Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Glory and the Gory
Home       About Peter Bodo       Contact        RSS       Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
The Glory and the Gory 10/02/2006 - 6:15 PM

2006_10_02_cowboy_luke Howdy, Tribe. I was up in game-rich Andes with Luke this weekend; kind of a father-and-son trip (Lisa had some stuff to do in the city), so we spent a lot of time together. Luke got up at 4 a.m. Sunday, crying. He didn't want to be alone in his room, so I brought the little cowpoke in and let him sleep in the "big bed" with me. He asked, "Is it going to be morning soon, and then we can see our faces?"

It was nice to get a big chunk of time with Luke. I guess all parents (and I apologize to those of you who have no interest in this subject) have their favorite  moments and times with their kids. Mine happens to be washing Luke's feet in the bath. I hold his tiny foot in my hand and, after lathering up, firmly massage and wash it. Luke's gotten used to it; he now requests the soapy foot massage and squeals with delight when he gets it.

Want to do something nice for your girl/boy friend, spouse, child? Wash his or her feet. A great friend of mine saw an arty movie a few years ago and, afterward, told me about a scene in which the female lead washed the male lead's feet and dried them with her hair. He said it was a real "turn-on."  I found that highly amusing; my friend was utterly oblivious the this  New Testament allusion.

I got some hay mowed on Saturday, before the real rain started.  I know that running a tractor at, like, 8 miles per hour, isn't NASCAR-grade cheap thrills, but if you ever want to scare yourself half-to-death, jump on a big old tractor (mine's an Allis-Chalmers WD-40, 1952 model) that doesn't have a cab or roll bar. Then just haul a Hay-bine or Bush Hog mower across a typical meadow or pasture land anywhere north of the flatlands. What might look like a slightly canted billiard table from a car window is actually an uneven, rugged piece full depressions, surprisingly steep grades, wet spots and machinery busting rocks. Start crawling along the side of even a mild pitch and you feel like this 4,000 pound machine is going to tip over at any moment, pinning you underneath.

When I dismounted after three hours of mowing on a chilly day with an intermittent drizzle, I was really stiff and sore. Still, it's a very Zen thing, doing slow laps of a giant, alternately benign and terrifying field, mowing row after row in ever tightening circles.There are things (like washing dishes) that some people (my wife) hate doing that I don't mind at all, because the result of my efforts is immediate, dramatic and obvious. Mowing hay is like that.

While mowing and contemplating, among other things, my little boy, I got to wondering how "tennis parents" actually get their kids to embrace and focus on the game. This isn't really because I want Luke to play tennis at a high level; my plans begin and end with us having a shared activity,or at least one that has nothing to do with catching, killing or eating things. You know, teach him a fun game that, unlike Uno or Maria Sharapova endorsed Speedminton, he can enjoy with me in as few as, oh, 10 years (by which time I could be dead, it occurs to me, but then there's the upside: no tuition checks to write!) - and with others for the rest of his life.

2006_10_02_sharapova I must say, though, that I can't imagine Luke doing anything (and certainly not anything with me) with the kind of patience it takes for a beginner, especially a child beginner, to get to where he can bat around a tennis ball. Watching him struggle mightily with some task, I've learned that offering help is not just not the right thing to do.

Want help setting up those train track, little guy?

No, daddy. Shut! You don't say something. I'm going to close you out (pulls shirt over his face so he can't see me, on the tried-and-true "ostrich" principle), Diesel's going to scoop you up (Diesel being one of the villains in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories) and dump you! You don't tell me what to do. Leave me alone!

Geez, sorry I asked!

Don't even ask me where he got this "Shut!" business, but I think it's got to do with the fact that the more formal shut-up is a forbidden word that gets  him on The Naughty Chair, no questions asked.

So anyway - how do parents do this tennis thing? I was impressed, going way back, with the story Todd Martin (see my recent post, The Michigander) told me years ago. He became interested in the game because his parents used to take him to the courts and set up his crib up next to the fence on the court where they played. Todd would then onto the rail, watching them. I think that even if Lisa and I had taken Luke to the park to watch us play tennis, his first reaction upon seeing us go into the court would have been to make a break for it. Freedom! Let's do something more in line with my  agenda.

This topic has stayed with me today because I had an email from David Johnson, a philosophy professor turned newspaper reporter.  David, whose father Franklin is the current president of the USTA, recently sent me this piece, which he wrote for a journalism school publication. It's the best and most informed thing I've read - by far - on the Menendez brothers, Erik and Lyle. They were top junior players, convicted of slaughtering their parents - both of whom were actively involved in the boys' tennis lives.

Okay, this probably is the most extreme and sensationalistic tennis story, ever (or, at any rate, before the Sharapova banana incident). And the Menendez brothers are no more representative of your "typical" tennis player than David Berkowitz was representative of your typical JFK security guard.  But Johnson's piece gives a few choice, intimate glimpses into the kind of intensity and, ultimately, dysfunction that is so routine in junior tennis - ironically, only some of these glimpses are actually focused on the Menendez brothers.

It takes someone "special" (and not always in a good way) to become great at tennis. It sometimes takes a special kind of parent and a special kind of chemistry, combined with a measure of luck, to go from being an ATP or WTA lurker - a Billy Wright, or a Michael Joyce -  to a Marat Safin, Roger Federer, or Marcos Baghdatis.

Think about it: If  you're a parent, where do you even begin? Make your kid play, on the premise that he or she will buckle and accept the fate of being the clay out of which you mold your dreams? What if your kid likes the idea of the game, but hates being bad at it - do you force him to confront his frustration, or just let it go - abandon him to the Gameboy or undertow of slackerhood?   Do some kids (almost all the wildly successful ones, if you ask them) actually love playing, from Day One -  and the ones that don't, but appear to have a gift, what do you do, leave them to their own devices (you can always go to school and learn the art of dry cleaning!)? Or do you try to find a way to manipulate them or cajole them or even threaten them (withholding love: works very time with the young and even those who should know better) into accepting that they can be more than they ever dreamed (or wanted)?

Here's the funny thing, to me. Stefano, Yuri, Richard, Melanie, et al, they all achieve a certain notoriety simply as "tennis parents." Yet what you are looking at is undenibly the cream-of-the-crop. Their kids flat-out made it, and as much as you may despise the parents, any charges against them ring slightly hollow until the tennis player herself endorses them. Let's be honest for a moment here. You loathe Yuri. But Maria wins the U.S. Open, and says that more than anything else she loves her "daddy". Whose word should I take on Yuri's character, yours or Maria's.  It's not a rhetorical question; it's a real and amazingly complex. In fact, it's a subject that makes "The roots of Federer's greatness" an eighth-grade essay question. Doesn't it make you want to reassess your assumptions when Vince Spadea writes about what a great guy Jim Pierce is?

For in the end,there's no way you're going to tell me that some guy or woman who invested an enormous in tennis, but whose kid never made it, somehow was a "better" tennis parent. This sport, like all of them, is about results - that's the glory and the gory of it. If you can't stand the heat, step out of that particular kitchen.

Oh, the ambitious parent whose kid never made it may be a better parent, maybe, but not a better tennis parent. For there exists a standard of judgment on that: it's called the game. Besides, who's to say what would have become of that kid if he or she had been Richard's, or Melanie's?  What tennis parent out there is honest enough to pause and think, Gee, if only I were Stefano Capriati. . . And, of course, it's always possible that the kid came up short at his or her end of the bargain - punishment enough to last a lifetime, for most kids, and undoubtedly a huge source of their own fears and perhaps even many of their performance anxities: If only I were Jennifer Capriati. . .

It works both ways, you see. It always works both ways.

This subject is far complicated than we generally acknowledge. We all know what horrible times Andre Agassi had with his dad, Mike - terrible tennis father supreme! - and how much tennis damaged their relationships. But who really feels sorry for Agassi today? Who among all of those  "nurturing" parents wouldn't want his kid to grow up to be Andre Agassi. Would Andre be better off if he had a great relationship with his dad, quit tennis at 13, and now works as an assistant marketing guy for Bellagio?

Or, put it this way: Can a "good" tennis parent be both an inspirational genius and a manipulative charlatan? Who does a parent have to please, anyway, to be deemed good: The media? The national association? The fans? The player? The International Tennis Hall of Fame? Because I'll tell you this: judging tennis parents is the easiest thing on earth; being able to support that judgment with cogent, fact-and-reason based arguments may be the most difficult. Imagine this whimical scenario: Yuri Sharapova is on trial for being a horrible tennis parent. Who would you rather be, the prosecutor, or the defense attorney?

I'll tell you who was a terrible tennis parent: Jose Menendez. Note that his kids never won jack. Isn't that really the domain of the terrible tennis parent? He or she puts his kid through hell; the kid ends up flipping burgers. Or blowing off his parents' heads.

Anyway, I've asked David Johnson to take a whack at writing a Tennis Life (that's a feature I edit for the mother ship, Tennis magazine) on this whole subject of junior players and their parents. He knows a lot about this; it will be an interesting read for sure.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
1 2      >>

Posted by Samantha 10/02/2006 at 06:35 PM

Pete, keep the story about Luke coming. They're very cute. I like to baby my dogs.(Justine, JuJu and Baby Juju) I actually dress them up in Halloween costumes and take them Trick a treating with my little brother. The dogs behave better then my little brother and people actually give them treats. I think it's hard for a parent to force their kid to play if the kid doesn't want it. I saw Roger's dad on the tennis channel, talking about the expensive training he gave Roger and how when he was very young, Roger didn't care whether he won or not. I think for a kid to be really good he has to want it himself. Sure parent can push, but most kids will resist something they don't want to do.

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 06:49 PM

great post...really interesting stuff pete.

i kinda wish i had been pushed a bit more as a younger player, although i know for sure i would have hated it. i almost quit when i was younger but my parents made me stick with it (more for the go outside and play/ have something to put on the college app than anything) and i'm so glad i did now. it's the one thing i didn't quit ('sides school duh) and the only thing i'm marginally good at (so sad, i know)

still, i know more than my fair share of horrible tennis parents. there was this one girl, linda, who used to compete in my category... her mom used to scream A LOT at matches and when she lost a match her mother took her into the bathrooms and slapped her around... linda never really did very well after 14s and doesn't play anymore.

so yeah. like you said, it's tricky.

on the sharapova question, i'd def. prefer to be the d.a. even though i think yuri is a "bad tennis parent" like most of us.

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 06:50 PM

i totally agree samantha, luke is beyond adorable!

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 07:02 PM

I think conceptually is actually rather simple. Tennis a very difficult game. Fortunately, its difficult for everyone when they start. What I've see so far is this.

1. Its not so hard to play once a week. Even for a seven, eight or nine-year-old, if you find a good pro the child should enjoy going.

2. Its not actually that hard, if the parent plays, to play twice a week. One little half an hour hit around, and you've done it.

3. At any age under ten they soon reach their limit of concentration, notwithstanding any athletic ability. They won't be physically tired, but mentally tired from trying to watch and hit the moving ball after about 20-30 minutes anyway.

4. At some point, playing more than twice a week has to become a social thing for the child. At the beginning, social should mean a group workout with other kids.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you do once a week or so at age 7, perhaps not even a formal lesson, and two days a week at age 8, moving up to three days a week at age 9 -- well, keep in mind that by the time you hit four days a week, that's more days playing tennis than not playing tennis. Kids pick up the game (and anything, for that matter) much faster than adults.

6. At some point, the game has to move from random shots to playing sets. This requires work on the part of the parent. They can't play against you. It has to be with another kid of about their level. This, IMO, is where 90+% of young american tennis players are lost. Their parents are willing to hit with them, they are willing to pay for some lessons, they are not willing to do the legwork to actually set up practice sets, especially when the initial practice sets are, of course, a complete joke, more double faults than points played, etc.

7. Point six begins what I told my non-tennis playing wife would be "the longest year." Its not like, when you kid is playing a couple of days a week and you are trying to get them to play more sets, and even beginning competitive matches of some sort, and you, as a parent, decide that you are going to help make this a five day a week thing as opposed to a one day a week thing, that the child immediately starts beating all of the kids who are just dabbling. Its only after a year or so, and perhaps the first 50-100 sets, that a kid simply has so much experience that they are subjectively and objectively simply better than kids who hardly ever bother playing. During this longest year, the kids don't care, but the parents care, and its the most dangerous year, because parents care in a way that a young kid simply does not understand. The parents and kids are very very poorly matched at this stage, the parents understand very well how to concentrate and what it means to focus on a given task, even if the parents are not or were not good athletes. The kids are loving it athletically, but do not have the slightest clue how to concentrate, or focus, and it shows.

8. Somewhere about now you run into young kids who are also good. Why? Well, playing tennis well requires aptitude at a range of tasks. The most imporant aptitude in the 10 and unders and the 12 and unders is a tolerance for boredom, repetitive, hitting the ball back. Very few kids have this. Those that naturally do, zoom right to the top. You've got to have faith at this point, didn't all of us and all of our friends learn to concentrate sooner or later?

9. Finally, at this point its helpful to remind yourself what this is all about, anyway. Provided you enjory tennis, as long as it is clearly played for enjoyment there is no reason for a child to "quit." If the kid likes it, keep in mind that there is almost no athletic limit to playing on a high-school team. Sure, you may have to make the team, I'm just saying that its a rare high-school team in which there is no place for a kid who likes to play, is willing to play five or six days a week, is willing to play competitive tournaments at some level, but is just not a good athlete. If the child does have some athletic talent, the possiblity of playing in college is not a ridiculous notion. The great thing about tennis is that, if your child plays from age 10 to 18, they may not get a scholarship to Stanford, but they are not going to have their dream of playing in college ruined by a basketball player who decides to take up tennis at age 17, in tennis there is a high return on sheer dedication.

Balanced against all of this is what you can do wrong. Its not your career, its theirs. Considering the number of players who could actually make some sort of living is dwarfed by the number of promising players who quit, I'd say the main point is to err on the side of fun, at almost all costs. At the junior tournaments by far the most relaxed parents are the former top players. By far.

Having said all of that, some of the legendary tough/crazy tennis parents (Jim Pierce, Damir Docic, Mike Agassi?) are incredibly lucky the kids didnt' do a Menendez on them. The risk/reward ratio of pushing a kid too much vs. not enough is not even close, in my opinion.

Most of us arrive at wisdom by anecdote. So I ask this. Name one player who would have had the ability to be in the top 30 but who was stifled because their parent did not make them play seven days a week at age 7. Or who did not make them play 30 tournaments a year at age 12 or 14.

Pete hangs out with pros all the time. Name one guy ranked 200 who fits this category.

There are none.

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 07:23 PM

dunlop maxply you had a lot of good points, especially this: " in tennis there is a high return on sheer dedication."

i have to agree, at least to a certain point. (there is occasionally a problem with that a word?)

which brings us back to the same problem: if you want your child to reach a really high level, should you uh coerce them into dedicating more time than they normally would want to because it would (probably) result in a high return? and if yes then how much?

i think that if i had a kid (scary thought!!) and he/she was at least mildly coordinated i'd push him/her to pursue a sport three/four times a week

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 07:25 PM

Now I really, really wish I hadn't quit tennis lessons at age six. *Wahhhh*!

On the other hand, I was in love with the piano back then (where did that love go??) and I couldn't imagine doing anything else at that age. Sometimes, you just gotta let the kid decide what he/she wants to do. I love hacking around with my little bro but what if Mum and Dad had pushed me at age six to go to class every week? My relationship with tennis might have soured the same way my relationship with piano eventually did and then I'd have neither tennis nor piano in my life.

But can I pick it up again now that I'm in college????

Posted by kiwibee 10/02/2006 at 07:33 PM

I wish I had stuck around when it comes to fencing. I love the white uniform and those moves: on guard and attack....

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 07:35 PM

Remember, there are other sports? Like, for example, soccer, very complimentary with tennis and very social, espcially at the younger divisions. Its not hard at all to play some sport seven days a week.

My particular anecdotal bias is that I caught, and saw others catch, the guys who either immediately caught on to the proper way to win the 12s and those whose parents simply made them play alot.

The reality is, that if you're talking about playing in college, for some sort of Division I school, you're talking about some serious play, a couple of hours a day most days a week from age 16 or 17 on, and by that point, every tournament you can lay your hands on.

At that point, parental "pushing" is really irrelevant.

Where it is relevant, in the 10s, 12s and 14s, well, do you get to retire at 14? If not, isnt' what ever you do from age 8-14 really just putting together building blocks for 15+?

Most of the "pushing" I see is from parents who don't understand why their kid is making ridiculous mistakes. The answer is that they are making ridiculous mistakes because the are too stupid, in a tennis sense of course, to realize how important it is not to make mistakes.

Yes, there are kids who can, through application of force, be apprised that mistakes are bad. So what.

I could go on, but I think that the key to being a poor tennis parent is over-emphasis on the ability to concentrate at the younger ages. To achieve anything near what the parents are "pushing for" -- these same kids are going to have to play for eight, nine, ten YEARS. Somewhere along the line they are going to figure out how to concentrate.

I guess when you have personally seen the turnover from the top rankings in the 12s to the top rankings in the 18s, its easy to come to this conclusion.

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 07:36 PM

of course momofan!

i've never played soccer but plan on learning in college lol. i also played piano for like 8 years but sucked at it and finally my parents let me quit. we still have the baby grand and when i look at it i feel really really guilty... same thing with the flute... and the bass guitar ...but oh well. i guess i'm just not musically inclined?


actually if my parents had let me decide what i wanted to do when i was little i probably would have quit everything. but maybe i was just a difficult child!

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 07:37 PM

It is a scary thought, isn't it? Yikes! But I think, considering how much I got pushed as a little kid and how much I still get pushed by the 'rents sometimes (mostly to bring home the grades, but also for piano), that I wouldn't push my kid. At least, I hope I wouldn't. This all might change in 20 years when I actually HAVE a kid, of course, but there's nothing worse than seeing your child lose all his/her love for a hobby due to 'burnout.' Or, worse yet, become a Menendez brother...

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 07:43 PM

A question back at those with musical expertise. It always struck me that if anyone could sit down and play popular tunes on the piano or guitar they would really not be likely to quit, certainly not before the true responsiblities of adulthood set in.

Isn't the problem that to get good enough to play in a band, you have to put in a year or two of not just playing once a week, but five or six days a week? Any during that year or two you basically suck?

If so, its remarkably like tennis.

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 07:43 PM

Ancicfan, let's not talk about that five-letter word, "guilt." Oh god my parents know how to "guilt" me into just about anything, lol. I still feel guilty when I go home and see my poor mahogany Petrof sitting forlorn, in the corner, aching to have some Debussy played on it, and what does it get? My brother banging his heart out to "Chopsticks"! Oh, well. As long as *someone* gets some pleasure out of it. I'm not touching the piano for a while, not until I can get to grips with my feelings about being pushed and failing under all the pressure...

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 07:45 PM

Dunlop: I couldn't play "popular tunes" (or at least, the not-abridged versions) on the piano till about 5-6 years after first starting lessons and going through the monotony of Hanon, scales, "primer books," etc, etc. Of course, I might just be a "slow learner," but in order to get to the "You pick 'em, you play 'em" stage in piano, you simply *MUST* go through the (often infantile) "building blocks" of "Mary had a little lamb," etc, etc.

I have no clue what it's like in other musical instruments, this is just my personal experience from ten years of playing the piano...

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 07:46 PM

yeah i've got kinda stereotypical asian parents where grades are really important (no Bs ever!!! go to nerd camp!! (do not pass go, do not collect $200)) but sports were never that big a deal.
i hated the pressure but i'm looking back now (around college app time) and i'm glad that they pushed me to get good grades and keep at it.

of course i wish i have a kid who has his/her own motivation and does well because he/she wants to. i don't want to push 'em to do something he/she doesn't want to. it's obviously a fine line between wasted potential and burnout.

Posted by marieJ 10/02/2006 at 07:58 PM

i'm not yet a parent but as a daughter i can say parents allways push you in some ways... and fortunately mine did push me sometimes in the right direction...
some parents push their kids to be their equals : be a doctor, a lawyer like mom or dad...
the others push their kids to see them doing better than they did...
some in between let their kids be whatever they want...
and it works for everybody and it doesn' rule down here...

in france any federation has the "sport-etudes" concept : part time sport and studies academies.
some are private like moratoglou (baggy learn there) and some depend of the french federation of tennis, soccer, etc...
when the kids are willing to make the step forward and train more intensively with professionals they just move to them.
most of the french tennis players have come out of them actually.
but it's not allways easy : they predicted that grosjean could never be a top player because of his relative short size, the kids and parents have to fight sometimes against the odds anyway and push the limits of everyone to make things happened...
i've read an interview of baggy saying how his father send him to france for his own sake in tennis but at the same time you could feel that it was heartbreakning for him to leave his family and his mum in order to do it...
many parents did make that step for their kids, like sharpov, tursunov or safin but the price to pay is high...
federer and nadal are more than lucky that their family could afford the price to keep them around, it's just interresting to notice they are now on the top of rankings... just a coincidence, but maybe not...

Posted by marieJ 10/02/2006 at 08:09 PM

my pillow is looking for me... and vice versa ;)
nit' all

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 08:10 PM

Well, now momo, I'm sort if intrigued. Once you got to that stage (the five or six years in stage), was the natural thing to join a band with some friends? Did the concept of spending, say 10 or so hours a week being a social musician conflict with studies? Would your parents have gone along with it?

In junior tennis there is the moment when its not enough for the parents to simply pay for lessons, or tell kids to go out and play. You have to give up entire weekends to drive to tournaments.

At that point you lose tons of parents.

Posted by ncot 10/02/2006 at 08:30 PM

great post peter.

apprently it is easy to lump richard williams with melanie molitor, stefano capriati, jimmy pierce, mike agassi, and yuri sharapov, due to the fact that they all produced tennis prodigies in their children. but on more subtle points, i think, he is different from the above-mentioned others.

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 08:53 PM

I was (am?) a classical pianist. My "dabbling" in popular music was just that -- dabbling. Plus, it's kinda tough to form a "band" with a piano. Whereas with guitar, bass, vocalists, and even drums, to a certain extent, the instruments are "portable," I would hardly describe a piano in such terms. So not a lot of kids who take the piano end up playing the piano in a "band." Keyboards, different issue, but once again, keyboards are a different instrument from your typical piano, and typically the kind of kids who play keyboards don't play classical piano literature, and the kids who play classical piano literature (like myself) don't really play "pop" music.

So while I learned a couple Backstreet Boys and N'Sync hits, my primary literature continued to consist of Hanon, scales, and Bach/Mozart/Debussy. Perhaps this was the reason for my apathy; piano's a very individual instrument, and after a while it's not much fun to just sit and practice every day without the "other people" aspect that comes naturally with a band.

My brother, on the other hand, plays the electric guitar (softly!) and he gets to play TONS of popular music and might very well start a band once he gets the basics down. So it varies from instrument to instrument, but the instrument that I chose, happened to be a very personal one (much like tennis).

Me = piano, tennis
My brother = guitar, soccer, basketball

Guess which one's the "nerd" and which is the "party kid" in our family?

Posted by Lucy 10/02/2006 at 08:59 PM

This is really interesting. I guess there is a very fine line between being supportive and "pushing" your kids too hard. Very few kids, I would imagine, have the innate desire and drive to become outstanding - and yet in some fields, it takes incredible dedication from a very young age to excel. So pushy parents are almost a necessary evil if a kid is going to be really excellent at something at a young age. And tennis players, like many athletes, generally need to excel early or not at all.

I know a lot of people who feel they were kind of underparented and wish they'd been pushed more as kids. (This feeling is usually strongest during an Olympic year.) The flip side of that, though, is the kids who were pushed and spend the rest of their lives trying to atone for their failure to live up to parents' expectations. The bottom line is that only a small majority of kids are going to end up successful pro athletes. Whether or not it's worth risking commandeering someone's childhood for a discipline and single-mindedness that might never play off is a decision every parent has to make his or herself.

Parenting has got to be the most difficult thing on earth.

Posted by Fan of Tennis 10/02/2006 at 09:02 PM

Hey, I know this isn't on the 'topic' but has anyone heard from Tim lately? I miss his Federer comments since Roger's my favorite. Just wondering... Where are you Tim?

Posted by steggy 10/02/2006 at 09:05 PM

FoT: Oh, he's around. Earlier today on the 'Net Post. :)

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 09:09 PM

Tim is probably busy eating in some New York sidewalk cafe, discussing politics, religion, sex, basically everything that is prohibited here, with his fellow New Yorkers.

Either that, or he's getting busy with some GE's hehe!

Posted by Lucy 10/02/2006 at 09:17 PM

Those options are not mutually exclusive by any stretch of the imagination, Momofan.

Posted by Absolutely no one 10/02/2006 at 09:23 PM

Steggy, I was just wondering, can you see peoples pin codes? I mean, can you detect who the person is even if he/she using an alias different from the usual name? lol =)

Posted by steggy 10/02/2006 at 09:27 PM

Why yes, temes/absolutely no one, as a matter of fact I do have eyes in the back of my head and a window into your computer. :)

Posted by vanfan 10/02/2006 at 09:28 PM

"When I dismounted after three hours of mowing on a chilly day with an intermittent drizzle..."

Hey Pete if the "tennis" thing doesn't work out you could be a madcap weather guy for tv news ;-)

But seriously I enjoy Luke's independent streak. Give 'em hell Cowboy Luke.

Posted by Juan José 10/02/2006 at 09:29 PM

Hank: about the music, I can relate. The first instrument I wanted to play was the drums, but my parents weren't wild about the idea. They told me, however, if I'd like a guitar. I said ok, sensing how hopeless the drum seemed for them. So, I got a guitar at age 15. They offered lessons, and I had, I think, two of them. Didn't dislike them, but didn't go crazy about 'em either. Still, I wouldn't just pick up the guitar and start playing: it mostly stayed inside its case.

However, when I was sixteen, and having brought the guitar when my family moved to another country, I started to look more at it, and decided to give it another go, this time with no lessons involved. My main problem was that I didn't know how to/couldn't even tune it properly. So what I did was "tune" the last four strings down, totally arbitrarily. I liked the sound I got, and for the first time, I actually felt comfortable with the instrument, just enjoying playing around with it.

Still, for the next two years I didn't play more than once a week, and not for very long. The big break came when I was 18, I think that one night I found these "tablatures" of Radiohead songs. Now, I'm a huge Radiohead KAD, and the possibility to play some of their songs just seemed fantastic to me. I learned the chords, and practiced till the sun came out. And it was a really rewarding experience.

Now, even in those days, I would still just play a couple times a week, and I didn't even consider being in a band (too much of a musical snob, sadly). The next big break came when I came here to Buenos Aires. Living by myself, with not much to occupy my mind besides school, I found myself playing the guitar more often. I'd look for more songs to play, and even think about actually writing something. The thing is, since I started to play almost every day, I obviously started to get better "performances" out of these few favorite songs, and learning new ones wasn't as difficult as before.

And, during this time came the first few chances to perform in front of people. Now, the trick is, you know how any given song should sound, and you have a pretty good idea of what you have to do to play it (and sing it) right. Still, you have to find the focus necessary for that particular period of time to avoid making silly mistakes. And finding that focus consistently is obviously what differentiates the real musicians from amateurs like me.

Still, as you keep playing every day, keep rehearsing certain songs, putting more effort into getting a "clean" performance, you suddenly start realizing that you're more aware of the whole process, and that yes, you are getting a whole lot better at this. It has happened to me that I've learned to play some songs I'd only DREAMED of playing a few years ago. Plus, the nerves to play in front of people is not so daunting as before.

So, as tennis, yes, it's pretty hard. You can't just pick a guitar and learn Paranoid Android. You probably have to play it a few hundred times to actually get a decent feel of the song. Then you have to play it some few hundred more times so you can actually sing while you play it, and then you have to play it some more so the singing and playing isn't abysmal.

Yet, it's such a wonderful thing, to have this habit. And no, I've never thought of "retiring" the guitar. You just don't throw away something that gives you so much satisfaction and that you do with no other purpose than to please yourself.

Posted by vanfan 10/02/2006 at 09:29 PM

Steggy, just how far into our computers can you see? I think you must also have a crystal ball there with you.

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 09:35 PM

Steggs, that's kinda frightening. I hope you can't see my "Things I Love about My Roomate" (code for "Things About Her That Drive Me Insane") file....

Posted by steggy 10/02/2006 at 09:39 PM

vanfan: That question is best answered with another question: How long do I want to go to jail for? ;)

momofan: How is the new roommate working out?

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 09:42 PM

Things are just fine; she's quiet as a mouse and pretty sweet, too. Best thing is, NO BOYS IN OUR ROOM! EVER! Actually more like no PEOPLE in our room, EVER, especially no annoying giggly teenage airheads (ahem) to disturb me at my 10:00PM PST bedtime. Ahhh, bliss....

Seriously Steggs, you're really scaring me with your computer knowledge...I need to go order "Computers for Dummies" this weekend, obviously.

Posted by temes 10/02/2006 at 09:42 PM

Steggy, I'm now totally convinced you have something to do with the FBI...
Anyway, it's a nice life when you can sleep majestic 3 hours because you have to study your atomic physics and atomic mathematics and atomic mother tongue and what not...I hate hate hate coffee but now I must shove it in if I plan to read everything in Now what is a better place to spend a break at 5 am than TW?
I see my second favourite subject, music, is the current topic. I am a singer, aha, and I can tell the vocal cords are just as much instruments as are any "unorganic" instruments. They are played. Aha.

Posted by vanfan 10/02/2006 at 09:49 PM

Momofan, I am a classically trained pianist (6 years of studies) but I enjoy playing contemporary music. Many great pop artists got thier start playing the classics. Elton John for one.
I also play the flute and am a vocalist. It is the latter that I studied in college and most enjoy.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/02/2006 at 09:50 PM

To the Slazenger Challenge nº1, er, Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph, er, Bancroft Players Special previously known as Hank Moravec:

I wish you were my tennis parent!
(sorry, Hank... never fancied the Dunlop...)

This touching piece illustrated by a touching picture (the little bugger likes the corporate boxes, uh, Big Pedro?) makes me remember a short interview I had with Eric Van Harpen -- the dutch hardass who previously coached Conchita Martinez («she dumped me for a woman», he said), Arantxa Sanchez, Anna Kournikova, Patty Schnyder, Ana Ivanovic, etc etc.

Anyway, I talked to him when he came to Portugal with Ana Ivanovic when she played here a 10.000 dollars event as a 15 year-old (lost in the semis to another 15 year-old, Svetlana Krivencheva, who is now sidelined by doping pregnancy). He told me then that «Ana has the perfect parents», because I always ask a coach how the parents are like. But then, going through his former protegées, he also told me that «Patty Schnyder had perfect parents, the nicest people I've met».

Patty sued her parents, the same parents that hired a convicted fellon to be her bodyguard and protect her from the former guru/lover that ruined her first life as a tennis player. Confused? Nowadays, that bodyguard -- a really really good... pool player, from what I've heard -- is Patty's husband and coach.

Pete, it's about time you come up with a post about her.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 10:05 PM

In should be noted in honor of Robert Lansdorp, hardass of all hardasses, that basically the whole notion of tennis coaching divides into two camps.

One might argue that Lansdorp is basically a realist. Its true that at a certain point, competitive tennis is a very difficult thing to put yourself through. Success often, very very often, is simply determined by which player can put up with the most internal and external stress.

Accordingly, it makes sense to add stress to practice, this not only gets the player used to stress, but weeds out those who dislike stress. Sort of a "better to find out sooner rather than later" philosophy.

I always disagreed with that view. When I was a teenager, I would have put up with absolutely anything, but I think the reality is that the benefits of long-term play so outweigh the benefits of short-term success that there is little point (as a parent, anyway) in crafting the program to the short term.

If you want to know at age 12 whether your kid is the next Sharapova, you don't have to go to Lansdorp. I'll tell you for free. They're not. Of course, I could be wrong, but I'll be right 999,999 times before then.

Moreover, if they are going to end up the next Sharapova, as a parent you'll need to affirmatively screw something up, big time, to prevent it from happening.

That's my view, anyway.

Posted by temes 10/02/2006 at 10:06 PM

Miguel Seabra, nice comment you posted there. Interesting. Anyways, Pattys husband is a nice fellow, it seems. I feel souls sympathy towards him even though I don't know anything about him except that he is an absolutist and I so am not. I really like him. Strange. Umm, Rainier his name? I like his hair. It's so like mine is.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/02/2006 at 10:09 PM

By the way, my view of competitive competence is nicely illustrated by the Gordon Forbes anecdote set forth in Steve's blog post below.

"Now idiot, is the time to panic!"

Priceless, no doubt. Witty, perhaps so witty one wonders if its true. But nonetheless, very, very wise.

Can only imagine Sharapova uttering that phrase in that situation?

Posted by Bill 10/02/2006 at 10:24 PM

Oh - Great another doper! And suprise surprise- he's from FRANCE. You have to wonder where all of these players who never do anything suddenly have good results
(jankovic, Amelie, Dimitri, etc..) in spurts after dismal tennis careers come from.

LONDON Oct 2, 2006 (AP)— Antony Dupuis, a French tennis player ranked 166th, was suspended for 2 1/2 months Monday for using a banned substance found in asthma medication.

The 33-year-old player tested positive for salbutamol at a challenger event in Tunisia on May 2, the International Tennis Federation's independent tribunal said. He is eligible to play again Nov. 11 and has three weeks to appeal.

Dupuis said he took salbutamol to treat asthma. The tribunal accepted his defense but punished him for failing to provide the required medical certificate.

The tribunal said Dupuis had no intent to "enhance performance" and the otherwise mandatory two-year ban did not apply."

The suspension was backdated to Aug. 26, when Dupuis voluntarily withdrew from competition. The tribunal said he would have to refund $30,540 in prize money.

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 10:27 PM

She'd only do it if her father told her to.

Posted by momofan 10/02/2006 at 10:31 PM

Are you freaking kidding me? Dupuis is a 32-year-old challenger level player! Who cares if he's banned for all of SIX WEEKS or not?

And I love how you just brush of Amelie (career high of NUMBER ONE prior to AO '06), Jankovic (career high of No. 17 prior to recent run of form), and Dmitry (a solid top-50 player for the past few years) as having "dismal tennis careers." Wanna talk dismal? How about the Jelena Dokic's, Mirjana Lucic's, and Sesil Karantacheva's of the tennis world?

With that, good-night everyone. I have a headache on the level of one of Tim's GE hangovers...

Posted by ancicfan 10/02/2006 at 10:33 PM

"You have to wonder where all of these players who never do anything suddenly have good results
(jankovic, Amelie, Dimitri, etc..) in spurts after dismal tennis careers come from."

bill: do you really?

and why not throw in james blake in there for good measure? i'm sure the reason he's done so well this year is that he's been jacked up on steroids.

Posted by temes 10/02/2006 at 10:36 PM

Bill just likes to shake things up a bit...I'm sure he doesn't mean that, does he? Noooooooooo. No-oo. Eh Bill?

Posted by kiwibee 10/02/2006 at 10:51 PM

Yea Pete. It's time to write something about Patty Schnyder.

Posted by VE 10/02/2006 at 11:01 PM


Love the blog, but I'll play Devil's Advocate quickly.

While many tennis parents will wish they could have been Mike Agassi or Richard Williams, I think just as many would prefer to have been Karolj Seles or Sam Sampras.

Posted by Clayton 10/02/2006 at 11:33 PM

hey all, i just saw posted on Wikipedia that recent WTA Top 20 player Elena Bovina is in rehab for heroin addiction. I know Wikipedia isn't that reliable but if that's true it's probably newsworthy.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/02/2006 at 11:50 PM

Maybe you're mixed up: Bovina is a PLACE in Texas where they have a place for drug addiction rehab

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/03/2006 at 12:04 AM

This is ridiculous: just check the last paragraphs under Elena Bovina at Wikipedia right now:

In July 2006, Elena was admitted to Promises, a rehabilitation facility located in Southern California, for a heroin addiction. She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and is currently undergoing treatment for the disease.
In September 2006 Elena was rumored to have been injured in a road accident involving a bus; this has not been confirmed yet.
In October 2006 She is planned to participate in the new Rocco Siffredi movie called The Italian Renaissance of Sodomy, Where she's gonna suck the well known italian..
She has won 3 singles titles and 5 titles in doubles, and 2004 Australian Open in mixed doubles»

Heroin addiction? Hepatitis C? Rocco Siffredi? Sodomy? Suck?

Some prankster -- who knows, maybe her former 'intense' coach Joe Giuliano -- has been doing some strange editing at Wikipedia...

Posted by Ray Stonada 10/03/2006 at 12:11 AM

Faskinating stuff. Not a parent (yet), but I feel like Lucy's friends sometimes: I sometimes regret that my parents didn't really push me to do anything at all. Most of my childhood was spent riding my bike, playing basketball unseriously (practicing half-court shots as much as left-handed dribbling), playing video games, and building radio-controlled cars and reading. Then, in high school, listening to music, painting, dissipation, and reading.

That learning to concentrate thing that Dunlop mentioned? I only got that after, eureka, about 100 competitive matches. In my late twenties. I'd just never realized how to dial it in on command before - partially because I'd never been pushed to.

Maybe I could have played college tennis (D-III, no doubt), had I been. And maybe I'd be a more motivated person - the ability to focus I've learned from tennis has been useful everywhere, just as a model for how to approach something more seriously.

Which brings me to a question for Dunlop, Miguel, Pete, anyone with connections to the game: when Double A talks about "all that tennis has given him," all the life lessons it taught him, tell me, what do you think he means exactly?

Posted by Natasha 10/03/2006 at 12:14 AM

"Pete, keep the story about Luke coming. They're very cute. I like to baby my dogs.(Justine, JuJu and Baby Juju) "

I don't know if I'll be amused or insulted for Pete. What Pete does to Luke, Samantha does to her DOGS. LOL.

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 12:29 AM

Rocco Siffreddi.

Poor Elena.

Posted by Clayton 10/03/2006 at 12:44 AM

Giuliano was coaching Bovina too? I only heard about his alleged incidents of misbehavior with Tara Snyder and Mirjana Lucic.

Posted by Lucy 10/03/2006 at 12:45 AM

I don't know, Ray, I think most people are better off under the "well rounded" model of parenting. Aren't you glad you were allowed to kind of wander aimlessly through childhood? I know I am. I'd rather be me than JenCap. But millions wouldn't, I guess.

I really don't understand the kind of commitment to mischief it takes to vandalise a Wiki article on Elena Bovina.

Posted by Ray Stonada 10/03/2006 at 01:02 AM

Yeah, I'm conflicted about it, Luce. I enjoyed my childhood like crazy, but I could stand to be a little more diligent...

OT note, Luce: according to a Tourism Australia commercial that just played on my TV, Australia is the land of:

-kangaroos hopping off golf course greens as people putt
-fireworks in Sydney harbor
-busty blondes on the beach, saying, "we left the lights on for you!"

Posted by Clayton 10/03/2006 at 01:03 AM

what happened between Patty Schnyder and her family is basically the ugliest story you've never heard. The WTA and the tennis media have totally swept it under the rug. Now the WTA is actually taking out advertisements to help promote the forthcoming "tell-all" book by Schnyder and her convicted felon husband - who as far i can tell, is an arrogant, self-serving egomaniac. It just gets more and more bizarre.

Posted by Lucy 10/03/2006 at 01:20 AM

Yep, that about sums up the wide brown land. Oh wait, no BBQ? I don't know how THAT omission managed to get through the approval process. I'm writing an e-mail of complaint now. Heads will roll, I assure you.

Golf courses really are the habitat of choice for kangaroos, though.

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 01:54 AM

All of this just made me remember the time when I was 10, 12, when I did so much sport at school. At one point, I was in the soccer team (we weren't bad, nor particularly good), the track team (following a kind of golden generation of the school. No suspense, mine wasn't), basketball (we were terrible) and even friekin' volleyball, which I absolutely hate.

The priority, of course, was soccer. And my dad kind of semi-pushed me in that direction. However, the problem was, I didn't have a clear-cut position. I started as a goalkeeper, played stints as a right back, central defender, central midfielder, right wing, and even center-forward (funny enough, my last competitive match for my school, during senior year, saw me come back between the goalposts. That was a nice "coming full circle" thing). The coaches I had never really played me consistently in either position, and it's kind of hard to develope as a soccer player in that kind of environment. However, I wasn't that good, so it wasn't such a letdown after all.

Had anyone pushed me further, I don't think the results would've been any different. I don't have the character for soccer, period. (plus, as I said, I'm not that good anyway).

Still, what goes around in my head is what would've happened if I had picked up a tennis racket back then. It's pretty much the only significant sport I didn't try, for one reason or the other.(my school also had handball, indoor soccer, table tennis, and so on and so forth). Now, just reading about what it takes to enjoy the sport I already love, what traits are beneficial for you, that "what if" feeling just gets more difficult to avoid.

The point is, for a parent, maybe the most important thing to do is to focus on what the kid's character is shaping up to be. Meaning, if he likes to be by himself, don't push him into a complex group dynamic like soccer, basketball or something like that. And if he likes to be among his peers, don't push him to be hitting balls by himself on a tennis court.

I don't know, I certainly don't wish to have Andre's upbringing, or any other, for that matter. I wouldn't want to have that type of father figure, and by no means do I want to be such a parent.

I don't know, those years were so much fun. The training, the friends, the thrill of the competition, all that stuff. I guess you can only push your kid to have such an experience. If he/she is particularly good at something, push a little harder, but always considering if the kid actually likes it in the first place.

Posted by L. Rubin 10/03/2006 at 02:23 AM

Who's the guy with the big shnoz in the picture? Is it Bodo?

Posted by chloe02 10/03/2006 at 06:16 AM

One of the most interesting posts and tons of brilliant comments and insight afterwards - thanks, everyone. Being positively ancient in comparison with all you youngsters, I am at that stage of parenting with a son of 11 yrs who is just starting to compete in local tennis tournaments. He started playing in our local club when he was 8 yrs, as well as doing soccer and other stuff. I am, as you probably guessed, a tennis nut and want him to play well and enjoy the game as much as I do.

However, it wasn't until this summer when he really started to bug me about wanting to play. During the holidays, he wanted to play just about every day and I think if I'd let him, he'd probably have taken his racquet to bed with him. I don't know what happened, just a little switch tripped. We played mixed doubles up at the club and, boy, did I enjoy that.

I am sure he'll never be a professional tennis player (at the moment, he wants to save the planet from global warming which even I have to agree, is probably more important) but if he can hit a ball well and enjoy a good level of social tennis for the rest of his life (or maybe even get a tennis scholarship to study climatology??) then that would be great.

I agree that when you look at the phenomenal success of the Sharapovas and Agassis of our world, perhaps the price (in terms of emotional damage, for example, what damage is being done to Maria by not having a strong mother/daughter relationship during her adolescence?) paid by them and their parents might be worth it. Surely, though, we are sophisticated enough to think that material success, tawdry glamour and pink Cellphones are not actually what real life is all about. Just a side issue for Maria, is it just me that finds the whole slapping yourself on the leg to concentrate a bit, well, weird? If it's some kind of sophisticated training technique (rather than self-flagellation!), then why don't the guys do it?

Pete, you wrote during the US Open, a very poignant piece about the fate of most professional tennis players to be losers rather than winners. I believe in the same way, for every Yuri Sharapov, there are probably 100's of tennis parents who damage the long term relationships with their kids by forcing them to reach for something they can't achieve. You want Luke to be a winner in his teens and feel good about his achievements. So OK, maybe like me, you have to be thrilled when your son comes home from a tournament and declares he's won a cup - only to find it's a green plastic Knickerbocker Glory cup. I've still got in on display though!

Posted by 10/03/2006 at 07:41 AM

I'm gonna appear either reductive or obtuse or both for saying this, but the problem with your argument is that your assessment of their abilities as a parent rests entirely on whether or not the child was successful: Jose Henin was a terrible tennis parent precisely because he didn't support his daughter, but this has nothing to do with her subsequent results - it may even have been key to them...

Posted by Samantha 10/03/2006 at 07:42 AM

Pete, I just saw the picture of Luke. What a cute kid. Pete, I'll trade you Luke for my little brother who looks and acts just like Dennis the Menace. I think parent can give their kids a love for the game. My love for tennis comes from my mom who was the biggest Borg fan, but it was my dad who taught me how to play. If I didn't play tennis, I would spend alot of time just hanging out at the mall, wasteing my time like alot of my friend do.

Posted by Fed Fan 10/03/2006 at 07:47 AM

I think that there are a lot of different ways to 'parent' children to success in tennis. But as everyone knows, just because you're successful at something doesn't mean it's something you love to do. That's why I think that it's so important to let kids choose what they want to do. Once they do, you have to be tough on them because a dreamer isn't gonna win a game against the best. But it's the parents that live their dreams through their children that create an atmosphere where 8 times out of 10 the kid doesn't have that real love of the game. Why? Because his career was chosen for him. They don't go out there because they love to do it, but because their parents want them to.

This may lead to great success, but the examples are very few. It also depends on what you want to get out of the game. A great thing for your family, or a star career for your kid. Federer's parents are among the most normal as far as 'stories' go; kid chose the career, parents then stepped in to help by enforcing discipline and other such things, kid developed a real love of the game, kid had great success. Of course talent is a huge part.

That's a pretty normal story. Then there are the disasters, the parents living through their children. Does Yuri Sharapov fit into this category? i don't think so. I just think he's a little obnoxious, and a bit of a jerk. Other parents are extremely tough on their children, and this can work sometimes and not others.

Basically there are a lot of different methods that work as far as success goes, but not many as far as developing a love of the game, and having a good healthy family atmosphere. You have to let the kid choose. Once he chooses, you do whatever you can as long as he's willing to put the work in.

There are a billion other factors, like money and time and things that come up. Successful tennis parents are just good at 'coaching' their children, they are also people that had the money and time to get it done for their kids. It's a lot easier if you have a lot of money. Doesn't mean people that are poor can't succeed, it's just a lot harder.

Posted by Pete 10/03/2006 at 08:05 AM

Ms. Rubin; you are a regular Clouseau!!!! Two other things: maybe I'm not sensitve enough, but actually, kids and pups are more alike than different, behaviorally. And can anyone see the scoreboard in the back in the top picture?

Posted by Vivien 10/03/2006 at 08:09 AM

Can we see it or can we read the score? Becker-Agassi 3-5 3rd set?

Posted by creig bryan 10/03/2006 at 08:45 AM

> it just me that finds the whole slapping yourself on the leg to concentrate a bit, well, weird? If it's some kind of sophisticated training technique (rather than self-flagellation!), then why don't the guys do it?...

During the US Open, Tommy Haas struck both of his thighs with his racket, hard, twice. When he called the trainer to massage his legs,
you could clearly see the welt marks. The theactrical reference in this one may be William Hurt (no pun) near the end of Altered States.

Dunlop Maxply: Excellent disection of the pressure/pleasure parents conundrum. Nice followups, and added anecdotes, all.

Concentration/focus, in any area, is becoming a lost art. The ability to solve problems requires it. Relaxed concentration is even more difficult to attain, let alone sustain. And, it is the definitive dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.

ncot: Would you care to elaborate on your view of Richard's differences?

Keep Smiling

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 09:00 AM

*OT alert*

Positive adjectives Federer used in his first blog entry: Exciting, pleased, great (more than once), unbelievable, special, nice, talented, incredible, fantastic, beautiful (more than once) wonderful, perfect, amazing, enjoyable, polite, respectful, happy, interesting, fascinating, relaxed, healthy.

Negative adjectives he used: bad. "The traffic hasn't been as bad as I had expected"

The adjectives I am choosing to use to remark on this entry: "WARM AND FUZZY!" made me think of James Blake's puppy, this entry did. I wonder why.

Posted by gaga over fed 10/03/2006 at 09:19 AM

Pete, this is definitely a great subject to ponder. While this is on the same microcosm of tennis, it happens all the times in siblings/families.

Why did Andy Roddick turn out to be a much better tennis player than his brother John, when John was supposed to be the tennis star? Why did my sister and I both end up obtaining doctorates, while some of our cousins struggle just to finish a bachelors degree.

This subject brings in to play the whole nature/nurture argument.

Unfurtunately, I have a nitpick. I am surprised to see you refer to Yuri Sharapov as "Yuri Sharapova." You wrote, "Imagine this whimical scenario: Yuri Sharapova is on trial for being a horrible tennis parent."

As you probably know, in Easter European countries daughters names end in "ova" if their father's name ends in "ov."

I searched the followup tennis posts and most of your readers correctly wrote his name. Hope this was just a typo or you just being rushed.

Posted by temes 10/03/2006 at 09:49 AM

I think every single tennis parent who push their kids to the pro world, are selfishly abusing their kids to a degree. They do take a lot away from the kid by taking him/her to a tennis court everyday for a long time and taking advantage of the kids childish mind in a manipulative way.
Many kids love to play tennis, but not on a everyday basis, they wanna be with friends and do kids stuff, but the parents indeed manipulate the kids to play. I'm sure this is always the case. So, I think the parents should apart from training a tennis player also train a tennis players mind. What I mean by this is to tell the kids what kind of life they might be living and what it takes to get to the top in all honesty, and give the kids the freedom of choice, whether they want to be pros or not, when they are old enough to understand.
I definitely think kids aged 2-8 or so should not be pushed too hard, they can be world number ones still. Some level of parents manipulating their kids is vital, and, for example, if my parents would have manipulated me to be a pro and I was now doing well on the pro circuit, I would be thankful. But if they would have manipulated the thought of not doing this out of my head, and pushed me too hard too early and not being frank what was ahead of me in order to make me a pro, I would say they were abusive.
Then of course there are cases where kids know to want to be pros, and push their parents to help them, but I think this is very rare.
All in all, I definitely think it takes more than an abusive parent to become a world number one, it takes the players own will and desire and burn from a young age,(plus talent) and that is why I find these players so impressive. Maria, Serena, Venus, Amelie anyone?
I say it is a very healthy way to be a pro when you start training hard at age 13, no one is pushing you at all, in order to make good living out of tennis and travel and have fun, but then again, these players arent larger than life impressive as are the really amazing players, who have that special tennis DNA in them. GO TOP TENNIS PLAYERS! I adore the effort they have put in their whole lives basically to achieve what they have. They deserve every penny.
Sorry for the longer than life post.

Posted by Scott 10/03/2006 at 10:34 AM

Thanks for the link to the Menendez brothers article Pete. Fascinating. It seems that for every overbearing Mike Agassi, who damages his relationship with his child, but in the process produces a champion, there are many overbearing parents who damage their relationships with their children and produce mediocre juniors.

Posted by Melbourne 10/03/2006 at 10:49 AM

My two older boys started tennis because I happened to love the sport. On the other hand, they have also done soccer, swimming, basketball, tae kwon do, footy (Aussie Rules), and cross country. My husband and I think sports is important for fitness, gives them an alternative to video games and TV, and it builds their self-confidence which then hopefully translates into better results in school. Thus far, the “master plan” seems to be working :-).

Four years ago, my middle son’s teacher thought he might have to be held back in preschool and they were throwing out terms like “asperger syndrome”; we were in constant conferences about his anti-social behavior. With his continued participation in sports/tennis and as he got progressively better, his school performance also went up. Now, he’s a top student and also a top athlete in his grade. Success breeds confidence which breeds further success. As an 8-year old a year ago, he was picked to train with other “high potential talents” under the auspices of Tennis Australia. Being told he was good did wonders for his self-confidence and translated to improvements across all sporting activities. The same son who feared the soccer ball 2 years ago is now the best player on his team. Hopefully, this self-confidence gained through sports will also guide him in the future as he learns to navigate peer pressure to stay away from bad choices like drugs and alcohol. And if making good life choices is all that tennis will help my sons with, then I’ve done my job as a parent.

Posted by Sanja 10/03/2006 at 10:50 AM

How befitting that Luke has red hair to go with his fiery personality. Adorable.

Thanks for the link to that Menendez article. Very interesting I didn't know about the tennis connection, the sexual abuse charge was what stuck in my mind. I do remember Lyle being a very scary individual, though. (I was a self obsessed teenager at the time).

Having three young nephews, and going to many baseball and soccer matches, I find it very apparent at about the age of four which kids have some athletic talent and the right (aggressive) attitude to match it and I think they should be pushed - to an extent. It is disturbing when what should be encouragement comes in the form of beratement. That certainly goes too far and takes a "special" kind of parent, indeed.

I remember watching JCap at the French Open a few years back and she looked over at her dad and said "just relax" - I mean what does a kid have to go through to make the parent see it, finally?


Juan Martin Del Potro (the newest Argie sensation, who looks 18 in dog years) beat Ginepri 6-2, 6-2 in Japan.

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 10:51 AM

Juan Martín del Potro def. Robby Ginepri 6-2, 6-2.

This kid turned eighteen a week ago, and I think he just made the top 100.

Keep a sharp eye on this one (not that it's difficult: he's 6'5).

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 11:01 AM

Hey Sanja! Just a head by a hair.

This has been the best thing I've read so far this day:

DEL POTRO: "I like to play on these courts, hard is my favorite surface."


Then, some goofiness:

DEL POTRO: "I was playing against Henman on the PlayStation last year and now I meet him for real on a tennis court! I am looking forward to that."

Oh, and since you asked: I'm a big NBA fan ever since I was a kid, and that's how I got hooked on the Sports Guy, some two or three years ago. Yes, he's totally USA-centric, but more importantly, he's so outrageously funny that I don't care what he writes about: I'll read his grocery list, if it's available (it'll probably be 5000-words long, with references to BH90210). Plus, I'm totally in agreement with his premise: being a fan doesn't make you a delusional idiot who can't write coherent arguments on any given sport. I believe there is no such thing as a reporter's "objectivity" (much less a fan's), and this idea that a sports journalist cares about all the teams the same way is kind of artificial. Just admit who you like so we can all stop pretending and get on with it.

Posted by Sanja 10/03/2006 at 11:12 AM

JJ - Should've given you props for alerting us to his presence...

The Sports Guy is hilarious. There are some things he has written that I still think about when I want to laugh. Most notably the Karate Kid Series, the national spelling bee, the NBA all star game. A part from his book always makes me laugh where he says when he was bartending he and his friend named all the bar stools after different baseball players so when girls where on them they could say things like "Have you seen Manny Ramirez?" -"He's packing a few extra pounds but we may be able to start something with him".

Posted by Fan of Tennis 10/03/2006 at 11:13 AM

Hey May... Federer is who he is... I'd rather hear the 'positive' adjectives than someone who is always negative... But that's just me.

His 2nd blog is up and it's pretty good as well (to me, again)...

Posted by Juan José 10/03/2006 at 11:14 AM

Second best thing I read so far:

N. Djokovic def. N. Mahut 6-2, 6-3

Oh, and the second Fed blog entry is out. What a surprise, he's getting better at it.

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 11:18 AM

JJ: good morning, or whatever.

Fan of tennis: I love fed to pieces. The fact I can laugh at him is one of the reasons:)

*heading to read second blog*

Posted by Tim 10/03/2006 at 11:20 AM

wait, you Federer bashers out there who say Fed is boring and killing tennis in the US... have your read today's ATP blog? We get all the juicy details about his joy of sitting on expensive toilets, his love of artsy photo shoots, his practice 'match' with a 7 year old fan who hit a winner against him, etc., he's clearly not phoning this one in!

Hey, Tursinov, watch your back, there's a new blogger in town, buddy!

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 11:35 AM

What a diplomat Fed is. He enthuses over Japanese toilets, the Japanese food, and the Japanese media. And yes, he is getting better at blogging.

I don’t think Dima should worry, though. He is one of a kind.

Most interesting question of the week: what is Mirka going to do to get her revenge? Put Wasabi in Roger's shampoo?

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 11:46 AM

check this out. the commode that TMF was raving about.

Posted by robbyfan 10/03/2006 at 12:02 PM

okay-did anyone else chuckle at the heading "downloads" at the toilet website?

excuse me-I need live tennis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by vanfan 10/03/2006 at 12:04 PM

I am wondering about cleaning that little arm/bidet accessory. It looks like a crap trap. I am guessing if you can afford this toilet you have can afford the hired help required to clean it.

Posted by tlis 10/03/2006 at 12:08 PM

momofan, recalling your search for a Mauresmo poster, check out this link.

Posted by vanfan 10/03/2006 at 12:08 PM

Not to mention that any toilet that comes with a manual overide switch scares the crap out of me.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 12:14 PM

There are like a zillion pictures on her website.

Posted by Scott 10/03/2006 at 12:20 PM


Please do not jump on the bandwagon using the word "like" instead of "about," even in jest (" . . . at, like, eight miles per hour . . . "). You are too highly esteemed a writer to lower yourself in this manner.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 12:20 PM

"Not to mention that any toilet that comes with a manual overide switch scares the crap out of me."

In the words of Archchancellor Ridcully of the unseen university
"I have never felt so clean in my whole life"

Posted by steggy 10/03/2006 at 12:26 PM


Guys, Pete is having to make an emergency run up to Andes to re-register his n' Lisa's car today (otherwise they get daily tickets for it in the city) so I'll be posting a rebuttal of sorts to his Sport-Parent argument this afternoon.

Thanks for you patience and understanding.

Posted by Tari 10/03/2006 at 12:51 PM

LOL vanfan...I can see this discussion heading right down the crapper...

Posted by Sanja 10/03/2006 at 01:14 PM

There is nothing like waiting until the last minute - Pete!

Keep it clean - people! I love the rose tinted glasses, he was truly so impressed with the toilet that he just HAD to share it.

I can just hear : "Yes, people told me the blog was excellent and this is just incredible and it makes me happy, Thank you." Fed nod (as he does when accepting applause - I love that slight nod)

Posted by Tari 10/03/2006 at 01:20 PM

I love the "Fed nod" too, Sanja! I'll be thinking of you as well tonight watching the game. ;)

Posted by rafa fan 10/03/2006 at 01:34 PM

This is a very important topic, the coatching of children into the game, and incredible replies from all. I wonder, if the kids that are shipped off to Bolletieri camp or other training facilities would harbour resentment.

This whole parent/push issue should be addressed by the USTA, and some ground rules and recomendations need to be lay down. It looks like the parents are "flying blind" on what to do to get the kids into the sport, since they need to start so young.

To all Nadal fans, I beleive rafa will be playing in the indoor hardcourts tourney at Stockholm next week, and not sure if Fed will be there.

By the way, where is Fed blogging at?

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 01:37 PM

rafa fan
His blog is on the ATP website and he is blogging "from" the aig open in Japan.

Posted by Sanja 10/03/2006 at 01:46 PM

Tari, I subconsciously adopted the Fed nod. I give it to my boss all the time. He is also cutest when he has those spontaneous little giggle bursts.

Posted by May 10/03/2006 at 01:48 PM

Ptenisnet, you are not only an Asterix' fan, but also a Pratchett's fan? Now THAT gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ridcully... I would love him to head the ATP. (Although the librarian might be the better choice)

Posted by Vivien 10/03/2006 at 01:54 PM

Funny that you mentioned Jim Pierce.I know a tennis parent, based in the US, who frequently tries to convince me that Mary's father is really a great guy and is just 'misunderstood'.

I agree with MarieJ, I think that to some extent parents usually push their offspring. When I was about 5 or 6 I started art classes and then music (which I pursued until near the end of secondary school) while my sisters went to ballet and horseriding (as it's known as here). None of us had any problem with that but it was definitely our parents idea.At that age you are just too young to decide on a hobby. I think it's inevitable that you will be steered in a certain direction by your parents if only for a few years until you make your own choices.

In my opinion, tennis parents (those whose son/daughter becomes successful anyway) are judged by the media and the fans and I think that perceived omnipresence may not help project them in the most positive light - Yuri, Melanie etc. vs. Mr. & Mrs. Sampras, or McEnroe?

Miguel: Please excuse my ignorance, but what is a doping pregnancy (Krivencheva reference)? I don't think I've heard of that term before.

Pete: I'm well acquainted with Thomas the Tank Engine, both trainset and DVD, thanks to my godson (4).He always loves when I give him a new carriage as a present.I'm sure that playing with it is a great way to pass three hours while Dad is mowing the hay.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2006 at 01:56 PM

the librarian would make a great S&V player. Just the type of player that Pete describes who would give the fed a hard time.

Pratchett is the greatest.

Posted by Dan Markowitz 10/03/2006 at 02:04 PM

You mentioned Vince Spadea in this post, but you haven't mentioned the book we wrote, "Break Point." I know you like Charlie Bricker, this is his piece on the book.

Spadea gets `A' for book's honest portrayal

Posted October 3 2006

I finished the Vince Spadea book, which surprises me because I wasn't interested in it at all when his writer, Dan Markowitz, began hustling me to read it during the U.S. Open.

But I began reading Break Point through solo meals in various restaurants and, eventually, curled up in bed to finish it.

It isn't the great American piece of non-fiction, but it's astonish-ingly good. "Astonish-ingly" because I've known Spadea for years and I never saw this sort of serious work coming out of him.

There have been books written on the men's and women's tours, but none that took you inside the locker room, or the road parties or the various player peccadilloes, and made you feel "right there."

Spadea has done such a good job of stripping away the veneer of the players' public lives that he also has scored some negative publicity from his colleagues on tour -- particularly James Blake, who believes there is a code and that what takes place behind those closed doors stays in there.

It's not just the locker room doors Spadea throws open, but the players' lives as well.

"Tommy Haas has a hot-and-cold personality to fit his hot-and-cold game," Spadea says in the tome. And, "Guillermo Canas' suspension is not surprising to me. It's gotten to the point where the drugs are everywhere and the penalties are going to have to become harsher to stop it." And, "Lleyton Hewitt's not the type of guy to break the ice and try to be your best friend, but if you're nice enough to him, he's cordial and cool back."

And this, when he was invited at 18 to go to Las Vegas with a friend and train a young Andre Agassi: "On the first day, we practiced for 30 minutes and Andre said he'd had enough, handed [us] three $100 bills each and the keys to an Acura -- probably his maid's car -- and said, `Go have some fun in the casino.'"

Spadea, who long ago settled in Boca Raton with his parents and two tennis-playing sisters, always has been, for me, as well as others, a clownish, under-achieving yet engaging character.

He's 32 now, which means he's playing smarter tennis but, physically, he's had his best moments, and there have been a few. Not many, but one title, a handful of memorable wins and over $4 million in prize money.

Spadea was a top junior who essentially wasted his best professional years, refusing to get a real traveling coach and instead hiring a long list of on-the-cheap "coaches" who rolled out the balls, made the plane and hotel reservations, and listened to his goofy raps.

I don't want to make him sound like a buffoon, because he's not, but for years Spadea was not well-liked by a number of players because his father, Vince Sr., seemed always to be arguing with ATP officials about something or bad-mouthing his son's opponents.

Spadea never quite fit in with other American players, being a bit too young to connect with Pete Sampras, Todd Martin or Agassi, and too old for Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Blake.

There never was any overt friction, but no real social relationship beyond the casual greetings and artificial conversation.

So here was Spadea, perhaps looking for some sort of lasting identity for his years on the pro tour, where he once hit the skids with a record 21 consecutive losses but also reached a career best of No. 18.

If that's why this book was written, fine. I don't think the motivation matters as much as the content and I believe it's an honest portrayal of life on the men's tour and that's something the public has never gotten from someone at this level.

It's well written, incisive, and Spadea has done a remarkable job of revealing himself, along with some fellow pros, in what I believe is an important piece of work.

I'm richer for having read it.

Posted by Tim 10/03/2006 at 02:05 PM

quote of the day:

"I'm convinced that if Federer keeps playing this well it will be impossible to catch him," said Nadal. "I'm still young and I have to keep working hard so that one day I will have the chance to become number one. But given the circumstances at the moment being number two could hardly be better."

Rafa, a smart cookie, no?

Posted by rafa fan 10/03/2006 at 02:07 PM

thanks ptenisnet...

wow, Fed is really upbeat. Someone wrote earlier that he uses all positive adjectives. Looks like nothing bothers him (except raw squid--(and Nadal on clay ;)I added that)!

Im glad he is doing the blog, he seems thoughtful and intelligent, and seems to care for the tennis fans. Not sure about the toilet thing..

1 2      >>

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  DMV Monday Net Post  >>

Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
This blog has 3693 entries and 1646148 comments.
More Video
Daily Spin