On April 16, the New York State Department of Education begins administering the English Language Arts (ELA) tests for grades 3 to 8. A similar math test begins next week. A small, but vocal, group of parents are objecting that schools are spending too much time in the classroom preparing kids to take tests and opting their children out of participation.
While the circumstances surrounding these tests may be different, I cannot help but notice a similarity to the argument in tennis over competition for young children. Many parents are hesitant to encourage their inexperienced players to compete, but perhaps they might want to revisit this decision. Completions are tests of technical, tactical physical and mental skills. While competitive success is not more important then enjoyment, health, learning and improvement, participation in the competitive process is a valuable assessment tool to evaluate if tennis teachers are teaching, and young students are learning. It is also a defining focal point and catalyst for the attainment of tangible improvement goals.
Tennis is more fun as you improve and gain competency and confidence. Attaining skill is a practical and intangible virtue and the ultimate motivation promoting improvement is a looming competition. It's a shame if you sit on the sidelines because you fear failure and incompetence because nothing can get you past these fears more effectively than failure and perseverance.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.