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Advice for Belton-Bound Juniors

By Jerry Albrikes


Many juniors and their parents are traveling to Belton this weekend for the South Carolina qualifier. As a tennis pro who has worked with tennis players at all levels, I’d like to offer some advice for Belton-bound players.

Whatever the outcome of your efforts at Belton, own your experience. What do I mean from this? To "own" your experience you give the very best effort you can give at every match, every day, win or lose, regardless of the odds, the competition, your mood or how things are going for you. When you give everything you can, there are no excuses, no "should nots". No one is perfect every day–not Federer, not Nadal, not Djokovic. Despite occasional losses, they never dwell in what I call the "shouldn’ts".

Shouldn’t is a phrase that I work on with my students, and parents of students. How many times have we heard:

"I shouldn’t have lost", or "My son/daughter won 6-2, 6-3, but shouldn’t have lost that many games" or "I won in 3 sets but I shouldn’t have lost the first set"?

So many times we create a defense mechanism to justify our results instead of just "owning" or accepting them, no excuses. If you always do the best you can on any given day, the results will be what they should be. Own you results, whatever the outcome.

Understand that tennis is not just about YOU. You are not swimming or running in your own lane or playing against a course. There is someone on the other side of the net trying to prevent you from winning. When two players go out on the court, only one is going to win. If, on a particular day, your opponent is the one who figures out how to win, give them the credit they deserve. No excuses. If you win, but struggled because of a strong opponent, own your performance, no excuses, no "shouldn’ts".

Parents, making excuses for your child’s performance whether a win or a loss, deprives them of the learning that comes from the experience. This weekend at Belton, let’s try not to have unneeded expectations for our kids and our students. Let’s just be proud of them for playing at Belton, and doing the best they can, even though we may not always see that. The kids will enjoy the sport more when they can play a match and win and not have to be perfect every time. They will gain confidence from difficult matches where they have to overcome obstacles, in Brad Gilbert’s words, sometimes winning ugly. If they lose, but played the best they could that day, then it was OK to lose. Even the top guys lose.