Sunday, November 4, 2012

A brutal game that teaches core values

Let's talk about the dark side of tennis .

For the spectator or recreational player, looking from the outside in, a tennis match appears to be a calm battle of skills. For the players involved, it's quite mentally and physically brutal. Not convinced ?

Read 4 quotes below, that confirm the barbaric nature of this game.

"Winning is about taking your opponent's heart out and squeezing it until all the blood has come out, even the very last drop. There are no prizes for a funny loser".
-Pete Sampras

"Tennis is not a gentle game. Psychologically , it is vicious. That people are only just beginning to come to terms with this fact illustrates how big a con trick has been perpetuated on the non playing tennis public
-McEnroe "A rage to perfection".

"Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of tranquility"
-Billie Jean King

"People don't seem to understand that it's a damn war out there."
-Jimmy Conners

Are you convinced yet ?

Those that continue enjoying this game, can receive value. At the recreational level, there are calorie burning benefits, plus it strengthens your heart & reduces heart disease (Cleveland Clinic study).At the competitive level, it is a life skill and core value builder .

Enough said . Here is what i'm talking about.

1) Courage : few other sports require kids to confront and question an opponent who is cheating.

2) Honesty: this is one of the only sports where you can call your opponents shots. Can you imagine a Little League batter , calling balls and strikes ?

3) Sportsmanship: since there can be cheating , situations can become uncomfortable . Kids get the opportunity to learn coping skills.  

4) Integrity: there is always the potential for "retaliatory bad calls" when there is cheating. This gives players the opportunity to do the right thing , despite their opponent's actions.

5) Commitment & Excellence:  becoming good , requires a lot of training,self discipline, and delayed gratification. You can't quit because you feel like it. You can't give less intensity because of a long day at school.

By teaching core values, tennis is a vehicle to become a better person. Winning is a big part of this game , but every loss can be a victory if you tune into the life lessons being offered.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This type of pain must be avoided

My son  Nicolas had his first tennis related cramp at 9 and a half in the summer of 2010. Luckly it was post match and happened in the car, on the way to his sister's match. It did take 3 hours of moaning , and plenty of bananas, salt and Gatorade, for him to completely recover.  He later confessed to spilling the water and being to shy to step off the court and refill his jug. I found that alarming since it was mid summer and 95 degrees out.

We had him drink more and thought he was cured , but  it happened again during an indoor match in January 2011. He had just won a hard opening match, then cramped up in his next round. After lots of howling on the couch , he was finally able to get up and leave after 2 hours of intense pain.

I started doing research and came across an electrolyte replacement , which works nicely:

He started drinking this before and during his matches, and was cramp free for most of the year. Then  the sectionals came in August 2011 . It was a hot and humid day and he was starting to get absentminded about his hydration, and eating habits . He's not a great eater, or drinker to begin with and needs constant encouragement.
Well, he cramped at the end of the first set, and had to be carried off the court. That was disappointing because this was his first major national level tournament.
He was fine after his usual post cramp time recovery routine, and even managed to win a couple of rounds in consolation.

Now we know a thing or two....
1) It was brought on by hot and humid weather, but could happen in the winter too.
2) Competing in several back to back matches would be a factor
3) poor eating and hydration habits
4) His playing style was to "push" and 20 ball rallies were common
5) Often he would play kids twice his size
6) genetics ( I had cramps during my career but not frequently)
7) his sister Mary ( age 9 1/2) eats and hydrates well and has no cramping

Armed with this background info I was able to structure a plan ....

His pre match diet consists of  potassium rich foods ,and dried apricots are his favorite.

Water was not enough (could lead to hyponatremia, in which you lose actually lose minerals).
Nick carries a large jug of our home made sports drink : and has to drink 5 oz every 15 minutes. Sometimes I let him have Gatorade.

In August 2012 he made the zonal team for USTA New England. It was very hot and humid  up in Malvern Pa. He played 3 days straight back to back singles and doubles matches. On the fourth day after winning his doubles match, a cramp started and he had to default his singles match. We gave him salt tablets , and the cramping stopped within 20 minutes. On the 5th and last day he lost in the third set to a player of equal ability , but without any cramping.

Fortunately there was a trainer & nutritional speaker,  that gave on site presentation called  "hydration and post match restoration & recovery". He mentioned using chocolate milk as a post match recovery drink. My kids love it !

If you participate in high energy sports and are prone to cramping you have to be very diligent and stay on an anti cramping regimen. No fun being in pain !!

Here's an excellent article : tips to help players succeed during the summer months.pdf