There are so many activities kids can choose from these days, both boys and girls, and this is fantastic. The things kids pick to participate in can greatly positively impact and enrich their lives. They can learn lessons that last a lifetime. I am honored to share with you the affirmations and professions of a fellow YA author who has an extensive track record as a tennis mom. She shares about her vast experiences with tennis for teens and why your child should play tennis too.
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Tennis for Teens: Affirmations of a Tennis Mom
A Competitive Junior Tennis Player Can Conquer All of Life’s Obstacles: Affirmations of a Tennis Mom
By Gabi Justice, author of Dog Girl
I’m a lot of things, two of which are the author of Dog Girl and a tennis mom. But I’m here to talk about tennis, not my book. That was just a shameless plug. 😉
My oldest son chose tennis—a choice that sent us around the country and the world. My kids have played in 13 states and 9 countries. I got to spend time in comfortable country clubs, with bars, cafes, and clean bathrooms—usually. I didn’t have to deal with a team of ten or more parents and their annoying habits—I know you know what I mean. But best of all, my children were prepared for college and careers. Tennis set them up for real life.
How does competitive junior tennis teach kids life lessons?
In tennis, there is a winner and a loser. Kids learn to deal with the pressure that accompanies winning. Once you win, people expect it, but they also root for you to fail. Everyone wants to beat the good player, the champion. When you lose, insecurities set in, your confidence drops, and you have to find a way to overcome that. Either way, you learn to fight for yourself. You learn how to behave like a champion on the good days and the bad days.
There’s only one winner or loser—unless you’re playing doubles but let’s concentrate on singles. All the accolades or blame falls on the one player. You earn the win, or you earn the loss. You have to own it. You have to take responsibility. It’s your time to shine or your time to go home and think about how you can do better next time.
Big Lessons: Making the Line Calls
The kids have to make the line calls. There isn’t a referee on every court, so unless the ref witnessed the ball land or there’s a definite mark in the clay, he/she can’t overturn the player’s judgement. It’s an honor system. Kids quickly learn how to tackle cheaters in this world. They learn to be fair if they want people to be fair to them in turn. You might as well be wearing the scarlet letter A if you’re a cheater in the tennis world.
I’ll postface this with some humor. I always laugh, cry, or want to rage on parents that sit ten feet from the court, at an angle, with the sun in their eyes, and yet, insist the opponent made a bad line call and cheated their kid out of the point. Let me tell you, 9 line umpires officiate a Grand Slam tennis match, and they get it wrong. A computer vision system called Hawk-Eye is requested to validate a suspicious call and often proves the linesman wrong. So, I’m sorry to inform Mr. Hot Head Dad or Ms. Outraged Mom, but you can’t be one hundred percent sure from your lawn chair on the hill that your child was cheated out of the point. Another life lesson—you can’t please everyone and ignore the negative.
Misunderstandings in Tennis are Fabulous at Teaching Teens Life Lessons
When faced with a cheater or an honest misunderstanding, kids fight their own battles on the court. Their parents or coach can’t hop over the fence and argue their point for them. The kids must articulate and prove their case. They learn valuable debating skills. More importantly, and something I wish I’d known earlier in life, don’t avoid confrontation. Confrontation is not a bad word. Address the problem. Express yourself with dignity and facts. Sometimes even though you are correct, you have to surrender the point and move on. The kids learn to accept things they can’t change and do better on the next point.
Traveling for Tennis Can Teach Culture and Appreciation
Tennis can provide culture. Now, this is a privilege that not all tennis players can afford. We were fortunate and could afford it, and yes, I accrued an impressive credit card bill, but it was worth it. Also, if your child is an exceptional player, they can get scholarships to academies or accepted into the USTA player development program that sponsors these gifted kids to help them attain their goal. Traveling our great nation educated my children. We visited the Alamo in San Antonio, the USS Alabama battleship in Mobile, and several museums and colleges along the way. They played ITF (International Tennis Federation) tournaments in less fortunate countries, which opened their perspective. They learned how lucky they were to be an American. One example—in the Dominican, armed police guarded the front of the facility. You had to bring your own toilet paper. Why? Because the locals stole it. Why? They needed it. We no longer take toilet paper for granted. Some of these areas were dangerous, and my mother was furious that I let her grandchildren go. It worked out for us. My children have a great appreciation for the life they’ve been born into. They don’t take it for granted.
Tennis Promotes Athletism and Good Physical/Mental Health in Teens
Competitive tennis isn’t an easy ‘country club sport.’ It requires athleticism, skill, and mental toughness. With the advancements in the equipment, the player must move like a rocket back and forth, up, down and diagonal. The level of cardio and agility must be high—the amount of eye to hand coordination while in motion must be accurate. The ability to remain mentally tough when the points are not going your way must be strong. It requires an advanced understanding of the body and mind. Kids learn how to feed the body and mind to perform at their best to win the trophy. Learning to provide your body and mind with proper nutritious food, vitamins, minerals, water, and rest will sustain you throughout your life in whatever you wish to conquer. Bonus, it’s hard to be a partier and a top-notch athlete. Your teenage tennis player is not getting drunk, or worse, on the weekends when they have an important match on the line.
I’ll postface this with—good shoes! You can buy the cheap shirt. Do not buy cheap shoes. You’ll pay for it at the doctor’s office or sports rehab center.
Tennis for Teens: A Pathway to a Bright Future
Where are my kids now? My oldest son graduated from the Ivy League school forever mocked on that famous show The Office—Cornell University. He now has a great job in Miami. Tennis sharpened his brilliant mind and his fierce independence. My middle daughter shines at Marist College, where she’s played number one on the tennis team almost her entire college career. She’s now the co-captain of the team. She was offered an internship in New York City. Unfortunately, the pandemic ruined that. And this was a girl scared of almost everything as a child, and now she rides the NYC subway. My youngest son is following in their footsteps. A path I’m certain would not have been set without tennis. An honorable path, one that would make any parent proud. He’s conquering tennis like the champ that he is all while keeping A’s on his report card in high school.
if you’re a new parent looking for the best sport for your little ball of energy, these are the reasons tennis should be at the top of your list. It will be a bumpy road, but it will take you on a glorious ride.
Can you guess the setting of my next book? Yep, a tennis academy. See you on the court.
Author Gabi Justice:
Gabi Justice is the author of Dog Girl, her young adult contemporary romance debut set to publish in the fall of 2020. She is the mom to three dogs and one stray cat named Luna Buna. She lives in Florida with her husband and children. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tennis court in the state that she hasn’t visited, having three competitive junior players in the family. She spent most of her adult life writing editorial copy for local magazines after graduating from the University of South Florida. Florida provides the settings for all her coming-of-age stories that highlight bullying, misjudgment, acceptance, and teen anxiety. Her main characters are goal-oriented teenage girls with a drive that can be fierce and dangerous.
Connect with Gabi: https://www.gabijustice.com/
Photos courtesy of Gabi Justice.
Be sure to check out Gabi’s amazing book!Dog Girl
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