Tennisopolis : Tennis Social Network

Crazy Tennis Mom Dealing with Losses and Motivating the Kids

     As a coach it is always easy to observe and comment on how it should be done, such is the nature of our job but when it comes to the intimate and delicate role of parenting, specifically motivating, or consoling a kid who just lost, I thought an experienced voice is a better fit for the job. Today I have a guest blogger and I hope this post will be helpful to some of the parents out there travelling a similar path. For context, I posed the following scenario "How you deal with disappointments of losses at matches or tournaments; and the challenges surrounding motivating the boys, not necessarily the psychic behind motivating them but the methods you have used with or without success". Many thanks to "Crazy Tennis Mom".

     We have all been there, watching our kids walk off the court with their heads hanging and their spirit crushed. The weekend began with high spirits and dreams of bringing home the trophy. They had worked so hard on the practice court and they were sure this was going to be their break through tournament. Yet here we are again getting in the car to drive home on a Saturday night with nothing to show for their hard work. How will I ever convince them to continue to put in the effort when they don’t see the reward?

     Motivating my kids to continue to practice and play the tournaments, when they aren’t seeing the benefits of their efforts, has been the greatest challenge I have faced as a tennis parent. Many of my heartfelt efforts to cheer them up and motivate them only brought more tears and anger instead of results.

     I remember one instance in particular, early on in my son’s tennis, when he thought he had done everything he needed to do in practice to start winning the tournaments. He had spent months on the practice court working on his strokes and improving his game and it was time to try out everything he had worked on in a tournament. He was sure he was ready to beat the kids who were always a few steps ahead of him in the rankings. However, things didn’t work out the way he planned and once again his tournament ended in a loss to the higher seeded player. He was so frustrated and angry that his efforts hadn’t paid off in the win. I asked him why he felt he shouldhave won. He answered in a rather matter of fact manner that he had been practicing hard so heshould beat them. “Yes you have, but what do you think they have been doing while you practiced?” I asked. He looked at me with a puzzled look and didn’t answer. “They have been practicing hard too to make sure kids like you don’t beat them.” My response didn’t make him happy. With great frustration he asked me how he was ever supposed to get good enough to beat them. “You can’t just practice hard, you have to practice harder, you have to do more than they are doing if you want to get better than them. “

This is the approach we took with the kids in trying to motivate them to push on. Yes you worked hard, but no-one is going to roll over and hand you the trophy just because you worked hard. You have to fight for it if you want it. What are you willing to do, how hard are you willing to work? We have never babied the kids or let them feel like they were entitled to anything. If you want it you need to go after it. I must admit there is a fine line between motivating and pushing and finding the balance can be like walking a tight rope.

     If you find yourself pushing your child to get on the court, perhaps that is not where they want to be. Motivation has to come from within. They are the ones who have to put in the effort and we as parents can only support them. Support isn’t a matter of always letting them believe they are doing great. Honesty is a far better approach. I remember one time my son coming off the court after an absolutely horrible match and saying to me “I sucked!” “You sure did,” I responded. He looked at me with complete shock and then started laughing. If I tried to tell him all the good things he did in the match rather than acknowledge the fact that he just didn’t play well he would have no accountability for his effort. The accountability is what motivates them to continue to practice and get better. They aren’t doing it for me they are doing it to prove to themselves that they can.

     Talking to your kids and, more importantly, listening to your kids about what they want from you as a tennis parent is the most important thing you can do for their tennis. In our household our kids want us to stay quiet and not speak to them after their match, win or lose. They have too much emotion after the match to listen to what we have to say and they need the time to physically, mentally and emotionally recover. Each one of our kids likes something different from us during a match. Our daughter wants us to sit there and be absolutely quiet. She hates it if we try to cheer or encourage her because she likes to play “mad.” Our one son likes us to cheer if his opponent has someone cheering for them. Our other son prefers if we just nod our head or pump our fist when he’s doing well and if he is “sucking” he prefers we walk away. Talking and listening to our kids is the only way we know what they each want from us.

    If you want to keep you junior tennis player on the tennis court especially after the difficult loses you have to make sure they are happy. Talk to them and listen to them, let them vent their frustrations without over reacting and be the calm reality check they need. Remember, as bad as the big loss may feel at the time it just might be the motivation they need to make the necessary changes in their practice and game to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Our coach gave me the best advice early in our tennis journey. I asked him when my son would start winning and he said “when he’s tired of losing!” You see we can’t motivate them to win; they have to do that themselves.

Till next week, hooray for good parenting!!!

Views: 1003

Tags: Parents, Tennis, attitude, dad, fun, hate, juniors, kids, losing, mom, More…motivation

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Comment by Sandra on April 11, 2012 at 5:29am

Funny you should mention the bagels.  When our kiddo got old enough  to take a joke, we served bagels for breakfast the next day to whoever got "bagelled"  It was a great motivator.  They preferred the breadsticks so they worked a little harder.  I guess that is why he still doesn't eat bagels for breakfast.

 

Comment by Mark / The Mayor on April 10, 2012 at 9:43pm

Sandra - thank you for sharing this!  What a great response.  I'm glad we deliver get 460 views of it already.  BTW, my son survived his first tournament despite being double bageled and losing both matches.  He is excited to get better!

M

Comment by Sandra on April 9, 2012 at 3:38pm

Thanks for the interest in the article.  Just got back from vacation to see the comments.  Crazy tennis kids article, did that one just lately.  I think I called it Do all tennis players have multiple personality disorder or just my kids? 

Motivating your children to try their best in whatever they take on is the greatest challenge in life.  I think the key to success is that the child feels the drive from within.  We can't walk them through every step of their life so they have to be able to push themselves.  Our philosophy on parenting has been to have the children find their motivation from within.  Yes we help but it has  to be about them.  They have to own their accomplishments and their failures, not me.  No excuses and full accountability.  Our kids have seen great success in sports and school because it is what THEY want.  We just are there to support them and provide opportunities.

Comment by Lin Ford on April 6, 2012 at 9:36am

When she was 8-10, my daughter was, well... slow. No matter what I tried; hollering at her, working out with her, putting her in groups of other kids to stimulate competition.. nothing worked - lead feet.  Then at 11, she started to mover pretty well. At 12 she was really moving. I asked her what happened to motivate her to finally mover her feet, hoping to hear which of my words of wisdom, or motivational speeches actually worked. so I could impart this to all our struggling tennis-parent friends. She looked at me and said "I got tired of losing". 

Kids motivate themselves, or not at all. We can support them, and provide the training and equipment to succeed, but if they don't want to win... inside, it won't happen.

That being said, there are always tricks; My 9-year old son loves football, and is ambivalent toward tennis. I'm not going to play football anymore, and would like to have a mutual sport we can enjoy together. Soooo.... if he has a good attitude, and really tries during tennis practice,  I let him drive my car around a big empty parking lot. He loves it, and we get to spend time together. It's a win/win, even if it is a bit manipulative. 

Comment by Tim Prapong on April 5, 2012 at 12:42pm

But these kids keep losing! lol

Comment by TennisWithD on April 5, 2012 at 12:41pm

@Tim, sorry Tim, I can't help you. I am not a therapist ;)....funny guy

Comment by Tim Prapong on April 5, 2012 at 12:39pm

How about "Tennis Mom Dealing with Crazy Kids that Lose"? Just kidding. :)

Comment by Joe B. (BP, CA) on April 5, 2012 at 10:11am

Well-written.  I especially liked that last part, "when he's tired of losing." 

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