How a tennis player sees themselves matters. How an individual sees themselves matters. How a human sees themselves matters. And this includes how a child sees themselves — it matters. Irrespective of the level of play, oftentimes this level is associated with a players/athletes self-worth. This needs to stop. How a player/athlete sees themselves starts from an early age and stay with them as they mature — shaped by those they’re exposed to and the commentary of those around them. Unfortunately, it is not always positive. At the same rate, those that are ‘around’ a player/athlete can be incredibly broad due to the role of social media throughout the past decade which has grown to influence developmental players/athletes and higher — impacting the way they see themselves.
Whilst this topic is a significant one in itself and is much broader than the tennis courts and/or developmental cycle of a player/athlete, it is just as important and applicable. The commentary of those around a player/athlete can be controlled to an extent when they’re in an environment where they feel safe, valued and heard. It remains a coaches responsibility to shape this environment and to ensure it is conducive to not simply a player’s performance but also their general wellbeing which happens to include their self-worth.
This means the language used around players/athletes matters. It is also means any commentary of a players/athletes body is not applicable — it is out of bounds. And this applies for coaches and fellow players/athletes.
It should be common knowledge that comments on a child’s and/or adolescents body is off limits. Those inside this demographic are often within the developmental cycle — progressing through their initial 10 Years of Play and adhering to The Pathway before they undertake The Long Game after this initial period. For those players/athletes who are in their ‘second’ decade of play, this doesn’t mean that they’re any less susceptible to this commentary and/or that it is appropriate. Rather, the commentary oftentimes is amplified with misconceptions around performance metrics and progressions associated with being, for example, smaller and/or more muscular.
Once a player/athlete progresses to that next level and they’re beginning to nudge closer towards the Top 10 — be that Top 200 to Top 80 as their sights are set on steadily progressing, they’re also more exposed to a larger audience and safeguarding players/athletes should still remain front and centre irrespective of the stage of development. By all means, the younger a player the more vulnerable and concrete steps should be in place to ensure the players/athletes overall wellbeing is front and centre. However, the message remains clear…
…safeguarding players/athletes is a priority throughout these years be it 6 years of age through to 16 years of age (plus) it remains absolutely the number one priority ‘behind’ performance.
How does this relate to body image through to self-worth? Simple. A players/athletes appearance needs to be off the table — removed from the equation. It is the performance that counts. Commentary on a players/athletes body image can cause negative emotions for their self-worth. The same applies if a players/athletes performance it put before their self-worth. And I get it — it can get a little tricky and confusing but not if the correct protocols are put in place and followed. At the end of the day all players/athletes should be treated equal — irrespective of their level of play. And all players/athletes should be encouraged to support one another to contribute towards one another’s self-worth in positive ways that is not limited to a performance outcome. As for body image, there is zero data to support ‘one size’ is the ‘perfect size’ that is associated with a Top 10 tennis ranking. Zero. So any conversations around body image should be removed from the discussion.
To learn more about Body Image, Self-Worth and Tennis Players: A Coach’s Responsibility, head on over to Beyond Top 10 Tennis and head to Episode 35. More? Catch up on our Tips over on TikTok, Twitter, Threads or Instagram for quick snippets to apply in your game, today.
A topic that is often overlooked and not given the attention it deserves, education can play an incredibly powerful role in players and/or athletes development if given the right guidance and pathways. This can come in varying forms — ‘whatever’ works for the player/athlete and draws a positive response. In order to help the player/athlete leverage their education it begins with the right guidance to allows this ‘balancing act’ to flow through to their performance. At the same time, this corresponds with The Pathway and what’s in place specifically for that player/athlete.
Whether a two year plan to ten year pathway, education allows the player to offset their performance in a way that draws on their ‘education’ — from problem solving skills (mathematical to science subjects) to creative skills (humanities to artistic subjects). Although these correlations are scarcely leveraged, it is absolutely fundamental to note that these are tools at your disposal — for the player/athlete, coaches and parents. From using education and the present learning framework that is being adopted (i.e. specific to that player/athlete and their year/grade of study) and to tap into these areas, where possible, not only has the capacity to inadvertently help the player/athlete in their subject area…
…but through highlighting similarities to applicabilities can encourage a player/athlete to ‘think outside the box’ whilst using their sport of choice and adding another dimension to their player capacity.
This interrelationship can also bridge the gap often seen between students in their later formative years from primary/elementary school through high/senior school and a level of disengagement. Although this is not the case for all, more often that not there is always a subject or three that aren’t as compelling as one or two that really peak the players/athletes interest. It is fair to say that by using the ‘favourite’ subjects has more to gain and a higher rate of engagement, the coach and/or parent can also use these less favourable subject/s to assimilate and use their passion/enjoyment for tennis to reframe how they see this subject and its potential to aid in their performance.
By building a level of engagement from an educational perspective whilst including tennis (and/or sport of choice) to tighten this level of interest, at the same time you’re adding that ‘next level‘ to the players/athletes overall player capacity to leverage now and throughout the duration of the set pathway. This affords the player to think more openly to complexly in a way, if conditioned in conjunction to and/or with, their point structure to conditioning that in turn can be used to empower both ends of the players/athletes performance that will set them up for further success in the years to come. And of course, the same runs true for players/athletes post-school and can be captured and leveraged in additional education settings (i.e. tertiary).
Tune in to Beyond Top 10 Tennis for this week’s episode to learn more. And if you enjoy the episode, be sure to like, follow to subscribe or even a few stars or five! In the interim, catch up on the episode notes for all of our social links (or simply scroll to the bottom of this page).