You want to know how to create the tennis version of Lindsay Lohan? Take your little blond 5 year old son---who has an admittedly good way with a racquet for a kid his age---sell your house and belongings in California, move the family, including your other two kids to France, and have him train up to five hours a day at a tennis academy banking on a future star.
His name is Jan Silva and his parents Scott and Mari think he and possibly his 11 year old brother Kadyn will be future Grand Slam winners.
I got two words for them: Jennifer Capriati.
Two weeks ago I read this terribly sad article by Wayne Coffey in the New York Daily News: "Match Of Her Life, Jennifer Capriati tries to beat her demons." Here's an excerpt where Capriati describes contemplating suicide because injuries have kept her from playing for three years.
"When I stopped playing, that's when all this came crumbling down," Capriati says. "If I don't have (tennis), who am I? What am I? I was just alive because of this. I've had to ask, 'Well, who is Jennifer? What if this is gone now?' I can't live off of this the rest of my life."
Does nobody ever learn? I know there's major money involved, I know there's fame and fortune involved, but really...a 5 year old? The kid has a full scholarship at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy outside Paris. His Mom was quoted in the Robson article:
'This kid loves it,' " says Mari, a tennis instructor who now teaches at Mouratoglou's academy. "We don't have to push him."
No, but at 5 years old you might need to stop him. Just like you wouldn't let a kid do anything destructive for five hours a day just because he wants to, you sure as hell don't want him focusing for five hours a day on how well he hits a little yellow ball over a net.
His Dad's expectations as quoted in the Robson article:
"Best-case scenario," Scott says, "is they both win Grand Slam titles. With the athleticism that Jani and Kadyn have, they can do whatever they want to do in tennis."
And the worst-case scenario?
"Jani wins a bunch of Grand Slam titles and Kadyn plays professional tennis but isn't as successful as he'd like to be, and then does whatever he wants," Scott says.
Now I'm not saying Jan's parents don't have his interests at heart. They may be very loving, wonderful people but they are diving head first into the shark tank that is professional tennis and they're using a 5 year old as bait. They're going to have to be extremely unique people not to let their kid get swallowed whole by the experience. And that doesn't even touch on the potential physical damage to his young body.
People can talk all they want about how they're not going to be the parents who let their kid suffer the pressure of being sole breadwinner for the family, or letting him become a little monster because he's cute and everyone wants to please a future star, but when it comes right down to it, parents can be sucked in way before they realize it.
It's ironic that IMG the management company that Capriati accuses of having dumped her because of her injury is according to the Robson article, currently refusing to represent Jan because they fear the criticism if they sign up a kid so young.
Oh give them a couple of months. The head of Jan's academy had this to say:
"He (Jan) likes competition," Mouratoglou says. "He always wants to win. The Silvas have a goal. I have the same goal. The kid has the same goal. We work in the same direction; it's just a matter of time."
Yeah right, the kid has the same goal. The kid doesn't know how to spell the word "goal." He may understand winning, he may understand pleasing everyone and he may understand that he loves to play, but it's the adults who are supposed to understand the rest and protect him from the sharks and his little 5 year old self.