Let’s assume you are not a high performance tennis coach, but a loving tennis parent just the same. As a tennis parent, your role is critical in the overall development of your child on and off the court.
Below I’ve listed ten important communication skills essential for the Tennis Parent:
Teach character building and not stroke production or strategy. Encourage life skill development, such as being optimistic, time management, emotional composure, perseverance/work ethic, proper nutrition, hydration and sleep requirements and organizational skills. With proper life skills your child will succeed on and off the court.
Communicate your match observations to the coach (and not to the child). Email your tournament notes to your primary coach – asking them to focus their training on your child’s actual match flaws. The coach will then take the appropriate training steps. This will add harmony to the often stressful parent player relationship.
Google positive motivation techniques. Don’t force success…motivate success. Motivation is achieved through rewarding your child’s efforts and not by punishing their failures. Punishment discourages growth – the exact opposite of motivation.
Set process goals such as a developmental plan, as well as outcome goals such as rankings. Yes, there are two completely different sets of goals. Developmental goals include nurturing many game components simultaneously. Process goals may include: off court training, primary and secondary stroke skills as well as mental and emotional protocols. Outcome goals may include: the USTA/ITF tournament schedules, ranking rules and regulations as well as college placement process.
Manage proper match day preparation Spectacular preparation precedes spectacular performances. Practice makes permanent….practice doesn’t make perfect. This goes for pre-match warm ups as well. Sadly, most parents and players have horrific preparation routines and yet expect spectacular performances. See The Match Day Preparation eBook for more in depth discovery. (www.tennisparentsolutions.com)
Apply positive, non-threatening post match communication. Consider your child’s preferred intelligence (How individuals relate best to the world around them.) Some brain types enjoy discussing post match “chalk talk” immediately after the match, others simply need a little distance before discussing the match and still others may never want to discuss the match. (FYI: If your child never wants to discuss the match- you may have a hobbyist on your hands because they are not interested in growth) However, after a match, you may only have one hour before the next match to discuss performance issues. Be positive and reinforce what they did well. You may consider asking: “What did you do effectively today?”, “What did the opponent do that made it tough for you? What would you do different?” VERSUS discussing your laundry list of their failures!!!!
Train Independency. One of the most important character traits of a champion is independent problem solving skills. If your child is 16 and you are still finding their shoes, packing their bag, carrying their water jug and racket bag to matches you are developing dependency. At 5 all in the third set, the independent problem solver is more likely going to find a way to win. The dependent child is going to be looking to you with tears in their eyes.
Manage your child’s entourage. Top nationally ranked player have an entourage. This group consists of teachers, paid hitters, trainers, sparring partners, physical therapists …etc. If your coach insists that you only train with him/her…be aware that they may be looking after their best interest and not your child’s best interest. Bottom line- Do not assume one singular coach is doing everything your child needs. If you are only paying a coach to hit balls, you are mismanaging your child’s complete developmental plan.
Remember communication isn’t just verbal. Studies show over 70% of communication comes from tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. In my opinion, kids key in on the tone of voice and ignore the actual words being spoken. How do you expect your child to play calm, relaxed and positive tennis under stress, if you are pacing on the side lines with your arms folded in a knot and shaking your head in disgust? If you are wound tighter than a drum, sit somewhere so that they cannot see or hear you.
If you’re going to have an attitude…make it gratitude. The real junior contenders I train week in and week out work harder than most adults. Though many adults may be going to a job 40 hours a week, how many of them are giving 100% effort even 10 hours a week? Continuing to obsess about your child’s flaws will deflate their desire to even try. Replace the non-stop discussion of their flaws with your true feelings of being thankful for their hard work. Show appreciation for your child’s effort and you will be motivating greatness!
“A tough realization for most tennis parents is that you can’t be a part time hobbyist parent and expect your child to be a champion. If you truly don’t want to “get involved” please don’t expect your child to be great.”