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Jarkko Nieminen: For the Love of the Game

I have enjoyed playing tennis since I was a little kid, for about 40 years and I hope that I’m able to stay healthy enough to enjoy playing for at least another 40.

I’ve tried many sports where you for example measure time, centimeters etc. but among all, I have always liked the games with a ball the most. What fascinates me is that your own effort makes a difference in how the opponent plays and vice versa.

Tennis is a game of very interesting problem solving. Playing is of course easier the more tools you have; good technic, correct footwork, mental strenght and good tactical skills but even if you don’t have all of those, you can still be able to be better than your opponent. Both sides of the court are trying to get to control the game and play the way it suits them best. If you are able to do that and force your opponent to play to your strengths, you will most likely win. But this is also something your opponent is trying to do to you and that’s where the problem solving starts. The whole time you have to try to figure out, how you can turn the game and the different situations to what you want. The problem could also be that one of your shots is not working or your legs are tired or something has happened outside of the court and you still need to figure out the solution for coping with it to be able to play your best tennis in that moment.

How good you are is measured by the last match you played, so all you need to try to do is to be better than the one you are playing against on that particular day.

It is impossible to play your best tennis in every single match. Even the best players in the world can’t do that but what they are really good at is getting their bad days to be as close as possible to their excellent days. And the way to do that is to always strive to be the best version of you. On the court you can only control your own effort and that will give you a better chance of getting out your maximum every single time.

Playing is learned by playing and because tennis is a game, counting points is the core of it. It doesn’t matter what kind of matches you play, it can be against your friend or matches in a small or big tournament, you can still always learn something, and even after a loss, hopefully the whole experience is good.  As long as you stay present and try your best, you give yourself a chance to learn more about yourself, more about the game, your strenghts and weaknesses.

Healthy competition does nothing but good. There is so much competition in many different areas of life, sooner or later. You compete about spots for studying, for a job…for many different things so there’s no use avoiding it.

Even though you play for the win, it shouldn’t be result orientated. The result of the match is just the outcome of the effort and the quality of the player. When the skills and the game gets better, the results will follow. Let the kids have fun, let the coaches coach, support and help your children to become better persons and tennis players. First goal is a good person, then a good athlete and then a good tennis player.

Looking back to these, a little bit less than 40 years of playing tennis, it has given me so much. First of all I appreciate that I have been able to do something I love for so long and I consider myself extremely lucky to have found something I enjoy doing so much. Tennis was fun since the first day I started, it’s still as fun now and I have no doubt it will be as fun in the future. I think the most valuable thing tennis has given me are the friends and the priceless life lessons which have helped me to get to know myself better and to develop as a person. The rest of the things that tennis has given me, for example the wins, come way after these ones.

I admire the way of thinking and of doing things in HVS U10. I can imagine it’s easy to enjoy tennis as a kid playing there and as a parent to leave your child there knowing everything is taken care of. It’s great to see the way the coaches teach the kids to hit the ball and how to use the court in the best possible way. They make playing fun for the kids and they also make playing and competing easy. If the kid has fun playing, enjoys trying her or his best, things are good.

What impresses me the most is that even though HVS are already doing many things great in U10, they are still constantly trying to develop and do things even better. This way of thinking is similar amongst the greatest and the most successful players and athletes, coaches and organisations in any kind of area.

Whoever comes to HVS to play, has a very good chance of getting a great life long hobby, which ever path they choose.

See you on the tennis courts!

All the best,

Jarkko Nieminen in Tali Tennis Center. Photo: Finnish Tennis Association.

This article was written for HVS U10 Parents’ Manual.