Hello Tennis Parents – balancing love and 40-love

Hello Tennis Parents – balancing love and 40-love

 

 

Hello Tennis Parents.

Put your hand up if you answer “YES” to two or more questions in the Tennis Parents Ten Question Quiz:

  • Do you believe your child will be a successful, well paid professional tennis player?
  • Do you tell other parents that your child is “a high achiever”?
  • Do you talk about tennis at least once a day with your child over meals or away from the court?
  • Are you prepared to sacrifice your child’s education so they have a great chance of becoming a professional player?
  • Do you regularly ask the coach to work your child harder or to change something about their game?
  • Do you get emotionally involved in your child’s successes and failures on the training court?
  • Do you allow your child to show a bad attitude, poor sportsmanship and / or a poor temperament (e.g. racket abuse)?
  • Have you ever argued or fought with parents of other kids about the results of a game?
  • Do you refer to your child as “my son or my daughter the tennis player”?
  • Have you spent more than $500.00 on a single tennis racket for your child?

Well, here’s the bad news. If you answered “YES” to two or more of the above, the chances of your child becoming a successful professional tennis player are…………………NIL or very close to it.

And what’s worse – you may be the major cause of their failure.

Tennis is a tough sport.

To make it to the top means years of hard work, dedication, commitment, training and skills development. It also takes a total commitment from the player, their coach and the player’s family to become a successful, professional player.

None of this is news to you of course.

However what may be news is that the more you want your child to be successful, the more you drive them, the more you obsess over their training, the more you talk about their game and focus on their career, the less likely they are to be successful.

Hold it right there you say! I know that at this point, the majority of tennis parents are thinking, “I’m not pushy. I’m just supporting my child to achieve their dreams. I am not one of those parents this article is referring to”.

Wrong – you are!

It is next to impossible for you to be objective about your child’s sporting talent and your own behaviour relating to it.

  • The percentage of players who make it to the top is very small.
  • The percentage of players who make it to the top after being outstanding talents and tournament winners at 12 is next to zero.
  • The percentage of players who make it to the top after being outstanding talents and tournament winners at 12 and whose parents are obsessed with them getting there is less than zero.

 

So how can you be an outstanding tennis parent?

Sit down with your child’s coach.

Ask them for honest, hard hitting, direct feedback on the job you are doing as a tennis parent. In the same way that your child seeks and receives honest feedback on their backhand, serve, volley etc – you too need honest, direct, regular feedback to improve your tennis parenting skills. And…..be prepared to listen to it and act upon it.

Now, let’s look at things from a Positive Parenting Perspective.

Can you answer “Yes” to two or more of these questions about the future?

  • Can you give your child unconditional love, support and encouragement regardless of their on court performances?
  • Do you believe that the most important skills for your child to develop are confidence, self belief, honesty, integrity and humility?
  • Do you believe you should give your child a day or two off each week just to relax and enjoy being a kid?
  • Can you promise not to discuss tennis away from the court?
  • Can you encourage your child to develop skills in other sports and activities and to continue their education?
  • Can you provide your child with a loving, caring, supportive, stable family environment?
  • Can you stay away from the training court for a few days without getting anxious?
  • Can you give your child’s coach total and unconditional support – particularly when your child hits a rough patch or form slump?
  • If your child does not make it as a professional player, will you still love them, care for them, support them, nurture them and be there for them unconditionally?
  • Can you show dignity, maturity and decency when your child is defeated in a tournament?

 

Scoring Key:

Score 2-3: can I suggest another sport?

Score 4-6: a good chance of developing a well rounded, confident, balanced child.

Score 7-10: congratulations – you are an outstanding tennis parent and you have all the skills you need to help your child become the best they can be – in life, in sport, at school, in the family…..and maybe even tennis.

Being a tennis parent is a tough job. And like all tough jobs, you need good training and lots of education to do it well.

Wayne Goldsmith

9 Comments

  • David Louys-Moroney Posted November 1, 2010 9:54 pm

    Dear Wayne
    2 years ago I would have totally agreed with all of the comments about the poor tennis parents. But after my last couple years of experience I have had to change my opinion. I come from a different sport being golf, but I think this all relates to sport parents no matter what the sport. If you are not familiar with the golf scene, womens golf is being dominated by Korean women. I have been lucky enough to have first hand experience as I am currently coaching in Korea. The Korean parents would have to be the most demanding sports parents I have ever encountered. Out of the 10 poor points you made in this article I would say that they would have to answer yes to 9/10. For the positive parenting skills: definitely less than 3. Most parents that have this dream of their child making a profession from the game will leave their jobs and commit totally to achieving THEIR (the parents) goal. This means being present during all training, giving advice, which most of the time contradicts the coach’s advice. Reprimanding the child when they hit poor shots and pretty much being by their side 24/7. The main reason for this is because one parent did this and produced a world number one. So the other parents learn from this and try to take it a step further which just gets more and more out of control. But is it out of control as they are producing the best results and the best players in the world. Out of the top 10 players in the world, 5 of them have Korean parents.

    I would like to believe what you have said is true, but in reality the results show otherwise. I have always believed in balance but if you want to be the best the sacrifices the athlete needs to make means there can be no balance. Of course there are the exceptions. Currently in Korea most are unhappy out of balance athletes but they are getting the best results of anyone else in the world.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted November 2, 2010 10:52 am

      Thanks for the comment David.

      Having worked a lot with professional sports in the past five years I understand what you are saying.

      I am all for the supportive parent wanting to help their son or daughter be all they can be. The point of the article is about being aware of the tipping point where supportive becomes over-zealous and destructive.

      This article was inspired by a tennis parent I met who videoed their child at practice, then sat and re-played the training video to the child each evening over dinner. They would then write notes about where the child needed to improve, list the mistakes the child made and they even kept a daily skill error count on the door of their refrigerator.

      The kid was 8.

      I am all for kids, coaches and parents becoming totally committed to achievement and excellence, but where is the line???

      Thanks for the great feedback.

      WG

  • Jeremy Posted November 2, 2010 7:58 am

    Wayne,
    FANTASTIC post my friend! Ahhh the big dreams of sports parents often go astray!

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted November 2, 2010 10:40 am

      Thanks Jeremy.

      Parents are critical in the overall performance “puzzle”.

      Athletes need training to be the best they can be.

      So do coaches.

      Likewise sports scientists, physical therapists and strength and conditioning staff.

      Why not sporting parents?

      WG

  • Jeremy Posted November 2, 2010 1:23 pm

    David,
    Interesting response to Wayne’s post, and I too get where you are coming from. I have actually had the opportunity to work with one of these players you are referring to.

    If the primary Value Driver is results based performance, than I think there is merrit to your point. HOWEVER, peel away performance results, and like you said, you will quickly see unhappy women with extremely dysfunctional relationships with their fathers. There is a difference between unhealthy imbalance and healthy imbalance. Sports careers don’t last near as long as quality family relationships!

  • David Louys-Moroney Posted November 3, 2010 11:56 pm

    Hi Wayne and Jeremy
    Thanks for your fedback to my post.
    In regard to the tipping point to where it becomes destructive, I am struggling to determine. What I would believe is that point does not seem to exsist with the korean girls. I believe it is more of a culture thing than anything else. Most players do not have the courage to stand up to their fathers, so they just put up and shut up.

    I totally believe the players could play better with a healthy imbalance but the Korean culture is pretty much a unhealthy imbalance.
    The sad point, is that the best results are coming from the students who’s parents we would determine are the most destructive.

    The answer to the parenting problem is of course education. The coach sitting down with the parent and discussing the different training possibilities to achieving optimum results. I am trying to blend the Korean culture with the High Performance culture to achieve these results.

    Thanks to Waynes articles I have a lot more ideas on how to achieve this.

    Cheers

  • Jeremy Posted November 4, 2010 12:29 pm

    David,
    What age group are you currently working with and at what level in Korea?

    This information will help to shape some possible further ideas for you!

    all the best,
    Jeremy

    PS. You are right about Wayne’s material!

  • David Posted November 4, 2010 5:00 pm

    Hi Jeremy
    Most students are between the ages of 14 – 22. I mainly work with top amateurs players and touring professionals. The level 1 KLPGA touring pros are not in my full time program but the amateurs and 2nd & 3rd level KLPGA players are. Couple of the touring pros have their father on the bag as the caddie which is also very common on the KLPGA tour.

    Cheers

    David

  • Jeremy Posted November 6, 2010 5:05 am

    David,
    Shoot me an email as I have some information that may be of help for ya!

    all the best,
    Jeremy

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