Why the Junior Tennis Culture Needs to Improve
Tennis is a great sport and it has taken me to so many places and taught me so many things about myself and life.
However Tennis can be a selfish, lonely sport. The urgent race for higher rankings, better pennant teams, individual tournament success, coach hopping, doubles partner swapping and more choices and changes are made with an entirely selfish purpose.
Parents are much to blame for this type of selfish culture as they control their child’s journey and look for anyway to give their kids the edge to push past the kid who always beats their son/daughter. These choices are made with the child in mind but what you lose in that process can be too valuable.
Why footy does it better
I used to play Australian Rules Football. I played a reasonable level of junior football and 1 season of A grade country football is South Australia before tennis took priority. Most of my winter weekends were also spent following my Dad around while he was the head coach of various football teams in the Adelaide Hills. Football in many cases has the opposite culture. As a team sport, the culture of football is all about playing your role, contributing to your team, working hard and staying loyal to your teammates. You train together, push each other, protect each other and socialise together.
Tennis as a team sport
Doubles is always a team sport but even in singles there are competitions like Pennant’s, School comp, College system, Davis Cup, Federation Cup and World Team Tennis.
Tennis as an individual sport
Tennis is an individual sport when you play singles tournaments. This type of tournament starts at Hot Shots challenge level and moves right through to the Grand Slams and makes up most of the pro circuit as we know it. This is where most of the money is in tennis.
What are your chances of making it as an ‘individual’ tennis player?
If you make it to the top of the world rankings, you are doing very, very well financially. Once you are outside the top 100 players it gets very difficult to survive long term. Here is an article about the 92nd ranked mens player and what he earns yearly on the tour.
Unless a young player is tracking with a top 10 Australian ranking at the 14 and under year level, there is almost no chance of making it as a professional tennis player . If they are in the top 10 nationally then they should of been in the final of a national event and also started to show some form at an ITF junior level internationally.
So unless you are tracking for this type of success at 14 years old, it is fair to say its unlikely you will have a sustainable long term career as a tennis professional. There are of course exceptions to this and there are many benefits to committing to training and being the best you can be in a sport.
Life lessons are learnt from a great training culture
Junior Tennis Players may not go professional everytime but have other avenues such College Tennis and other tennis team representation are attractive propositions. They may receive scholarships, money or gifts. Committed junior tennis players will normally move on to success in other areas of life. This may be academic, business or other personal success . This is because the lessons you learn through junior sport teach you how to succeed in other areas of life. Most of these areas of life will require you to work as part of a team. Playing tennis in a great supporting culture is important to developing these skills.
At Scarborough Tennis Academy we try to encourage our juniors to contribute to our culture. We are convinced that by providing a safe, strong, supportive foundation at our academy/club this far outweighs any potential advantages of playing in a higher spot or joining the latest trendy squad at a different club/academy. We will however still recommend extra training elsewhere if its appropriate. This will normally not be required until they have reached 14 years old and may benefit from state squad training etc.
Some of the programs which help build our culture are:
Our Captain’s program is where the best player/leader will be allocated Captain of a squad and whilst they still train, they have extra responsibility to ensure the other kids are doing the right thing.
Older kids can help younger kids. Arranging hitting sessions for the older kids gives them the opportunity to help someone get better. Along with some extra pocket money for the mentor, the younger player will learn and model so much of what they see from the Mentor.
Act as a team at Tournaments by looking out for the other kids from Scarborough Tennis Club/Academy and supporting them where possible.
Through contributing to the tennis academy/club through umpiring Hot Shots Challenge tournaments and other club activities, jobs and roles.
The kids need to learn how to contribute and give to a culture rather than take. By giving their all to a club, academy, team or group, they will improve their own game. This is because their foundation is strong, they know they have a trusted group who inspire them to be better. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Developing the right training culture continues to be one of our highest priorities at Scarborough Tennis Academy.
One day i look forward to tennis clubs, groups and teams having an environment to match the loyalty, respect and contribution of football and other team sports and cultures. After all tennis is both an individual and a team sport. I think the Indian Aces below have developed a pretty good culture !
Scarborough Tennis Academy