Junior tennis players are influenced by the actions, opportunities and feedback received from their parents. It is sometimes difficult for tennis parents to know what and how they should communicate with their child to best support them. This article will help give some advice on the best way to help your tennis junior so that they will hopefully enjoy their tennis and perform the best they can. One of the major elements is to know what role/roles the parents must adopt so it is important that you understanding your child’s tennis journey and how it can be enhanced. Every person is an individual with different needs, interests and potential and the parents play a major role in achieving their child’s desired goals. Try not to compare your child to others as their support and needs will be different and focus on what they need. Tennis is a long journey e.g. starting at 8 years old to 18 and what they want from their tennis at 8 will definitely be different to what they want when they are 18, so it is important for the parents to continually change during this journey. Below are three factors that can help you focus on your child as an individual and support them as they progress in tennis.
1. Clear Goals
Do you know what your child’s dream is? What are they trying to attain this year? Are you both working together to achieve the same? What is your reason for supporting your child in tennis? Many problems occur in a child’s tennis journey when the parents and child want different things from the player’s tennis. Being a pro is not for most tennis players but if this is what you want from your child and deep down they only want to play for fun, then the pressure of pleasing the parents will likely result in disaster. If you have a child with a burning desire to become a pro and you only want them to play for fun then the child will doubt your support and belief in them. With regular communication between the parents and the player about what they want from their tennis this will help you alter your involvement when required.
2. Making sure you display understanding
If your child feels like you understand your role that you play in their tennis then this will help the relationship. To develop this, there are 3 environmental factors:
a. Experience and knowledge.
For many parents who don’t know much about tennis, it is difficult for them to understand what they require. You should study tennis to understand more about the physical, mental and emotional challenges the player will endure. It can also be detrimental if you are an experienced tennis player as by assuming your child is going to experience what you did is unlikely and they will need different support and guidance.
b.You and the child’s coach.
Parents usually look to the child’s coach for knowledge and understanding of the game and how that impacts their child’s development. The coach plays a big role in this and it is important that the parents and coach are working together. Having clear and common goals are key and knowing what is expected from each party will help this relationship. Like any relationship, it needs quality time, so by scheduling meetings or messages via email can be the most effective rather than just trying to grab a few minutes here and there when the coach is busy on court or between lessons.
c.Keeping tennis in perspective.
Tennis is one part of a player’s life so it is important that you keep it in perspective. Tennis is a sport that develops life skills but by worrying about victories and defeats, ratings and rankings, the tournaments they are in, which teams they are selected for or being disappointed if your child doesn’t play well can tarnish the enjoyment and success in tennis. The focus needs to be on the development of the child’s skills and abilities and those that can be controlled, e.g. how much effort they apply, how positive they stay and did they play with integrity.
3. Knowing what is required from you
The level of parental involvement will be different for every child. A parent should strive to display behaviours that are helpful and applicable to tennis. You should focus on the following:
a.Developing the skills for competing.
The way in which you interact with your child will substantially influence your child’s ability to cope with competing. Tennis is a psychologically demanding sport which in itself creates a whole world of complexities. Tennis is an individual sport so players need to be able to think for themselves, adapt, find solutions to problems through tactics, be accountable for their actions and learn from their mistakes. By doing too much for your child you are restricting your child’s opportunities to develop these skills.
b.Child’s needs in competition.
Knowing why your child wants to compete and how they prepare best is very important e.g. do they need a pep-talk before, or to not even talk about tennis. While they are playing some players thrive of encouragement while others wish for their parents to be sat in the car park, so what does your child prefer? After a match the player will have a preference as to how they will converse. This is usually based on the result and/or performance e.g. if they win and play well they will probably want to talk about it but if they lose with a poor performance then they will probably not want to discuss it until the day after, so find out what they like. The relationship between you and your child is the most important thing so do not let tennis ruin it but make it a part of a journey that you will discover so much about each other to bring you closer together.