Boys in sport

There is significant focus on girls in sport at the moment and a fantastic event was held last Saturday at Halton Tennis Centre by our Everyball female coaches and 60 'everyball girls'.  Absolutely brilliant.

How about the boys?

Well, my wife Suzie revealed this morning that Andy Murray had been in her dreams last night.  What about I asked with curiosity.  "Oh we were just chatting about raising boys in sport, and Andy said that I should just give Judy a call and have a coffee.' 

Suzie: 'But she's really busy with Strictly and I'm sure won't have time for me.' 

Andy: 'Oh I'm sure she can fit you in between rehearsals.'

Just got me thinking though.  What about the boys?  

Steve Biddulph writes in his book 'Raising Boys' (Why boys are different - and how to help them become  happy and well-balanced men):

'Today it's the girls who are more sure of themselves, motivated, hard working.  Boys are often adrift in life, failing at school, awkward in relationships, at risk for violence, alcohol and drugs, and so on....

Boys don't just grow up in a smooth and even way.  You can't just shovel in cereal, provide clean T-shirts, and have them one day wake up as a man!  A certain sequence has to be followed.  Anyone who spends time around boys will be amazed at how they change, and the range of moods and energies which they show at different times.  The puzzle is to understand what is needed - and when.  The three stages of boyhood are timeless and universal. 

1.  Birth to six - the age when the boy primarily belongs to his mother.  He is 'her' boy, even though his father may play a very large role.  The aim at this age is to give strong love and security, and to 'switch a boy on' to life as a warm and welcoming experience.

2.  Six to fourteen - when the boy, out of his own internal drives, starts wanting to learn to be a man, and looks more and more to his father for interest and activity. (Though his mother remains very involved, and the wider world is beckoning too.)  The purpose at this stage is to build competence and skill while developing kindness and playfulness too - becoming a balanced person.  This is when a boy becomes happy and secure about being male.

3.  Fourteen to adult - when the boy needs input from male mentors if he is to complete the journey into being fully grown-up.  Mum and dad step back a little, but they must organise good mentors in their son's life or he will have to rely on an ill-equipped peer group for his sense of self.  The aim is to learn skills, responsibility and self-respect by joining more and more with the adult community.

Clearly, we've got an important role to play as coaches and club to support our boys in this process.  Let's not forget about them!

Want to learn better this week?

From ‘Make it Stick’:

‘In interleaving, you don’t move from a complete practice set of one topic and go to another.  You switch before each practice is complete.  A friend of ours describes his own experience with this: ‘I go to a hockey class and we’re learning skating skills, puck handling, shooting, and I notice that I get frustrated because we do a little bit of skating and just when I think I’m getting it, we go to stick handling, and I go home frustrated, saying, ‘Why doesn’t this guy keeping letting us do these things until we get it?’”  This is actually the rare coach who understands that it’s more effective to distribute practice across these different skills than polish each one in turn.  The athlete gets frustrated because the learning’s not proceeding quickly, but the next week he will be better at all aspects, the skating, the stick handling, and so on, than if he’d dedicated each session to polishing one skill.

Like interleaving, varied practice helps learners build a broad schema, an ability to assess changing conditions and adjust responses to fit.  Arguably, interleaving and variation helps learners reach beyond memorisation to higher levels of conceptual learning and application, building more rounded, deep and durable learning, what in motor skills shows up as underlying habit strength.

Some people never seem to learn.  One difference, perhaps, between those who do and don’t is whether they have cultivated the habit of reflection.  Reflection is a form of retrieval practice (What happened? What did I do? How did it work out?), enhanced with elaboration (what would I do differently next time?).

Want to learn better this week?  Interleave, vary and reflect!

Ed Smith (former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman) on technique

Interesting article on technique - what it is, what it isn’t….(thanks Dom for forwarding)

‘Firstly we misunderstand technique.  Technique is not a thing, an object that can be owned.  It is a means.  The goal is not technique but to hit the ball sweetly.  Technique allows us to do it better, to achieve that goal more often and completely.  For that reason, the perfect technique is the technique that disappears: it is no longer in the way.  We are not conscious of it at all.  We track the ball, swing the bat in rhythm, and everything else organises itself intuitively.

Secondly, we overstate the value of rational intelligence and analysis.  I am not sure that the subject of this article can be “coached” in the conventional sense of the word.  Coaches can help you to understand the process, perhaps even help you get there more quickly.  But, at best, the coach can only support and enable a journey that the player must undertake on his own.

Because the important things are hard to coach, it is tempting to take refuge in the small, irrelevant things because they are easy.  Too much bottom hand, getting squared up, playing too early, closing the face of the bat?  All symptoms, but unlikely to be the ultimate cause.  That is probably much simpler yet harder to put right: the bat isn’t working as part of your body but in opposition to it.

As the literary critic Steven Connor wrote about tennis: “If I wish the racket to become me, I must first become it, or become the kind of me that it requires and will most readily respond to.”’

Great new junior box league opportunities for Halton and Tring Tennis Club members

To all junior members of Halton and Tring Tennis Clubs (Green and yellow ball players),

John Bruly our competitions organiser at Everyball Tennis will be running a junior box league for all green and yellow ball players.  A great opportunity to get some match play in, improve your rating and enjoy some competition on your own doorstep against similar standard opponents!  Closing date for entry is 23rd November and leagues will run through from December to March in times for end of the rating run. To enter, please follow this link:

Tournament code is BUC14W6670

If you have any questions, please email John at or

Got to ‘be in it to win it’.