10 Ways Parents Can Help their Kids Play their Best

  1. Communicate you believe in them both verbally and nonverbally. Great parents believe in their kids and communicate it regularly. You can TELL them and SHOW them that you believe in them.
  2. Verbally & Nonverbally communicate that you accept them, love them, & are proud of them NO MATTER WHAT. Let them know that their happiness and well-being are more important than winning and perfection. If you focus on their happiness and well-being, it might increase their success rate anyways because they are enjoying themselves while playing tennis.

One of the toughest things as a tennis player is losing a point and looking over at your parents or coach and seeing a “look” of disappointment. Try your best to maintain a neutral or positive facial expression.

  1. Praise their performance, and not their outcome. You want to compliment any skills they did particularly well or a new skill that they finally mastered. For instance, if your kid has been working on their forehand technique, and you can see a positive change in their match, be sure to praise them for that, even if they lost the match.  If you only praise your kid when they win, it teaches them that winning is all that matters, and by default losing disappoints you. 
  2. Don’t assume your child wants to hear some constructive criticism. Ask them first if you can offer some. You can simply say, “Would you mind if I told you what I think?” This gives your kid a sense of power in the conversation and prepares them to hear some criticism.
  3. Avoid always talking about tennis at home. Instead, let your kid bring up the topic of tennis. That way, you know they want to and are open to talking about it. This results in your home being perceived as a place of peace, positivity, and mental recovery, especially after a hard practice, match, or tournament.
  4. Just be positive and supportive at all times. Most of the time that is what your kid wants and needs. 
  5. If you read news articles about other players or see rankings of other teams, don’t discuss it with your child. They don’t need to know if the highly-skilled opponent that beat them at the tournament ended up winning the whole tournament. It’s just not necessary and puts salt in the wound sometimes.
  6. It’s really important to know your role. The players play, the coaches coach, the refs ref – and as a parent, you should parent. Try to avoid overlapping these roles. Let each adult and kid involved play their role and it’ll be more enjoyable for everyone involved.
  7. Don’t make a particular match or tournament “special” and avoid “hyping” up certain competitions. This adds extra pressure on the kid when they adopt this mentality from you. The goal is to treat all types of competitions the same, so that a “more important” match or tournament won’t psyche out your player too much and they can stay focused.
  8. Finally, when in doubt of what to do, just give your kid some space. This might be hard to do, but most of the time it’s the right thing to do. If your kid’s team just lost an important game, give them some room to process it. They need some time alone so they can understand what happened and how they should move forward. But you can ask them, “Do you want to talk about it?” and if they do, then they will. But if they don’t want to, don’t push them to. Just tell them, “I know you’re upset right now, but I just want you to know that it’ll be ok.” 

In an individual sport like tennis, it is important that kids learn how to deal with a loss.  Give them some time to process what they could improve on as well as what they did well. 

Note: These tips are important to remember because even athletes at the highest levels are aware of their parent’s judgements and critiques. We all want to make our parents proud. Know that your role in their sporting career is really important, and most of the time you need to be their biggest fan instead of their biggest critic.