Updated: Jan 17
This is not a real letter, although it is a compilation of just a few real feelings and comments expressed by players in therapy sessions.
Tennis is an extraordinary sport beyond rankings, titles and fame. The pleasure of hitting the ball is the same for me as it is for Federer.
Of the millions of kids playing tennis, just 1 will be the Nº1, this does not mean that the rest have to stop playing. Tennis is a sport that reflects our inner self, in every mistake it is telling us what we have to improve, not just as a tennis player, also as a person.
This letter is an invitation to preserve and take care of the spirit of tennis, the essence, which is nothing other than trying to make each day better than the previous one.
LETTER FROM A TENNIS CHILD TO THEIR PARENTS.
I don't know what it means to be a father or a mother, that moment has not yet come to me. I understand and I also feel that you want the best for me. Although sometimes, you forget to ask me what I think, feel and need.
It all started when you gave me my first racket,
…when running and hitting the ball was a game, a stimulating challenge. At the time, the only thing on my mind was the idea of hitting the ball to the other side of the net. Everything was simple, the pleasure was in the act of playing, of feeling the impact of the ball on my racket and sending it to the other side each time getting better and better.
I asked you to allow me to go to the Club Tennis School, I enjoyed playing with my friends a lot. After a period of time I “begged” you to let me attend more times because I felt I was improving a lot. When I was on court, I felt it was the only place where I would want to be.
Little by little I was doing better, and I felt how my game made you feel proud of me. I felt happy to make you happy. What else can a child ask for than the love and recognition of their parents? The better I did it, the more happiness, the better rackets, the better clothes, the more affection, and the more recognition.
The time came when I played my first tournament. I remember my first game, I had a mixture of fear, excitement, motivation, and curiosity. Everything was new, but you were there, what could happen? When the match started, the first thing I did was look at you, looking for love, support and the happiness in your eyes. I was worried about seeing that your faces did not express the usual, and that you were not happy, you were nervous.
I didn't worry at the time. I knew that I had the power to make you happy through my game. Until now, my game, my fun, my passion had always made you happy ...
The game started, it wasn't easy, not because of the game, it was because of you. I didn't understand anything. On the one hand, I had to compete against my rival and on the other hand, I felt that I had lost the power to make you happy. I enjoyed my game, and I didn't understand why you weren't enjoying it with me. I even heard you yell at me to move and I said to myself… "no, they never said anything to me before, I must have been confused"
I finally won my first game, I was happy, while, with relief, I could see that I had regained my powers: “My parents were happy for my happiness!” I thought. Anyway ... internally I felt that something was different, but I was not sure.
Back home and after congratulating me, you began to tell me things that I should have done in one way or another. It was a strange feeling because never, until that moment, had you ever had an opinion on how I should play with the play-station. It was strange, very strange. Anyway, I was happy I had won my first match! I ignored the rest.
The next day we went to the 2nd match, I don't know why, but you asked me to warm up, skip with a rope, concentrate and remember everything we had talked about yesterday in the car on the way back home... Now I didn’t have any doubt, something was different.
My rival that day was indeed better than me, I didn't care, I wanted to win but I wanted to play. As the game progressed, your faces reflected tension. I invoked my magical powers, and, although I was losing, I was enjoying the game, but ... that day my magic did not work. On each point lost, the more serious you become, you began to make gestures, to say things to me: move!!!, hit crosscourt, higher ... suddenly my head was a whirlwind of emotions and information. I don't know what happened to me at the time, but I couldn't… I couldn't.
I didn't understand why you were getting into my game when I wasn't getting into your chess matches. I felt invaded. I lost the game, and I lost my powers. I left the court, and you were not happy, you were disappointed ... it was a terrible moment, I finally understood that if I win then I made you happy and if I lose unhappy.
The tournaments went by and the same thing always happened. When I won, I felt rewarded and when I lost, I felt judged. I understood that losing was not an option, if I wanted your love, I had to win ... in whatever way.
I heard a conversation between you about sending me to a personal coach. This was the moment when you started to decide over my game.
I went to my first "training session." The coach played with me. I can't explain how motivated I was. A real tennis player was playing with me. Then I found out that this coach had been a professional player!!!! If that wasn't heaven, where was heaven? We finished playing and you, the coach, and I sat at a table in the bar. You asked to the coach with worried face: What do you think? To which he responded what I had never expected: "he has potential, he will go far." My mind raced very fast and saw me lifting the Roland Garros trophy after beating Nadal in the 5th set.
I started training, it was curious, the action was the same, it was about playing tennis, but the point of view was different, it went from being “playing tennis” to training tennis. But the motivation was very high, I really wanted to train/play. I listened to every indication, tried to follow them, and repeat and repeat ... and repeat.
I started to improve a lot, every time I felt more that the shots and the racket were a part of me and that the ball was doing more and more what I wanted. In my category, I was one of the best. I won many more matches than I lost.
I realised that this was not cheap, the coach, the trips, tournaments, strings. I realised that you worked harder to pay for my "game" and this made me feel guilty. I saw you standing behind the fence, while I was training, I did my best, but then always you commented about what I could do better. Nothing was the same, you were worried, tense, and if you were not working, you were looking at me, and if you were not looking at me, you were working. The only thing I understood was that I had to win. Winning was the way to make you happy. My dream of being a tennis player had become your dream and I must win in order to compensate your effort.
Change of year, change of category, and first tournament. I lost very easily in the first match against a player who was 40 cm taller than me. My best shots weren't enough against such a giant. There were no chances. From my point of view, I understood it that way. But from your point of view, it was understood differently: “something is wrong!” Where does this giant train?
Doubt is a seed that, when sewn, grows fast and strong.
The tournaments went by and my results were not good, I won one or at the most two matches. We would come home, and you would watch tennis player videos, tutorials, magazines, tennis articles. At meals, we only talked about tennis and what I have to do to improve… Everything revolved around tennis.
I would see and hear you talking to my coach about something that you had seen on the internet that was sure to help me improve my backhand. This type of conversation was repeated more and more often, and I wondered: why you had never gone to talk to my math teacher to explain how she had to teach me? But I did not see myself with the right to make that comment, at that point, my decision was to shut up and hold on.
This tournament was important, together with my coach, we prepared for it well. We worked hard in tactical aspects and in not having high expectations, understanding that it was my first year in the category. On the one hand, there was what I worked with my coach on, and on the other, what you told me you had read. The two things weren't even alike, but my head was split. Every time the ball came to my backhand, there were two voices that spoke to me.
The game started, I had a tough rival in front of me, in my head the two voices, my coach, and yours. With so many things, I was not even able to hit properly. The ball no longer goes where I want and how I want. I hit it as I can. The tension invades me, I feel an emotion growing inside me, I can't take it any more …CRASH!!!!!
I smashed my racket on the ground. Anger and frustration… I felt empty. I look at you and I see you scared. I lose the match, I leave the court, I throw everything. You get more scared. Then something incredible happens, it was the first time in a long time that when I lost, you did not tell me anything. Then I understood: If I get angry, you will leave me alone.
The results are not improving, the capacity of my coach is more in doubt. Every time I lose, I see you complaining with my coach and then talking to another coach, and what hurt me the most, you didn’t ask me what I think.
Then you decided to change the coach without consulting me. Without considering that many times the relationship that a player has with a coach is very close, in many aspects I trusted much more in my coach than I did in you. Without consulting me, you took away a person who was very important to me and that I admired a lot. He was not responsible for my results. Maybe were the results that I had to have, but the main problem was in my mind, in my own and other people's expectations, and in the voices, the voices. Playing tennis was not easy anymore.
The new stage begins with a new coach, new exercises. I must admit that my performance improves, although after 3 months my head was already hearing 4 or maybe 100 voices. Back to changing the coach, and it became a cycle that would be repeated many times, 3 or 4 lost matches and another new coach.
The coaches quickly understood that to be able to work for longer, they had to say what you, my parents, wanted to hear and that was not what I needed.
Match point for my opponent, while I was preparing myself to return the serve, I began to write this letter in my mind. I realised that it was going to be my last point. I just let the ball pass. I quit, I quit tennis. When I became aware about my decision, I was far from being sad, I was happy and relieved
As for writing this, I am 18 years old, I hate tennis and what it stands for. I am not aware of the moment that my game became a punishment. I only know that
"It all started when you gave me the first racket and that it was all over when my game became your obsession"