The 6 point star activity to help junior tennis players find focus, balance and commitment.
What are your roles in life?
This was the topic of day 1 of our junior mindset training this week at Scarborough Tennis. We have just launched a new years camp which comprises of Training | Mindset | Matchplay (UTR).
Tennis starts as an activity to try before morphing into a regular hobby and then for many, evolving further into a passion. Some commit heavily and thrive, some burn out, others stumble through slower or maybe lose interest. For those who do have a passion for the sport, it is important to understand that where tennis is very important to you and does require commitment, it is certainly not the only part of their life. As a young tennis player, you have other roles in life which you need to make sure you also nurture and remain aware of.
So I started this activity by saying that its important to know how tennis fits in with the rest of your life and to be clear on the roles they play. What is a role?
We play different roles in life. At school, at home, at the club, on holidays, at family gatherings and at other activities we are constantly switching the role we play. Although we should still be the same authentic person irrespective of which role we play, we do have to shift focus and priorities.
6 point star
I like to use the 6 pointed star to outline the different roles in your life. The star is a powerful symbol and nice and clear to see the entire picture at one glance. Now we need to fill the star:
The one I start with first is what role do you have when you are at school? Most kids get this one and respond with ‘student’. So they add ‘student’ to their 6 pointed star as one of their roles. Then I asked them what their parents might call them? Many will say ‘kid’ which is close but we drill down further to ‘son’ or ‘daughter’. Great, add this to your star.
Then given we are at a tennis training camp for passionate players, I get them to add ‘tennis player’ to their star. I explain to them that by committing to being a tennis player then you have made an important first step. The choices you make are important and that sometimes the more energy you put into one role may come at the expense of another. This balancing act is a skill that takes practice.
Then we can look at whether they have any siblings? If so then what is their role? Yes correct ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ can be added to the star. Otherwise we can look at using ‘family member’ as the role which can include ‘cousin, niece/nephew/grandson/daughter’
Ok so once family and tennis has been covered then I ask them who they talk to at school or like to hang out with and they will come up with ‘mate or friend’ which is great and can be added to the star.
Finally we need to cover additional passions such as other sports they are passionate about or possibly ‘dancer’, ‘musician’, ‘singer’, ‘go karter’ or even ‘gamer’ may be appropriate. This is a passion or other interest they love playing/doing and invest regular time into.
So where we use a 6 point star, you sometimes may need to chunk roles together such as ‘family member and son’ or ‘family member and friend’ or ‘son and brother’ to free up room on the star. Don’t get lost in the details, just get something down.
Once the star is full I talk about how important they are with all the roles they have. I mean if you have that many roles in life you have a lot of responsibility and importance. The intention here is to build their confidence in who they are. Add a layer to their self esteem/self belief.
Then we discuss the importance of not letting one role affect the other. If you lose your tennis match (as a tennis player) and then come off the court are rude to your parents (as a son or daughter) not supportive of your fellow team members (friend/mate) and then go home and your still too grumpy/upset to do your homework you had planned (student) then your really starting to negatively affect the whole star. A star is meant to shine.
Sports Psychologists talk about not letting your sports persona (and everything that comes with that) carry over to other areas of your life but the truth is when you passionate about something it is very hard to do. However ideally you walk off your tennis match and you can switch into a different role (detached from your role as a tennis player). This is something parents can also learn from and instead of telling your child all the bad things they did in the match, consider treating them more so in their role as a ‘son’ or ‘family member’. Also for parents is which role are they as parents playing after those matches? mum or dad or sports coach?
Finally I get them to write a minimum of one goal for each of their roles. Just one thing in 2023 on how they can be a better tennis player, better friend, son/daughter, guitarist, surfer or whatever it is on their star. A reminder that a goal should be phrased positively and the difference between a process goal and an outcome goal (for older kids only here).
The star is a great foundation for them to understand the importance of keeping balance in all areas of your life. Its staring in the face the responsibilities you have and how one role can easily affect another. From the tennis side it also serves the benefit of the player embracing the role of ‘tennis player’. A focused, balanced and committed tennis player.