How to watch your kid play tennis?
I start this post with the preface that if you have made the decision to be your child’s tennis coach, as well as parent, then this does not apply to you. There has been successful parent coaches over the years and I have no doubt that with appropriate boundaries around when you parent and when your a coach, this can be successful.
However in 99 out of 100 times, as a parent you are not coaching your own children and play a supportive role in their tennis journey. You probably send your children to their weekly or multiple weekly lessons and they may play some form of club competition or tournament. You want them to become the best they can be. To push themselves so they can enjoy the thrills that come from success in sport. You should also simultaneously want to make sure they have fun and make friends at tennis and become healthier and happier young people.
So often though parents will become overly invested in the tennis game and outcome. They will step over the line from being a supportive parent who is watching their child play a game of tennis to any crazy combination of coach, manager, trainer and advisor who rides (a little too hard) every single shot from the warm up to the end of the match. Once this line is crossed there is always the risk of overstepping the line.
Only recently at our club at Scarborough Tennis, we had an opposition teams parent who consistently got involved in their daughters 15 under match. This included shouting out that to their child that they should challenge that line call. Challenge? Like the hawkeye technology used at grand slams? So this parent is clearly anxious and worried about their child not playing their best and not losing a point that they didn’t think was just or fair. It is almost as if the parent was watching their child’s match in a way that a tipsy spectator is watching their favourite footy team at the pub!
Kids, tweenagers and teenagers will respond to such parental over exuberance with either compliance, embarrassment or frustration depending on their personality and age. But in an anxious ditch to help get that one close point or help them get that unseen edge, you can totally jeopardise everything that your child is working towards in their journey to become a strong, independent and competitive player. Jumping in all the time sends a big message to the child that they can’t handle it themselves and need to be reminded what to do. That they need help from mum or dad to resolve the situation. That they cannot be trusted to play and compete by themselves without interference.
At Scarborough Tennis, We encourage parents to show interest and enthusiasm for their kids tennis. It is very important the kids know you enjoy watching them play and have your attention on them. Also important for parents to hold their kids accountable to their training and playing commitments to the sport. You want your child to be intrinsically motivated and to make their own decisions and see it through to success or failure without judgement.
If your watching your kids play remember:
- They can probably tell by your body language what your feeling/thinking. This will often affect them more than you consider.
- They are already really upset when they miss a ball they shouldn’t, they don’t need you to remind them.
- They are trying but they will have times where they fade out of focus.
- They don’t need you to offer up your advice on what they should have done before, during or after the match.
- As long as they are not feeling heavily judged, they love you watching them play.
So parents, give yourself a break. Wish your child good luck and watch them go through the up and downs that can come from every match. Grab a coffee and a vanilla slice and applaud them when they play a great shot or put in a great effort. Also applaud their opponent when they play a great shot or put in a great effort. Let them succeed, let them fail but mostly give them the space to concentrate, learn and grow.
Director of Tennis