We always ask this question in our court warrior workshop. Ask your child this question?
Given a choice which of these results would your prefer?
- Win 6:0 6:0 against an opponent who is a very poor player
- Win 7:6 6:4 but play the worst tennis of your life
- Lose 4:6 7:6 4:6 but play the best tennis of your life.
For sure I can recollect all of the above and the first was definitely the lease enjoyable. Ok, number two was pretty frustrating too. As part of the Court Warrior Project we have asked this to a variety of kids of all ages and of both genders. You may not be surprised to know that young boys (5 -7) often choose number one and older (9 – 12) year old girls often choose number three.
The skills involved in both two (fighting even when things are not going your way) and three (being able to identify a level of performance even when the outcome isn’t what you want) have a lot of merit. They will also help you to understand if a player is ego (wants to win) or task (wants to play well) orientated. Of course all really good players want both and most importantly if they are missing either they will probably not excel.
Consider what is needed to climb a mountain or any great endeavor.
- You need to have great climbing skills and to focus and concentrate on them
- You need to hang in there when the wind and snow make things really tough for you
So what to do ??? Well if your little warrior is a fighter praise this characteristic but spend a little time watching their games for key areas in which they have improved. “Wow, you served so well today.” “Your backhand has really improved and was going deeper today.” Let your charge know that you recognize the skills that they are showing as well as the fight that they show. This will help them to understand that how they play is as important as if they win.
If your warrior is more focused on how they played, and to be honest this is not a common characteristic under 1o when kids (especially boys) struggle to separate the outcome from the performance, then let them know that you noticed when they really dealt well with difficult situations. “I love how you hung in there when you were 3:0 down! That showed real courage to keep fighting!” We will cover how to help young players deal with adversity in the next post but for now you will need to really focus on identifying these moments as they are more subjective.
Above all understand your role as an adult supporter, whether your are a parent or coach. You need to help your young player develop all the competitive traits that they need. Don’t judge them they are who they are just help them to understand that you appreciate there efforts more than they imagine.