As anyone who has spent any real time around junior tennis tournaments knows, the parents of some tennis players are domineering, arrogant loudmouths who need a few lessons in appropriate behavior. Popular pro tennis player Mary Pierce's father's antics earned him a ban from Women's Tennis association tournaments. So how can tennis parents ensure that they are appropriately supportive and encouraging, without becoming too pushy or intrusive?
Junior Tennis Coaching Should be Left to the Coach
One thing parents should remember is that in most cases, they shouldn’t try to be the coach and the parent. It’s one thing at the beginning of the child’s tennis career to start coaching him. Kids often are more likely to take a solid interest in a sport if the parent introduces and encourages it. However, as the child progresses, it’s usually wise to leave the coaching duties to someone else. The parent/child relationship is complicated enough without adding the strain of trying to mold a champion tennis player. A coach builds a strong player through constructive criticism and praise based on performance. Trying to take that off the court and be an unconditionally loving parent back home is a complicated proposal at best, and a destructive one at worst.
Tennis Parents Should Exercise Caution at Junior Tennis Tournaments
Parents don’t need to attend every match. The player learns independence and gains confidence when she realizes that she is the only one who can control what happens on the court. Giving the coach space during practice will allow him to develop a relationship with the child and not feel micromanaged. That’s not to say that parents should never be courtside, but giving the child and coach some space is very helpful. When parents are in attendance, they should always look positive. Looking nervous or upset will only undermine the player’s confidence and add to his stress.
After the match is over, the parents should respond to the outcome appropriately, win or lose. It’s fine to be happy about a win, but the tennis player shouldn’t be made to feel that the parent’s positive reaction is dependent on the player never losing. He needs to feel accepted and supported either way. On the other hand, if the player misbehaves on court, action should be taken by the parent. The player needs to know that cheating, cursing, or immature behavior will not be tolerated.
Encourage Other Sports as Part of Tennis Training
Tennis alone won’t develop a child’s athletic ability 100%. It’s good to encourage the child to participate in other sports, both to fully develop her athleticism and to provide encouragement to develop a variety of sports interests. Even if the player and parents together decide that competitive tennis is in the long-range picture, it doesn’t need to become a near-exclusive pursuit until the early to mid-teens.
Good Tennis Parents Build Good People and Good Players
Having positive, encouraging parents who aren’t pushy or tyrannical will go a long way toward developing a balanced, enthusiastic junior tennis player. It will allow the child room to grow, expand his talents, and develop a love of the game, which will serve him well throughout his entire life.