Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Crying in Tennis!

Read full article on RFed's 2009 Aussie Open loss
 to Nadal at The Telegraph
Remember that great line from the Tom Hanks (and Madonna!) movie, A League of Their Own?

"There's no crying in baseball!"

As much as I would like to change the word 'baseball' to 'tennis' and have it be a rock-solid fact, we all know it simply isn't true. Even the Greats shed a tear from time to time. Yes, Roger, we are talking about YOU.

Is there anything more heartbreaking than a six-year-old crying his/her eyes out? Yes: a five-year-old. Seriously, when they turn on the waterworks, I just want to hug them and make everything okay. Sometimes I do. But I am finding out this very often leads to more teary episodes in future. My policy on tearful students is evolving. I actually have said on a couple of occasions, "there's no crying in tennis" in an attempt to lighten the mood and also in hopes that they will take me literally and stop. This has not worked yet. :) What I am finding more effective is a more businesslike approach. I determine the cause of the tears, and if it is not tear-worthy, I explain why there will not be any more tears on that topic. Sometimes tears are warranted (yes Roger I would cry, too, if I took a six figure hit by coming in second at one of the slams) but rarely on my court, so I feel pretty confident insisting the tears be dried and we move on to the next activity.

While we want to attend to the needs of all of our students, it is important IMO to control the level of disruption. The other students who are not having an issue deserve their full portion of instruction. Important to get back on task as quickly as possible.  Teachers and parents everywhere recognize the value of one tried and trusty tactic: misdirection. Occasionally the cause of the upset is the student's inability to perform an activity either to their satisfaction or in keeping up with the other kids in the class. Completely understand! (I remember years ago being the Weakest Link in an upper level clinic on hitting a slice forehand. Believe me, I wanted to cry.) Rather than forcing the issue, I usually progress to a different activity, do a ball pickup, have a water break, whatever and keep things moving. Important not to let the lesson devolve into focusing on why Susie or Johnny is having a meltdown. And yes, I have just as many boys cry as girls at this age.

I don't have many Greats on my court. But every now and then I do have some tears (usually not from me). Teachers of 10 and Unders should be prepared for the inevitable. How we handle these situations is often a matter of individual personality. I've shown you mine. How about yours?