Howe Park Tennis Club teaching young players to control emotions

KEEPING CALM: Xander Sheath, John Jerusalem and Lillian Stanford were as controlled as they were impressive during last Sunday's competition.
KEEPING CALM: Xander Sheath, John Jerusalem and Lillian Stanford were as controlled as they were impressive during last Sunday's competition.

THE attitude of tennis players has again been in the headlines this week, following world number one Novak Djokovic's removal from the US Open.

The superstar was booted from the tournament after accidentally hit a line referee in the throat with a ball he smacked away after becoming frustrated.

'White line fever' is perhaps more prevalent in tennis than any other sport, with elite players such as Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios often letting their competitive side take hold while on court.

While the will to win is important, something that is just as crucial to young stars' development is the ability to control their emotions.

This is a major focus of the Howe Park Tennis Club in Singleton, who understand their starlets' talent must be coupled with maturity.

Club president, Craig Miles, believes the key to teaching them good sportsmanship comes through actions, not words.

"It's not so much the kids we have to watch - it's the parents, and if you can keep the parents under control and doing the right thing then the children will follow suit," he said, with a touch of amusement.

As they progress through the ranks and receive more individual attention, Miles stated it was also important for them to keep a sense of belonging within the club so they don't feel isolated.

"It's a strength of the club and a strength of Heidi [Stanford] who's in charge of coaching here, who follows up with the parents and the kids and we try to make it a happy time," he said.

Two of the club's up-and-coming juniors, John Jerusalem and Xander Sheath, also spoke about their temper and what they can do to control it.

"If I hit the ball into the net or out I try and think about how I played it and think it through, and that's how I calm myself down," said John.

Xander noted the importance of not thinking they need to emulate the on-court behaviour of some of the best players when they get aggressive on TV, and acknowledged that a lot of the time it's just something that happens in the moment.

"I would think it's just a matter of pressure unless they're doing it repetitively, but it's something you have to try and avoid," he said.

The 13-year-olds, along with Lillian Stanford, competed in the Northumberland UTR super series last Sunday.

John and Xander won their cards, with the latter only losing one game for the whole day, and the former not dropping a single set. Lillian also impressed by winning three out of four of her matches.

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