Is Your Child Ready?

Published by Susan Zaro on

The joy of early tennis success is exciting. It can happen more frequently for female players’ as females develop physically faster. Some  young players can match the power of female pros early on. When an adolescent is athletically talented and committed to her sport, demonstrating dominance in her age group she will move on to the next level of competition. She will continue moving up to the next level until the end over end trajectory displaying physical skill, athletic ability, and results will at some point bring her to the decision of college tennis or professional tennis. Obviously this is the short version of the scenario.  There are often bumps in the road on the way. But let’s assume she has moved forward in a fairly rapid progression, has had the opportunity to test the professional tour and produced some impressive results.  The player may be physically ready for the next level but is she psycho-socially, mentally and developmentally ready for the next step? Even following the guide-lines of the WTA Player Age Eligibility rules the developmental stresses on young players are not to be underestimated.

Even though a player is supported by her parents supervision as she steps into the professional arena she will be taking on the pressure of repeat performances to maintain rankings, playing on different surfaces, in different time zones, with different weather conditions. The top professionals devote their lives to being prepared for these challenges. When you think about an adolescent making a commitment to training, participating with coaches, agents, attending player functions, participating in sponsorships obligations on a day to day basis it is not difficult to see how developmentally it can be overwhelming. It is not a surprise when these rising stars burn-out, lose their drive, or begin to doubt their abilities which can lead to drops in their performance.

So far this is glum, but the following are three inspiring articles, the first Australian, Ash Barty, turned pro just after 14 years old. She left the professional tour in 2014, returned in 2016 and became number one in the world in 2019. Canadian, Rebecca Marino, turned pro at 17, retired at 22, and at 30 returned to the tour. She is now making it into main draws. American, Coco Gauff, turned pro at 14 years old and is currently 36 on the WTA tour. She took some breaks along the way after feeling that she temporarily had lost her purpose for playing.

These are a rare breed of athletes that have an opportunity and a platform to participate at these levels. Mental, social, developmental readiness is as important if not more, than physical readiness to thrive and grow as a person and an athlete.

Ash Barty

Rebecca Marino

Coco Gauff