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Player to Player: Temper Tantrums

April 13, 2012 01:25 PM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Irene:
Whenever two players of unequal skill play, their opponents tend to figure that out and then bombard the weaker player in order to win.  The "better" player then hardly gets any balls, no longer making it fun for the recreational group. Is there anything one can do to fix this problem?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Mona
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
My 12 1/2-year-old son keeps banging his racquet on the court during matches. Twice we have pulled him off the court during competition for doing this. He just doesn't seem to learn. Please help.
Player Responses:
Eric R., Northern California

Temper, temper, temper...Aaaah yesss...Breaaaathe Deeply, and again from the diaphragm, and then again while counting down ...10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1. It works. That is why it is No. 1 on the advice hit parade.

Use the strings on the racquet, counting at least 10 squares. This is giving his hands something positive to do with controlling and channeling his anger. If you give the mind an immediate task, the anger will ebb away. This is as much an inevitability as the tide going out.

For a young, adolescent boy, learning to deal with temper is an important part of growing up. Just punishing an adolescent is insufficient. He has to identify his own triggers. He needs to have assistance and not just punishment.

Even such a present-day role model of "saintly" tennis behavior as Roger Federer had his anger problems as a teen. He overcame them. Your son can learn this, too.

Read a good paperback, like "Early Adolescence: Understanding the 10 to 15 Year Old," written for parents by an expert, Gail Caissy. It is easy to find on Amazon.

Enjoy the journey.

Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

In this week's question, you mentioned that your son is banging his racquet on court and that he doesn't seem to learn. You essentially hit the nail (not the racquet) on the head. I find that players will often resort to either verbal or physical abuse when losing a point in certain circumstances. That frustration is due to the lack of ability to fix the problem.

Imagine your car broke down in the middle of nowhere and you have no mechanical skills, or that you have a power outage and dinner is half done, or that a toilet is overflowing and you can't find the shutoff valve. Those are some of the ways that your patience can be tested. My recommendation is have your son repeat the correct stroke three times after each lost point. It will be easier to use the right form when he's not rushed. If he makes this a habit, for every error that he has made in a match, he's done it three times more the correct way; ball or no ball. He will impliment positive feedback into his game.

To get this habit set in stone, I will play a match with my student. I keep a loaded ball hopper nearby. Immediately after a missed ball, I feed to the same shot three more times. The student won't have time to bang his racquet because the feeds are coming quickly. No time to act up or scream when the next ball is coming. I call this technique the "DMV" drill. I was far from being a good driver's education student. Most of the kids had practiced in parking lots with their father. I wasn't so fortunate. So when I took my driver's license test, my tester would make me repeat a manuever if ever I messed up. He would have me take left turns until I turned blue.

So the DMV drill will help your son in several ways. One, he'll develop muscle memory for the correct way. Two, he will maintain his composure. Three, he won't have to get you to order more racquets. If you watch any of the tennis matches on tour, you'll see all the players doing practice strokes throughout the match. Hopefully this way your son will start with a bang instead of end with one.
Kenny, Chicago

So your son has temper problems on the court. Is he doing well off the court -- in school, social groups and other parts of his life? If yes, then he doesn't want to play or play as much. If no, then I can't give much advice on this because I have no kids. Talk to him and ask him why and what he wants. Then try and compromise.

Lauren B.

You should punish him by taking him out of tennis until he learns to control himself, or just work on anger managment with him. One example of this is doing something that will rouse his temper and then following it with a small punishment.

Len S.

Does your son enjoy the sport of tennis? Have you reviewed the rule book with him? Have you bought him a copy and highlighted the key sections? Young players need to understand the sport has rules and traditions that cannot be violated with impunity.

Does he lose points for banging? Does he forfeit matches? He should. He should also be benched from practices for this behavior.

Does he look up to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal? Fed was removed from the court for banging and had to buy his own racquets.

Terry, Fort Worth, Texas

Tennis can certainly be a frustration for anyone, especially a young player. Suggest to him that he widen his point of view and think about how his behaviour looks to his opponents. He is showing them that they can frustrate him, and he is giving them confidence and an on-court advantage. Maybe that will help him control the frustration, or at least his outward reaction to it.

Also, as a counterpoint, recognize, at least verbally, when he display good sportsmanship and behavior on the court. But keep pulling him off the court if the racquet throwing continues.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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