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Let me introduce myself. My name is Wesley Watson, I am from Johannesburg, South Africa and I am married to my beautiful wife Mari and we have 2 beautiful kids. Abi is 9 and Danny is 8.
Both Abi and Danny play tennis and they are coached 4 times a week by their coach. They have been doing this for 2 years now and have developed very well. Abi is showing a lot of talent for the game and she wants to play as much as possible all the time.
Here my questions then, as a parent I am not sure if there must be any coaching from my side or must I just be a hitting partner? Are tournaments important at this stage? How much emphasis must be put on strength and fitness now?
Sorry for just dropping these on you like this but as you said, the opportunity doesn't come around twice, and we want to learn from others what to do and not to do.
Thank you so much,
I have been in the junior development program for many years. I suggest you hit with them when ever they want you to. Weather they win or lose, try to be the same. You love them and want the best for them, I understand. By being a constant, spending the time is priceless. often I have found the parents involvement can be a distraction and not help the player. Help them love the game and the rest will come. Remember, if they love i,t they will work hard on their own, children don't want to work so this will sneak the work on them....sneaky huh? As a parent of 2 open level players who started at age 4, I must say they have fond memories of playing all over California and having a great time with many players with USA team tennis. They learn social skills and today that is a skill that stands out. Anyway there is my 2 cents.
My son had a tough loss this weekend in the Southwest JTT Sectionals. He played a kid that he had beat before and those losses are always tough. My son has been playing tennis longer than his opponent and his strokes are more natural, but his opponent is a natural athlete that just didn't miss on the forehand side (and ran around most backhands). It was really tough to watch my son lose this match with his whole team watching. I could tell that he wanted it so bad. He had a lot of tears and called himself a few choice names too including "a failure". I consoled him best that I could, and he got back out there later that day and won a double match with a buddy.
He needs to work on keeping control of his emotions. The match was very winnable but he feared losing so much that it affects his game. I am not sure on how to help him do this. I think he just needs to play more matches, and somehow get a different way of looking at the game of tennis. He is always wanting to challenge people at ping pong or foosball or a race, but when it comes to tennis, he takes it way too seriously and puts a ton of undue pressure on himself. Any help from other parents would be appreciated.
What a great topic for discussion. I just got back from Houston from my son's CMZ tournament too.
I've always said, I am a mom first and coach 2nd! Children in general are just amazing, they tell it like it is and they show their true emotions and some choice words as they feel :)
Two of the most important things in junior tennis is "Coping skills" and "Sportsmanship" . Once you teach these two to your children starting at a very young age they are able to handle any tennis match, win's and losses with grace. It takes time, its challenging and it takes a lot of patience and listening skills as a parent or a coach!
My son may think I've taught him a lot but in return he has taught me more!
I have made my share of mistakes but learning and growing from it has bonded our mom/coach relationship to new heights to the point where I show him respect and he shows me respect, I listen to him and he listens to me "really takes it to heart" didn't happen in one day but over time. I also send him to other clubs to practice with other players and coaches even though I coach him one on one private lessons. I used to try to console my son after a loss immediately after he came off the court and he would be very frustrated and upset. One day he said to me "Mom can you just give me a little time to vent and digest then I will talk to you" that was the turning point!
Every kid is different but I started to just give him a hug, win or lose and that was it, driving home there was 10 minutes of silence and then he would start talking about his match. It was beautiful, he taught me that everyone needs a little bit of space to digest their emotions. I also looked back at my own tennis journey and started to understand how I felt after a loss. You already know "I could have done that" " I should have done that" "why didn't I do that" so why do you need someone else telling it to you and repeating what you are already feeling? It made perfect sense!
Over time I worked on his sportsmanship and focused on coping skills, "you can't win all the time" "You won't lose all the time" "Your time will come when it comes" these 3 things really helped my son a lot. We focused on breathing techniques between points, playing with racquet strings and walking away taking some time, we also focused on distractions: parents who coach and disrupt, opponents who cheat, opponents who throw racquets.
How to deal with cheating: Play fair and be honest first and foremost. Well, teach them unintentional line calls will happen on both sides it balances out, if you go for lines try to hit winners a foot inside the line. If one or two bad calls happen, walk to the net and ask them if they are sure (to let them know you are watching) otherwise move on. Challenge reasonably.
How to deal with parent coaching (a good coach will teach you these skills): Teach them that most of the time the child that is being coached will be disrupted and distracted so its an advantage to you. Unless the talking bothers you, keep moving, otherwise don't engage with the other parent and don't ask me to call the umpire but you walk directly to the umpire and call him/her. Always arm them with the rules and regulations and arm them with when to challenge and when to keep moving. Identify what's to your advantage and what hinders your play. Learn how to keep score loudly and accurately, finger signals aren't enough alone! Know all the rules, there are rule books.
How to deal with your own frustrations (a good parent and coach can teach you these skills): When you lose a point take time, breathe in 4 sec, hold 4 sec and breathe out 4 sec, count..by this time your head is clear, it works trust me! Turn your back walk to the fence and play with your racquet strings. Move forward get that point out of your head! Yes, everyone needs an outlet so you might yell at yourself or scream "you idiot" or "what the heck" make sure your choice words are choice for the tournament and not for yourself you could get a penalty. Vent and then get right back in. You have to teach them how to sooth themselves.
Simple things makes a huge difference on how your child performs (parents this is where you come in big time): This is big and this is where you come in as a parent! As a parent, you have to have strict tournament routines, discipline then they will train themselves independently. Teach them to look at their draw, find out about their opponents, seeds, bye, court time, court venue, delays, standing list. Teach them to sleep by 8:30pm on tournament nights and you have to be part of it. Teach them to eat right and hydrate and put a wet towel over their heads on hot days. We have a rule on tournament trips no gadgets except for DVD player to watch movies. Just books and puzzles and cards. You can't just tell them and you play away and are on the computer or phone, you have to lead by example. Why? Its a big deal, they are working hard so give them the respect and the time! You can't expect high standards when you don't teach them by example! We also had a few stomach bug incidents from eating greens in restaurants so we learned only subs with no veggies and lots of fruits. Teach them to sleep early and get up early for an early warm up before match starts. No courts? no problem, use a parking lot, skipping rope, a wall, there's always a way.
Bag check (parents you can help teach them): Med kit, extra strings, grip tape, towel, are racquets strung and taped? extra socks and change of clothes if you don't have time to go back to the hotel. Jump rope, snack, books,puzzles, cards, ball, during rain delays and wait time. Practice balls (big one) we have forgotten in the past, got there early and no balls:), cap, sunscreen. Teach them to pack their own bags from very young. Teach them to fill up their water jugs and prepare.
Parents don't coach period! : During a match don't coach, its not allowed and you will distract your kid and you might as well be responsible for their loss! Clap when they hit winning shots, try not to clap at the opponents mistakes, stop pacing up and down, just sit in one spot, they can feel your stress and it will stress them outJust because you play tennis or have competed doesn't mean you are a coach but you can be a wonderful kind, understanding shoulder to lean on when your child comes off the court even after losses! If they are angry after a match, don't take it personally, they are upset at themselves not you, give them some space to digest. Once they start talking tell them "there is always another tournament" or "next match" and its true! If you are travelling with a coach let them do the coaching, otherwise be a support system, they probably know more than you do sometimes but no parent wants to hear this right?
Its always easy on the sidelines to watch and say "why did you miss that shot" "you should have hit a volley" "why did you double fault" and we all think it, don't say it, just think it because I bet you your child is already thinking it so no need to reiterate. You are not in the hot seat, they are so let them learn to fight their own battle and use coping skills. Teach them coping skills before a match, when they are not competing!!
There is so much more I could write but I will leave it at this. There are no good or bad parents, we are all doing our best for our kids and we all love them. Just remember one thing, before you say or do anything sit, watch quietly and put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself "how many factors are effecting them right at that moment and how many are effecting you the audience, just sitting and watching?" They may have had to sit through rain delay? you may have brought them late to a match and they got a minus two game penalty? you may not have taken them to warm up earl? lack or sleep? ate something bad? not enough hydration? too much media before a match? nerves while playing a match?are you in their face coaching and yelling at every mistake them make? are you pacing up and down? is it windy? is it 3 digit temps? did they stretch? did you focus on coping skills or focus on winning? did you put pressure on them to win or to play their very best? did they have a good match preparation, practice the week ahead?are you making faces that they can see?
Now tell me can you be in their shoes at that very moment and do everything perfect? No you can't as a parent or even as a coach so, teach them life skills, coping skill and good sportsmanship and focus on this first and then the rest will follow, they will thrive not just on the tennis court but far and beyond, they will be well rounded and well grounded and the trip overall will be amazing :) When they lose give them a hug, when they win give them a hug and whatever the result go swimming, go sightseeing so the trip becomes a lot less stressful, think of it as a mini vacation! Their time will come, allow them to play lots of matches and tournaments and lots of practice, allow them to fail and learn and pick themselves back up, allow them space to vent but JUST BE THERE FOR THEM ALWAYS! The roots have to be strong to allow them to independently stand tall and grow to be healthy and strong, mind and body. Mistakes are stepping stones, parents and children make them, but try not to repeat the same mistakes over and over, learn from it and grow with them!
listen to Wayne Bryan this Saturday: http://bit.ly/17w4uhJ for great ideas about Tennis Parenting. Want to ask Wayne a question? Let me know.
I've been teaching kids the basic of both tennis and baseball. Does that qualify me as parent? (maybe in sports). As my kids are too young to learn the basics, I have them watch the kids while in training. Basically, we use simple baseball batting drills to maximize their potential in both sport. My ways are to particular that I may now want to discuss it here. However, teaching kids is not just life to me but happiness. As what John said,
All the expectations, excitement, disappoinment, encouragemnt, (lack of) self control, shouting matches, soul searching, amateur coaching, hurt feelings, and lost and found relationships are on vivid display at every tournament.
I feel all these with my trainees, so I really think that I qualify to be a tennis parent.