Monday, 7 August 2017

'THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE'

Here in sleepy hollow, Albany, Western Australia we are a long way from anywhere yet we have made the headlines in the State Newspaper, possibly for all the wrong reasons, not for tennis but for our most popular sport behind soccer, AFL.
The reason why we have made the headlines is because in our junior AFL competition there were some rather lopsided results, which as you know can work in two ways. It destroys one team's self confidence plus it gives the winning team a false sense of who they are.
It has happened since the beginning of time, particularly in junior sport because certain teams will be put together with no thought of how advanced some players are and how much they may in fact dominate a competition.
Grading systems perhaps should be upgraded when placing 100 plus kids into teams of 20 to compete against each other in a ridiculously physical game, particularly before a kid even turns 15.
So this is what the junior AFL Association did, they stripped the points from the winning teams and gave them to the losing teams. It has pissed a lot of people off though I do see some merit in the idea as keeping sport competitive particularly at a young age will give a child a sense of belonging whereas one sided games will make a kid question their ability, mentally and physically.
Keeping a kid in a sport is perhaps the most challenging thing for a coach, a parent, an association, but one thing is for certain, it is a necessity to get the mix right.
So as far as tennis is concerned, how do you keep a kid enthused when he or she continually gets beaten ?
Tough one.
I once read a result in a State event where a coach had destroyed one of their students 6-0, 6-1 and I thought that it had ego written all over it, 'I am your Coach, I am your Master, I own you'. Was that result supposed to toughen the kid up ??
I believe it was a case of the 'coach' having their head so completely stuck up their own bum that they failed to look at the situation as perhaps an opportunity to give a kid some confidence.
I vividly recall playing a 15 year old kid several years ago in an Open event in a country championship. I battled to even lose a point and had to hit a few shots long and wide to give him 2 games each set. Was I doing that kid a disservice by giving him those games ? I believe I was helping HIM to believe in his very young ability.
If I had taken those 4 games would it have helped the kid to grow as a player or would it have deflated them to a point of looking at another sport to play ? Was it simply a case of an old man having some sympathy for a young kid ?
For the record I got beaten by the same score in the next round by a guy who made the semis, he smashed me but I was not upset by the result, it gave me heart. If I had lost 0 and 0 then I would have questioned my ability as a player, a coach, a human being. 
So do we need to 'manufacture' sporting results to keep the youth interested in sport ? Well I think it doesn't hurt when all is said and done because a kid will learn from a loss more than a win and if a kid loses 2 and 2 as opposed to 0 and 0 they may just find those 4 games a tonic for the future.
A double bagel may turn their attention to another sport as not winning a game may be too big a hurdle to clear for future matches.
I believe our local AFL association got the penalty correct for opposition coaches going for glory with percentage boosting wins over opposition that was lacking physically, mentally and technically as after all, a kid playing our national sport does not own the luxury of choosing which side he or she plays in. 
Some kids get picked in a 'Super Team', others get chosen to play in teams that battle to win a match all the while as they struggle to develop their skills to further their development.
We had two results locally that caused a stir, a 95 point win where a coach maintained that he tried 'everything' to nullify his own team's scoring ability and another 70 plus win that had the winning coach maintaining that he also did what he could to 'help the opposition'.
I know for a fact that both of those winning teams had access to some very talented youngsters and the losing teams were not so fortunate to be laden with talented players.
Fact of life, however the losing teams should not be forced to question their own ability due to their association's inability to even out the talent available at selection time.
So to tennis. It's a sport that only the strong survive, we all know that but if we can keep a kid interested long enough it may just mean the difference between a player persevering with it or throwing the racket in the cupboard and taking up AFL.......
The irony of it all.........

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