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.

2 thoughts on “Parents: Do the right thing.

  1. Paul McDaid (@PaulMcDaid)

    I learnt early on that parental intervention should be minimal. I openly supported an opponent’s challenge against my son, who had made a genuine mistake on a line-call, as we all (adults included) do. He rightly pointed out that I didn’t intervene when he correctly challenged a call in the same match and so I was being unfair on him. Mistakes in line calls are part of the game and the players need to learn how to deal with them. Alas, players will also have to deal with opponents who deliberately cheat or too readily give themselves the benefit of the doubt. There is little the competing player can do about this; I tell my boys to concentrate on their own performance, not on their opponents’ line-calls. I’ve no problem if they question a call but they need to accept the outcome. This isn’t easy to do of course, as the losing girl in your article found.

    My own lesson as a parent from years of watching matches is that parents should either stay silent or watch from a distance. I’ve seen parents fuelling resentment between players by muttering loudly about line calls, by applauding unforced errors from opponents, by undermining an opponent and by generally creating a partisan atmosphere that (perhaps?) has a place on the terraces of a football ground but certainly not in children’s sport.

    Reply

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