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Tennis Teaches Life Lessons

Post 9 of 40

Why should you or your child play tennis? Read on and find out why I think tennis is the perfect sport in more ways than just one. 

I love tennis; not only for the great sport that it is, but also for the valuable traits it can instill in a child or adult that will help them succeed in life.  I’d venture to say no other sport is as great at teaching life lessons as tennis.

Take for example the life lesson of honesty.  No other sport even comes close to tennis in giving its players the opportunity to learn and practice this important value.  In tennis we usually serve as the umpires; we call the ball in or out.  It’s all up to us!  This is a staggering responsibility.  If you contrast this with most other sports, the players aren’t expected to “make the call.”  Imagine the chaos that would arise in many sports if all calls were left to the players to make.  This is just one example of one life lesson; there are so many other examples.

The ten items below show why tennis is such a psychologically demanding sport and why it is also such a great sport in teaching life lessons.  As you read through these items, think about what important life lessons are being taught.   (Thanks to my friends over at TennisOne.com for this list.)

1.  Tennis Is an Individual Sport:  In tennis, you are alone on the court.  No one shares in the glory or the blame.  There is no teammate to pass off to if you are playing poorly, and you cannot be taken out of the game for a while to recuperate from poor play.

2.  No Coaching Is Allowed:  Tennis is one of the only sports where young players are not allowed to receive any coaching.  Except for a handful of exceptions like high school tennis, and a couple other exceptions, tournaments do not allow coaching.  The no coaching restriction is unusual in other sports and clearly forces young competitors to deal with the pressures and problems of playing on their own.

3.  There Are No Substitutes / No Time-Outs:  Many sports allow players to regain their composure or get back on track with substitutions and time-outs.  This is not the case in tennis.   Players must stay in the game, regardless of how bad or uncomfortable it may be.  This is particularly difficult when matches are two or three hours in length.

4.  One-On-One Combat:  Tennis is similar to boxing.  You have a real one-on-one opponent that you must defeat to emerge victorious.  A match can quickly become a personal confrontation between opponents, especially if one resorts to gamesmanship tactics.  Such direct competition can fuel intense rivalries and threaten friendships between young players.

5.  The Accuracy of Line Calling: Completely objective, professionally trained linesmen make mistakes all the time (that is when you have the luxury of linesmen).  They are motionless and concerned only with one line.  Expecting players in a match to call the lines with the same accuracy is at best unrealistic.  Balls traveling at speeds of over 50 miles per hour with fractions of an inch separating “out” from “in” provide distinct opportunities for conflict and controversy.  Recent studies show that players are actually legally blind at the moment they land on the court when running.  This is added to the fact that matches can be dramatically changed with only one bad call.  It is easy to see why tempers can flare. (Imagine what would happen if the batters in little league baseball were responsible for calling balls and strikes against themselves!)

6.  Constantly Changing Conditions:  Changing temperature, wind, intensity of light, court surfaces, balls, altitude, indoor/outdoor play, and equipment add to the depth of the competitive challenge in tennis.  Players are forced to deal with such changes, many times within the same match.  Players’ responses to these situations can provide an indication of their level of mental toughness.  Those who are not affected by changes in conditions are often the ones who win.

7.  Length of the Battle:  Few sports require young players to concentrate and perform for as much as three hours at a time.  It is common for 12-year-old players to be required to compete in two singles matches and two doubles matches on the same day.  Mental toughness and physical fitness become critical if a player is to become successful.

8.  The Unique Scoring System in Tennis:  The scoring system in tennis adds to the pressure a young player experiences.  Unlike other sports, there is no overall time limit.  Play continues until one of the players wins two out of three sets.  Consequently, there is no room for coasting on a lead or waiting for time to run out.  Each player is always just a few points from a complete turn-around, and a lead is never safe.  As a contrast, if a basketball team is ahead by 30 points, they will almost certainly win because their lead is too large to overcome within the time of the competition.  In tennis, a player can be ahead 5-0 in the third set, and lose two games and immediately have reason to fear a loss and a huge comeback by their opponent.

9.  “Big vs. Little” And “Young vs. Old”:  Another dimension of tennis is the fact that a nine-year-old child can successfully compete against a 14- or 15-year-old teenager.  A young girl of 14 may be capable of beating a seasoned veteran on the pro tour.  Small can beat large and young can beat old.  A 12-year-old boy losing to a 9-year-old or a 6’3” boy losing to someone half his size can be extremely stressful.

10.  Tennis Training Can Be Extremely Expensive:  Tennis training for the competitive player can be a very large expense for a family.  The pressure from these expenses can add additional stress to young players who feel guilty for not winning because of all the money their parents are putting into tennis.  Parents can quickly lose sight of what is important and begin to expect a “return” for their investment.  This issue is one of the most frequently mentioned by families with players competing at high national levels.

Wow, tennis sure can be a psychologically demanding sport, but look at all those serious life lessons that can be learned through playing tennis!  Many may say this is too much stress for a young player to handle, but fortunately, players are eased into these situations.  As they progress as players, they mature as individuals.  What a great training ground for life!

See you on the court!


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1 comment:

MattOctober 5, 2013 at 9:24 pmReply

A very nice article which well captures what makes tennis such a special sport.