Tennis and Children – growing up:

Tennis and Children:   

Thirty years ago or more, Tennis was a game that was intense and favored amongst adults and children.  This game is not as popular amongst families today in 2012.  Still popular is the major tournaments all over the world.

My personal story is that we have four children, and one day, my youngest asked, ” can I just hit the ball ?  My husband and I would play intense games of tournament city tennis every weekend.  My late husband had played college tennis.  The statement, “Can I just hit the ball? ” later became, “I will fetch all your balls, and just sit on the bench for 5 minutes of play.”  My daughter was five.  She would get up at 7:00 with us, and be ready in jeans and tea shirt to just watch and have her 5 minutes of hitting.  We suddenly realized that she probably should be checked out for some lessons as she seemed to really have talent. 

Thus, the beginning of my Tennis Lament.  She began taking lessons at 5 years old from a retired USC Tennis coach named Charlie, who put her through her lessons, checking out her ability to serve, hit, overhead and rally, and ground strokes.    She at that time would change hands from one hand to another.  Charlie got her to use one hand.  He said that she reminded him of a player from USC called Beverly Baker.  She was a varsity player and star.  Soon, my husband and I too were bit by the bug to include her sister, a year and a half older in these lessons.  Then we introduced our two boys to the game.  They all had lessons. All the kids now joined Linda Crosby’s Pasadena Tennis Association, which led to private lessons for our 5 year old, Jill, and now we placed all the kids with the Los Angeles Tennis Association, who had matches which took place on weekends in the winter, and played up and down the coast of California all summer.  My other children played, but participated in other sports as well, and also spent their summers in a wonderful wonderland of fun called “Tom Sawyer Camp.” 

The kids were all members of Los Angles Tennis Association, and up until they were teens, played tournaments up and down the coast.  Jill went on to be ranked as one of the top l0 tennis players in her division for l0 years.  She also went on to play out of state at the state championships, and the Clay court Championships in North Carolina, and now had a two special coaches named Fermin Davilla and a coach for serving named Alex Olamedo, and a coach from La Costa, who wanted her to move down with him and his family.  We drew the line there. 

This game brought much joy to the kids and to us, and agony.  They played for one year as 4 children, all afternoon and evening at an indoor tennis club in Los Angeles.  The bounce of the ball and the sound in an indoor setting unbelievable.  The reverberation of noise from the ball in the interior court was stunning, and sent chills running, as our 5 year old would hit so hard, and was now playing kids much older than her.  The indoor club had all kinds of coaching, and eating facilities, and the children loved the experience.  As parents, we enjoyed the watching, and the excitement of all the top junior players in the Los   Angeles area,  and the time for ourselves.  They were safe, and in their special environment. After 7 or 8 hours on Sunday afternoons which led into evening, the kids were thrashed and at the same time had a bounty of energy, coming out of that special space and experience.

My eldest son who is mentioned earlier on this Blog, Dr. Ross Isaacs, went on to teach tennis which he loved, at Big Bear Tennis Ranch in the San Bernardino Mountains in Big Bear, California. What a beautiful setting, with clay courts, lessons all day, a lake to swim in.  All the kids would go after Tom Sawyer Camp which went all summer, to this wonderful resort and experience.  Many famous players came out of that ranch.  My other son, Michael, became a great golfer, which has enhanced his lifestyle, as a vice president of an insurance company.  My older daughter Tamara played, but also talked her tennis teacher in Junior High to have me coach tennis.  This was a family game.  We all went together.

Jill, the youngest daughter, is now in her 40’s and still teaches tennis.  She had a tennis scholarship at the University of Pacific in Stockton, California, which was a member of the top l0 at that time.  She also became ranked as #7l best player in the United   States.

As parents, we would pack up every weekend for tournaments in the fall and winter to go to different cities in the Los Angeles and Santa   Barbara, and San   Diego area.  Sometimes we would stay overnight in hotel rooms, and it is something that I do not believe that parents do in this sport today. Tennis faded in intensity.  You could not find a public court to play on.  You had to be a member or know someone who was a member of a private club to get your child to play.  Fortunately my kids all went to private schools, and had the availability of playing on the schools courts at Flintridge Prep, and Westridge schools.

ADVICE:  When you have kids who are 5 up into semi-professional sports envolvement,  DO NOT PUSH THEM!  IF THEY WANT TO STOP PLAYING FOR ANY REASON, LET THEM.  We saw many parents who pushed their kids, and the kids gave up the game, because the children were playing for their parents.  In other wards, as a psychologist, they were living their dream out in their children. 

ADVICE:  Let the kids have fun!  If they are talking Wimbledon or French or U.S. Open, listen, but for goodness sake, never push. 

ADVICE: Learn the game of Tennis yourselves.  People need to read the “Inner Game of Tennis.”   Tennis is all about good strokes, desire to play, and competition, and good competitive manners, but mostly a head game and of course sportsmanship.  There is frustration, and anger, and disappointment, but life lessons in this game of life.

My late husband and I took a trip to Europe to check out the lives of the women who play professional tennis, because our Jill was going in that direction.  We came home disillusioned, and sad and saw the loneliness of that game and probably other sports as well, as the juniors went thru try outs for the major tournaments.  We saw it as a lonely life, going from one country to another, with little friends, and practice courts.  What we saw was the other side of Tennis.  We tried to encourage her to go to college and make her life including her tennis someway.  She is married to the #l player in Hawaii.  They met on a tennis court.  He is a lawyer. 

My granddaughter is now playing.  I know the game well.  One must watch for a coach that is honest and true, not a name coach especially, but one who motivates, teaches good sportsmanship, and talks about what it is all about, “moving the feet,” good strokes, good serve, and great ground strokes, and most of all, what is in your head, GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP, and not what is in it for the parent.  Most children should be doing it as an activity.  Our experience was different, and bordered on becoming professional parents.

After our experiences with all our kids in the game of TENNIS, I believe that the parents should be out of the major picture.   We saw parents actually ruin and de-motivate their kids. Parents have the tendency to push their own belief systems regarding Tennis, basketball, baseball, golf, or football or any of the major sports onto their children.  We saw this, experienced this, and saw many talented girls who reached puberty, and became interested in other things.  It is great to have your kids involved in sports, but teeters on dangerous, if the coaches say one thing, and parenting is getting in the way.  Parenting comes first, but there is a fine line when parenting vs. good coaching becomes an issue.  Fathers and mothers who do not play on the level or really understand the inner game of Tennis, or other sports, best be quiet. 

Would I do it all over again?  Yes, but there is a yes but.  Right coach!  You have to look around and not just pick coaches because they are famous.  Fermin Davilla, was a honorable man and tennis star from Peru. His habits and friendship and my gratitude for his contribution to our family will always be heartfelt.



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