It’s a Sunday morning and I imagine like many tennis parents, I’m sat by the side of a tennis court. It’s competition time though not coaching so as a parent I am more engaged in the process. When children are younger and have coaching (or squad practice) as a parent it feels as though we are effectively a combination of chauffeur or food provider. As my children have got older I now use that time as an opportunity to get in the gym or go running myself. Still on tournament days, I’ll watch closely, and I know that interactions that I have with my children prior to and after matches, can be important.
I remember reading a blog that described sets of four words that we should never say to our child:
• How did you do?
• How did it go?
• Did you win today?
• How was your … (backhand, volleys, kick serve)?
The blogger commented that even with good intentions, if a parent constantly asks their child these questions, they can feel as though they are being either constantly interrogated or judged on the day’s performance.
This certainly seemed an interesting concept but I did wonder if this was advice was more suited to parents of secondary aged youngsters rather than primary aged children.
Whilst I was at the tournament today I did try and think, what would be the most effective pieces of communication that I could give to my child.
One of my regular comments after a loss is, ‘tell me the positives?’ I am always so aware that moving a child back on positive track is so important when they have a series of match to play. I also believe that as the image says if you do focus on the positives, the negatives can soon disappear.
So I’ll also ask, ‘What went well?’ My child along with many others I would imagine, can always tell you everything they did badly. Sometimes I will watch and try and remember one great rally to try and remind my child. ‘Do you remember that amazing backhand slice you hit?’ What I am trying to do is to begin a positive conversation to try and get him feeling upbeat before the next match.
Tell me the positives?
What went well?
Do you remember that amazing backhand slice…
I loved the volley you hit to win that game…
I do realise that with all conversations the trick is timing. If I ask my child these things too soon after a match, he is not receptive at all and whatever I say will not help move him forwards.
However sometimes there is a limited gap in between matches and I need to get him up and ready as soon as possible. I often find that is one of the biggest challenges in being a tennis parent, trying to turn that mood around. I must admit its one I don’t always get right. I think one of the funniest moments was when after I’d done one of my little monologues, my son turned round and said with heavy irony, “Great motivational speech Dad”. He was right, it certainly wasn’t but he got back on court and won the next match, so perhaps something went right!
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.