He Made It To Mallorca

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My son left Atlanta late Monday afternoon for his trip to Global Tennis Team in Mallorca. After a 2-hour departure delay – and a little snafu with security (let’s just say that apparently Accelerade [use code ACES15 for 15% off and free shipping if you want to order!] looks an awful lot like an illegal substance, especially when packed in a one-gallon Ziploc bag) – my son was in the air and on his way to Paradise.

My husband had asked him to call us once he landed in Barcelona, again when he got to the gate for his transfer to Mallorca, and one more time once he had met up with Afiza from Global at the Palma Mallorca airport’s central meeting point. Since there’s a 6-hour time difference between Atlanta and Spain, we knew we were in for an interrupted night’s sleep. At 4:10am, we got the first call. He was safe in Barcelona, no problems on the flight, but he had only slept about 30 minutes during the previous 9 hours in the air. My husband reminded him to call again once he was at the gate for his departing flight to the Palma Mallorca airport.

The next two hours crept by with very little sleep on our end. His connecting flight was due to leave at 12:30pm Barcelona time (that’s 6:30am Atlanta time), so we expected a phone call sometime around 5:30am at the latest. However, the next call we got was at 6:45am – from the airport in Palma! Our son had already arrived in Mallorca but was having trouble locating Afiza. Oops! He completely forgot to call us that second time from Barcelona! Okay, the important thing was that he was safe. And that his luggage had arrived. Now the task was helping him connect with Afiza, so my husband got on the phone with both of them and led them to each other. So far, so good. We asked our son to call us one more time once he had a chance to get the SIM card for his cell phone so we would have his local Spanish number.

By the time we heard from our son again, he had already been on the tennis court for an hour and a half, eaten lunch, picked up the SIM card, moved into his room, and was getting ready to head to the beach. Afiza emailed me to let me know that she was enjoying getting to know him (“Love your boy. Very charming.”) which made me feel great, of course. Turns out he’s sharing a room with Barbara Tipple’s son (see the podcast of my radio show with Barbara from July 15, 2013) from the UK as well as a young professional player from Mexico. I emailed Barbara to let her know our boys were rooming together, and she replied that she would be visiting Global mid-August to celebrate her son’s birthday and would make a point to meet my son and take him out for dinner one night – it’s nice to know another momma will be there who can report back!

This morning, when I first woke up, I texted my son via Viber to see how his first full day was going. He texted back right away that he had gotten a good night’s sleep, which I’m sure he needed. He had already hit and done a fitness session then gone to the supermarket to get some “essentials” (I’m not sure what that means!). Lunch was coming up shortly followed by another hitting session and more fitness.

Those of you with teenage sons will understand this, I’m sure, but my son is not the best communicator, especially on the phone or via text messages. It’s tough to get a read on how he’s truly feeling though I suspect we would know if something wasn’t going as planned.

That’s it so far. I hope to have more to report later!

Trip Report

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I’m back from an incredible 2-week adventure in Paris, Mallorca, and Barcelona, and I’ve started posting my travel journal (and photos) online.  If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it at TravelPod.com.  I’ll be adding more entries as time allows.

To get you started, here’s my first post:

http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/fitmom/7/1369641510/tpod.html

A lot went on junior-tennis-wise around here while I was gone – I promise to update y’all in the next few days!  We’re heading to the Southern Closed in Mobile, Alabama tomorrow.  If all goes well, I’ll be broadcasting my radio show from there on Monday at 12 ET, so please tune in!

Europe was fabulous, but I’m glad to be back with you – I missed y’all!

TRN’s National Showcase Series

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As I’ve been posting on Facebook and Tweeting this week, TennisRecruiting.net recently announced its National Showcase Series for 2013.

Per the email I received yesterday from TRN, the National Showcase Tournaments are designed to give players a chance to compete outside of their districts and sections.  They are seeking to fill the gap left by USTA’s 2013 and 2014 junior competition calendar changes, some of which limit players to competing within their own section or region.  While the TRN events will NOT count toward USTA national rankings, they WILL count toward USTA sectional or district ranking (if the player is competing in one of these events held in his/her own section or district of residence) as well as a player’s ranking and star rating on TennisRecruiting.net.  It’s important to note that players who choose to compete in National Showcase events held OUTSIDE their section or district of residence will not receive USTA ranking points but will still get credit toward their TRN ranking and star rating.

TRN’s Dallas Oliver says, “The idea of these National Showcase tournaments is to provide meaningful cross-play between different areas that will provide more data for meaningful national rankings. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback so far – players and parents appreciate having more choices. And the tournament directors we have on board so far have great reputations for running quality tournaments.  We think that this tournament series has a lot of positive qualities. These are USTA-sanctioned events, so players and their families will get a familiar experience. But the tournaments will not be on the USTA national schedule, which obviates the concerns many had about ‘point-chasing’. At the same time, these tournaments will count for Tennis Recruiting rankings, and so there are rewards for players to compete in them.”

Tournaments in the National Showcase are “open” tournaments. Entries for these tournaments will be open to all USTA players, regardless of residence. The bulk of these tournaments are scheduled during the summer or on long holiday weekends to accommodate travel and reduce missed school days.  Players and parents need to look at their section’s 2013 tournament schedule to find out the level of those Showcase events held within their section. In the Southern section, for example, some of the Showcases are Southern Level 3s and some are Southern Level 4s, and USTA ranking points will be awarded accordingly.

I asked TRN’s founder, Julie Wrege, why they decided to get USTA sanctioning for the Showcases.  She told me that a USTA sanction insures that the rules of tennis will be followed, certified officials will be used at the tournament, scheduling will be done according to the rules, and results will be published on TennisLink.  I expressed my concern that USTA would see the Showcases as filling in the gap left by the elimination of several national events and use them to justify the 2013 and 2014 changes.  Julie feels that the Showcases will not take the place of anything that is proposed or is going on now.  These tournaments carry no USTA points at the national level – and only at the section level if sanctioned by a section – and only at a district level if sanctioned by a district.  She went on to say that the sections need to have a lot more sectional play – and these few events scattered across the country will not fill that gap.

It is important to note:

  • All events in a National Showcase tournaments will count for Tennis Recruiting national rankings.
  • A player who competes in one of these events and has a win – in the main draw or a consolation event – will become a Tennis Recruiting National Player.
  • Entry into these events is open to all USTA players, regardless of residence.
  • Acceptance will start with the USTA National Rankings – followed by the USTA sectional and district rankings.

Here is the current schedule of National Showcase tournaments. Several more tournaments will be added to this 2013 schedule as their USTA sanctions are finalized:

Starts Tournament Events Contact
12/26 COSTA MESA OPEN CLASSIC
Costa Mesa, CA
BG18 H. Lloyd
3/30 GEORGIA/ALABAMA OPEN
Dothan, AL
BG18-16 D. Bryan
3/30 GEORGIA/ALABAMA OPEN
Bainbridge, GA
BG14-12 T. Thompson
4/06 BLUEGRASS SPRING JR. OPEN
Louisville, KY
BG18-12 C. Mather
4/26 OJAI JR. TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Ojai, CA
G18, BG16-14 C. Fugle
5/25 NORTH GEORGIA OPEN
Rome, GA
BG18-12 R. Sasseville
6/25 NEWPORT NEWS OPEN
Newport News, VA
BG18-12 S. Dearth
6/24 LA JOLLA JR. CHAMPIONSHIPS
La Jolla, CA
BG18-12 B. Davis
6/29 JACKSONVILLE OPEN
Jacksonville, FL
BG18-12 R. Jenks
7/01 WILBUR FOLSON MEMORIAL OPEN
San Diego, CA
BG18-12 A. Podney
7/13 GEORGIA JUNIOR OPEN
Rome, GA
BG18-12 R. Sasseville
7/15 COSTA MESA SUMMER CLASSIC
Costa Mesa, CA
BG18-12 H. Lloyd
8/03 HUDLOW JR. OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG18-14 C. Chapin
8/04 SANTA CLARA BRONCO OPEN
Santa Clara, CA
BG18-16 J. Scalese
8/11 SANTA CLARA BRONCO OPEN
Santa Clara, CA
BG14-12 J. Scalese
8/16 ST. LOUIS JR. SUMMER OPEN
St. Louis, MO
BG18-12 J. Dippold
9/21 BLUEGRASS FALL JR. OPEN
Louisville, KY
BG18-12 C. Mather
9/28 ST. LOUIS JR. FALL OPEN
St. Louis, MO
B18-12 J. Dippold
11/22 ATLANTA THANKSGIVING OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG18-16 C. Chapin
11/22 ATLANTA THANKSGIVING OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG14-12 T. Berne
11/29 WESTERN STATES JR. OPEN
Tucson, AZ
BG18-12 M. Houk

Again, according to Dallas Oliver, “We are excited to have 20 tournaments on the schedule so far, and we are reasonably pleased with how they are spread around the country. There are clearly some areas – like New England and the mid-Atlantic region – where we need to do better. Hopefully players and parents can talk to their favorite tournament directors about running a National Showcase tournament – we would love to hear from them!”

As you can see above, the first Showcase Tournament is the Costa Mesa Open – an 18s event that takes place the week before New Year’s in Costa Mesa, Calif. If you are interested in that one, register now at their tournament page on TennisLink or contact Hank Lloyd at hltcm@sbcglobal.net. But hurry – entries close next Thursday, December 20!  For TRN’s FAQ on the National Showcase Series, click here.

One last note from the folks at TRN: “At the end of the day, we feel that the more choices there are, the better. These National Showcase tournaments should provide more of these choices without interfering with the goals that the USTA has put forward for earned advancement.”

Waco ITF – The Outcome

Day 1 of Qualies, ITF Tournament 1, Waco, Texas

Coach Julius (via text message to me): Game on!

Me: What’s that mean????

Coach: He just started.

Me: Ah, thanks!  Keep me posted!

Coach: Very rough start.  Nerves.  Lots of unforced errors.  0-4.

Me: Uh oh

Coach: 0-6.  Playing scared.  Poor shot selection and too many short balls off his forehand and backhand.

Me: Hmmm . . . hope he can pull it together for the 2nd . . .

Coach: 1-1 in 2nd

Me:  Calming down?

Coach: Not yet

Me: Hmmmm

Coach: 1-4

Coach (10 minutes later): 0-6, 1-6.  I’m speechless.

Me: Will be interested to hear from both of you after you have time to reflect.  How’s he doing???

Coach: Having a tough time.

Me: 🙁

__________

Son: I lost.

Husband: Sorry to hear that.  We’ll talk a little later.

Me: Will call you in a bit.  Love you.

Son (6 hours later): Just got done hitting with Slovakian kid.

Me: Call me – wanna hear!

Son: Nah

Me: Why?  How did it go?

Son: It was good.  I played well.  Won the set 6-3.

Me:  That’s good.  What’s on tap for tonight and tomorrow?

Hubby: Nice. Call me back.

Son: Don’t feel like talking on phone guys.  Going back to hotel right now to shower and recover – it’s hot as heck.  Then tomorrow I’m gonna hit with Slovakian kid and Sam.

Me: Sounds good!  Have fun!

Day 2

(Coach texted a photo of my son on court)

Me: Thanks! How’s it going???

Coach: Good.  We watched a lot of tennis this morning.  The guy he lost to ended up qualifying.  I worked him out for an hour earlier this afternoon, and now he is hitting with a Slovakian kid.  Will be playing some sets in a bit.

Me: Sounds like a great day!

(3 hours later . . .)

Coach: Just lost a 3 hour 3 set grinder against the Slovakian kid.  Good lessons learned.

Me: Good to hear.  How’s he feeling mentally?

Coach: A little beat up but competing like crazy.

Me: That’s a good sign.  I love a good fight!!!  More tennis tomorrow?

Coach: Planning on watching some 1st round main draw matches and a possible hit before leaving town.

Me: Sounds good! Despite the first round loss, sounds like a successful trip.

Coach: I believe it was a successful trip, but the next few weeks of practice will be the true measure of this trip’s success.

Me: Yes, true.  You’ll have to keep me posted on how he’s doing.  🙂

Coach: Will do.

Me: Thanks for being such an amazing coach and mentor to him!

Coach: I’m just happy to be able to contribute.

Me: Well, we appreciate you more than you know!  I hope M shows you that through his actions on and off the court!

____________

All in all, I think it was a good decision to send him to Waco.  Yes, he lost his very first qualifying match, but he bounced back and took the opportunity to learn from the loss.  The match was against a boy from Mexico who he never would’ve had the chance to play in a sectional tournament.  His practice sessions were with a boy from Slovakia – again, a boy he would never come across in our section.  He watched one of the top juniors in the country play in the main draw and figured out what sets this boy apart.  He now has something concrete to work toward.  Like Coach Julius said, these next few weeks will be a true test of the trip’s success and my son’s commitment to reaching the next level.  It will be interesting to watch and to analyze and to see if my son is willing to put in the even harder work to get there.

Waco ITF – The Decision

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to comment here or via Twitter or via Facebook or via email – I knew y’all would have some great suggestions for me!  I love hearing about your experiences with these different tournaments and how you weigh cost vs. value.  As I keep saying, it’s not just about the tennis here – sometimes it’s about the Life Lessons learned.

Here’s what we finally decided to do regarding next week’s ITF tournament in Waco . . .

I sat down and figured out what the total cost was going to be for the tournament, expecting that my son will make it through a couple of qualifying matches and maybe, just maybe, into the main draw:  flight, hotel, rental car, gas, meals, and his coach’s daily fee.  A conservative estimate was $2500 – OUCH!  For our family, that’s a lot to spend on one tournament, especially since our son is only guaranteed one match (remember: there is no back draw in these tourneys!).  On top of that, we had to consider the possible missed school days and how he was going to stay on top of his work.

I asked my son how badly he wanted to play in this tournament.  He said, “Really badly, Mom!”  I asked if he wanted to play badly enough that he’d be willing to spend some of his savings to help off-set the cost.  He thought about it for a minute then said yes.  So, that’s what’s happening.  He’s going to pay for part of the tournament, and we’re going to cover the rest.  We figured this was a good use of his savings plus it would give him added accountability for his preparation and performance in Waco.  When I say “performance”, I don’t mean whether he wins or loses matches.  What I mean is that he competes well, fights hard, maintains a positive attitude, and absorbs the lessons he’s sure to learn.

Once we’d made the decision to let him go, it was time to make all the travel arrangements.  One of my friends/readers suggested we use Priceline to book the trip – she thought we’d be able to cut the total cost (air, hotel, and rental car) by about 50%, which would be fantastic!  The problem is that it’s waaaaaay cheaper to fly into Dallas (about 90 miles from Waco) instead of directly to Waco, and I could never figure out how to get Priceline to do airline tickets and rental car in one city but hotel in another, so that didn’t work.  But, Southwest Airlines now flies from Atlanta to Dallas AND offers online fares with no change fee (!), so I signed my son up for their frequent flier program and started booking the trip.  My son’s coach suggested I book the return flight for late afternoon on Monday – if my son is still in the tournament at that point, we can always change the date.  If he’s out of the tournament before then, his coach is going to arrange practice matches with some of the other players (thanks to another reader for that great suggestion!) to take full advantage of being in a new area of the country with some different boys.  It turns out that Southwest also has a bundling deal where, if you book air, hotel, and rental car through their website, you get a discount plus frequent flier points on everything – great deal, right?  I ended up saving about $125 by bundling which should cover food for one of the days.

So now everything is booked, my son is working really hard to get ready for the tourney, and his coach feels like this is going to be a great learning experience for him.  I think we made the right decision to let him go but also to ask him to contribute financially to this opportunity.  It gives him more ownership in the whole thing which my husband and I both feel is important – we don’t ever want our son to take his tennis or our financial support of it for granted.  I’ll let y’all know how it goes!

ITFs – Got Info?

My son has been asking to play an ITF tournament for over a year.  Since there are very few even played in the US these days, it wasn’t hard to deter him.  However, a friend’s mom told me I should sign him up for the one in Waco, Texas, because it’s a lower-grade tournament and might be a good first experience for my son.  I went on the ITF website, registered him for an iPin (ITF’s version of a USTA number, I guess), and signed him up for the tournament.  Then, we waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Finally, the Acceptance List came out, and my son’s name appeared waaaaaay down the page on the list of Alternates.  Not the Qualifiers (yes, ITF junior events have a Qualifier that starts 2 days prior to the Main Event – you have to win 4 matches in Qualies to even get into the Main Draw.  You have to win at least one match in the Main Draw to get a single ITF ranking point.).  Oh, and there’s no Back Draw, so if you lose, even your first round match, you’re done, out of the tournament.  Okay.  No big deal.  We have lots of experience with alternate lists.  We decided to sit tight and see how things played out.

As luck would have it, we found out Monday morning that my son was accepted into the Qualies.  The tournament is next weekend.  Did I mention it is in Waco?  Texas?  A mere 819 miles and 14 1/2 hours by car from our house?  That means either (A) my son misses an additional 3-4 days of school just to get there and back or (B) my husband and I fork over Big Bucks to fly him and his coach to Texas.

I find myself in the familiar position of having to go to bat for my son while maintaining some semblance of financial responsibility to my family.  My son really wants to play in this tournament.  His coach feels like it’s the right time, developmentally, for him to have his first ITF experience but has been very understanding about our money concerns.  And my husband was really hoping our son didn’t get off the Alternate List!

So, I’m turning to you fellow Tennis Parents in hopes that you’ll share your thoughts and experiences on these ITF tournaments.  And your money-saving tips when you have to fly to a tournament.  And your marriage-saving tips when you and your spouse are on different pages about above-referenced money.  HELP!!!!

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!