Monthly Archives: July 2015

Do we make players in our own image?

Andre and Dad

‘I hate tennis’ wrote Andre Agassi in his Autobiography.

I often have interesting conversations with other parents at the different tennis competitions I attend with my son or daughter. Yesterday one of my conversations with a second tennis dad centred on how we both wished our daughters to enjoy the sport.

We agreed that we were in it for the long journey in the hope that the interest of a 9 year old could become the hobby of a teenager or adult. Even though keen to our support our children’s interest with continual taxi driving and the expense of yet more lessons, squads, racquets, trainers and outfits, we both knew it was not just about winning.

We knew that the likelihood of any child in a single year group in the whole country making a living from playing competitions is slim. Therefore it is the wider learning from tennis in parallel with good fitness that is so important. Hence we shared at belief that enjoyment was key.

Often when parents talk about their children enjoying tennis, the anecdote of Andre Agassi hating his junior tennis is mentioned.

“I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart, and still I keep playing, keep hitting all morning and all afternoon, because I have no choice. No matter how much I want to stop, I don’t.” Andre Agassi said at the age of 7.

Sometimes the conversation widens and the triangular relationship between parent, child and tennis is discussed such as with Steffi Graf or the William sisters. There is no doubt that these parents did not say they wanted their children to enjoy their tennis instead they expected their children to work at it and to win.

This raises a question; do the very best players need parents with the same intensity and fire that they have? Is it possible for a professional player let alone an exceptional one to have parents holding the belief that sport should be enjoyed?

Chris Evert

I look for a counterbalance to Andre Agassi story. There is a quote from Chrissie Evert, ‘I easily could have resented my father and hated tennis. But I quickly learned to enjoy it and responded well to my dad, who was more of a stern teacher than a tyrant. Besides, there were many other kids my age playing there, so I had fun.’

This is a very different view from that of Andre Agassi.

Chrissie Evert goes on to explain that it was her Mum who took her to tournaments, ‘My mother, Colette, made an effort to be the counterbalance. When I was home, we never talked tennis. She’d take me to the beach or the mall. Her goal was to create a normal home life for me. She’s the one who traveled to tournaments with me and was able to ease the stress and let me relax. To my dad’s credit, he stayed home with the kids.’

This seems a far more balanced approach and highlights that our aim should be to help our children relax.

I would be fascinated to know what Judy Murray thoughts were on her boy’s tennis. From a UK perspective what approach did Heather Williams, Johanna Konta or Tim Henman’s parents take? Did their approach differ from others who play on the circuit but haven’t travelled so far into Grand Slams but have got into the top 200 in the world. Young people who have reached that holy grail of playing professional competitive tennis?

Do we in fact make a player in our own image? If that is the case, I still want my children to enjoy playing!

As retweeted by Chrissie Every

Chrissie Evert RT

What do you think? These are a selection of quotes from twitter:

@deana7ds – I hope most parents take your view & try to find an activity their kids may enjoy for life.

@Krull41 – Classic moment in time

@chipandchargeAR – I hope most parents take your view & try to find an activity their kids may enjoy for life.” Blast!

@jmrwojcik – Love these quotes from Chris Evert! And love the photo even more – support, love, encouragement all shines thru.

@TheALLMarTy – Beautifully stated

Good luck!

I am a tennis parent, educationalist 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.

References:

Agassi, Andre (2009), ‘Open: An autobiography’.

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Parents: Do the right thing.

crying tennis

You may have got the idea from my blog so far, that winning tennis matches is not the be and end all for this parent. Instead I am more interested by the lessons that children can learn from their tennis and the positive impact this can have on other areas of their life. I believe as parents we have to set the right examples such as a strong work ethic, being a gracious winner, losing with dignity and the most important thing is to play fair.

This afternoon in microcosm I saw an example which did not support these ethics. Two girls were doing battle in a under 9 regional competition. They were very evenly matched and were having some wonderful rallies, great tennis. The score was 6-4 and the losing girl got herself together with lots of encouragement and pulled it back to 6-6, a third parent had begun to follow the match closely too.

The girl who had been losing hit a ball down the line, which hit the orange tape and bounced at right angles off the line, really unfortunate for the other girl for this happen on set point. Her response though was to call it out. Her father was standing right behind the line and could clearly see it was in. The two girls immediately disagreed. The wronged girl’s father said it was in. A second watching Dad also said it was in. The other dad said, “i’m not getting involved’. The neutral parent said don’t be daft. The referee was called and finally the parent said it did hit the line but refused to intervene and point out the error to his child. Finally the child said she wasn’t sure but then argued that after calling it out she’d hit the ball in. As a result the point was replayed and the child who’d made the poor call ended up winning the point giving her the set. The other child who should have won the point was so stunned by the events and promptly lost a string of points which was too far for her to come back from a second time.

So what did the two children learn? The player who won the match learnt that her parent would not point out if she made a mistake and that by making a mistake she could win the match. The child who played fairly, learnt the hard lesson, that not everyone plays fair, children or parents.

As a watching parent, I just found the event so sad. I think that we have to point out to our children when they have got it wrong as otherwise they dig themselves further into a hole and do not learn that doing the right thing is always better in the long run.