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.
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’
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.