Category Archives: Mindset

Mindfulness…What i’ve learnt from junior tennis

mindfulness-colouringMindfulness has been one of those words that has been difficult to escape from in recent years, whether it is adult colouring books or in my sphere of education, the introduction of mindfulness into the curriculum for year 7 children.

Have you ever stopped to consider what does Mindfulness actually mean?

There are two definitions given to the noun, mindfulness:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

The way I like to think about mindfulness is bringing my whole attention to the current situation. So if I’m having a conversation with somebody, I’m entirely focussed on that conversation, rather than thinking about the next thing I have to do or the next person I have to speak to. If I’m watching a television programme, I’m not checking my twitter feed or some other function on my smart phone instead I am concentrating on the plot or programme content.

I would suggest that mindfulness is interesting to practice during a tennis tournament your child is playing in but only if your child is happy with that. I am not suggesting that you stop choosing to read a newspaper, a book or complete another task during tournament if that keeps you calm or because your child doesn’t want you to become to involved in their matches.

just-be-in-the-moment

What I mean is that if you are both happy with you being fully focussed on your child’s play, the mindfulness you should practice is staying in that moment. How often do you sit during a match and begin to work out who your child’s next opponent could be? Check your child’s results against that player? Or start counting the ranking points or ranking wins your child might gain before they’ve even completed their first match.

For more thoughts to help tennis parents, read, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’

mind-fullIt is often found that by having so many different things in our minds or trying to consider too many different outcomes, what we are inevitably doing is creating additional stress for ourselves. By practicing mindfulness and trying to focus on a smaller number of events, our personal stress should reduce too.

Mindfulness means that as a tennis parent you take one match at a time. Just watch that one game and try to enjoy the skills that your child is displaying? Admire the new shot or serve that they have been working on in practice? Or listen to them encouraging themselves?

You will find that if you can do this, you will be less affected if the tournament does not go according to plan and most importantly be better able as a parent to support your child in their disappointments too.

Good luck in your mindfulness.

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, then please have a look at ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’.

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: The agony of tiebreaks!

 

Most children have a love or hate relationship with tiebreaks when they move to full ball. The advent of fast 4 tennis means children probably face more of them with the introduction of set tie breaks at 3-3. Incidentally this is one innovation that I do like. I often found that if it went to 3-3 it would go to 4-4 and would need a tie break to decide. In addition the sudden death point at 4-4 in a set tie break or at 9-9 in a championship tie break certainly adds to the love / hate feeling.

tie break 6-6For a parent there will be far more nail chewing or sitting on hands in those tie breaks than probably at any other situation in the games.

My daughter, after one competition said that she hated tiebreaks and always lost them. This was the emotional reaction to having been 8-6 up in a championship tiebreak, before losing 10-8 against a girl with the same rating as she has.

tiebreak self esteemThere is no doubt that losing tie breaks can really reduce a child’s self esteem and confidence at that point in time. Something which is clearly shown by the following graph.

If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will be aware that a key part of my tennis parent and parenting in general philosophy is wanting to raise the confidence of my children and develop their growth mindset. So my first aim was to build her up in her general. I also knew that if she convinced herself she was bad at tie breaks then she would start the next tie break low in confidence which would be a further hindrance her in coming out on top.

As she was upset at the time, I just tried to say that she had won some good tie breaks and returned to my usual mantra that tie breaks are just luck and you probably win half and lose half. She got herself back on court and played her final match, lost it, but fortunately no more tie breaks.

coin flipThis led to me think, over this year of full ball, was it luck, and was she winning half and losing half of the tie breaks she played?

I went back through her matches and found that this year of all the tiebreaks she had played she had won fifteen and lost twelve, which was broadly half and half.

I then looked into in a little more detail and the following table shows my findings.

Won Lost
Opponent with higher rating 3 6
Opponent with same rating 5 5
Opponent with lower rating 7 1
15 12

When she playing a child with the same rating the ratio of tiebreaks was even which seems to indicate that there is an essence of luck in tiebreaks in that she is winning half of them. When she was playing someone with a lower rating she won most of them, which seems to show that the tiebreak did allow the ‘better’ player to win so it wasn’t luck. I was particularly pleased that against ‘better’ players she was winning some tiebreaks but as expected the better player was coming through more often than not.

However when I’m talking to my daughter, I think I will keep with the luck scenario and give this advice.

“Just do your best, losing or winning a tie break doesn’t make you a good or bad player, its just some days you’ll be lucky and some you won’t”

I’d be intrigued to know what other tennis parents think? Are there some children that do have a very high rate of tie break wins and some who have a very low rate? If your child plays orange ball perhaps the same is true of who wins the sudden death point sets or those that go to two clear points? It is something that I will keep looking at but probably won’t make much of it.

I would suggest that you whatever you find you don’t make a big thing of it but try and remember the mindset advice:

Firstly praise the effort your child has given in making the match go to a tiebreak.

Secondly remember the power of yet. ‘You’re not winning all those tie breaks yet’.

tiebreak 7-6

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: Mindsets

What is it that some children and adults appear better able to cope with the ups and down of sport, life and academia? How is it that some people do not see that a match has been lost but instead seize another opportunity to learn? As a parent, sportsman and an educationalist, this has fascinated me and I researched many books to try and explain this. The book which in my mind has come closest to unlocking these mysteries is written by Carol Dweck.

Her book ‘Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential’ has been widely used in the UK and the USA. Certainly in the world of education it is a set of ideas that have been seized upon by teachers and school leaders to try and help children achieve their potential.

It is just as applicable in the world of sport particularly junior sport as it provides some suggestions as to how we can encourage our children to get the most out of their practice and more importantly deal with that thin line between triumph and disaster which flows through all sport and is amplified in individual competition. As tennis parents this seesaw between happiness and tears can define many a weekend for our children. In the world of fast four tennis, one point can be the difference to whether our children love or hate tennis.

In the following three blogs I have aimed to give an introduction to the theory of Mindsets with a foundation in the world of tennis so that you can use the ideas to support your child or the children that you coach.

Blog 1: ‘Growth and Fixed Mindsets’ introduces you to the two different mindsets and you will no doubt begin to ponder where you or your children are on the mindset continuum.

mindsets

Blog 2: ‘Identifying Mindsets’ provides a set of points, which delve into the different mindsets in more detail.

impossible-possible

Blog 3: ‘Towards a Growth Mindset’ is perhaps the most important of the three blogs as it gives suggestions for questions or praise that you can use to help your child develop a growth mindset and also explains the power of yet.

yet-butterfly

 

As with all things that you will work on with your child, this is not a quick process and there will be days when you see your child picks up their racquet shows an obvious growth mindset and probably more days when they do not. Try not to criticise your child if they seem locked in negativity about a certain aspect of their tennis and do not expect to immediately turn your child’s mood round. It just means they haven’t solidified their growth mindset, yet! All children struggle at times and we know what a brutal sport tennis can be. What we must do is be there and just try to do what we can to support them.

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.