Monthly Archives: May 2015

Setting the right example

Tennis parent

We all want our children to play tennis in the right way. We know that if they stay calm and positive, they will have more chance of being able to play their best. We all give advice of what is the right way of approaching a match and performing during it. We may even give a careful (or maybe not) analysis of how they could have improved. However rather than doing what we say, do our actions compare with our comments. Here are some thoughts of how you can set the right example as a tennis parent:

1) Stay calm… Do you? Are you modelling calm during a match or are you striding about, walking off during key points, making gesticulations or even voicing comments. We may say its harder to watch but we are the adult so we need to show the calmness we wish from our child. So chew that gum, sit on your hands, make some notes and breath in slowly and exhale with a smile.

2) Be generous… I am very proud when my son congratulates his opponent when they hit a good shot. We should also do the same, no matter how frustrated we feel. However take care that such comments do not appear as sarcasm towards your child. Applaud the winners from both children.

3) Be friendly… No matter how you feel, congratulate your child’s opponent if they won and pass some pleasantries with their parents. You may even be able to socialise with your opponents with your child’s opponent during the match. This sets a powerful example to your child that it is only a game.

4) Never ever criticise line calls… However bad it looks, we have to give the opponent the benefit of the doubt. I’ve tried the experiment with tennis parents who are my friends, we’ve watched the same ball and both been equally sure of an opposite line call.

5) Don’t make your child the star… No matter how good your child is and how much better they are than their opponent, take time to talk to and even encourage the other children. There is nothing worse than the parent who thinks talking to a weaker child (or the child’s parent) is beneath them. Such actions can only breed arrogance when we know the true champions show humility.

6) Be positive… Do not criticise other players, parents, coaches or competition organisers in front of your children. Instead try and show a positive outlook to your child, highlight the good you see not the bad.

7) Finally, remember the ‘growth mindset model’ and praise the effort and not the result. The time to really tell your child how great they are and give them that hug is after the terrible, gut wrenching loss.

As I often think, our children are mini-me’s, we need to show them how we’d truly like them to be.

I am currently writing a book for tennis parents and I am looking for parents (and coaches) who would be prepared to write me a paragraph which I could include in the book. If you are interested then please contact me via twitter or in the comments section on the blog.

Comments from twitter:
@Ferndown_Tennis – Great advice for any parent or coach who promotes competition in the right way!
@adkinsred – great read

What about doubles? Another idea for low motivation

Happiness is playing on the same side

One of the comments I hear from children when they have low motivation is that it’s not fun anymore. When they first started playing tennis it was fun. All those little games in mini tennis squads when the children were running around laughing. It wasn’t who was hitting the ball best, it was just children playing.

When we look at adult tennis from professional to a club afternoon, it’s doubles that provides most the fun. There are the crazy rallies that occur to just having company on court next to you, somebody to talk too. Certainly when Jamie Murray won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with Jelena Jankovic, it looked like they were having fun on court together. Children benefit from that just as much as adult do, probably more so.

If you child has low motivation, could you encourage doubles in their play? What about

1) Your child could have break from individual lessons and have some doubles lessons in a group. Far less intense and pressured but still good practice.
2) Take your child to adult social tennis and see if they can join in the club doubles, they get the opportunity to see fun tennis being played (hopefully!)
3) Aegon tennis allows children to play some doubles matches
4) Enter a doubles competition, even count for leaderboards now too

What ever it is, see if it can put a smile on their tennis playing face! 🙂

8 ideas for dealing with low motivation

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We’ve all heard it. The seemingly tortured refrain, “I don’t want to play anymore” or “I hate tennis”.

We’ve all seen it. The player almost being forced to go on court for practice, then playing with as though they are wearing lead diving boots and the speediest they move is leaving the court.

If its your child this is so hard to watch. Even the most saintly parent will feel cross and think about the sacrifices; the time, the effort and the money that has been invested in this ‘hobby’ / ‘past time’.

It easy to blurt out this emotion by being cross with a child, telling them not to be silly or too grow up. Forgetting they are children and this is supposed to be a leisure interest, they aren’t professionals.

One could tell their children of the money we are spending and how they are wasting it. What do children say? ‘I didn’t ask you too.’, ‘stop spending it, I’m not bothered’ or ‘Great can I have an xbox one instead!’

Working through your child’s low motivation is one of the hardest things for a tennis parent, get it right and they may fall back in love with the game, get it wrong and no motivation will quickly follow low motivation and the sport may be given up.

So what can you do? Here are some thoughts?

1) Allow your child to practice with their coach as they want, allow the coach to work with them.
2) Take the pressure of practice by not sitting watching, go in the gym, read a book or even have a game yourself.
3) Reduce the tennis so that they look forward to playing
4) Increase squad session maybe with players of different ages (younger / older)
5) Look for fun tennis opportunities, could they go to adult social tennis sessions
6) Could they play touch tennis or beach tennis
7) Be a hitting partner for a younger child or help with squads, they may even earn some pocket money.
8) Have a break!

These are some ideas from my book, Mental Tennis: A guide for parents which I am currently writing. I am looking for parents (and coaches) who would be prepared to write me a paragraph which I could include in the book. If you are interested then please contact me via twitter or in the comments section on the blog.