This really is the million dollar question in tennis I feel!
Honestly, If I had a £1 coin for every time I've been asked for my advice on how to manage the relationship between parent and player, I would be a rich man!
The truth is, because each child and indeed each parent and said 'relationship' is unique (in that it is bound at least to some degree by familial background, family dynamics, religion, expectation bias and a whole host of other factors which are far too numerous to name individually, this is a complex and multi-dimensional topic, which has no definitive answer.
Not what you've come to read and not what you want to hear?
I understand that it may appear that I am trying in some way to negate the effect or even 'dampen down' the importance of the parent/child bond, but in fact, I am seeking to do the complete opposite of this!
It is my SINCERE belief, that to best help your child in any walk of life, you must first understand the 'NEEDS' of the participants or 'agents' of change.
So what exactly are 'agents of change?'
An agent of change is any influence, (in this case a human being) who can impact or help determine a decision, or set of decisions, which might, in turn, lead to a specific path being taken or developmental route being followed.
In this regard, this could include, but is not be limited to:
the player themselves
the wider family
other adults of importance to the child
I suppose a common name for an agent of change, might be an 'influencer', but there is a subtle difference. An influencer may instil ideas and suggest a path, but an agent of change is like the yeast in a dough mixture. They are the thing or part of the process that binds relationships together and leads to longer lasting 'buy in' or commitment from the player.
It is important to remember that children are surrounded by many influences, both positive and negative, and look to their families for support and guidance as they look to navigate life's obstacles.
When one agent of change (the coach) says 2 handed backhand and the primary agent of change known to the player throughout their upbringing (the parent) says 1 handed, this leaves the player in a quandry! It also leaves the parent and coach at odds with each other and can set a dangerous president.
So I got thinking, where can I find some neat, succinct advice to parents that might be more believable to anyone reading this than my own experience leads me to write about.
If you want answers, go to the top....
Here is a direct extract from the Mouratroglou Academy website detailing their take on how to behave as a parent of a child who plays tennis. Lets be clear... though it seems this advice is only for competition players/serious tennis juniors, think very carefully about your own expectation bias even at local clubs where your child attends weekly red stage tennis lessons or 1:1's for example, because the president you set from the start, will without doubt stay with your child AND become deep rooted in you before you know it!
Hope you enjoy the read!!!
Advice for parents of a child that plays tennis:
Tennis is a sport in which parents play an important role. The role of the coach is to cooperate with you, as long as you are part of the team. When your child trains with a coach, the latter is in a way your coach too. It is therefore very important that you share the same philosophy as your child and him. Being the parent of a good tennis player is not easy, because most of the time, everything is new for you. This is why it is important to know how to cooperate without interfering in the training plan. This kind of relationship requires good communication in a parent-player-coach triangle. From the beginning, it is important that you, the parents, are aware of some of the typical behaviour that could jeopardise your child’s training:
The parent is new to the world of tennis and does not manage the challenges that comes with it correctly, not giving enough importance to his child’s project.
The parent tends to interfere too much in his child’s training, placing too much importance on it.
The parent wants to replace the coach.
The parent feels that the coach is taking his or her place as the child’s advisor.
The parent models the behaviour of other parents who have managed to successfully get their kids to the top (Williams, Bartoli).
In order to avoid these mistakes, good communication with the coach is paramount.
Meeting the coach
The coach has to organise a meeting in the beginning of the season in order to introduce himself to the parents and to share with them his concept of tennis and training. It is important that you, the parents, attend this meeting, and that the meeting takes place in a pleasant, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. During this important moment, the coach will introduce his team and himself, his teaching philosophy and the main points of his training program, the objectives of the season, the training procedure, the rules of the academy, disciplinary measures etc… The goal here is to understand the purpose of tennis, it contributes to the player’s personal development, to his development as a member of society, it teaches him about life, the love for sport, self-respect etc… It is important to understand the benefits of tennis on a personal level (discipline, self confidence, motivation) on the physical level (good physical condition) and social level (cooperation, team spirit), but also the sacrifices it requires on a personal level (stress, exhaustion), on the physical level (injuries) on the social level (competitiveness).
Here are some tips for an effective communication and collaboration:
Get to know your child’s coach
Respect the opinion of the coach and leave the responsibility of training to him.
Evaluate your child’s progress
Talk to other parents in order to make new friends and understand the world of tennis
Establish clear communication rules
Sit somewhere not too close to the court, where you can still watch the match
Enjoy watching your child play, and appear relaxed and positive.
Applaud your child’s opponent too.
Always have the same attitude towards your child, regardless of his score.
Welcome your child with positive words “how did the match go?”, “How did you play?” Show him that you care about him and not only about his results.
Be there when he loses a game, but give him space if he needs it.
Teach him to enjoy making efforts and the results of it.
Give your child other opportunities outside of tennis.
Be realistic about your expectation of your child’s tennis career
Mistakes to avoid
Thinking that tennis is the only way to succeed in life and forcing your child to put everything into tennis.
Overreacting and showing your disappointment when he loses a game.
Reacting to a bad result or to a mistake by punishing him or criticizing him.
Ignoring your child’s bad behavior, such as cheating or bad manners.
Giving him advice around the court or trying to take the place of the coach.
Intervening during the matches. If needed, appealing to the referee
Ignoring pain or suffering
Forgetting that your child is growing
Paying too much attention to your child’s career to the detriment of the rest of his entourage.
Using sarcasm to motivate your child or fear to force him to be more disciplined
Getting to the point, where your child is afraid of losing because of the way you could react to his defeat.
Being present at all the training and all the matches.
Say things like “we won”, “we lost”, “we played”
Forcing your child to talk to you after a match before the pressure is off.
Expecting something in return because you have invested a lot in your child’s tennis career.
... Food for thought!!