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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kay Was Right

My friend Kay knows her youth tennis.  She's been a reluctant regular at tennis tournaments for longer than  me and she knows of what she speaks.  Youth tennis is not for the faint of heart.

Kate and I have been in St. Louis at a tennis tournament since Tuesday.  And, this is not just any tennis tournament.  This is Zonals.  Zonals probably doesn't mean anything to you, and frankly why should it.  It didn't mean anything to me either until just recently.  Zonals is the USTA's attempt to show top junior tennis players what college tennis is all about.  It's organized into teams comprised of the top players in various sections across the country.  The teams then compete in a round robin format.  I guess the end result is that (a) if your kid can manage to win some matches they get a lot of points, and (b) the winning team gets bragging rights.

Frankly, that we are at Zonals at all is a big surprise to me.  Don't get me wrong -- Kate is a really good player -- but the kids here are insanely good.  Many of them are home schooled so they can spend more time on the tennis court.  Need I say more?

Here's the kicker.  The tennis parents are a scary bunch.  They may be more competitive than the kids.  The parents all walk around talking about how much "fun" this is for the kids and how it's a great experience.  What's really happening is that the parents are all secretly wishing that the other kids on their kid's team lose if their own kid loses his or her match.  There is no team spirit amongst the parents of the top players.

So, when I talked with Kay about Kate applying to play in Zonals she warned me that it was going to be a tough week.  The heat and humidity in St. Louis could kill us (true) and winning matches was going to be beyond beyond challenging (also true).  She also warned me that I was going to see the underbelly of youth tennis: real tennis parents in action.

Kay was right.  St. Louis, while a lovely city, is far from ideal for a tennis tournament in July.  The kids are dropping like flies in the 100 degree heat.  I have been sitting in a puddle of sweat for days and we are here until Sunday.  If nothing else, I am sweating off unwanted pounds.

Kate is playing the best tennis I've ever seen her play and has yet to win a match.  She is enjoying the experience and successfully avoiding heat stroke so far.  Who knows.  Maybe tomorrow will be her lucky day and she'll win a match.

I am keeping my distance from the tennis parents.  It's a much healthier approach to junior tennis.  And besides, it's a full time job looking for a shady spot with a breeze.

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