Tennis is more than a sport – it’s an experience. One that provides kids and adults alike with not only vigorous exercise, but also a variety of cognitive abilities and social skills. Like many sports, tennis offers players a wide variety of long-lasting benefits that aid in personality development both on and off the court.
Yet, unlike sports such as basketball and hockey, where there is an association in every small community, for tennis, that’s not the case. There are provincial associations and if you are lucky some local tennis clubs in your area. However, for the most part, parents in small communities/towns can be left sometimes wondering where they can turn to. So, where do you turn for advice or any questions that you may have?
This is one of the main reasons why my son and I began this website as a way to share our experiences with other tennis parents and junior players within Atlantic Canada and other small communities across Canada. With six years under our belt, we want to start sharing what we’ve learned with you.
Depending on where you live in Canada, navigating through the tennis options for your young player can be confusing. If you live in an area that does not offer a lot of training and your young player wants to enter a competitive tournament, it can sometimes be intimidating for that young player. Entering a competitive tournament against players that train all year long, when you can’t will definitely most likely produce lackluster results. Even worse if your young player gets blown away, this could possibly deter them from ever playing in a tournament again.
Here are a few areas we focused on as a family to make sure going to the courts would always be an enjoyable experience for Cade and the rest of us…win or lose.
1. Encourage Competing Over Winning
Is it better to win, or is it better to play?
For our family, competition became more important than winning. As parents, we encouraged competing over winning from day 1. While everyone likes to win, a match that is lost can still be enjoyed and turned into a learning opportunity. If your child is giving it their best effort, and are willing to take something from every defeat, then that’s all that matters.
Professional football player, Matt Birk, stated that his parents pushed this lesson on him from day one and it is what turned him into the professional he is today. While he didn’t quite understand the lesson growing up, he states that this lesson has influenced him personally and professionally as he continued to grow and learn. Now, he says he can focus his efforts on worrying less and accomplishing more in everything he does – both on and off the field.
2. Believe in Them
We have found that believing in your child is one of the most important things you can do for them. As a parent, imagine my surprise when I found out that there was scientific research that actually backed up my personal beliefs.
Believing in our son has helped his confidence grow in everything he takes on. We continue to support Cade in all that he does and letting him know that we believe in him makes all the difference in his world.
Gold medal winner, Missy Franklin, said many times that her parents believing in her was what powered her through some of her toughest times. For instance, after a poor performance during the Summer Olympics in Rio, Franklin stated that she had to call her mom for some extra support.
“She just told me that it’s going to be OK, and that’s all I needed to hear.”
If you are looking for a tennis example, check out what Stefanos Tsitsipas said about his father
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. pic.twitter.com/TL67xcg0lZ
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) September 14, 2018
Remember, no matter what activity your child chooses – you are a parent first, and a coach second.
3. Body Language Is Everything
We all want our kids to thrive in the sport they choose. But sometimes, our intensity and eagerness can be miscommunicated through stern body language. You could be cheering them on in your mind, but unintentionally, have a disapproving look on your face.
Our kids pick up on these non-verbal cues quicker than you may think. That’s why having positive body language away from the court can be just as important as having it while watching a match. Kids often mimic what their parents do, rather than what they say. As tennis parents, we’ve strived to make sure our body language is positive during matches and at home. Along with positive body language, we try to make sure we walk the walk, so our kids can see us practicing what we preach, therefore it will be easier for them to practice as well in all phases of life.
4. Let Your Child Take Ownership
When we let Cade take ownership over his sport of choice, he tended to enjoy the game more and feel more accomplished. Giving up the reins allowed him to take charge of his participation.
Having a child taking ownership over their tennis or their sport can look like:
- Choosing a coach/academy over practicing at home. Cade decided he wanted to move to Halifax
- When/how much to train
- Picking tournaments
- When to experiment with other sports. Cade decided to play hockey and try other sports, but it was his decision to give up on those sports to try and improve his tennis at age 13
If a child shows an interest in other sports, let them experiment. After all, some of the biggest names in sports were really talented in other areas before becoming known in their sport of choice. For instance, Michael Jordan was quite the baseball player before he became known as the MVP he is today.
Let’s Take on This Journey Together
As tennis parents, we had to consider what Cade wanted and what worked best for our family. We know that, as parents, we’re not perfect. However, we continue to try our best. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
Being a tennis parent in Atlantic Canada can be a challenging and frustrating experience due to the lack of training opportunities for junior players outside of a few cities. This lack of access in our area led us to take matters into our own hands, and as a result, we want to share our experiences with families that may be experiencing the same struggles.
You’re not alone. We’re on this journey together.
Do you have any advice that you would like to share with other parents embarking on this journey? Then let us know!