Juniors Tennis

5:00 AM

Meet my son, August. 
He's 7 years old and stinkin smart and talented and sensitive and just all around good looking. 
And he plays tennis when he's not keeping the peace around our house in his official capacity as cowboy law-man.

Just recently, we signed him up for an under-8 Jr. Tennis league. He is now an official USTA member. He has been taking weekly lessons since the Spring, and it seemed time to start getting some match experience. His league matches kicked off this past Sunday (after our day in the ER), and he didn't really give it much thought until just before we were getting ready to go.

Then the reality of the situation hit him full force and he was terrified.
Like I said before, he is a really sensitive kid. I have spanked him probably 2 times in his life. A stern look is usually all it takes. He FEELS things, people. DEEPLY. He's tough and all boy, don't get me wrong - those things are definitely not mutually exclusive. But he suddenly became adamant that he DID. NOT. WANT. TO. PLAY. TENNIS. He started crying and we could not get him to stop! 

It was one of those parenting moments when you really have to just make a judgment call.
Obviously, he was simply nervous and scared. We understood that. He'd also committed to do something and his coach and fellow team members were counting on him.
We gently explained all this to him as he sobbed and sobbed. 
Kyle and I each explained how we both got crazy nervous before matches or races or sporting events, and that we had even read about an Ironman triathlon who bawls like a baby right before the start of every race (it's true). Nerves come out in different ways. But you can't let them stop you.

We kept comforting him and encouraging him as everyone put their shoes on. We filled his water bottle and ushered everyone into the car. Tears still a-flowing.
We drove there, all the while he just cried.

And then we parked the car and he climbed out of the car and the tears dried up. 
Stoic August emerged. What I like to call his Poker Face.
No emotion. Just business.

Here he is above, warming up with his Coach Shaun beside him. 
All during warm-up and as the other players warmed up, he was fine. He's never crazy or wild or expressive out there, even in lessons. But he really does love tennis.

He played two matches that day. In this league, it's best of 3 games. There are several things that are unique about this level - they don't overhand serve - they drop hit. They each serve 2 and then switch servers, and they each get 2 attempts to serve. The scoring is different, too. Rather than using love-15-30, etc. They do first to 7 points, using these clips attached to the net. When you score a point, you remove a clip. Then, as absurd as it is, you call out your score by subtracting 7 from the clips on the net. Rather than starting with 0 clips and adding them to the net and counting those. So every time a kid called the points, they had to do a little subtraction problem. It was bizarre.

At this level, the parents are able to help the kids out with calling the score, helping them identify whose point it is, whether the balls are in or out. You let them do as much as they can, but interject when required. For instance, this one kid called a ball out when it was clearly in.  So a parent will say, "Uh, was that in or out?"..."Out?"..."You sure about that?"...."In.....your point...." Keeping them honest, kind of. And you encourage them - we all want our kids to love this game!

August won his first match easily and his second match, he lost in the 3rd set. It was funny because the only reason he lost the second match was because he didn't move to the  ball fast enough or often enough. His strokes were great! There were several good rallies, but his opponent was a hustler and just generally more peppy than August.  As his opponent walked off, I heard him say to his dad, "that kid was good!" I think because August had on his Poker Face, he didn't expect any skill from him! 

With the matches completed, August walked a little taller. I asked him if he had fun - resounding YES. I asked him if he was looking forward to next week - YES! 
Hopefully the big breakdown was just a one-time nerves issue...

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