The Role Of The Parent During Matches
Parents have a very important part to play in the development of an aspiring tennis player. As well as the obvious emotional & financial support, tennis parents have to ferry their offspring to regular coaching sessions & tournaments which in some cases can clock up well over a hundred miles per week. The investment, financial & otherwise can be huge.
There are a number of parental traps that need to be succesfully negotiated if the parent/child/tennis relationship is to prosper. Matches are what the endless hours of hard work in training are all about & are a really good way of guaging progress. However they do put the child’s game in the spotlight & the subsequent pressure can be difficult for children to cope with.
We’ve all witnessed children getting upset during &/or after matches so i thought I’d put together some thoughts on how parents might make matches less fraught for all concerned.
1. Don’t get too involved. Lots of pre-match advice will only confuse the player & could put undue pressure on them. Simply wish them well. “Have a good time” is better than “you can do this, you’re better than him/her” as this could be perceived as an exhortation to win. When your child feels pressure to win & they lose, they will invariably get upset. After the match, put the postmortems on hold & give your child some space. “Did you win?” is probably the last thing you should ask! Let your child decide when to talk.
I would treat wins & losses in the same way. Something along the lines of “Well played I’m so proud of you”. Don’t go overboard when your child wins. It won’t always happen & the child will sense disappointment when they lose.
2. Watch from a distance. One of the biggest problems I see is parents intervening in their child’s matches. It’s easliy done I admit, especially if you’ve just watched your child’s opponent make a bad line call for the umpteenth time. The solution is to watch from a distance. I’d be far enough away so that you don’t get emotionally involved but close enough to show support & enjoy the spectacle . Your child can always call for the referee if they feel the need.
3. Be fair. During the match, if you want to applaud, ensure you do so fairly. I watched one of my players once where the opposing parent clapped my player’s double faults & cheered vociferously with every point his child won – honestly! It was U10. At the end of the match, my player was in tears.
Make sure if that if you applaud your child’s good shots, you reciprocate when the opponent does the same. In this way you can promote fair play & sportsmanship. Similarly, if you want to verbalise your appreciation of good play, keep it in proportion & ensure you do the same when your child’s opponent plays well.
Flamboyant displays of unbridled joy should be avoided! A parent who enjoys their child’s victory more than the child is missing the point.