Category Archives: Positvity

40 ways to encourage you child… what I’ve learnt from junior tennis

We all want to encourage our children. We know that if they are positive they will be happier and perform better. So here are 40 comments or actions you could try and tick off to encourage your child:

  1. smiley face thumbs up(Thumbs up)
  2. You’ve worked so hard on that shot
  3. Your game plan is on the right track
  4. That shot turned out really well
  5. I’m proud of the way you tried today
  6. That game in the 1st set at …. is one of the best I’ve seen you play
  7. That’s it!
  8. That’s a big improvement
  9. Congratulations
  10. You can really see your practice in that shot
  11. I could see you thinking your way through that match
  12. You knew just what to do when he/she….
  13. Fantastic!
  14. I loved the way you expressed yourself with your tennis today
  15. I knew you’d be able to figure that out
  16. I know it’s hard but you are almost there
  17. Brilliant movement today
  18. I love hearing your ideas
  19. Your game is coming on really well
  20. I think you’ve really got that movement now
  21. You stayed so calm in that set
  22. I reckon you’ve figured out that shot now
  23. I knew you could do it
  24. I love hearing you encourage yourself
  25. Sensational!
  26. You handled the weather really well
  27. It was great to see you remember that from last time
  28. You are really persisting with kick serve
  29. You did it!
  30. Excellent job saying how you feelbe an encourager
  31. Brilliant problem solving
  32. Great shot!
  33. I know that was really tough but you stayed so calm
  34. You really kept battling today
  35. I was so pleased that you went for your shots
  36. You never gave up today
  37. You looked really strong out there
  38. You kept your head up all match
  39. You couldn’t have tried any harder
  40. (Big Smile)

I am a tennis parent, educationalist and author. If you’ve found this blog interesting, then please buy a copy of my guide for tennis parents, ‘Trophies, tears and line calls’ which is available from Amazon. Equally please follow me on on twitter @tennisdaduk.

Trophies, tears and line calls: The guide for tennis parents



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: Growth and Fixed Mindsets

mindset-book-coverDo you ever wonder what is it that makes some children and young people really want to practice a skill, whether its drawing or a certain tennis shot? What is it that some children will collect a basket balls and spend half an hour on their own practicing their serve?

When you watch your child train or play in a match, what attitude do they display? Do they believe that with practice that they will improve, they will perfect a particular shots or are they convinced that they are just better than some children and that other children are better than them? If so why do they think these things?

Well two years ago I read a book, which shed some light on this. The book really stayed with me. It was also one being read throughout the education world at the time but interestingly has not necessarily become a go to read in the world of sport. The book is “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.

When I read the book I was providing intensive support to three schools specifically in the final push towards GCSE Maths. I was fascinated by the different approach the students took to their learning. Every student I worked with was positive about their studies; they enjoyed working with me and wanted to gain a good grade. Yet some were prepared to practice and others just could not bring themselves to do it irrespective of the grade they were at. I could not help but compare it my weekend and evening world of junior tennis.

fixed-mindset-cartoonI felt it was their Mindset that made this difference. Carol Dweck said there were two mindsets, I would suggest on a continuum. At one end is the fixed mindset. These are the students who in their hearts believe that basic qualities are fixed traits, which cannot really be changed. Mathematical skill is something you are born with; it cannot be altered. These children believed that talent was key to a student’s success. One group told me about a student who scored 197 out of 200 in their Maths GCSE mock. “He must be well clever’ they said and began to discussion as to what it must be like to be that clever. In tennis terms this is the child who believes they are better than one player but another is better than them. If they lose to the first child they will be beside themselves. Before they go on court with the second they will have lost.

growth-mindsetAt the other end of the mindset continuum is the growth mindset. This is the belief that all qualities can be improved. Effort and resilience are the keys to success. These are the students who are prepared to put in the high levels of work; these are the students who completed the practice papers. In tennis terms this is the child practising their serve.

So what was my reply to the ‘he must be well clever’ comment. I challenged their comments with, ‘no he’s not born really clever, instead he’s put loads of effort in, and he’s tried really hard.’ I can remember the children looked at me curiously and then one of them said, ‘yeah he works for 4 hours a night, every night’ the discussion moved on as to why they couldn’t do that as they would have no social life.

I suggested that 4 hours were not necessarily required; if they had spend 20minutes a night on Maths since the start of year 10 every one of them would now be on a grade B. A few of the students then said how they wished they could start year 10 again. I asked them about doing 20 minutes a night from now? Sadly this seed still fell on stony ground as they did not truly believe that practice would make much difference to their grade. In tennis terms the child with the growth mindset, will believe that they can practice and will improve and will also recognise that another child can improve too.


With our children whether it is in tennis, sport or the academic world, we need to be trying to develop a growth mindset so they believe that there is no limit to performance if they are prepared to practice enough. In my next blog, I’ll look at how you can identify your child’s mindset and then in my third blog on this topic, I’ll look at practical strategies you can use to develop a growth mindset in your children including the power of ‘yet’!


Choose Smiles…What I’ve learnt from junior tennis

This morning on my long drive southwards. I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Evans interviewing the cast of Trainspotting. I imagine this places my age, but ‘Trainspotting’ along with ‘Pulp Fiction’ are two films with their bouncing sound tracks and killer lines, that can’t help but take me back to a simpler time. I hear Renton’s monologue and can’t help but smile.

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family…

Choose your friends…

Choose your future…

Choose life.”

As Chris chattered to Danny Boyle and the boys, I couldn’t help but grin as they laughed and joked. You could tell that that they were enjoying being in each other company. They were looking back at the fun they had in the 90’s either from them making the films or for Chris Evans his lifestyle at the time.

However what also came over very strongly was how much pleasure they had got from the making T2 twenty years later. They knew this was another moment in their life that wouldn’t be repeated and they wanted to make the most of every second of filming.

The interview ended with Born Slippy by Underworld, ‘The Trainspotting’ theme, being played. I turned up the radio volume and let the thud of the bass fill my car and a smile cover my face.


My mind wandered to my theme, ‘What I’ve learnt from junior tennis?’. Well in this case rather than the final words of Renton’s monologue, ‘choose life’. I think what I’ve learnt is to choose smiles. My daughter won a tournament on Sunday and it is too easy as a parent to start rushing onto the LTA website to choose that next tennis tournament and to plot that next victory.

Instead I think we have to really enjoy the smiles along the way. We don’t know when the next big win will be. We can always hope it will be next week but it might be next month, next season or even next year so enjoy that moment.

So my advice is…

Choose life… Choose smiles.


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.

What I’ve learnt from junior tennis: Stay dedicated

Stay dedicated.jpg

I have a new attitude to my daughter’s tennis which is based on the motto above. We both have to stay dedicated…

Two competitions ago, my daughter got off to slow start. She likes to hit the ball and go for winners on the 2nd or 3rd ball of the rally. In fast 4 tennis, you only have to win 16 points and the set or match is yours but vice versa if you lose 16 points, it is gone. In her first matches the ball was hitting the net or sailing long, so my comment was just try to get the ball in play a bit more and let your opponent make the mistake. Lo behold she won her next three matches.

I mentioned this to one of her coaches and his comment was that hitting quick winners is her natural game and that’s what she should be working on. If competitions are to be a learning environment, she need to practice this in competitions so that it becomes a natural behaviour.

My daughter had another lesson and the feedback at the end of that lesson was that during competitions, she didn’t want advice, she wanted to work on her power game but if she wanted help she would ask. Hmmm, that’s a tough one for any parent. But those were the rules we set up… so I was going to stick with them.

In her latest competition, she quickly lost her first two matches because the small margins of her going for winners weren’t in her favour. I stuck with the game plan; chat about other things including the good shots we saw older teenage play and definitely not to encourage her to start ‘playing safe’.

In her next matches, the radar was up and running and in reply to exactly the same balls as before, her shots were now flying in and the ratio of points won moved in her favour. She stuck to her game plan and as she warmed up it began to work.

I’m sure over the next few months the period of time for her to ‘warm-up’ and find her radar will shorten but only if we keep encouraging this style of play. After all… it’s not going to happen overnight!

Wall of Positivity

Wall of positivity

Yesterday whilst I was watching my son play in his latest tennis tournament I was yet again struck that the winner of the matches tended to be the player who managed their positivity and negativity best. The winner would be the player who stuck at the match and did not have the full rollercoaster of emotions. In my previous blog I wrote about the idea of a positive diary. Another technique which you can use is to create a wall of positivity in your child’s bedroom. This can be quite a fun task which you could work on with your child.

I am sure that if your child has gained some trophies from their tennis (or any activity) these are often very treasured possessions of which the value to your child (and to you) is disproportionate to their monetary value. These small items are obvious examples of the positives that your child has gained from their sport. However these medals or trophies will only be a small amount of the success that your child has had and are only some examples of the positives.

In my son’s bedroom we have made a number of posters… probably too grand a word, I have drawn on A4 paper with felt tips pens.

The first set are two are lists of all his competition 1st and 2nds. I have found that many of the tournaments do not give out ‘silverware’ and it can be easy to lose track of all those good results.

The second set of posters are his position in the end of the season leaderboards (county, regional and national) and how his ranking has changed over time. This has been particularly useful when he has changed age range and is having to start from the bottom again. Children often forget this journey and remember the end points along the way and forget the progress they have made.

Thirdly I have made two signs with my son’s name in and pictures of him playing. One says ‘—– is a top tennis player’ and the second says ‘—— is champion tennis player’ with the date of his first competition win.

Finally we put up two sets of motivational posters. One is based on tennis alliterations that my son and I created together and include:
Ferocious forehands
Slamming serves
Venomous volleys
Devilish dropshots
Blistering Backhands

We also discussed positive phrases that he could use in a match and made motivational posters of them including:
I can do this
One more point
In with spin
On my toes

It has been a fun thing to make together and constantly highlights the power of positive thinking. The club house at the most recent tennis tournament also had positive phrases from famous sports people which my son found interesting. Perhaps that will be the next thing we do to keep ‘the wall of positivity’ fresh.

Positive Diaries


In my last blog I gave an introduction to Life Coaching and Neuro Linguistic Programming and commented that there were lots of useful techniques which may help your junior tennis player. The first technique I want to look at is a ‘Positive Diary’. I’ve used this with pupils when I was teaching Maths, my son for his tennis and also myself when work has been tough!

As a classroom teacher I would sometimes find with some pupils that they had difficulty or lack of confidence in only one subject. Ironically I taught Maths and often this lack of confidence was in my subject.

‘What have I achieved today?’

I would suggest to the pupil that at the end of each lesson they should record at least one thing that they have been able to do in the lesson, under title of ‘What I have achieved today?’ The inside of the front cover of their exercise book was often a good place. These comments could be very specific points where the pupils consider the learning objectives that the teacher has shared with them at the beginning of the lesson and identify those that they have achieved or understood. Or the pupils could write more general positive thoughts related to presentation, accuracy, a verbal answer given or a piece of praise the teacher has given them.

‘What three things did you do well?’

You could do the same thing after a lesson or a match where your child has to write three things that they did well. If they have lost a match and feel they have played terribly, they may find this really difficult and it may be something that you have to return too once they have calmed down. You could do the same thing when they are playing so that you have some good things to say no matter how badly it has gone.

The advantage of the children writing down a specific thing that they had understood was that when was building upon their learning in future lessons the pupils could relate the vocabulary used with previous positive thoughts. If a pupil retorted in a future lesson, ‘I can’t do this ….’ I would encourage the pupil to revisit their learning log and then they could see all the occasions when they have succeeded.

‘Remember when your serves were going well’

A good comparison here would be if they had been working on their serves in a lesson and they had gone well or in a match were their 1st serve percentage was high and their double fault percentage was low, write it down. If in future their serves have gone badly, it happens to the best, ask them to read the times when they have been positive about them.

A tough match

If I thought the topic I was about to teach was challenging to that pupil I would ask them to spend a few moments reading their positive points at the beginning of the lesson. You could do the same if your child is about to play a really tough match either one against a much higher rated player or maybe one of those occasions when you just know it’s going to be close. If they can go on court thinking of positive previous experiences it can only help them.

Discussing the Positive Diary

Not many of our children’s coaches are able to attend competitions so you could encourage your child’s coach to spend five minutes discussing the positive diary with your child, so that your child could explain their positive statements to them. Hopefully this will mean that they begin the lesson in a good frame of mind.

Coaching confidence is as important as coaching shots

There are times when we watch our children play tennis and we can see that they are suffering from a lack of confidence. It may be their enthusiasm or lack of it that they show towards competition, what you see in their body language when they are on court, the shots that they play or the way they react to the match going against them. As parents, we often just want to see our children approach life in general with confidence, let alone their tennis.

In ‘Dealing with Dips’ the link was made between junior tennis players and the group of pupils in schools who are labelled as Gifted & Talented. This group of children sometimes suffer from a lack of confidence as they approach their studies and the skills and techniques which schools use to help support them may be equally useful as you try to help build your child’s confidence when they are in a dip which is damaging their confidence.

A method that is increasingly amongst adults with dealing with the stresses and strains of everyday life is Life Coaching. In effect many of the ideas from life coaching whether you read, ‘Feel the Fear and do it anyway’ or one of Fiona Harrold’s books are all based around building confidence. In effect life coaching is a form of mentoring, which gives individuals the confidence and ability to move forward in a positive manner areas of their lives where they crave change. Life coaching is an approach that looks at the present and sets goals for successful future. For our children, success could be walking tall onto the court and approaching a match with a can-do attitude.

Life coaching is not counselling or consulting but a different form of intervention. In terms of supporting our children with their tennis we do not necessarily need to move to deeply towards the long term goals which adult life coaching may look at. However what is very useful are the techniques which coaches will use to help people work towards their goals. You may also know some of these techniques as aspects of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which just means training the brain to act in a certain way, particularly when under stress.

As a secondary school teacher, I would explain this background to G&T pupils as I found that they have been often very interested in the power of the mind especially when it is linked to famous people who have achieved success. Those with a scientific bent enjoyed the psychology behind the ideas. Whereas those pupils with sporting or dramatic talents were fascinated by how particular performers have used these techniques to reach the top. I also used to find that they would be interested in the techniques as they would see them as being for adults which were rarely taught in schools. Depending on the age of your child it may be just a question of working through the techniques over time.

In my next blogs I will cover four techniques including writing a positive log, creating a wall of positivity, visualisation and self-affirmation. In the meantime why not have a look at any self-help, life coaching or NLP books that may be on your bookshelves, flick through the pages and consider what links you could see between the ideas in them and your child’s tennis.