Monthly Archives: August 2015

Showing confidence in your child… What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

Young boy having tennis lessons from an instructor

As a tennis parent, I don’t think you ever become immune to seeing the feeling of disappointment or anguish in your child when they lose a match. Some parents choose (or are told) not to watch their child play. For those of us who do watch our children we constantly study the ebbs and flows of fortune wondering if this will be a day for smile or tears.

On many occasions we just do not know how the match will end. There will be days when our child loses and we just cannot explain how it happened except for some apparent mystical reason the other child got match point and won it. On other days our own child may have hit some freak rollercoaster of momentum and won a match that we just never expected.

Then there is a strange sensation when you just know, that whatever the score, however much your child falls behind, you are certain they will win.

This month I watched my son play a final in France. Due to playing last year and winning last year he had the top rating in the field. As a result he had a bye straight to the final. This meant he had no experience of match play and went into the tournament very cold.

It was a rainy Sunday morning and we found ourselves driving from one town to another to find an indoor court to play the final. I knew my son would start slowly but this was a full three set match so there was plenty of time to work his way into the match. The French boy went a 5-0 up, my son grabbed a game but lost the set 6-1. In the second set he fell 5-3 down and it was 30all. He was only two points away from losing but not for a second did I doubt he would lose. Point by point, game by game, he pulled himself back and won the second set 7-5 and ran away with the third set 6-1.

I never felt tense at any time. I could smile easily and there was no pulse rating in fear of my child’s disappointment. My son even laughed and bantered his way through the match in front of a growing French crowd.

It made me wonder was it my son’s manner that made me so calm, relaxed or unworried? Or did my confidence transmit itself to him and as a result he never got stressed or anguished.

Statistics are often given on how much communication is due to visual clues. So when we are watching our children ever if we try desperately not to show our concerns, I wonder how much they can pick up on it? What impact does this have on their game and their mental strength? How much can we disguise our feelings and show them we have confidence in them?

Can we breathe in gently and then exhaling with our smile? Stop pacing around but instead sit or stand in one place? Can we watch the game and applaud or commiserate at the right moment whilst still retaining a friendly conversation with other spectators? We are the adult so if we expect our children to behave calmly and keep their emotions in check, whatever fate befalls. Then shouldn’t we do the same however much we may wish to react.

I often write that one of the beauties of tennis is the skills our children build for the rest of their lives yet here is an opportunity for us to learn too. If we can always show our confidence in our children think how useful this could be. Think of those future events; the morning of an examination, the afternoon of their driving test or on the day of an job interview they need our confidence so they can perform to their full potential.
breath in
In readiness for those days, I will keep practicing; inhale gently… exhale with a smile!

Read my new blog for ‘6 more ideas to stay calm’

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. Please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.


Line Calls – A French Perspective

tennis ball out

This year my son had his second experience of competing in a French tennis competition. Last year we noticed the difference in structure but this week the experience highlighted the different manner in which the sport was played.

Due to his results last year, he got a bye straight to the final and in this blog I wish to discuss line calls in France compared to the UK.

During the first set which my son was losing my a large margin, he called a ball out. The other player challenged it and as is the normal in GB, my son said ‘no its out, its my call, its my point’. We are used to the etiquette in GB, that you only call it out if you sure. If you are unsure you play on. In fact in GB if you then said you weren’t sure, and asked to play a let, the other player could (and probably would) claim the point.

From that point on the French child’s call were terrible, he was calling balls which bounced 15cm in; out. At the same time as the match was going on and on and more and more people were watching as they arrived for their matches. As the other boy’s calls raised more eyebrows amongst the spectators and my son challenged them. In fact the calls were so ridiculous that my son rather than getting angry actually laughed. There must have been twenty people watching and their sympathy was with my son and they began to clap and cheer him on.

At this stage the locals became so annoyed that they took it on themselves to elect one of their number to become a chair referee.

After the match I chatted to the chair referee and we discussed the different manner in which calls were made. It was then we realised the difference in the way line calls were made in our two countries. He said my son should have offered the let in the first situation and played ‘deux ball’ but then explained how disappointed they were with the other child’s line calling.

This was definitely a case of another competition, another experience and certainly another learning point for both of us.

Winning Ugly


Last year I played my first ever competitive tennis match. It was in a French competition. This year I repeated the experience and the following verses describe the experience.

Winning Ugly

Separated by the net and the hot, red concrete
My opponent stood; younger, stronger and taller,
His shots all flourishing and looping arcs,
The racket providing the sweep of a paintbrush.

Nothing about this match would be pretty,
If I was to equalise his skilled finesse,
There would be no artistry from me,
Instead the clumsy carves of a butcher’s apprentice.

As expected I lost the first set quickly,
This was my practice, my first shots for a year.
I was warming up and digging in,
For hopefully, a long battle in the heat.

I needed him to play my game, the ball,
To become my friendly, willow the wisp,
I chopped and sliced, hitting short and long,
Making him run side-to-side, forward and aft.

His greying T-shirt signalled my plan to be working,
I knew even fifteen years his senior, I could still
Run and run, and then run some more,
I coldly watched his legs weaken and shots become wilder.

A second set tie break was my aim and,
Shot by shot, point by point I dragged myself clear,
Like the evening mosquito buzzing round our limbs,
I nipped and pestered till seven points were mine.

He was gone and the match was mine for the taking,
Locals realised their friends was losing,
Sucked into the non-tennis battle I had created,
Each shot slower and lower, shorter and softer.

My French was limited and the gloomy match was paused,
To go under floodlights, I wanted to keep playing,
But no they insisted and I had no choice,
Sadly with each passing second so was the win.

The third set mirrored the first,
My tricks now explained and his energy returned,
The scoreboard relentlessly marched away,
No time to weave a new set of spells.

There was to be no victory reward for me,
Instead my souvenirs, a sodden t-shirt,
Aching calves, blooded and bruised toes
And the memories of winning a set ugly.