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||EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:
You Think You Have Pressure?
John Mills, USPTA
Sometimes adults forget the pressures or fears young children and teenagers are experiencing these days. We all know how busy children are with school activities, church activities, sports, hobbies, hanging out with friends and trying to spend some quality time with the family. The adults in their lives are very involved with the children and trying to keep them organized is a great effort. However, because they are so involved and trying to help them, they can overlook the child's concerns. They are unable to step back and take an objective look at the child as an individual and not lump him or her together with their peer group, siblings, teammates, etc. The other adults in your child's lives, teachers, coaches, etc., do the best they can, but they cannot always detect when something is bothering your child.
Helping your child to overcome their fears and understanding and helping them cope with pressure is paramount to having a healthy child, both mentally and physically. By now, you are wondering if I am also a child Psychiatrist. No, but I am one of the adults involved in your child's life and they share a lot with me. I do not presume to try to tell anyone how to raise their child and personally feel that my clients are doing the best they can with the information they have. Therefore, I will share with you some of the concerns that my students express. This list is certainly not exhaustive.
- If I do not make a good grade on this test, I will not be able to travel with the tennis team, get grounded, lose car privileges, etc.
- I stayed up all night studying, now I feel terrible.
- If I go to the party, will I feel pressured to drink or do drugs, have sex, etc.
- I am too fat, my face is broken out, etc.
- I am embarrassed about my general appearance.
- If I lose this match, I will not qualify for the next level of play.
- I really do not have any close friends.
- I cannot talk to my parents about the things that bother me.
- My parents never ask me how I feel and never ask for my opinion. If they do ask my opinion, they never listen, or try to change it.
- My parents fight so much, I am embarrassed by it.
- My parents embarrass me with their antics and off-color comments.
- I never win the match whenever it is close.
- I do not seem to be improving.
- In order to afford college, I need a scholarship. To get a scholarship I must make good grades. If I fail this course, I can not make my goal.
- My partner is pressuring me to have sex.
- I never have time to just "chill out."
- I study hard and long, but when I show up for the test, I go "brain-dead." All my friends study less and make better grades.
- My friends are talking about me behind my back.
- My coach does not like me. No matter what I do this will not change. My coach/teacher is treating me unfairly.
- No one takes me seriously.
- Every time I go out, my parents think something will happen to me or I will get into trouble.
- I have so many activities going on at once, sometimes I just want to quit.
- I work so hard at my game, playing tournaments and taking lessons, I do not understand why the coach does not think I am good enough.
- My parents are so busy, they don't have time for me.
- My mother will not let me have my own life, she wants to be involved in everything.
- It bothers me when one of my parents gets upset when watching me play a match. I know when I make too many mistakes, I will hear about it later. Can't they see I am not trying to lose?
- I wish my parents would not try to tell me how to play my matches.
- I hope I will get asked to the dance.
- Mr./Ms. so and so has their favorites, no matter what I do, it's not good enough to matter.
- The teams have been picked, why bother trying out?
The next time you watch your child play, remember he or she comes to the match with many fears and pressures. You can understand why they might lose focus. Try to help them address or solve some of the larger problems, relieving them of some unnecessary pressures and ultimately helping them with their game. It is just a game and a fun game at that. The enjoyment of the game can be a great outlet for many levels of daily stress.
Have fun on the courts!
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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.
John Mills currently teaches tennis at the University of Houston, Clear Lake campus. John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.