This is why...
By Jeff Brack

June 2006

In my last two columns, I covered some tough subjects relating to tennis parenting and line call disputes. I received very positive feedback, and while people were grateful for having these subjects discussed, I also sensed some disillusionment.

There is always room for improvement. However, the virtues of tennis far outweigh any problems it may have. As the father of a one-year-old daughter, the impact of tennis on a young life is becoming more clear to me than ever. Let me remind you of what makes tennis great and the reasons you play. This is why?

Tennis is a PHYSICAL game of precision shot making, foot speed, strength, anticipation, coordination and endurance. Don't you just love that?

Tennis is a MENTAL game of strategic chess-like moves, adaptation, willpower, heart, confidence, focus, regrouping, shot selection, exploitation of weakness, determination, intimidation, defense and counter attack. Wow! All of that at the same time? Guess what? There's more.

Tennis is an EMOTIONAL game of ebb and flow, momentum, frustration, exuberance, poker faces, controlled reaction and the struggle to balance complete commitment to an ever climaxing point with not revealing your emotional cards. Am I saying that tennis is the most complex, all encompassing game there is? Maybe.

Is there another sport that requires one athlete to repeatedly keep a ball in play, solely cover as large a playing surface for both offense and defense, rely on themselves mentally and emotionally for the entire competition and objectively officiate? Gotta love it! Kind of invigorating to know what you've been accomplishing out there, huh?

And what game, other than perhaps golf, embraces and encourages the tradition of good sportsmanship to the degree tennis does? Team sports line up and impersonally high-five 18 opponents in a row, but with our game, the two or four competitors meet at mid-court, look each other in the eye, congratulate the other on their efforts and shake hands. If that doesn't make you proud to be part of tennis, I'm not sure what will. And would you wish any less of an athletic experience for your own children? Talk about developing maturity in the most formative years of your life?

Being an instructor, a tournament director and an administrator at a major facility has provided me with the opportunity to watch a lot of children grow up with tennis. It is remarkable all of the life lessons that young individuals gain from playing our sport. Being involved in a healthy, physical activity on almost a daily basis, developing mentally to think strategically, realizing the wisdom of controlling their emotions, learning the mature social skills of winning and losing against friend and foe, experiencing hard work translating to success, and in most cases being in a safe, after-school environment

There's something else I've noticed recently. They gain the tremendous gift of self confidence. You rarely see a child who plays tennis and competes in tournaments that lacks in self confidence. As these kids check in for a tournament, it is clear that they know what they are doing and what they are there for. And you can see that their confidence is going to translate well to their adult lives. I can only hope that my daughter will enjoy tennis and all of these tremendous benefits that will enrich her growth as a person.

You hear this all the time I'm sure, but tennis really is a lifelong sport. We, along with our kids, are going to enjoy this game to the end. How many sports can boast that?

Here are a few more things that I love, and I suspect you do too: Readying for a point, feeling the warmth of the court surface radiating on your face, your shoe laces pulled tight and being completely in tune - just you and your racquet. The purification of sweating. Reveling in the rush of hitting a winner exactly as you meant to. The smell of new balls, new strings, a new grip and the irrepressible memory-jogging fragrance of sunblock.

That's why. I know- go ahead. You can probably still get down there and squeeze a set in.