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The Wonder of the Junior Tennis Experience

Today’s post is courtesy of Tennis Parent and Coach, Darrick Yun, head pro at The Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo, California.

This is a joyful reminder on why we go through it all. This is not necessarily about elite level junior tennis, but it is about competitive junior tennis. It’s also an essay on a father and son, parents and their children in sports together, and families as a force of nature. 

My favorite thing in the world to do is to watch my son play tennis. Time seems to stand still when I’m watching him play, and I just enjoy being there. I think about all the time he has spent on the court, the wonder that he stills likes playing, especially with all the other things that he could be doing, and I’m glad that he would rather be there, right now. As I’m watching, I also never take for granted that he plays the way I imagine a player should play. What were the chances? What if he hadn’t understood me? What if we hadn’t gotten along on the court? As I watch him play, I find all of this amazing.

It’s a beautiful game. The game, not just his game, not just the junior game, the game, is a beautiful game to watch, to appreciate, when it’s played with experience. Look at what can be done to a ball. Look at how the players move. All junior parents know of what I’m speaking. As our child gets older, we reflect on all the time spent together on the court; we reflect on the concepts, ideas, that shaped their game, the talks that shaped their demeanor, the dreams we taught our children to dream about, all the while assessing and processing their possibilities.

What did you do? Or what are you still doing to find out where tennis takes your son or daughter? Different tennis families have different tennis dreams. I hope the best for all of you. For our family, the three of us, my wife, my son, and me, with no end game, we just wanted to try our best all the time. I’m the Head Tennis Professional at a golf and country club in Northern California so that meant oftentimes the two of us, were “the last ones standing”, training late into the weeknight under the lights, him after school with homework still looming, me after already giving my best to all the other lessons and clinics throughout the day, as that was the only time available for us. And as all athletes’ parents know, the driving never ends and nothing seems to be close to anything else. We didn’t start until 6:15pm. Don’t even talk about setbacks, i.e., the injuries and the illnesses that our kids bravely never use as excuses or reasons to quit.

What do you get? For all this, what do you get from the game? Well, actually, we never ask that. Rather, I used to ask my son, “What are you willing to give to the game?” I used to ask him to try and treat the game as a living entity, a world unto its own. Therefore, it can give, it can take, but you never know how or when. Growing up, he would hear me say, “Be true to the game, with your attitude, your demeanor, your sportsmanship.” Don’t you enjoy what your kids contribute to the tennis world? All our kids contribute. That’s part of what we enjoy watching. For example, maybe some stereotypes are true because every moment he’s not actually hitting a ball, he’s way laid back. After all, he is a California kid. Maybe that’s why he seems to always be so welcome on all his tennis teams. If it were possible to measure group tension, I think that if there’s ever any team tension or drama on any given day, it automatically goes down ten percent the moment he shows up at practice, and everyone’s camaraderie rises.

How long have you had the great fortune and opportunity to enjoy all this? My son has been playing regularly since he was five.  So he’s eighteen now, in college, and though he’s played various sports growing up, and continues to do so, tennis is his favorite sport. Bonus, he calls me coach when he e-mails me, which I find so cool. And he’s still appreciative, saying thanks when I string his racquets and help him with his game, though it doesn’t get to be as often as it used to be. This is all so ironic because I know there’s a little part of him that plays for me, because he knows watching him play is my favorite thing to do in the world, and so I should be thanking him. The junior part of his tennis is winding down. I can’t wait until he gets older because he’s a late bloomer and getting better all the time. Or wait, maybe I should wish that time could slow down, then I could just freeze this moment, when he’s just a young man playing his heart out without a care in the world; I would just be there, now that would bring joy to any parent.


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