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Oh, Senior Year!

senior year

It’s Senior Year. The last year of high school. The year where many decisions will be made. What college will my child attend? Will he play tennis there? Division 1 or 2 or 3 or something else altogether? A school where he is likely to play high up in the lineup or one in which he’ll have to work hard to prove himself before having a shot to be an impact player on the team? So many decisions . . .

Those of you who have been following my journey with my son know that he is now focusing his efforts on colleges in Florida and California. We spent a busy 2 weeks in each of those states over the summer, visiting campuses, meeting coaches, talking with players, getting a feel for the surroundings, trying to pinpoint the minute – and not so minute – differences that separate one school from another.

Today is Friday, the beginning of my son’s Fall Break. Early, yes, but not when you consider that his Senior Year began August 4th. We are once again on an airplane. We are traveling back to California to take another look at the schools on his list there, to spend more time on the campuses, to dig deeper into each program in hopes of finding the right fit.

For players like my son, ones who aren’t at the top of the Wish List but who have the work ethic, desire, and motivation to give their all to whichever school they end up attending, this process can be long and complicated, especially when travel is involved. We are fortunate in that we have both the opportunity and the resources to take these trips – I realize that others may not be so fortunate – but even if my child were looking at schools closer to home, the process would still be more intense than I ever realized.

Is it any wonder that so many young players decide to forego college tennis altogether, choosing instead to just be a normal student for maybe the first time in their life? Maybe they suffer from tennis burnout, having spent pretty much every afternoon, every weekend, hitting balls across a net. Maybe they suffer from Senioritis, feeling the pull of independence that going to college will provide them.

Last year, my son saw several of his tennis friends decide to take the non-tennis route to college. From my perspective, it was disturbing to say the least. How would I handle it if my son chose that route, too? Was there anything I could do to prevent it?

My son and I discussed his friends’ choices and what may have driven them. We talked about the never-ending pressure these kids are under to perform in school while also performing on the tennis court. We talked about what my husband and I could do to help our son manage that pressure and stay excited about playing college tennis, something he had dreamed about since he was 9 years old. It has been a group effort, for sure, to help our son stay focused while balancing school and a social life away from the court. Going on these trips to visit the schools and having a chance to talk to several current college players has certainly helped. If your child is on the fence about playing college tennis or suffering from burnout/Senioritis, maybe you can find some time to go to some college matches this Fall – there are tournaments happening all over the country starting this weekend – to relight the flame.

One dad commented on another ParentingAces article that he’s dealing with a serious case of burnout in his house right now. Are any others of you dealing with it, too? How are you handling it? What comes up in the conversations with your child? I’d love for you to share your experiences here – we Tennis Parents can be a great support to each other as we navigate the ups and downs of the Junior Tennis Journey. Regardless of what’s going on with USTA Player Development and the college tennis format changes, we still have to make sure to keep the focus on what’s really important . . .our kids and their development and their readiness to take the next steps in the process.

Right now, though, we’re on the plane. My son is sitting in the row in front of me, watching Godzilla on the tiny screen on the seatback. I looked up from my typing just as he stood to get something out of the overhead bin and was suddenly overcome with emotion. My baby boy is no longer that. He has grown into this amazing young man who has this wide open road ahead of him. Neither of us knows what’s in store, but what we both do know is that all the hard work, all the missed parties and weekend football games, all the sore muscles and blisters and fatigue have led to this moment, this opportunity to see things all the way through to the goal he set at age 9, to play college tennis.

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