Tips for Tennis Parents

Being a tennis parent requires a whole different level of parenting. It’s finding the right balance between being a parent and a coach, a cheerleader and a neutral entity in the audience – in other words, it’s not always easy. Here are five tips for tennis parents that will help you keep a healthy balance between your home life and life on the court.

Allow for Plenty of Breaks Between Activities

Being a tennis parent can be stressful. You’re constantly rushing from one pick up point to the next: you pick your kid up from school, race home to have lunch or an afternoon snack, and before you know it, it’s time to get back into the car to make it to the tennis club in time for practice. Just think: if you’re stressed out, chances are, your child is feeling it too. Long school days can be taxing, and children need their time of rest and relaxation too.

Always make sure you’re allowing for plenty of down-time between activities. If the current tennis schedule barely allows your child to sit down for half an hour after school before getting ready for the courts, you may need to look into other time slots for practice. A good two hours between school and tennis practice will give your little tennis Rockstar plenty of time to eat, digest and kick back with a fun book or some cartoons.

Don’t Take the Fun out of Tennis

Even if your child’s goal is to become a professional tennis player, it’s important not to take the fun out of the game. It is difficult to find the right balance between having fun on the court and coaching a future-professional, but it’s a balance you absolutely MUST find for the love of your child. Your son or daughter’s eyes should light up the minute they step out of the car and into the tennis club; they should be excited to play and pack their gear with enthusiasm for the practice/tournament ahead.

Of course, we all have our days, so don’t be alarmed if there’ll be days when your child puts on a sulk over having to go to practice because they much rather go to the local pool with their friends. But these days should be few and far between. As soon as you see more dread on your child’s face than enjoyment, it’s time to start asking yourself whether they are still having fun, or whether tennis has become an extension of school.

Don’t be a Helicopter Parent

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your kid wielding their racket on the courts like an absolute pro – as long as it doesn’t mean your putting immense pressure on them because of it. Many tennis parents have the tendency to become all-consumed by their kids and their game, so much so, it seems they no longer have a life of their own outside of their kids’ tennis training and accomplishments, this is know as being a helicopter parent!

Your kids need space to breathe and if you’re constantly on top of them about their training, skill levels and up-coming-tournaments, they’re going to end up resenting the game – and possibly, you. Be supportive and by all means, show your interest, but try not to let tennis dominate every conversation, let alone, your entire life.

Keep Post-Match Criticism to Yourself

When you see your kid absolutely killing it during a tournament, handling wins as well as losses like an absolute champ, it can be hard not to want to offer post-match criticism, simply because it feels as though the practice has helped them mature and given them a healthy perspective on the game. And while this is mostly likely true, there’s a difference in hearing criticism from a parent vs criticism from a coach.

Your kid expects criticism from their coach, and even if it is tough to swallow at times, it’s OK because there’s a distance between them. They won’t have to sit through dinner with their coach within the next few hours, and the coach won’t be tucking them in later that night, meaning that, any feelings of failure, pressure or insult can be given their space and distance. You on the other hand, are the parent, you are the one who is meant to give your kid a pat on the shoulder and a well done, even if it wasn’t their best game. Never forget that, in your child’s eyes, their greatest accomplishment is pleasing you – so let the coach handle the criticism, while you practice positive reinforcement.

Let Your Children be Children

The most important thing for tennis parents to remember is to let their children be children (or their teens be teens), too. There are going to be days on which your son will want to go out and play soccer with his friends instead of training; there are going to be weekends when your teenage daughter would rather go to the mall with her girlfriends rather than train for a few hours. And that’s OK.

Let your kids have a world outside of tennis – it is important for them to connect with their peers and have experiences outside of the confines of the tennis club. Trust your child to make their own decisions – if they are truly dedicated to becoming pro players, having a life outside of tennis won’t stop them from making it happen.