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Should Your Child Quit School to Become a Tennis Star?

The piece below was written by Doug Browne, a well-respected teaching pro and former top player. He is the parent of a Furman University tennis player, too. After reading this article on his Facebook page, I asked Doug’s permission to reprint it here. The debate over whether or not to homeschool junior players is ongoing. Doug offers his thoughts on the issue here.

I also want to remind all of you about the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In tournament presented by Holabird Sports coming up August 20-21. Click here for the tournament website. 

Without a doubt, change is inevitable and we need to be able to embrace it or we will be left behind. But, like anything, not all change is necessarily a good thing.

The big tennis topic on the junior tour is whether one should home-school their child. In other words, in order to keep up with the competition, parents must pull their child out of their current school.

In the past few summers on the junior tennis circuit, it is commonplace for my students to compete against kids who do not formally attend a public or private school.

Perhaps what is most disturbing to me is that most of the kids begin to pull out of school at the tender age of eleven or twelve. The most salient reason kids skip formal school is to have at least five hours of practice each day before they head to the weekend tennis tournament.

The idea of yanking my son out of school is literally frightening; what about the educational and social ramifications of this bold move?

Moreover, if the child eventually elects to give up junior tennis, will he be able to adapt to normal life?

Numerous kids have had to cope with serious injuries as well as ‘burn out’ – playing too much tennis!

Currently, we have a few American tennis stars who are doing well on the International circuit: John Isner, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson Jr and several rising teenage super stars.

Both Isner and Johnson went to college and soared on and off the tennis court. In particular, Stevie Johnson might be the greatest college tennis player in history as he won several individual and team titles over a 4-year span.

However, far too many young athletes have skipped the university experience and have struggled on the pro tour.

Therefore, it is obvious to the tennis world that few junior tennis players make the leap to the pro game and thrive. To me, it is our job as the parents of young athletes to guide our children in the right direction.

To that point, kids need formal school for an abundance of reasons: Prepare for the academic curriculum of a top university which will provide excellent future employment opportunities. One must learn interpersonal skills with various groups in a variety of classes. Within the structure of the school, kids must deal with the class bullies and other items that cause alternate thinking.

Finally, kids who attend school must adjust to numerous teachers and their different learning methods. By the time a young person graduates from high school, he/she is well conditioned both academically and socially to the upcoming journey that lies ahead.

Aspiring junior tennis players who skip formal school miss out on proms, homecomings, school team tennis, school socials and potential life-long friends.

My biggest concern about kids who skip formal school is the idea that there is little give and take. Life is about the next tournament or the next professional who can lead this child to the Promised Land.

Not included in this list is the child who sincerely cares about others and the idea of sharing. So, when we contemplate whether we should remove our child from school, please take in the entire package; not the immediate gain in the boys 14 and under Florida tennis rankings.

Believe it or not, famous stars like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Todd Martin and many others attended famous universities.

When we tune in a tennis match broadcast live by New Yorker and tennis legend, John McEnroe, he continually alludes to his great memories from his days in Palo Alto at Stanford University. (McEnroe only attended Stanford for one year but he talks about his experiences as if he were there for four or five years)

I urge all tennis parents to reconsider this home-school decision as it may impair the child for many years into the future. We have incredible educators who have the ability to greatly impact our kids far into the future. Don’t miss out on going to school, you may later learn to regret the decision.


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