Outside of the developmental spectrum of the tennis player, Age Interactions are often commonplace with ‘age’ not being seen as a barrier to interact with other children and/or adolescents (within reason) and this is even more profound during adulthood whereby age truly is merely a number. This couldn’t be more true on the WTA and/or ATP tours where age is essentially irrelevant over ranking with the later taking precedence and age really an indicator of longevity in particular if a player is at the top of the game. At this moment in time, the ATP tour is privy to Top 10 players with a diverse age — from later 30’s to now on the cusp of 20’s onwards. With a near two-decade age gap the level of play resonates with the Top 10 and age really is irrelevant. Similar differences can be seen on the WTA tour, however, with the retirement of one of our most ‘senior’ players — Serena Williams, the age range begins in the late teens to still spans across early 30’s. Whilst players on the WTA tour are not as ‘senior’ as on the ATP tour, this can be argued due to a number of players outside the Top 10 who have reached the Top 10 in previous seasons now within and/or near that age bracket. Nonetheless, it also goes to show the irrelevance of age. Plus, it near goes without saying that a lot more women on the WTA tour have been taking time away from play (especially players who reside and/or formerly resided inside the Top 10) to begin a family and those on the ATP tour do not ‘need’ to take time away from tour for these typical life stages and as such, all the more emphasis should be placed on those on the WTA tour later in their career.
Insofar as the ‘senior’ player is it so important to touch on reality — those in their early and/or late 30’s are not classified as senior in their livelihoods and/or professions. As a matter of fact those within this age range are more often considered in the prime of their career opposed to at the end of it as typically is the case with the lifecycle of a tennis player. This also goes to highlight the immense ‘growing up’ stage demanded of players in contrast to those of identical ages and not inside the scope of the sporting spectrum. Too often expectations are placed on these ‘young adults’ well before full maturity and as such mishaps do happen. On the other hand, there are strategies to avoid these mishaps with greater mentoring from more ‘senior’ players and with that, shedding light on the benefits of Age Interactions from the beginning.
More so, Age Interactions can be incredibly helpful to a developmental players’ performance in contrast to being separated by ‘age’ and/or age ranges in contrast to skill and/or experience. Whilst both have their merits for varying reasons, both should also be encouraged to be interchanged within the training and/or practice environment to see age crossovers as well as skill crossovers. The advantages of Age Interactions of diverse ages affords a greater sense of self to maturity as these mimic the professional tour where age is really a number. On a similar note, removing age from the equation and putting like-skills with like-skills teaches players and/or athletes that skills can develop at varying rates irrespective of age and the importance of learning something ‘new’ from each interaction — whether the player is younger and/or older than the player, and/or the player is more skilled and/or less skilled than the player.
Both scenarios present incredibly powerful learning curves that should be taken advantage of and afford heightened performance progressions for the player.
By ensuring a mixed age environment whereby age is not considered as a performance indicator, this can help players/athletes from varying levels of experience interact and learn from one another. Whether that means a 9 year old who has been playing for 3 years, or a 14 year old who has also been playing for 3 years, both of these players align with similar performance progressions and as such have ample to offer the other player. The same may be considered for the 16 year old who has been playing for 5 years, to another 16 year old who is almost at the end of their initial 10 Years of Play. By all accounts performance expectations will be quite different, but having these players interact nonetheless can still be equally rewarding in varying lights.
Simply put, there is always something to be learned off an opponent that is younger, older and/or of the same age irrespective of skill level. Some will be the same age and match your skill level whilst some may be younger and of a higher level and/or older and of a higher level. Overall, age is really a number to consider secondary to performance.
By changing a player’s view on the importance of age and ultimate interactions affords a greater scope of the developmental demands of the player and their journey along The Pathway and ultimately imparting along The Long Game. At the end of the day both age and/or experience based interactions should be used and not merely one alone. Whether that means diversifying what one player is working on to the next, it’s equally important in the development of a well-rounded player who is conditioned to respect the game of their opponent, irrespective if junior or senior, and to ensure their game is their core focus. By keeping this focus, players are then enabled to set their sights on how they go about executing their game on a given day to ensure their performances continue to progress whilst avoiding the possibility of getting stuck in the ‘he’s better than me’ or ‘she’s younger than me’ loophole that has nothing conducive to offer the player’s overall development. If these views do develop, it becomes a reflection of the developed biases the player has picked up from their coach and/or parents based on age in contrast to setting the stage early for what the WTA and/or ATP tour has to offer — a diversified field based on performance whereby age really is just a number.
To learn more about Age Interactions: Tennis Players, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 55. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.