to seek input from the players, parents, and coaches?  Maybe.  I urge all of you concerned to keep an eye on things and to talk to your section heads to see how you might become one of those whose input is sought after by USTA.  I also urge you to read today’s ZooTennis posting regarding how the national tournament climate has changed in very recent years – it is eye-opening.

Stay tuned . . .

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!

High(er) Anxiety

A friend recently posted an article on Facebook about our local public high school, the one my son attends and from which my daughters graduated.  The article is about 5 years old – and a bit lengthy – but many of the student observations and quotes are still very applicable today.  And, re-reading it now that my son is in his sophomore year is really making me think about the path he is on and the path I am on with him as he gets further into his high school career and closer to the end of his Junior Tennis Journey.

If you want to take the time to read the article, I promise it will make you think, or re-think, about how you interact with your child(ren).  And, if it doesn’t, it should.  We are raising our children in an era of very high anxiety, very high pressure, very high expectations.  For student-athletes pursuing a college scholarship, the pressure is magnified.  Is it any wonder many families choose virtual school or home school as an alternative to this mishigas (i.e. craziness for my non-Yiddish-speaking readers)?  Read the excerpt below and tell me you don’t recognize your child or someone you know here:

A 17-year-old should not have to spend a week in the hospital for exhaustion.  Students shouldn’t have to drag themselves through each and every school week on 28 hours of sleep or take a handful of Advil to get through soccer practice or calculus class. It may not seem like it, but we’re tired.  Everything doesn’t have to be a lesson or lecture. A kid can’t just strike out anymore and get on with his life. Yes, we know to keep our eye on the ball, you’ve told us 4 million times. Head down on the golf swing—we know. So we slip. We forget.  We’re not gonna go, like, rob banks because we shank a few Titleists off into the Chattahoochee.  Sometimes we get so much pressure from so many angles we get dizzy. We juggle so many things all day every day it almost seems silly to come home and have you nag us to do our homework. We know we have homework; we’re the ones who lugged it home like pack mules. Did it ever occur to you that what you and the teachers call procrastination is just our way of taking two seconds to, like, think?  Some of us need pushing, but there’s such a thing as pushing too hard.

As I prepare to write yet another note saying my son was absent due to illness, I have to ask myself why I allow myself to compromise my own morals when in fact I am 100% in favor of my son missing a day of school here and there (as long as he stays on top of his school work) in order to pursue his passion.  Of course, one answer is because I don’t want to see my son punished academically – teachers do not allow students to make up work or tests missed due to an Unexcused Absence – when his particular sport isn’t one offered year-round by his school.  And, I believe 100% that pursuing one’s passion is the best antidote to the stress that our society breeds.  Unless the pursuit of the passion adds stress and anxiety instead of relieving it.  So the challenge, as always, is striving for a healthy balance between hard work, dedication, and commitment as well as lightness and fun.  It’s a big ask.  I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers.

A friend of mine who happens to be a licensed social worker and also has a 16 year old son says, “And not too much is said about the incredible changes and pressures for parents as we navigate all this wonderful progressive technology that makes it harder for families to connect. I’m exhausted with all the efficiency.”  It’s so true!   How are the rest of you Tennis Parents coping with this challenge?  How are you helping your tennis players find the balance?  I look forward to reading your comments.