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Learn To Lose?

Coaches (and some parents) often advocate playing in higher age divisions in order for the player to become accustomed to more pace and a "higher level of tennis". Sometimes, they justify the poor results by claiming that it's good for the player to "learn how to lose." Nothing can be more detrimental for a developing tennis player than a losing record. What does this player have to look forward to in life?! Bust her butt in practice, work hard in the gym and then get thrown into an age divisions where they stand no (or little) chance of succeeding. Listening, winning is an addiction; winning begets winning. If winners win, then those who lose are....well you get the point. 

What is important for a player to learn is how to DEAL WITH LOSSES. This is not learning how to lose; it's learning to handle the results and utilize them to propel forward to a different level. Take for example a junior player who has just lost in the morning match of a tournament. This player will mope around for a bit, find consolation in the words of some friends, family coaches, eat a snack and then jump in the car for the ride home. What is his opponent doing? Well, most likely, the opponent will have to play another match. So where the losing player spends 1.5 hrs on the court, the winning player spends 3 hours on the court. Who benefits more from that Saturday? The winning, player, obviously. First, she learned how to pull off a tough match. She has figured out a strategy, devised various tactics to implement the strategy and executed those tactics at the right time. Second, she now has to step on the court (maybe 30 minutes, maybe 45 minutes later) and have to toughen out a second match. All this time, the player who lost the first round is driving home. If the goal of this player is to improve, she would be better served by (a) having a practice right after the match (wipe the slate clean; work on some things while they're fresh); (b) play a practice match against someone who may have also lost; AND/OR (c) have a fitness workout (to "punish" herself for losing). Follow any (or all) of these paths, and the defeated player will keep up with the rest of the pack. 

If you want to be in the top pack when it matters (U18s), you have to spend just as much on court (or doing fitness) as your better peers. You cannot allow them to get an extra 3-4 hrs of tennis/week. You have to be right there with them. They may have beaten you but they have not DEFEATED you (unless you let them). So, get knocked down seven times, get up eight times. If you lose, no big deal. Grab a basket and a back-court and work on the things that you feel need improving at that time. Show your opponents that you are tough to beat. 


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