Girls Tennis Network – Friendships Really Matter
Celia and her parents were really ambitious and keen to move up to the green ball class. She would practice with her Mum and Dad; and compete regularly in addition to her weekly lesson.
To Celia’s best friend Else, tennis wasn’t so much of a priority. She loved coming to play with Celia each week for their lesson. But she wasn’t ready to make the move to the green ball class.
So when Celia moved up Else became very discouraged and quit tennis altogether.
Is this a situation you have faced? What is the right thing to do? Move Else up before she is ready? Keep Celia back so the social dynamics aren’t disrupted?
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For those of you know evolve9’s mission to help coaches understand the challenges and opportunities of Girls Tennis you will recognise these type of conundrums.
It cannot be emphasised enough the importance of an empathic and nurturing coach and the presence of friends, creating security and connection for our players that will largely influence whether our girls will move to the next phase.
Girls have a greater instinct to connect with others as individuals. They tend to have a closer knit circle of friends and maintain these connections for longer and with more intensity than boys.
Great female athletes like Serena Williams have alluded to this time and again.
The coach and the sport may not be enough. Friendships really matter in keeping girls in the sport in the long run.
Connection to team mates is a key part of the GTN program. Perhaps it is best summed up by a simple but powerful statement.
“If two friends play against each other, the stability of the friendship at the end of the match is likely to be more important to one or both of them than the result itself!”
While our example of Celia and Else isn’t one relating to competitive pressures, the principle of connection is the same. Girls will often value the friendship over their relationship with the sport. Our challenge as coaches is to reflect this in the environment we create for our players.
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In Else and Celia’s situation we had only looked at one element of a complex situation. Celia was motivated, playing regularly and ready to move up. And as a result we had lost a valued and popular student.
We did manage to resolve the situation. By communicating with the parents (much more on Parent connection to come in future e9 updates) we were able to have Celia do an orange ball lesson with Else. The coach understands that they need to challenge Celia with progressions of activities and engage her as an ‘assistant coach’ helping the other girls. She also does her green lesson so she is challenged to keep improving her skills.
We will keep this arrangement until Else is ready to move up. Motivated by this incentive, and re-energised by the presence of her friend, Else is almost ready.
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To gain an in depth understanding of building a great Girls Tennis Network check out the e9 ebook Girls Tennis Network – The Essential Principles of Working with Girls.
He is Director of the Victorian Tennis Academy, in Melbourne Australia and a Course Facilitator for Tennis Australia.