Sunday, 29 January 2012

There are more things to gain whilst learning to play tennis

It is so much fun learning to play tennis as the sports helps the chidren to grow up healthily

A group picture was taken after a training session for these Napalese children

As I watched with amusement what Coach Lee was doing at the well maintained tennis court from a short distance away. He was picking balls with his tennis ball hopper basket whereas two Korean siblings remained seated on a bench while taking a break from their vigorous training, wiping themselves off the sweat under a mild mid-morning sun. The 11year old girl was obviously obese and the younger boy was slightly plump. Being inquisitive I approached Coach Lee and asked him why he not enlisted the help of the two kids to pick balls, after all it was part and parcel of tennis play. For this he answered me with a frustrated tone: I’d trained them for just a couple of months. I charged them $80 per month per person for one session in a week; each session for two of them together lasted for half an hour only. I’d told them in the very beginning that picking balls was one of the golden rules of beginners while under training. Sadly they were reluctant and only wanted to get some rest quickly after I exhausted the 70 over balls for training practice. For me alone to get all the balls into the hopper basket, it took about 7 to 10 minutes before we could resume training. For that matter they got shorter time for training, thus the progress was slow; the onus was on them! Their parents were aware of this and they were more than willing to pay for their training just to shed some weight from the children’s bodies. Coach Lee told me he was giving up training the two siblings soon as it affected his reputation as a prime tennis trainer in the vicinity. We exchanged grimaces and parted company for the day.

                  Look how the kids enjoyed a round of tennis training session

At the National Tennis Centre I watched with keen enthusiasm the progress of the under-16 tennis tournament for boys and girls being held over three days. During one single match between a pan-pacific looking 14 year old boy and an Indian teenager, we were awed at the brilliant exchange of ground strokes, net play and powerful serves displayed by the two youthful players despite their tender age. They were well trained, I would say. Things turned ugly shortly after the proud looking Eurasian boy made three consecutive unforced errors and promptly lost the first set. He slammed his racket onto the floor and cursed and yelled loudly like nobody’s business, and kicked the slightly damaged racket out of his sight before sitting down to cool himself of his anguish and from the sweltering sun. Nobody around the spectator stand raised an eye-brow seeing this young boy’s unleash of his fury. The person seated next to me, a Caucasian man smiled at me after watching the boy’s outburst. I exclaimed: What a shame! It was his own follies to have lost. He’s so young and yet arrogant, setting a bad example. “Shee…...”  The white skinned man gestured to me to speak softer as the players was about to resume playing. Eventually the Eurasian boy was beaten as he was off focused and could not get back to his usual standard play.

It is compulsory to pick balls during a break to retrieve the balls back to the ball basket/trolley
                              Do it happily and willingly as it is part of training

Many years ago I used to play tennis at The Johor Civil Servants Club where it prided itself of possessing some good clay courts. There I was acquainted with one seasoned gentlemen player who was well into his 70s. He was always well dressed with collar T-shirt, and a pair of white shorts. At his ripe age he did display slower movements, other than that his tennis play and strokes were impeccable and balls were cleverly placed as he returned shots. I was sorry as I had forgotten his name; most people there called him Uncle during those years. He told me during his younger days, tennis was a noble game and players were respectable gentlemen and ladies. It was a game that instilled discipline and valuable sportsmanship for new players, notably among the younger generation. To those who were coached by this Uncle Tennis of JB, he was insistent of correct tennis attire, and footwear before his trainees could set foot into the courts. All players during matches must adhere to umpires’ decision on points won or lost. No swearing or cursing, no ball and racket abuse, and no tantrum nor profanity could be tolerated during match play. Though he did place importance on winning edge, he consoled his players who lost in tournaments with his personal touch; telling them what a good match it had been, and there were chances to prove one’s prowess in the near future. “Do not give up and do not be upset. You’ll learn more when losing”, he would advise them.
Perhaps he was a tennis great, ( won 7 Grand Slam Singles titles) therefore John McEnroe thought he deserved his status as a haughty snob a.k.a. Super Brag
In retrospect, Andy Roddick might had regretted his follish act by damaging his racket, as he stared at his ruined power tool with remorse.
Foul tempered Cypriot star Marcos Baghdatis smashed 4 of his money making rackets in 45 seconds that earned him a meagre fine of A$1,250 at the Australian Open January 2012. That was impressive, exclaimed Serena Williams; herself being another player known to release her emotional outburst.
Some years back I had a hearty discussion with Coach Yew of Club Darul Ehsan of Taman Tun Abdul Razak, Kuala Lumpur, when I met him at the club over some friendly games. “Send your sons to me for tennis training!” he urged me on. “I don’t aim to teach them how to play tennis. I am to groom them to win tournaments after tournaments.” While it was nothing wrong to emphasize on winning for competitive sports like tennis and other racket games, I believe that there are other aspects of benefit to gain whilst mastering the intricacies of the various sports.  
Young Taiwanese lady player Chang Kai-Chen joined a host of Asian rising stars like Li  Na, Zhen Jie and Peng Shuai among others. Here she rejoiced after beating former world no.1 Russian lass Dinara Safina in a 2009 Sept. Tokyo match.                                               

Former Thai tennis star Paradorn Srichaphan now devotes his time and effort in grooming future national players for his country.

I found most young players at the local tennis scenes lacked the preferred ethics and behavior while competing. It was common to see players involved with heated arguments with linesmen, umpires, and fellow players. Ball and racket abuse were rampant, and spitting too. They did not seem to know how to control their temper when losing. Their parents and coaches did not seem to mind or care; they themselves also did not know that they lost the chance to improve themselves by reviewing what went wrong.

As usual the qualified coach will only focuss on good  tennis coaching with impressive tournament results of his protege at different levels; hoping that somewhere, someday he will discover some one, a rare gem amongst a score of trainees under his wing.
I gather that the guidance of the coach and parents are vital while picking up a skill or a type of sports. It is the same thing that goes with studying. The children and young players learn not only the intricacy of a new technique, art form or skill; they are incalcated how to be become better persons as well.

Alan CY Kok

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