The More Things Change . . .


While I was away on vacation, I received an email from the office manager at the club where my son trains.  It seems the head coach of the tennis program has sold his ownership in the club to my son’s primary coach and one of the other coaches there.  I assume he decided it was time to move on to the next phase of his life, to attend to some health matters, and to spend more of his time fishing and enjoying his grandchildren – after all, he has been at this tennis thing for many, many years, helping hundreds of young players reach their goals both on and off the court.  There may be more to the story than that, but, frankly, it’s of little consequence to anyone except those directly impacted.

But, this new wrinkle means it’s once again time to evaluate my son’s coaching and training situation, and, given the timing (summer vacation and all that), it seems the best course of action, at least for now, is to wait and see.  Wait and see where the other players land.  Wait and see what coaching staff is added (or not).  Wait and see what changes the new owners will implement.

My son is heading down to South Florida for a week of tennis camp after the July 4th holiday.  Then, it looks like more travel is in his immediate future (I’ll elaborate in a future post).  That means we don’t have to make any decisions right now.  We can let the dust settle a bit over these next several weeks, and, in the meantime, my son can keep hitting with his coach and the other players who are in town, continuing to work on his game and his fitness.

Once my son is back in town for a while, we’ll need to ask some tough questions of ourselves and of the coach.  I’m hoping that these next few weeks will give all of us time to devise those questions and come up with some answers.  We’re hoping the answers lead us right back to Olde Towne and Coach Julius – as I’ve written many times before, my son (and his parents) loves his current coach and would really like to keep things as they are now.  For those of you who have been through a recent coaching change with your child, I would love to hear the questions YOU asked – please share them in the Comments box below.

France & Spain

I am on vacay with my husband (and WITHOUT our children) for the next two weeks so won’t be posting here for a bit. I will, however, be tweeting regularly, especially from my time at the French Open, so please follow me @ParentingAces if you’re interested!

Have a great couple of weeks! Au revoir!

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.

The End of an Era

Today marks the end of an era.  I will no longer be the daily chauffeur for my son.  He will no longer need me to drive him to drills, pick him up afterward, take him to fitness, or schlep him to school.  He is now a licensed driver.

And, given that he is my last child at home and the last to drive, that means my time is now my own.  That means I can book appointments, make lunch dates, and whatever else I want to do on my time-frame without worrying that I’ll be finished in time to pick up my son and take him where he needs to be.

That also means every time he gets behind the wheel, I will get that little clutch in my stomach – you know the one – and worry like crazy until he calls to let me know he’s arrived wherever safe and in one piece.  Honestly, I haven’t missed that these past 3 years since we’ve had a teen driver living at home!

But, it’s all part of growing up and letting go, something I try really hard to be good at but still could use lots of improvement.  For now, I will be grateful that my son seems to have a very good head on his shoulders.  I will trust him to be careful on the road and to remember everything my husband and I (and the driving instructors!) have taught him.  And, I will enjoy regaining ownership of my daily schedule even though I will definitely miss the daily car chatter with my son.

The end of an era, yes, but, hopefully, the beginning of something new and exciting for both of us.

You Gotta Have Faith

A big thank-you to my amazing yoga instructor, Lisa Jones, for the quote above.

Sometimes I get a major wake-up call which catches me totally off guard.  This weekend’s tournament was one of those.

The week leading up to the tournament was a rough one for my son.  He came down with a cold/sinus infection on Monday and immediately started taking a antibiotic in hopes that he would feel significantly better by the Saturday start day.  All week, he shortened his practices, even resorting to hitting with only me one of the days, trying to conserve his energy.  I begged him to drink Emergen-C – my go-to when I start feeling a cold coming on.  He drank one, maybe two, all week.  I begged him to drink protein shakes at the end of each day.  He drank one, maybe two, all week.  I begged him to amp up his hydration efforts in prep for a scorching hot weekend of tennis.  He didn’t really do anything outside the norm in that regard.  I wasn’t happy.  I was preparing myself for another tournament where he wasn’t 100%, where he would have an excuse for losing early, and where, once again, my weekend was shot.  And then we saw his draw – the 9 seed first round – ugh!

We drove to the tournament Friday afternoon, got checked in to our hotel, got checked in to the tournament, then needed to get some dinner.  My son told me he wasn’t very hungry but knew he needed to eat something.  We found a local restaurant, ordered our meal, then my son proceeded to eat about 2 bites before declaring himself full.  I wasn’t happy, but I suggested we take everything back to our room and maybe he would eat later.  He didn’t.  We both went to bed angry and frustrated – me because I didn’t think he was taking proper care of himself to be ready to compete the next morning, him because I’m not very good at hiding my anger and frustration (though I’m really good at nagging)!

The next morning, we were both still angry, so breakfast was a quick and quiet affair at the hotel before driving to the warm-up courts.  While he was warming up with 3 of his buddies, I called my husband and vented.  Once we arrived at the tournament site, I set up my chair in the shade while he got ready to play the 9 seed, a boy, by the way, who he had beaten a few weeks earlier.  Let me say again that I didn’t have a very good feeling about the morning’s match, feeling pretty confident that my son’s second match would take place in the backdraw.  Credit to me that I kept those negative feelings to myself!

I sat pretty far away from my son’s court during his match, so I couldn’t really see much, but I could tell that my son was winning . . . handily.  Somehow, he mustered the energy and the willpower to beat this boy even worse than he had previously.  My son came off the court after the win feeling very positive and pumped up for his next match.  I was still a little angry at him, but I kept it to myself.

Obviously, my son figured out what he needed to do to be ready to compete.  He knew what his body needed and what his brain needed, and he did it.  All of my worrying and nagging was a complete waste of energy.  Even though I didn’t see my son doing the prep that *I* felt was necessary to get ready for such a big event, *he* knew what he needed to do.  He had moved into a new phase of the maturation process, and I needed to recognize that and acknowledge it to him.  I needed to have faith in him and his ability to prepare for competition.  I needed to trust the depth of his passion and the power of his angels.

Another lesson learned.  I’ve gotta have faith.

Forever Friends

My dad is the one 4th from the left. His opponent/friend from yesterday is on the far left.

This week, I’m visiting my parents in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I grew up.  Yesterday, I had the chance to go watch my 74-year-old dad play tennis against his long-time friend and rival in what has become a once- or twice-weekly ritual.  These two guys have been competitors since childhood.  They have also been friends since childhood.  They played against each other in the juniors and with each other in college.  Yes, the level of tennis has changed over the years.  Neither one moves too well these days.  Neither one has the piercing groundstrokes that once defined their games.  And neither one has lost the desire to win when facing the other across the net.

On the court next to my dad and his friend/opponent was an 18-year-old high school senior who is preparing to play Division 3 tennis for Sewanee University in the fall.  We struck up a conversation.  I asked him if he knew one of the seniors on my son’s high school team, Danny.  He did. Not only did he know Danny, though, but he told me they have been friends since the 10-and-unders and have been competing against each other ever since.  He went on to tell me about their most recent match, in detail, describing how the 3-hour-and-45-minute match in the extreme summer heat and humidity had taken his last reserves so that, even though he won, he went on to lose handily in the next round of the tourney.  He also told me what a great guy Danny is and how excited he is that Danny’s getting to play D1 tennis next year.  He is truly happy for – and proud of – his friend.

This is what junior tennis can do – it can create life-long friendships that originate on the courts but extend way beyond them.  My dad has recently re-connected with several of the other guys who played with him at Tulane.  They rehash old matches, tell their “war stories”, and reminisce about their glory days.  The friendships that started on some green clay courts 60+ years ago have survived graduate school, marriage, children, divorce, illness, and tragedy.  I hope my son has these same stories of friendship to share with his kids and grandkids some day.

A Little Tennis in the Desert

My husband and I are headed to the Left Coast later today, making our way to Palm Springs for the BNP Paribas Open this weekend.  I am beside-myself-excited!!!!!  I’ve been wanting to go to this tournament ever since my oldest daughter moved to Los Angeles to attend USC five years ago.  And, now, finally, I’ll be there to see the Quarters, Semis, and, hopefully, Finals – how awesome is that?!?!?!

I will be tweeting from the tourney, so be sure to follow me @ParentingAces.  I’ll post a summary here with photos next week.

And, if you’re watching on tv on Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday, look for the woman with the huge grin and the little red phone – I promise to wave if the camera comes my way!