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Is Tennis an Individual Sport When You’re 12 Years Old?

12/21/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

 

The more I learn about sports that aren’t hockey, the more my paradigms shift. It’s like, everything I thought I knew was a lie, man.

Deep, I know. 

Tennis people are passionate about their sport both on the court and off. They get just as fired up as hockey people about things that, um, don’t require the fire, so to speak. 

Is it hot in here?

Anyways, instead of insulting both communities (which was not my intention), I’m here to debunk my hypothesis that tennis is great because it’s an individual sport. 

Because it’s not. 

Coaches

First of all, tennis can’t be an individual sport because there are coaches present to bark orders, point out mistakes and grant praise where it’s earned. I recently took in a doubles match between Fabio Walker and three club members, and despite playing in the match, the feedback from Fabio was constant for both teams. During singles play, coaches watch every movement with a fine-tuned eye that focusses on the good and the bad. 

Sports like skiing and snowboarding are more individual in this sense because the coach normally has to wait at the bottom of the hill. Tennis players always have a helping hand nearby. 

Partners

In doubles play it’s easy to highlight the input of a teammate. While that teammate might not be able to give feedback and return a ball smashed at their face at the same time, they still require teamwork and cooperation if they have any hope of winning. 

But that’s not where the input of a peer stops.

The Competition

Where does competition come from for young tennis players? From the other side of the net, for starters, but it also comes from peers. Tennis players are programmed at a young age to strive for greatness at the expense of their peers. Like Highlander, there can be only one best player. Young tennis players who attend tennis camps and academies might look like they’re cooperating with their peers, but secretly they’re using them as motivation to push their own game to the next level. 

So in this sense, they're an individual competing, but at the same time they’re borrowing energy from a group situation. 

Hmm, this is getting muddy. 

Inner Voice

Tennis players talk to themselves a lot. I don’t if it’s because it’s easy to watch them absent hockey helmets, but you can often catch tennis players muttering under their breath after successful shots as well as poor ones. 

Is this because youth coaches aren’t allowed to holler during matches (great rule, by the way)? Or is it just because audible coaching is more powerful than anything heard inside your head?

So while tennis might depend largely on individual skill, it’s clear to me that being truly alone isn’t beneficial to any tennis player, particularly the young tennis player trying to find their game in the midst of hundreds of other players of the same age trying to do the same.

I guess you’re ultimately only as strong as you will yourself to be, but it sure seems to me that a little external motivation, whether it’s born of ambition or fear of losing a step to the competition, can only help a young tennis player’s cause. 

What do you think? Is tennis truly an individual sport? Because if it is, then hockey and soccer probably are as well. And that would truly blow my mind. 

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