Smart, Tough and Fair
At Scarborough Tennis Academy, I run a before school Talent Development program for 8 – 12 year old’s. It is one of my favourite programs to be involved in. I find at this age you can really make a difference to the kids tennis games but also setting up the right mindset and values from the start.
As we lead up to the summer holidays most of the kids will play some tournaments. This is important for their development and an opportunity to test themselves physically and mentally. Our philosophy is that the young player needs to be responsible for the type of player they become. Parents telling their children what to do may have short term benefits but will normally just delay the decision making and development of the young player. Although it takes longer, these kids need to be responsible for how they compete. It can help to have short, catchy phrases to remember such as Smart, Tough and Fair.
This morning I talked about these 3 areas that they can be responsible for. Below is an approximate transcript of what I told the kids.
“You will miss shots but the first decision you need to make is what type of shot you play. It would be great if you didn’t make any mistakes but you will and you need to think about what is an acceptable mistake? If you are behind the baseline in the ad side, what could be called the acceptable mistakes? You are in defensive mode so is in the net an acceptable mistake? No ok so what could be an acceptable mistake? Long, yes. Long could be an acceptable mistake whilst trying to defend. Any others? Wide? Maybe. Wide crosscourt perhaps ?, wide down the line from behind the baseline ? no. What if you are attaching a short ball at 3/4 court, what the net be more acceptable? Yes. So lets first aim to try and keep the ball over the net when you are behind the baseline. Everyone agree? Great.”
A great example of some smart tennis points from Australian great Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.
“Now if your opponent hits a ball and makes you run, do you try and run it down? Yes, great. What if it is a hard shot which will be a winner, do you still bother to run it down? Why? So what does your opponent think when they see you not bother to run until the ball bounces twice? What does it make them think when you run, stretch and just get the tip of your racquet onto the ball even if it doesn’t go in? Would that change how they would play their next attacking shot? (Answer from student – “They would think they need to hit it closer to the lines?”) Yes exactly. So would everyone agree that even though you lost the point you may have still helped yourself for the next time it happens? Great, so be the fighter, be the warrior and have a go at everything until it bounces twice. Everyone agree? Great.”
One of the best rallies ever by Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt vs Roger Federer.
“Now if you made some unfair line calls and win, is that as satisfying as winning with fair line calls? If the ball is anywhere on the line, it is in yeah? So be a good sport and then if you win, you win in a pure way. Do you know what can happen at tournaments if you start calling unfair line calls? You get a reputation. Does anybody know what reputation means? (Answer from student – “What people think you do?”) Yes. Would anyone like to be known for being someone who is unfair in their line calls and scoring? So be a good sport and be fair when you win and when you lose. Everyone ok with that?
Two of the fairest and best players ever to play, Australian Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg.
So be known as a player who plays smart, tough and fair.”