One of the trickiest challenges for tennis parents is to keep the long term view in mind and not be too affected by short term events. It can easy to be too pleased by a fine competition performance and also to be as depressed as your child, following a difficult day. You may even find that a bad tournament on a Saturday or Sunday stays with you into the working week whereas by the next day your child will have bounced back.
I like watching many sports but rather than being avid watcher of a single sport, I tend to watch the majors. So at Easter I’ll probably tune into the US Masters for my only golf viewing of the year. There is one line that is often said by the commentators on the Thursday evening along the lines of, ‘you can’t win in round 1, you can only lose the event.’ The same is true of junior sport, your child is never going to master the sport at 11 or 12 instead every match is a learning opportunity.
It can be difficult to stay balanced in the heat of a match or when your little sportsman/woman is crying after a particularly disappointing loss. I was reminded of this today when my son, had a particularly bad day at the office. He got heavily beaten in his first match and it was easy to see where he had lost the match. All the way through he had kept going for winners often down the line and the result was shot after shot he blasted the ball long. I even heard him say during the match, ‘it was the right shot’ and he was right he had attacked at the right time. When he came off court we discussed the match, he knew straight away he was hitting a lot of balls out and I suggested when this was happening the most often.
I was about to say to him, ‘why don’t you just play safe, don’t go for the winners, just trade’. I stopped myself and remembered that telling someone in effect to be careful can have the opposite effect. How often have we told our children to be careful when they are holding something and then they drop it? What about your own childhood, remember climbing a tree or a wall, an adult told you not to fall and the first thing you did was to worry and in the worst case scenario the next thing you did was fall!
Instead of telling him to be careful or play safe instead I said, ‘if you are going for winners how can you have a better chance of getting them in?’ and we agreed that if you hit cross court, you have more court to aim at.
I was concentrating on the long term view that in the future, he will have far more chance of winning matches if he can hit clean winning shots rather than if he has spent his junior tennis days at best trading and at worst moon-balling or hacking his way through competitions.
All day he kept going for his winners, importantly at the right time in the rally and unfortunately today was a day when they just did not work. During the day his accuracy did improve but the results didn’t. I just kept in my mind the thought of him blasting those shots as an older teenager, they’ll be far more effective at winning points than if he had just practised moon-balling.