THE TEN BIGGEST MISTAKES COMMITTED BY THE “TENNIS PARENTS”
Tennis coaches will vary with their teaching techniques and ideology. However, they all share one similar “nightmare” known as the “Bad Tennis Parents”. Raising championship kids is a very demanding job. Most parents are unprepared to meet the demands of raising a champion, and will commit mistakes. Their decisions have a direct impact on their child’s growth as a human being and a tennis player. Using the proper tools and following some guidelines are essential in becoming better “Tennis Parents”.
Here are some of the more common mistakes and their remedies:
- The interrupting parent. The last thing a coach wants to experience on the court is a parent that is repeatedly interfering with his work. There are many ways that a parent manages to interrupt a coach. A parent may be giving instructions, disrupting the coach, and will sometimes question the coach’s skill. Scolding the child is a disrespectful and counterproductive behavior, which takes all the fun out the learning experience and sends the wrong message to the kid. If the parent feels that the coach is incompetent, hiring a new coach should be the alternative.
- The pushy parent. As with many other coaches, I am very familiar with pushy tennis parents. The pushy parents are constantly shouting. They often compare their kid’s timetable to others. These parents are also coach hoppers, entering the children into an excessive number of tournaments. Worst of all, they are obsessed with rankings. This parental approach will eventually lead to very undesirable consequences. It is only a matter of time before the kid succumbs to the high expectations and mounting pressure and call it quits.
- The punishing parent. An unacceptable behavior by the tennis parent is punishment based on poor performance. No matter how poor your child performs in practice or tournament, punishment is completely inappropriate. On rare occasions, I’ve witnessed name calling and spanking, which borderlines with child abuse. Other popular forms of punishments, such as grounding, being kept away from the tennis court, canceled tennis lessons, and no television rights are all uncalled. Poor performances and losing in tournaments are painful, but they are also lessons in life. Dealing with failure teaches you to become stronger and prepares you for the future. If your child fails a test at school you make him study harder; you don’t keep him out of school.
- The unperturbed parent. The opposite of a pushy tennis parent is the one that does not get involved at all. The lack of attention from an unperturbed parent produces a negative outcome. Raising a tennis player requires devoted nurturing. Tennis lessons, driving to tournaments, setting up practice matches, and lots of encouragement make up the daily routine of the tennis parent. This commitment is costly, time-consuming, and inconvenient at times, but in the end, it is well worth the effort.
- The overly protective parent. Although they may have good intentions, and overly protective parent could use some parental coaching as well. Tennis is a game that teaches you a lesson in life. The emotions experienced in real life are the same as the emotions experience on the court. The disillusions of losing and the jubilation of winning on the tennis court are very similar to dealing with failure and successes in life. It is important for a child to experience both joyful and disappointing moments. I’ve seen a parent pull his child off the court during practice matches to avoid losing because the game score didn’t favor their child. Another parent I knew would not allow his son to play with a younger opponent to shield them from “losing face”. Unfortunately, these parents never allowed their young athletes to fend for themselves, and consequently robbed them of the character building process.
- The soft tennis parent. The soft tennis parent is very similar to the overly protective parent but with one distinction; they seek to control the elements of the game. The soft tennis parent aims to protect the child, not against another competitor, but against the weather elements. These type of parents can often be heard complaining about the weather being too hot or too cold, too windy or too dry, and may even complain about too much pollen in the air.
- An important factor in mastering excellence in tennis is the ability to overcome the discomfort of challenging weather conditions. Tennis tournaments, regardless of weather, are never canceled. in the same manner, practice and lessons should not be canceled either. The phrase, “mind over matter”, is a good principle to live by; it promotes character building through mental and physical strength.
- The parent coach. Being a parent coach is a grand responsibility to bear. Some parents with a tennis background can do a fine job. On the other hand, I’ve heard of former A.T.P. players whose coaching did not yield very desirable results. It is important to differentiate between being a parent and being a coach, which is not an easy task. Knowledge of the game, communication skills, and the ability to demonstrate an understanding of progression are some of the necessary tools to be a sound coach. Love, encouragement, patience and positive feedback are the parent’s responsibility. The benefits of hiring a pro usually outweigh the benefits of coaching your children. Allowing a coach to be in charge of the tennis program while maintaining a healthy parent-coach relationship based on mutual respect is the optimum formula for developing the future’s champs.
- The inpatient parent. A large factor in the character building of a child has a lot to do with the loyalty and commitment of their parents to the coach. One of the biggest mistakes committed by a tennis parent is severing relations with a childhood coach. It has long term repercussion and is counterproductive to the growth of a player as a person. Severing relationships leaves an emotional scar on the child that cannot be rationalized. It sends a message that everyone is disposable. All in all, it is unacceptable and parents should be held accountable.
- The downfall of American tennis can be blamed mainly on teaching ideologies. Tennis institutions, organizations, associations, clubs, parents and coaches all bear the blame. There is far too much emphasis on Fun with very little attention to Quality. By marketing tennis as a fun sport, it appeals to a larger number of people. Subsequently, it generates more revenues. However, a larger number of players does not produce more highly skilled players. I have seen kids with six months worth of lessons beating opponents that have enrolled in some of these “Fun” tennis programs for years. Quality time and learning the correct techniques for the sport of tennis should be a strong emphasis. Fun is good, but it should be the byproduct of quality.
- Some parents believe that enrolling their child in multiple sports promotes better tennis players. Some kids today, besides their academic curriculum, are enrolled in soccer, basketball, baseball, karate, tennis, swimming, piano and more. This overwhelming schedule eliminates their ability to develop a specific skill. It is necessary to be a good athlete to become a better tennis player. For this reason, cross training to enhance speed, strength, agility and hand-eye coordination should be an integral part of a well rounded tennis program.