JUNIOR TENNIS LESSONS
The article (The Glitter Has Gone, Nov. 8) on Lori Kosten by Barry McDermott should be required reading for every parent who has a child in sports. It is extremely well written and touched me to my heart.
Twelve years ago, my son Gene held a host of age-group world records. He was written up in FACES IN THE CROWD (Aug. 30, 1971). At age 10 he told me that he didn't want to run again. I felt he let me down by not continuing to run. He felt that I let him down by taking away a piece of his childhood. There were some very difficult times, but now we are good friends.
Congratulations to Lori. She is a great lady and is to be congratulated for having a mind of her own. We can all learn from her.
GABE MIRKIN, M.D.
Silver Spring, Md.
Having been involved in coaching for 13 years, I particularly appreciated Barry McDermott's article on Lori Kosten and the not-so-fun side of junior tennis. Although my sport is swimming, not tennis, I think the article revealed a problem inherent in all children's athletics, i.e., the all-consuming need to win.
I personally have seen parents berate their children for not winning, regardless of the caliber of their youngsters' performances, thereby eliminating their one true source of consolation. I have seen it in football, baseball and even soccer. It happens with young basketball players, gymnasts and swimmers.
I have always believed that parents are the greatest teachers any child will ever have. As a parent and a coach, I can testify that this is true. Every parent who has a child involved in athletics should take stock of what Lori has to say and of what the article has to say in general. By putting on a youngster the kind of pressure to win that even an adult would have trouble handling, we are not only destroying the child's spirit but also the sports we say we love. If a sport cannot be fun, get out. Winning isn't everything.
Olympia Athletic Club
Fort Wayne, Ind.
As an avid tennis player, USTA sectional officer and tennis club manager, I have been around players and parents who have subjected themselves and others to the pressure of competitive tennis. Their responses and reactions to these pressures resembled those of the junior players and parents cited in Barry McDermott's article. What I fail to understand are the coaches and parents who instill expectations of tennis greatness in these juniors yet offer no alternative but further pressures if these expectations are not met. Why should Lori Kosten have felt she was a failure for being the No. 3 12-year-old in the U.S.?
In the final paragraph of the article, Nick Bollettieri said that with the proper attitude and his coaching, Lori could be on the pro tour within two years. He appears to be suggesting that Lori again face a deadline to fulfill high expectations. I hope that this time around her love of the sport will win out over timetables, outsiders and goals. Good luck, Lori!
The Wynfield Club
Your remarkable story was especially interesting to me, because I have had an experience in tennis similar to that of Lori Kosten and the others, but at a lower level of competition. I come from a small community where I became an all-stater in tennis. A lot of people had great expectations of my going on to play in college, yet deep down I knew there would be no college tennis for me because I was mentally "burned out." Today, two years later, I am happily attending Arizona State—and not playing serious tennis. I'll never forget the tension, high blood pressure and temper tantrums that caused me to quit that side of the sport.
DAVID (DEACON) EWING
As a high school coach of freshman football and baseball teams, I run into parents every day who are reliving their lost childhoods through their children. This appears to be especially prevalent in the younger age groups. Children are pushed to perform to their utmost ability, and they learn at an early age to use any tactics necessary to gain an edge on their competition.