If frequent tournament play is causing problems for your young player, then perhaps it's time you reevaluate how this participation is managed.
It's true that children are often frustrated and bewildered by the tournament experience. Formal competition can produce tremendous anxiety, anger and frustration. Losing is seen as a failure to live up to other's expectations. "Burnout" is the result. This negative reaction is not an inevitable result of the quantity of this experience. Rather, it is a dysfunction resulting from the quality of the participation. Numerous tournaments provide great opportunities to learn and grow.
When tournament participation produces negative consequences for serious young players, the best address is tackle this issue and overcome it.
It is the coach's job to work with parents and players to provide a healthy, supportive and fun environment so that aspiring young players can thrive and are eager to test themselves without the fear of failure and negative consequences of disappointment.
In the current issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine, I talk about "Necessary Failure." In almost every competitive sport, the competitors who have failed with the greatest frequency, achieve the highest ultimate success. Numerous tournaments at early ages provide greater opportunity to learn from failure if the emphasis on the process and not the outcome. While this is a lofty ideal, achievement is never easy.
While the skills and tactics that bring success change, develop and evolve as players progress, the ability to compete well, focus and mange crisis is always present and necessary. Stroke and tactic skill sets may change, but overall abilities grow and endure through competition since it provides the context and perspective for athletic and personal development. Those students who frequently compete display a greater receptiveness to learning because their skills are made more relevant.
I often hear about the social compromises made by competitive players yet, it is not a lessening of socialization, instead it is a shift and maybe a healthy one. A positive tennis environment does not create a choice between hard work and socialization, rather, it promotes the integration of these two important values. Many young players make new, diverse, healthy and enduring friendships at practice and tournaments because they share common interests and meaningful dreams.
For young kids, it can also be a treasure of family time and a wonderful bonding experience between parents and children.
Tournament participation carries a strong message for young players, and here as in the computer world, "Garbage in, Garbage out." It is vital that coaches and parents act to ensure that the takeaway is meaningful and worthwhile.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.