A Better Way for Parents to Help Their Tennis Kids
I am a parent of 2 girls. I understand the anxiety of being a parent and wondering if your child is going to be ok. I get it, although when you add playing a sport into this, things can go south quickly for the parent/child relationship. Tennis and other sports is a journey of going forwards, then backwards, forwards, then backwards then forwards again. How parents can handle these ups and downs will impact the value that your child gets from playing the sport.
Parents however have a billion thoughts racing around their head including:
- Is my child wasting their time? Should they be doing something else?
- Am I getting my moneys worth from all of these lessons and competitions?
- Can my child handle this, my child can be a bit precious when things get hard?
- This is too stressful for me to watch, we should find something that has less emphasis on winning and losing.
As a tennis coach i see the parents role as the following:
- To encourage your child to get active and the benefits of exercise and being outdoors.
- To ask questions about their training and their matches, to see if they have learned anything from the training or playing. See this excellent article on teaching. This is opposed to telling them what they need to do which will only work short term and burn out quickly.
- To encourage your child to do everything in their control that they can do. See another post here on the Triangle of Control.
- To support the coach, the tournament manager, referee and opponent and be respectful of everything about the game.
- To not be outcome focused but be process focused. Rankings for example are outcome focused. Practicing 30 minutes of serves on the deuce side is process focused.
- To not push your child to play a higher and higher level. Firstly leave that for the coach to decide. They have seen generations of juniors come through and this experience along with their own playing experience will have them know more than most parents on what level they should be pushed up to. I go with the win 60% lose 40% type philosophy. I do however see team tennis such as pennants as a competition to learn how to play as a team. This is more important than individual pushing. That can come in tournaments which is an individual competition. The lessons learn playing as a team can also improve an individuals game. So perhaps team competitions, winning is 70% 30% is ideal and tournaments 50% 50%.
- To embrace your kids passion. Buy your kids a tennis magazine or find a youtube tennis clip which you found great and show it to your kids. If your child is struggling with their serve, showing an instructional serve clip to them will likely make the experience less fun for them! Allow the coach to find instructional articles/videos but take them to watch live tennis or top grade state tennis.
- To encourage the fact that they are improving every day.
Finally the most important one is below.
- Tell them you love to watch them play. A fantastic article here. Tennis is fun and your child wants you to be their mum and dad rather than their military officer, coach or teacher. Talk about other things away from the sport, particularly just after some adversity in the sport.