Turn tournaments into holidays… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

It’s hard for players and parents on these wintry rainy nights. You are doing the tennis run in the dark and then sitting cold by the courts, feeling sorry for your child playing their tennis in hats and gloves. The half term week of February is very different from May. I often think wistfully of those summer days when you can watch in shorts and you worry about whether you’ve brought the right sun cream with you and enough lucozade to get you through the day.

The good summer memories do not have to be of finals contested and trophies won. With the right company in a good location, it can still be fun if the results do not necessarily go for you.

One of my highlights of last year’s tennis was a trip to Frinton-on-sea for a grade 3 tournament. We had just got back from a family holiday in France where the hard courts saw the ball bouncing high above your shoulders, very different from the grass courts we were due to play on.

On the journey down, my daughter took in a grade 5 tournament to try and get used to the different courts back in Britain and play a couple of matches before the grade 3 battles. It was a club we hadn’t been to and was the ideal re-introduction to tournament play.

IMG_0337We headed towards Frinton for our campsite were another friend and tennis dad met us. There were no matches on the first morning so we decided the appropriate warm up was Walton Pier for a couple of fun fayre rides and some silly gifts.

IMG_0375

That evening it would be pizza for tea and an investigation of Clacton pier. Wrist bands were bought with the aim of as many rides as possible to be completed before some beer was sought by two thirsty dads.

The next day saw more singles in the morning before doubles in the afternoon which was a great opportunity to play some fun tennis and for the girls to chatter to each other rather than be on court at different times.

We then found we were required the next day and not having realised we’d be staying for so long, Saturday plans were hastily rehashed. Our camp site was full so it was a premier inn family room for our final nights’ stay. We felt quite pleased as the evening heavy rain battered against the windows. That would have been less fun under canvas.

We woke to sunshine and our final day on the grass courts before the long journey home.

IMG_0396Yes, we were lucky enough to pick up a trophy along the way and the grass courts were lovely (that will make another blog) but best of all was having a little holiday with tennis friends and enjoying the sunshine together.

So on a dark winters evening, it’s lovely to flick through the pictures of our little tennis holiday before considering the next challenge, deciding where to go to next year!

Good luck!

 

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ is now published . Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

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Trophies, Tears and line calls… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

I would imagine that for many, our main passion is supporting our children with what ever their goals and dreams are. For lots of us, one of their dreams may revolve around a tennis court. Nine years ago my son fell into mini tennis and really enjoyed it. My daughter then followed the same route. As they have grown they have competed all over the country and in France too. We have had some fantastic adventures and met many wonderful people including fellow parents, coaches and referees.

There a book for everything

One of my little mottos is there is a book for everything so I looked for a guide for parents to help with their children’s tennis as I knew that I was not getting everything right. I could not really find anything that had been published recently or was entirely suitable so I conducted my research of books from across the world and began to apply my education writing skills to first a blog for tennis parents and then to writing what would be my 8th book.

Stephane-Mallarme-book-quote-540x540

This isn’t to say that I thought I was an expert on being a tennis parent and I am also not a tennis coach. I am very conscious of the mistakes that I have made during the tennis journey. We have all said the wrong thing at times. We don’t always get the competition entries right or the amount of coaching. I have done this as much as anyone but I decided that putting my thoughts on paper might help another parent get it right more than I did.

yea-i-make-mistakes-its-called-being-human-quote-1

A long the way I was discouraged by some, who said that the market for such a book would be too small. Yet in 2017 almost 3400 girls between 10 and 18 played an Aegon or tournament match, for boys the figure was 12200 and there are 1000s of children playing mini tennis. That is an awful lot of parent driving countless of miles and sitting, biting fingernails! Therefore I decided to continue with the project, on the basis that if it helped a few parents it would be worthwhile.

In 2017, almost 3400 girls and 12200 boys between the ages 10 and 18  played a match with LTA ranking points.

Finally over the Christmas holidays, I received my proof copies of ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’, which is now available through amazon. If you are a tennis coach or professional I would be delighted if you would signpost it to parents and if your own children play, why not give it a read? I would also be grateful for any feedback please send me a message on twitter or on  this blog. (Happy for you to point out any typos too!) If you would write a review on Amazon that would be great.

It could just give you or a fellow parent the help that I was looking for nine years ago.

 

(Click on the image to take you to amazon)

Finally, please do not thing that am I saying that I have all the answers or I get it right all the time. I certainly don’t but I keep trying to learn and reflect from the experiences I have and enjoy them too… As the quote says, there is no such thing as a perfect parent!

You can follow me on twitter at @tennisdaduk

Support in silence… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

It is likely that if our children are committed to junior tennis they may not play sunday morning football, rugby or hockey but instead their team sports is something they do through school.

football parentWhen I talk to football referees and fellow school teachers whose children play football, one of their regular comments concerns the shouting that comes from other parents and coaches on the sidelines. At best it could be the over repetition of phrases straight from ‘Match of the Day’ which the children do not understand let alone know how to respond too. At worse it is the over aggressive nature of the shouts from parents which can be on the boundary of abuse. A few years ago Gary Linker said youth football needs revolution in parent behaviour.

In other team sports, be it rugby, hockey or netball, there are likely to be regular interjections from parents but they tend to be less aggressive than for football.

It is an interesting contract to our life as tennis parents were we are not really allowed to say anything to our children. We may say good shot or well-played but this has to be much quieter and we are always trying to be fair to our child’s opponent too. Anything beyond this can be seen as coaching by tournament referees. In fact I was warned by a referee for symboling to my son that it was time for a change of ends in a tie break.

It is very hard to stay silent, especially when our child is having a bad match and we just want to give them some encouragement to keep going and perhaps just give them a hug because it so hard out there.

parents code of conductThough, overall I do think the peace is a good thing as the tennis is our children’s sport. In addition in a individual sport the battle can already appear gladiatorial and the last thing that needs adding to the emotions our children may be struggling with, is the views of parents. Admittedly at some point we will have seen an argument between parents when it has just got too much for them. Such parents are usually apologetically embarrassed the next day as they recognise their mistake.

So we know that keeping silent is globally best for our children but is there any further detail as to why? I saw the following infographic which was written for parents of children playing other sports which highlights 15 advantages to children for their parents remaining quiet as the performance of the children can actually increases.Benefits of spectator silence

So the next time, you feel you are suffering in silence or wishing that your child was playing a different sport as you just want to shout some encouragement, remember your quiet will actually be helping your child’s sporting development over time. So whilst you will encourage them as much as you can before or after the match, whilst the contest is taking place you are supporting in silence.

Thank you to @BelievePHQ for a fantastic and thoughtful info graphic they are well worth following on twitter.

If you have suggestions or stories of your own, then I’d love to hear them. Why not leave your thoughts as a comment below for other readers to see.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ is now published . Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

6 ideas for staying calm… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

196385-green-sports-playing-soccer-sports-training-net-tennis-photocase-stock-photo-largeIn my last blog I raised the ‘parent sportsmanship’ challenge; can you keep your emotions in check and stay relaxed so it is not obvious whether your child is winning or losing? Though in fact the real challenge is trying to remain calm. This is the best support you can give your child during a match and then immediately afterwards. This blog recommends six techniques that I have tried in the search for inner calm or other parents have suggested to me.

  1. Smile! Yes it sounds simple yet also so hard but it is true that if you can smile you will stay calmer. I particularly like the idea of breathing to calm down  and then breathe out with a smile.breath in
  2. Make two lists. The first list is all the things that your child has done right. It could be individual shots or rallies and certain points in the match or it could be tactics or strategies that they have employed. The second list is things that have frustrated you during the match. It could be when your child has struggled with their tactics or it could be the way that they have managed their emotions. Before the match ends, pick up the negative list, rip it up and throw the bits in the bin. There is nothing to be gained by sharing these with your child and the act of destroying the list is a way of emptying your mind of them. The positive list are things to share with your child and you choose when is the most appropriate time.
  3. Do some counting! Why not count different aspects of your child’s tennis. I have found that by doing this, you reduce your stress over points in the match. You could count how many shots each point lasts or much more complex things too. Below is some counting I have done and here is the explanation. (http://ow.ly/BAJr30gCWEK)tennis recording
  4. Try and sit where you do not have an exact view of lines. Don’t sit immediately behind the courts or on the baseline. If you have a view akin to that of a line judge you will inevitably see mistakes from both players which are likely to be purely accidental. You will actually have a better view than players who are also trying to hit their shots at the same time. If you sit a little distance from the court you can try and enjoy watching their rallies and at times being unaware of the exact score can be a good feeling.
  5. thermosI always have a flask of coffee with me and pour myself lots of small drinks. I never fill my cup as I find the act of taking the top of the flask, pouring a small slug of coffee, putting the lid back on and then sipping the drink quite therapeutic. It is also a small physical activity to do with my hands.
  6. just-be-in-the-momentTry and practice mindfulness, so stay in the moment rather than trying to work out the rest of the draw and the possible result of each win and loss. See my blog on mindfulness.

 

If you have suggestions of your own, then I’d love to hear them. Why not leave your thoughts as a comment below for other readers to see.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls has just been published. Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

Responses from Twitter:

@jameswweir1 – A great article, I’ve been to many competitions with my girls and keeping calm and giving the right support is not easy, enjoying the blog!

@handwtennis – One of the best blogs out there.

@Rayner96P Just enjoy the tennis and appreciate the play from both players. It is a fantastically entertaining sport to watch and I am amazed at the level kids can play at.

@1tennisgeek Great tips although 11year olds can be difficult to please. Last week at Matchplay I was accused of smiling and writing things down – Unfortunately you can’t win them all!

@adkinsred I’m going to try all 6 this Sunday!

@Andy_J_Davis I think you learn to take pressure of kids as you and they learn more. Tough enough for them out there!

Parent Sportsmanship…What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

I really love this quote from Jim Courier. The idea that your child could walk off court and win or lose and they show their pride. It is very similar to the some of the lines from ‘If’ by Kipling:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

I suspect that for many of us, we would love to see that in our children. The ability of remaining positive and proud even when faced with disappointment and personal agony. That would be a lesson that could be applied to all their lives not just the tennis court.

However it it one of the hardest things to achieve. Our children are striving as hard as possible to win every match, they will give their all and when in their eyes that hasn’t been enough, they will feel that they have failed and will show that emotion in their own, unique way, ranging from tears to screams. After all they are children and learning so much every day about themselves and about life in general.

federerI have previously written that children will follow our examples in many different ways. We are the people they spend the most time with and whether we like it or not, they will notice the little things that we do and without them even realising, they will display our traits. Now that is a truly scary thing!

Can you be as cool as Chrissie,

as calm as Bjorn or 

as sanguine as Roger?

chris evert calm

 

So if we would like our children to play the game like a Federer, a Borg or a Chrissie Evert. To show that relentless outer calm in the face of whatever is thrown at them, then we must try to show an equal lack of emotion.

So can you show an outer exterior of tranquility no matter what happens over the course of a tournament? No matter how disappointing the loss, however bad the line call or whatever let service that lady luck allows at match point in Fast4 tennis, can you keep that easy smile? Can you show that ice cool calm temperament? Can you meet the parents sportsmanship challenge? Maybe that is something you could try this weekend!

Chrissie Evert like

If you take the challenge I wonder what techniques you use to appear chilled. In my blog next week, 6 ideas for staying calm, I’ll suggest some of the strategies that I have used but I would love to know yours too so that I can include them.

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. My guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ has just been published. You can follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents

Mindfulness…What i’ve learnt from junior tennis

mindfulness-colouringMindfulness has been one of those words that has been difficult to escape from in recent years, whether it is adult colouring books or in my sphere of education, the introduction of mindfulness into the curriculum for year 7 children.

Have you ever stopped to consider what does Mindfulness actually mean?

There are two definitions given to the noun, mindfulness:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

The way I like to think about mindfulness is bringing my whole attention to the current situation. So if I’m having a conversation with somebody, I’m entirely focussed on that conversation, rather than thinking about the next thing I have to do or the next person I have to speak to. If I’m watching a television programme, I’m not checking my twitter feed or some other function on my smart phone instead I am concentrating on the plot or programme content.

I would suggest that mindfulness is interesting to practice during a tennis tournament your child is playing in but only if your child is happy with that. I am not suggesting that you stop choosing to read a newspaper, a book or complete another task during tournament if that keeps you calm or because your child doesn’t want you to become to involved in their matches.

just-be-in-the-moment

What I mean is that if you are both happy with you being fully focussed on your child’s play, the mindfulness you should practice is staying in that moment. How often do you sit during a match and begin to work out who your child’s next opponent could be? Check your child’s results against that player? Or start counting the ranking points or ranking wins your child might gain before they’ve even completed their first match.

For more thoughts to help tennis parents, read, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’

mind-fullIt is often found that by having so many different things in our minds or trying to consider too many different outcomes, what we are inevitably doing is creating additional stress for ourselves. By practicing mindfulness and trying to focus on a smaller number of events, our personal stress should reduce too.

Mindfulness means that as a tennis parent you take one match at a time. Just watch that one game and try to enjoy the skills that your child is displaying? Admire the new shot or serve that they have been working on in practice? Or listen to them encouraging themselves?

You will find that if you can do this, you will be less affected if the tournament does not go according to plan and most importantly be better able as a parent to support your child in their disappointments too.

Good luck in your mindfulness.

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, then please have a look at ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’. You can also follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

40 ways to encourage you child… what I’ve learnt from junior tennis

We all want to encourage our children. We know that if they are positive they will be happier and perform better. So here are 40 comments or actions you could try and tick off to encourage your child:

  1. smiley face thumbs up(Thumbs up)
  2. You’ve worked so hard on that shot
  3. Your game plan is on the right track
  4. That shot turned out really well
  5. I’m proud of the way you tried today
  6. That game in the 1st set at …. is one of the best I’ve seen you play
  7. That’s it!
  8. That’s a big improvement
  9. Congratulations
  10. You can really see your practice in that shot
  11. I could see you thinking your way through that match
  12. You knew just what to do when he/she….
  13. Fantastic!
  14. I loved the way you expressed yourself with your tennis today
  15. I knew you’d be able to figure that out
  16. I know it’s hard but you are almost there
  17. Brilliant movement today
  18. I love hearing your ideas
  19. Your game is coming on really well
  20. I think you’ve really got that movement now
  21. You stayed so calm in that set
  22. I reckon you’ve figured out that shot now
  23. I knew you could do it
  24. I love hearing you encourage yourself
  25. Sensational!
  26. You handled the weather really well
  27. It was great to see you remember that from last time
  28. You are really persisting with kick serve
  29. You did it!
  30. Excellent job saying how you feel
  31. Brilliant problem solving
  32. Great shot!
  33. I know that was really tough but you stayed so calm
  34. You really kept battling today
  35. I was so pleased that you went for your shots
  36. You never gave up today
  37. You looked really strong out there
  38. You kept your head up all match
  39. You couldn’t have tried any harder
  40. (Big Smile)

I am a tennis parent and author. My guide for tennis parents is written and I’m now looking for a publisher. You can follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

 

be an encourager