It’s about today. But it’s also all about tomorrow.
G’day from Austin,
I just got this email from Eric and I let him know I was going to respond in my blog so others in similar situations could benefit from the information.
OK, so here’s Eric’s email…
I want to make sure I directly address Eric’s concerns, so let’s break it down.
Also, my answers are specific to a dad wanting the best for his 8-year-old. If his son was older, and further down the development pathway, I would probably adjust my advice accordingly. So keep in mind, this is for Eric and his budding 8-year-old star…
1. The biggest message I get from you is to forget about the result.
Hi Eric. Your kid is 8. My boy is 10. That’s him in the picture above, taken earlier this week. My boy, Rourke, loves to play soccer, and basketball and flag football and anything else that requires running. Loves to run. I am now just easing him into tennis. He may not play a tournament for 2 years (if ever) and I am completely cool with that.
All that matters now at this young age for both our boys is we keep it FUN. The reason why is that fun is the glue. Yes, we want them to achieve the best they possibly can and reach their potential but at this age, they have 8-10 long years on the court in front of them before things get super serious.
So yes, at 8 years of age, you don’t need to worry about results yet. Results won’t guarantee he stays in the game. Fun will.
Back in 2005 I coached the #1 boy in the U.S. in 12’s. He quit at 14. It wasn’t fun anymore…
Worry about having your kid develop insanely clean technique. That matters! Nothing sloppy. If you are doing lessons, spend more on private lessons than group lessons. Get him that 1-on-1 attention early on. Get the grips and strokes fundamentally sound. Set him on a great pathway.
Yes, Eric. At 8. Forget about the result.
The 25 Golden Rules of Singles Strategy is the ideal starter course for young players to learn the best patterns of play.
2. My 8-year-old is training and playing up with 10, 11 yo kids regularly, but I fear he’ll get discouraged when losing tournament matches.
Firstly, congratulations your boy is able to hang with older players. He must be doing something right.
Ok. Let’s get one thing straight. Your kid is going to lose. A lot. More than he wants. More than you want. And that’s ok. Losing is an integral part of the process. Understanding losing helps you conquer winning. You can’t have one without the other. It just does not happen that way, unfortunately.
Here’s a best-case scenario for his tournament schedule – if he even has one yet.
Play 10 matches. Win 7. Here’s the breakdown…
- Play 3 opponents you boy is obviously better than.
- Play 4 opponents at the same level.
- Play 3 opponents who are better.
You win all three against the weaker opponents. Playing weaker opponents is CRITICAL in the big picture. Winning is winning and winning breeds winning. Those wins are crucial. They also allow your boy to play with less stress and enjoy the competition.
Go 3-1 against the players at the same level. Be at the top of the group of boys that are his peers.
Steal one win out of three from the better players.
That’s how you get to win 7 out 10.
Here’s something else to consider…
If your boy wants to be #1 in the world, he only has to win 55% of all points he plays for a year. Take a 50-50 battle and tip it slightly in his favor and he is the best player on the planet. Being #1 requires he loses 45% of all points he plays. That’s a lot!
Tennis is a game of percentages – not perfection.
The Top 20 player in the world each year wins right around 50% of their points.
Players ranked 50-100 regularly lose more points than they win – and they win hundreds of thousands of dollars.
3. Delicate balance yeah?
YEAH, it is!!! But at 8 years of age, you need to err on the fun side of the balance sheet. Don’t be the parent so wrapped up in winning. Winning is the end result of other good things happening further upstream – like making sure your son has a great service motion and can hit a backhand volley.
Yes, it’s a balance. Yes, your kid is going to lose a lot. Yes, he will look to you to see if he is a failure because he just lost. Yes, the way you react really matters.
Let it go…
The more you think about winning, the less you win. The more you have fun today, the more you will win tomorrow.
Diminish the result and elevate the experience. Your boy will love you for it.