By Jose Luis Soto Rojas, Coach at Sánchez Casal Academy, Florida.
As time moves forward it is getting more common for parents to make their kids practice at least one sport in order to prevent them from spending hours in front of a tv or a computer. However, sometimes they do not know which one to choose.
Often, if the kid is not very athletic as a child or has not been introduced to any sport yet, it is complicated for the parents to decide on a sport for him. In this article I would like to use my personal experience to help those aforementioned parents who do not know which sport to choose for their kids and familiarize them with my sport, tennis.
My name is Jose Luis Soto Rojas, I am 24 years old and I have been playing tennis since I was old enough to hold a racquet in my hand without dropping it. Even though I call it a hate/love relationship, tennis has become a very important part of my life, which I personally consider a lifestyle rather than just a sport or a hobby.
I am very confident that without tennis in my life I would not be the person I am today.
The characteristics of tennis are very particular, regardless of the level or category: amateur, professional, juniors… It is a very challenging sport to learn, as it requires a good physical condition, considerable speed of reaction and coordination, hawk vision, and patience… A LOT OF PATIENCE. Beginners, kids or adults, all are required to get familiar with timing, footwork, strokes, motions, and ball speed through repetition and patience.
Repetition and patience will teach them the First Lesson: “They will have to put effort and time in order to achieve a goal” (Jack L. Groppel, Ph. D.). At the beginning this will help them to hit the basic strokes in tennis (forehand, backhand, volleys, smash, and serve) with a good timing. This is not an easy task, but if they achieve proper execution, they will have already learnt a key life lesson: nothing in life will come easy and without the preceding hard effort.
If your kids start getting to a better level and you let them compete, regardless of the type of competition, from local tournaments to regional or national competition. The contest as a whole will already start making your kids experience some situations that other kids will never face while laying on the couch or playing in team sports. It will teach them values such as the satisfaction and the reward of victory and that there will be always someone better than you.
Another important factor that tennis competition provides the kids with is that they are a team of one player, not even your coach is allowed to talk to you while the match is happening. If one day you are not feeling well, or your strokes are not working like they have before.. you do not have another player in the bench to substitute you. You BY YOURSELF have to deal with that situation and try to find solutions in order to “fix the problem”, and win the match. This does not come early, it all depends on the kid, who can take shorter or longer time to achieve it. In my case it took longer than I would have wanted to, but I ,with the help of my parents, tried to be patient and perseverant. This process is not easy at all. Not everyone in the tennis world achieves success on this and many people I knew, who used to practice and compete with me ended up quitting the sport.
This leads me to the Second Lesson: with the years everyone will have to face a lot of problems and obstacles that life will put on your way, some people will get upset and panic, while other will try to invest that time on finding solutions to the problem. Only the second group will suceed.
Deepening my analysis of tennis as a lifestyle and a provider of many important tools for the future, this sport helps you focus your whole mind in the task you are about to do.
In tennis competition, you must be highly focused point after point, and must be consistent on doing it, as if you lose concentration for a minute, you may get your serve broken or may lose an important game that can cost you the whole match.
This specific point helped me get through my years in middle-school, high-school and college. I was a very impatient kid and it was hard for me to sit down on a chair and focus in order to do my homework or study the chapters I needed in order to do well in the exam. Thanks to tennis, my concentration improved to the point of helping me keep myself sitting on a desk for as long as needed and give my hundred percent until I finished my task, usually to learn all the content of my next exam.
This leads me to the Third Lesson your kids can learn from tennis: maintain yourself focused on a task and while doing it, give your hundred percent in order to succeed
Furthermore, I would like to mention what for me is the most important weapon that tennis can teach you: How to deal with pressure.
For me, PRESSURE is a key aspect that is involved in the confrontation of several life issues. Young people who do not play sports and still do not have job probably ignore why I believe it is key. Pressure is a state of your mind that makes you shake, prevents you from thinking clearly, and makes you take easy and wrong decisions unless you are able to control it.
From my experience, pressure is one the toughest situations to control in a tennis match. Sometimes this reaction leads the player to freak-out and accelerate the heartbeat. It is something that even experienced players have to confront to win a match point and many end up losing the match. Pressure has a significant role even with the top players in the ATP (association of tennis professionals) and WTA (women tennis association).
As I mentioned before, pressure is a very tough situation to deal with, and sometimes not even the experience can save you. But of course, with the years it will be easier to face it and beat it. The situation in tennis is that the only one who can control the pressure or be consumed by it is yourself.
Implementing another case, if in a soccer match there are certain key moments such as a foul or a penalty kick in order to win the match, there is only one out of the eleven players that shoots it, there is only one player that takes the pressure. The difference is that in tennis there is no way to skip it, inside the tennis court there’s me, myself and I.
The Fourth Lesson that the kids will learn and use in the future for their daily problems or in their jobs thanks to tennis competition, is to be able to perform at their best under pressure.
For example, if for any reason your boss in the company is having you under a lot of pressure on achieving a certain number of sales in a period of time or under the possible penalty of earning less money. It is said that athletes are better prepared to handle this kind of situation than people who haven’t competed before. Moreover, single sports like tennis have a huge advantage against the teams sports in this particular matter.
Besides all these benefits, tennis also provides a large quantity of health advantages. The USTA (www.usta.com) website has a page called “Sport Science” that you can refer to to consult all the health benefits tennis has to offer. Here, I will mention the most important ones:
1- People who participate in tennis 3 hours per week (at moderately vigorous intensity) cut their risk of death in half from any cause, according to physician Ralph Paffenbarger who studied over 10,000 people over a period of 20 years.
2- Tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes and non-athletes according to Dr. Joan Finn and colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University.
3- Since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, it may generate new connections between nerves in the brain and thus promote a lifetime of continuing development of the brain, reported scientists at the University of Illinois.
4- Tennis outperforms golf, inline skating and most other sports in developing positive personality characteristics according to Dr. Jim Gavin, author of The Exercise Habit.
5- Competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics, inline skating, or cycling, according to studies on caloric expenditures.
Summarizing my argument, tennis is a very peculiar sport that may not only keep your kids in the healthy lifestyle every parent would like, but can make the people who practice it learn about many situations that they will be handling in real life, thus, it definitely helps people improve their life experience as a whole. A time goes by, tennis makes the player stronger as a human being, and it makes him be more mature in order to confront obstacles and problems that get on his way.
Tennis gives the player a more self-confidence in a way that not many other sports do.
So if you have kids and are looking for the perfect sport not only to maintain your kid in a healthy lifestyle but also to give him a lot of tools for the future I strongly recommend you to introduce your kid to Tennis.
Jose Luis Soto Rojas
Coach at Sánchez Casal Acdemy, Florida