Tennis is a sport. Tennis is a game. Tennis requires one player to hit the ball over the net into a designated area, and his opponent to do the same. The last player to successfully accomplish this goal is deemed the winner.
All of these things are true, but when taught to children, tennis is much more than these things. You see, in a child, tennis creates—then reveals their personality, their character and determination to succeed.
In the formative years of childhood, many things are developing. These are critical times in the creation of physical and psychological characteristics that will either serve or hinder a child for the rest of their lives.
A recent study showed that if your child invested 10,000 hours in training by the time he was 18 years old, his chance of success on the pro tennis circuit would be 0.0002 percent. So when one looks at the cold, hard facts, it makes much more sense to realize that the real value in teaching tennis is to develop a person who will respect himself and others; to work hard at everything that he chooses to do and to focus on his goals. If professional tennis (against the odds) becomes an option, then all the better.
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That’s why it is so important for parents to understand the vital role that they play in their child’s development. If your child loses a match, what is your response? Do you ask, “What Happened?”, or, “How could you lose to that kid?” This is how you instill the fear of losing into your child.
Ask instead, “Did you give it your best?”, or, I’m proud of the way you hung in there!”, or, “We’ll get him next time!” Your actions after a loss will form your child’s attitude about competing. Will he see a loss as a lesson or a failure? Will he think that only if he wins will you be happy with him?
I can watch someone playing tennis and get a pretty good feel for him or her as a person. Going for broke on a point, losing their tempers or the amount of patience that they display during the match will reveal an awful lot about them. Teaching tennis is giving a lesson in how to live a happy and productive life. Parents shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s just a game. It’s a gift that you can give your children that will service them for the rest of their lives.
About Nick: In 1978 Bollettieri founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, now known as IMG Academy, the first full-time tennis boarding school. He has coached 10 World No. 1 players including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Venus and Serena Williams, Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova. Along with his success as a coach, he has received countless honors, among them induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, United States Olympic Committee National Coach of the Year award and the ITF Lifetime Achievement Award. Bollettieri is widely considered to be one of the most influential people in the sport’s history.