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I'm sure there has been a lot of discussion, and studies about parents who coach their own kids, or husbands who teach wives tennis or anything else. Typically it's not a great combination. Occasionally, it works out fine, but from what I've seen, its causes more harm than good.


This afternoon, I saw who was likely one of the top high school players in the area. She was drilling with her father while mother stood watching. He was very critical. After the session, the girl left the court in tears. I didn't know the facts but I could only feel very sad for her and made me want to add this discussion on TennisOp.


How often does a coach, from the ranks of pee wee tennis to the elite professional, treat or berate a student to the point of crying? If anything, criticism must be done in a positive way although I know some local coaches who use criticism in a negative way.


Most parents are not trained to be coaches, they don't know the technical aspects about tennis or don't know how to coach. I know parent coaches are parents that want the best for their child, but parent coaches are typically way too hard on their children because the parent thinks they know the best for their child. Would a parent coach treat a neighbors kid the same way? I really don't think so. Parents need to coach their own kids like they would coach someone else.


Kris Milligan has written a book called the Family Guide to Tennis. Although at this time I have not read the book, but from it's title, might be something a parent should read regardless if their child participates in tennis or any other sport. I plan to get an autographed copy from Kris soon.

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I agree and disagree Dudley.  I too have seen this situation numerous times at all the courts in our area.  I feel so bad for some of these kids.  On the same note, I think there are some parents who are great coaches to their kids.  My father for one, was never so strict on me to the point of tears, but gave me positive reinforcement and constructive criticism at the same time.  I may have been a special case though.  I was so eager to learn and get better, I would take any kind of criticism and never got my feelings hurt.  So, to generalize all parents aren't good coaches is extreme, but I have seen the majority of the parents be really hard on their kids.  I also think that money has a lot to do with it.  Not many parents want to spend the money on a coach when they think they can do just as good as any other coach.

The fact that you could take any kind of criticism speaks to how emotionally stable you were/are.  That is really uncommon and probably makes you a great learner Mike.  Most kids are more fragile and hate hearing even the most happy suggestions from dear old dad.  I've been working with my son (guilty!) and he is very resistant to hearing my ideas.  He just started at a small academy and he loves it - he is more than happy to listen to the cool 20-somethings (that are not me).  I will say that he is getting more used to listening to me and not taking it personally.


I have worked really hard to hold my tongue and keep it fun - the last thing I want to do is turn him off of the sport by being overbearing.  So, he has missed out on some technical instruction in an effort to "just have fun". 


I've always tried to mix in other sources of instruction, like orange-ball groups, and private lessons here and there.  Then I'm in the background.

I actually think if my parents or my brother had been my tennis coaches I would have quit before I hit 12 like I did soccer. There are some weird dynamics typical of parent-child coach-player combos. My parents were not harsh, tough, or strict at all. In hindsight I got away with a lot because they lenient but also because I never really got in trouble, BUT they successfully brought out the worst in me in terms of being receptive to instruction or constructive criticism in sports or otherwise. 

I remember an incident clearly in 2nd grade (6yrs) we had to copy words off a wall chart in school, take them home so parents can look over them, and turn them in. Simple stuff. My mum had the "nerve" to tell me one of my words was "meaningless" aka wrong! I lost it, cried, threw a fit etc. I was convinced beyond a doubt I was 100% right and she was wrong. When I returned to school the next day sure enough I was wrong. 

@ Mark, I hear you and feel for you but good to know he is opening up because I never did. I could take instruction from a Russian military general before my parents! Not all kids can handle it and I am guilty.

Hehe, really? Well, I tried to do college chemistry problems with my dad, who is a doctor. We found we both came up with wrong answers. lol

Hi Mike, thanks for your input. I appreciate it. Boy, I sure hope I didn't say ALL parents, because that was not what I was implying. I did a word search and didn't see that I used the word "ALL".
Good stuff Dudley. Sadly in our location there are many parents who not only expect, but demand near perfection from their children both in school and sports. These parents also tend to learn just enough about tennis to be dangerous in their child's development. They also primarily use negative reinforcement as motivation which is sad, but there are actually several coaches in the area that use that tactic also, not the best for motivation. There is a great book called "Raising Big Smiling Tennis Kids: A Complete Roadmap For Every Parent and Coach," and the Positive Coaching Alliance has some great info. The parent-child-coach relationship is so important to player development, but the kid is the driver.

Thanks Hal, I will have to find a copy of the book you refer to.

Piotr Wozniacki

Ice queen ignoring her dad? lol

I have seen them up close a few times (3-4x), they seem to combine well actually. The dialogue, from the body language, seems healthy even when she is visibly upset frustrated and loosing. Of course the dialogue is also in Polish and maybe a little Danish but it hardly seemed like fighting words like in Dokic's case.

the worst of the bunch...

Jim Pierce

how can love, not get in the way!


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