Parent’s Guide to Being A Tennis (or Sports ) Parent

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

A tennis teaching professional, Mike Dumitru, from Boca Raton, Florida wrote an excellent article, “Do’s and Don’ts for Tennis Parents, which appeared in Florida Tennis magazine. As a sports psychology consultant who works a lot with high performance kids and parents, I found a lot of good suggestions were included in this piece.

I think for the parents who are unsure of how to best help and guide their children, this article offers good and thoughtful ideas. It will however, do little for those parents who feel very sure that their way of interacting is perfectly fine, even when it may be hurtful, even harmful at times. When I come in contact with these parents (and sadly, sometimes coaches), I work with the kids to view them as distractions or obstacles that need to be dealt with.

It’s also important to remember that parents sometimes err in the opposite direction of not being available or supportive of their child’s sport of choice. For example, the father who wants his son to play football, rather than tennis or the mother who never attends any of the child’s matches either due to lack of interest, work or other reasons.

While tennis provides opportunities to learn and develop many important mental and physical skills, as an individual sport, it lacks many of the social and cooperative skills (cooperative effort towards a common goal ) teamwork, communication, helping others succeed) that group sports provide. Parents can help and encourage kids, (especially young ones) to cross train and develop their skills and interests in several sports. Most kids below the age of 12, don’t really know what they like or excel at. Giving a kid a  choice along with opportunities to explore their interests is another “gift” parents can give.

Should You Run for Every Ball

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Perhaps one of the most famous and best known tennis coaches wrote an article entitled, “Go for Every Ball No Matter Where it Lands”. He quoted the advice that Richard Williams, father of tennis greats, Venus and Serena, had imparted to them at an early age.

As a sports psychologist I am trained to look at advice in a systematic way: What works best for which person in which situation, under what circumstances?

The benefits of going for every ball even the ones that are very far out is that you may actually get some of them that both you and your opponent felt were impossible. It can build your confidence, speed, anticipation etc. It also sends a message to your opponent that they can’t let up or assume they have hit a winner. By going for everything, you may put pressure on some opponents to try and hit better shots which may result in them making more mistakes.

The risks of going for every ball, even the ones that are clearly way out of reach and those that are far out of the court are that you may get injured by being over stretched or hitting a ball from a very awkward position. You may also tire yourself out, especially if it is a hot day and/or you a playing a long match or matches. In these cases, you are likely to make any number of “fatigue” errors that outweigh the benefits of running down EVERY ball.

A smart player needs to balance risk/reward in running for shots and learn  how to play efficiently. For example, if you are ahead 5-0, 40 love, NOT risking running into a fence to retrieve a great top spin lob your opponent just hit over your head might be a good mental strategy at that time!

The take away is, “no one size fits all”. Think of advice in a “general “ way and apply it to your needs and situation.

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