1. How to be a tennis parent
2. Tennis parent education, tips and recommendations
How to be a tennis parent
The process of developing a competitive tennis player is very complex and necessarily involves the whole family. If well managed, the long path to a professional career can be satisfying for everyone involved. However, the wrong attitude on the part of the parents can be very destructive, harming both the child’s performance and family relationships. Overbearing parents often simply cause their children to stop playing altogether.
For this reason, I believe it is important to have a look at how we can be better tennis parents.
Tennis is a sport
• Focus mainly on improvements in your child’s game rather than on the outcome of matches.
• Commitment and hard work are more important than success. Avoid rewarding results only.
• Remember that tennis is just a sport and is good preparation for life, even if your child cannot be a professional for whatever reason. Avoid thinking that tennis is the most important thing in life, as it simply isn’t. Education, for example, should always be the priority.
• As a parent of a tennis player, try to understand and share the emotional pressures and complexity of the sport. Avoid underestimating the pressures of an individual sport like tennis.
• Give your child responsibilities. This will over time increase their self-esteem and independence. Don’t allow them to be over-dependent on you.
• Make sure that competitive tennis is a positive experience, espcially from the point of view of personality development. Emphasize important aspects such as sportsmanship, ethics, personal growth, responsibility, discipline and a positive attitude towards others. In doing so, you can teach your child a healthy way to be passionate about sport.
• Understand that children not only have the right to play tennis, but also have the right to choose not to play.
• Let your child know that you care about them and are close to them if they need help, but avoid getting too involved in their tennis activity.
• Prepare to listen and learn from your children. Don’t try and learn everything about tennis for them.
• Be ready to provide emotional support for your child, especially during the tough times. Do not withhold affection as a punishment or means to get your child to play better.
• Make your child feel valued and reinforce their self-esteem, especially when they lose a match. Avoid criticizing poor results. Remember that it is your child who is deciding to compete and you may only watch if they want you to be there. Avoid saying “let's play well today” as if you are also competing.
• Recognize your child's skills in tennis, but keep your feet on the ground and remain objective. Avoid putting your child on a pedestal.
• Emphasize that winning does not equal love. Avoid getting angry or treating your child differently when they lose.
• Attend the whole match while keeping calm in both positive and negative situations. Show your child that, regardless of the outcome, you are interested in and value their efforts. Avoid leaving if your child is playing badly. Questions: “How did the game go?”, “How did you feel?”, “How did you play?”, “Did you have fun?”. All of these show that you were worried about how your child played or whether they had fun, and that you don’t just care about the result. When they return after a match, don’t simply ask “did you win?”
• Help your child (economically and in any other way) by showing that you are happy to help them play tennis. Avoid creating feelings of guilt by telling them that you are spending a lot of money.
• Try to motivate your child to be independent and think for themselves. Avoid being a coach from the grandstand.
• When your child loses a match, point out that it's just a game. The result is bad, the world does not end and the sun will rise again tomorrow. Never physically or verbally abuse your child.
• Help your child to avoid excuses. If they complain about the court, point out that it was the same for both players. Objective, fair analysis will only help in the long run. But don’t be too harsh, simply try and get them to be objective.
• Show interest in your child's tennis by attending matches if they want you there. But avoid being present during each and every workout.
• Let the coach decide when and how to train your child. Avoid criticizing your child if you feel they should play more. Remember that when it comes to training, quality is better than quantity.
• Try to understand the risks and watch out for stress symptoms (drowsiness, hypercritical attitude, cheating, etc.) Do not ignore your child's insecurities and anxieties.
The only expectation you need from your child's tennis activity is that it can help him become a better person and a great sportsman. Everything else is gravy.
Compare your child's progress with his abilities and goals. Avoid comparing your progress with those of other kids.
Try to motivate your child in a positive and amiable way (for example by using positive reinforcement). A good rule of thumb is to have three compliments for every criticism. Avoid using sarcasm to motivate your child.
• Make sure your child respects the principles of sportsmanship, correct and polite behavior. If your child behaves badly on court or off court you must intervene immediately.
• Reward your child for what they are as a human being, not as a tennis player. Avoid promising special privileges, prizes, etc. for winning.
• Keep in mind that you and your child must have other areas of interest aside from tennis. Avoid spending too much time talking tennis with your child.
• Your child's well-being and happiness are the most important thing.
• Try to remember that tennis players need some peace of mind after losing a match. A pat on the shoulder or encouragement is more than enough when a player loses. After, when things have calmed down, it will be possible to comment on the match. But it’s better if they initiate that conversation. Avoid forcing your child to talk to you immediately after a match.
• Take your child's injuries seriously and, if in doubt, consult your doctor. Do not ignore pain or feelings of discomfort and never force them to play when they are injured.
• Let your child know that you are willing to take them to tournaments and training, but avoid insisting on accompanying them to every match and training session.
• During matches, try to have a positive image of serenity, calm and relaxation. Avoid showing negative emotions by appearing nervous or angry when, for example, your child makes a mistake.
• Keep in a good mood and try to have fun watching your child play. Avoid behaving negatively or being excessively critical. Remember that you need to have a lot of emotional control to be a good parent of a tennis player.
• Maintain your role as a parent. Avoid being your child's coach (for example, discussing technique, strategy, etc.). Live your life outside of tennis. Remember that you too have your personal needs, do not forget them completely. Avoid experiencing some of your unrealized dreams through your child.
• Be generous in recognizing and applauding the commitment and skill of your child's opponents. Avoid ignoring or criticizing them.
The coach’s role
• Respect the experience of your child's coach. Avoid criticizing their training methods.
• Make sure the coach has a positive, motivating attitude and that they promote good values. Prevent the coach from being too negative, results-oriented or demanding.
• Establish clear lines of communication and try to talk often with the coach, in order to ask about your child's progress, goals and mental attitude. Do not avoid contact with the coach.
• Before changing coaches, make sure that the relationship ends on a good note.
• Remember that your child's coach is a qualified professional who can help you in many aspects, both in tennis and off the court, and who can also help you learn more about tennis. Work with the coach to help them better understand your child's personality and feelings. Avoid thinking that the coach is a simple employee or ball machine.
• Be objective and recognize when your child's opponent has played well.
• Try to maintain good relationships with other parents, because you can help each other.
• Try to maintain a balance between your interest in tennis and the interests of other family members. Avoid losing interest in your other children.
• It is very important for the parents and the coach to make the child aware of “invisible training,” which comes in the form of friendships, evening outings, parties, sleep etc. All of these factors that can influence a player’s performance.
2.Tennis parent education, tips and recommendations
The role of parents in sports, specifically tennis, can be controversial. Interfering with coaching, avoiding top competition, and pressuring a player are just a few of the parent-induced issues that are recognized by top junior coaches that often result in a player burning out. However, not all parent- player relationships are negative; there are many instances where a parent’s involvement is influential to the child’s success in the sport. In fact, most players need the support of their parents/family in order to succeed. In essence, a parent is extremely important for a junior player’s development.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A TENNIS PARENT
One of the first decisions a parent can make is to take their kids out on the tennis court and play. A parent does not have to be tennis professional to introduce tennis to a child. Providing a child with a fun initial experience with tennis is crucial and will affect whether the child will want to play more. As children develop interest and skill, it is beneficial for them to play in clinic situations where they will meet and play with kids their own age. As the child’s game improves, he or she will need appropriate individual and group lessons.
Playing Other Sports
Playing other sports is good for kids and can actually have a positive impact on a child’s tennis game. Many of the current top professional tennis players participated in other sports when they were young. For example, Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer both played competitive soccer.
Modeling Good Sportsmanship
Children are known to be good imitators; they become what they see and hear. Tennis is based on trust and respect among players and coaches as well as adherence to the rules of the game. Good sportsmanship is not always common in the present day sports world. Parents, more than anyone else, affect their children’s behavior. To encourage good sportsmanship among their children, parents should speak and act in a manner that will encourage positive modeling.
Help Develop A Winning Perspective
A parent should make decisions for their child based first upon what is best for their child and second, what may help their child win. Winning is definitely important; pursuing victory and achieving goals are rewards of sports. However, an obsession with winning often produces a fear of failure, which can result in below-average performances and upset/distraught children.
Helping Your Child Set Performance Goals
Remember that it is better to emphasize performance goals—those that emphasize individual skill improvement, such as foot work or the forehand—than the outcome goal of winning. Performance goals are in the athlete’s control and help the athlete improve his or her game, whereas an outcome goal of winning is only partially under the control of one individual. Performance goals should be specific and challenging, but not too difficult to achieve.
Foster Independence On/Off the Court
Parents should encourage their kids to take responsibility for their match and practice times as well as for carrying their own gear. As children get older, they should have more and more input into their practice sessions. This will help them to accept responsibility for their tennis development and will likely result in deeper commitment and satisfaction.
Learning From Losing
It is understandable for players to be upset when they lose a match as long as they cool down in a reasonable amount of time. In fact, great players always find losing painful. Upon a child losing, a parent should console the child, but also allow him/her to be a little upset. Remember, the learning process is a process. A heartbreaking loss can be a positive turning point if it is handled correctly. Every tennis year will be filled with highs and lows. Keep in mind that only one person wins a tournament each week, which makes the wins all that more rewarding.
Promote and Encourage Team Activities
Doubles is a great way to build relationships, and learn proper teamwork. Playing high school tennis or Jr. Team Tennis adds to a positive tennis experience. Not only is it more fun to win and lose as a team, but players also learn that many of their teammates share similar interests and aspirations.
Provide Opportunities To Watch Tennis
Attending a high school, college, or professional tournament can provide the atmosphere for a young player to become inspired and motivated by seeing an exciting match. They may also develop a role model for their game style or behavior on the court. Parents should encourage their kids to take friend(s) along with them so they can interact and have fun as they watch.
WINNING ATTITUDES OF EFFECTIVE TENNIS PARENTS
Constant Improvement, not Comparison
It is never healthy to make a big deal over little Mia beating little Lisa. Parents who get caught up in the status of “who beats who” can easily negatively affect their child and commonly give their child complexes about playing certain other children.
The attitude should be about improving constantly. Comparison to others is a poor gauge for improvement in the development stages. The most effective parents only compare their child’s performance with their child’s past performance. The idea is to convey a value of “constant improvement.”
It is About the Child’s Journey, not the Parent’s
Parents can become too emotionally invested in their child’s tennis, resulting in the parent living vicariously through them. One sign is when the parent says: “WE won the tournament on the weekend.”
The most effective parents do not attend every practice and competition. They openly communicate with their child about what they are going through and support them win or lose as long as they give their best effort.
What They Do in Practice is More Important than Who They’re with
Parents often times get caught up in the fallacy that their child always has to be in groups with better players. This attitude can kill any group program at a facility. What if the other “better” players in the group have the same attitude?
There are benefits in the top, middle, and bottom of training groups, just like there are benefits in playing stronger, same, and weaker level players. All these experiences are important in development stages. The most effective parents respect their child’s coach, communicate with them clearly, and avoid “lobbying” their coach to place them in certain groups.
Process Over Results
Winning in the developmental stages does not ensure success in the future. The goals set and the activities performed to accomplish them are what truly matters. Too many parents become content with the status and accolades when their child is winning at younger ages. If they don’t train solid fundamentals, it could lower the chance for future success.
The most effective parents help their children to take the focus off winning and place it on the process of setting and accomplishing improvement goals. They reinforce what the coaches emphasize.
The most effective parents don’t let poor behavior or sloppy training habits slide just because the child wins. Use tennis to make a great individual first and a tennis player second. Tennis trophies are temporary, but character lasts a lifetime. They use tennis to develop their child’s character and leave the tennis to the coaches.
POSITIVE PARENT-PLAYER INTERACTIONS
Encourage your child to play tennis, but don’t pressure them.
Understand what your child wants from tennis and provide a supportive atmosphere for achieving those goals.
Set limits on your child’s participation. Don’t make tennis everything in your child’s life.
Make sure the coach is qualified to guide your child through the tennis experience.
Keep winning in perspective and help your child to do the same.
Help your child set challenging but realistic performance goals, rather than focusing only on “winning the game.”
Help your child understand the valuable lessons tennis can teach.
Help your child meet responsibilities to the team and the coach.
Discipline your child when necessary.
Turn your child over to the coach at practices and matches—don’t meddle or coach from the sidelines.
POSITIVE CONDUCT FOR A TENNIS PARENT
✔ Remain in the spectator area during competitions.
✔ Do not advise the coach on how to do the job.
✔ Do not coach your child during the contest.
✔ Help when you’re asked to by a coach or an official.
✔ Show interest, enthusiasm, and support for your child.
✔ Do not make insulting comments to players, parents, officials, or coaches of either team.
✔ Maintain control of your emotions.
✔ Thank the coaches, officials, tournament director, and other volunteers who conducted the event.
✔Read the code of Conduct with your child
7 POSITIVE PARENTAL BEHAVIORS
Provide unconditional love and support
Provide logistical support
Hold child accountable for behavior on the court
Provide financial support
Emphasize positive attitude
Provide appropriate discipline for poor sportsmanship
Here are some other tips to help
To help maximize a young player’s enthusiasm for tennis, a true team is required. This team is a harmony of player, coaches and parents. Parents who align themselves with the values like effort, a desire to improve and work hard, and to treat others with respect and don’t overvalue winning (especially at a young age) give their player a head start on the journey to great performance.
As a parent, accepting the struggles (some beyond your control) of your child when they compete is necessary. Adversity is part of tennis. No player can win every point. No player can control the variables that can impact the outcome of matches. Embrace the struggle!
Parents should be able to encourage their child the same way they cheer for their favorite professional player. They should applaud great points, not just ones their child wins.
Parents should ask their child questions. Especially after losses, ask questions like “what would you do differently next time” or “what did you do well today?” instead of offering critiques of what you saw. Few children respond positively to a seething critique of their performance minutes after their match from Mom or Dad!
Resources: USTA, Tennis world USA, Racmm