Have you ever wondered what tennis are you actually watching when you watch your child play? Are you watching what is really happening or what you believe is happening?
We are all used to hearing conversations between a parent and a child after they’ve lost a match, which begin with the player saying, ‘I was miles better than them’. You may have been watching the match as a neutral and be puzzled as through your un-emotional eyes, you felt the better player won. It may have even been your child who was victor and you can have more than a tinge of annoyance as you could feel that your own child’s performance has been denigrated. Or you could have been the losing player’s parents and you may have watched the match and just be completely confused as to why your child has lost, when you honestly thought they were the better player.
In some ways whilst this may be a delusion, at least it is a positive way of viewing the world and if you are agreeing with your child, you are building their positivity, self-esteem and confidence. It may be that you disagree with your child but go along with conversation because you wish to reduce their pain and hurt.
There are also times when we do not take that positive view of the world when watching our child’s matches. You may even do this because of your own mental attitude when you were watching.
This was highlighted to me recently when I watched my son take part in a training session with children from other clubs. The session was two hours long and after a stressful week at work, I decided to take the opportunity for some of my own fitness work and went running with the aim of watching the second hour of the session.
After an hour I took my position at a window and began to watch. They were playing tiebreaks to 7. The first tiebreak my son hit lots of double faults and lost to a boy with a similar rating;7-2. He then played a really good player and lost 7-5 before playing a third playing who he usually beats and lost 7-1. During those three tie breaks, I saw all the things wrong that my son was doing and became increasingly frustrated, a feeling that I retained during that hour.
I was a little cross when my son emerged from the training session but we all know that we shouldn’t share those negative thoughts with our children, afterall it’s their game! He didn’t want to talk about the training session as he had other things on his mind. It was only later in the evening that he wanted to tell me about the session. I was amazed when he began to tell me, that he had thought he’d played fantastically and proceeded to reel off the scores of four other match tie breaks from the first hour. In hindsight a really strong set of results. I had truly made my decision on how well he’d played more due to the mental state that I was in than the short snapshot of the session. I had watched his performance through my own frustration.
It made me think how do we view the tennis our child is playing? Do we really see the game as it is? Or more likely if we are in good mood, are we more positive about what we see? Yet equally and perhaps more worryingly if our week has gone badly do we see a worst performance from our child than actually occurred? Perhaps as spectators we need to work on our own mindset so that we see the tennis from a balanced perspective.