What essential ingredient is required for a child to have an increased chance of reaching their tennis potential? A solid parent coach relationship.
During my 10 plus years in India I have had the opportunity to work with many supportive, knowledgeable parents who have no doubt served as a catalyst for their child’s development. Initially I was quite naïve, thinking that parents had only one primary role, that being to financially provide the opportunities the player required. As I became more open to parental involvement, my job of achieving what all three parties were working towards became far easier and enjoyable.
3 key roles that parents play
Nobody knows a child better than a parent. They have spent the most time with the child in many diverse situations (both on and off the court). My philosophy of understanding the person before the player, was made much easier by seeking parent’s inputs. Receiving “insider” information regarding how a player will react to praise, criticism and on court pressures allowed me better understand the player quickly. Furthermore, in 99% of cases, the parent’s initial advice/feedback was correct and allowed me to fast-track my relationship with the player.
Coaches will come and go, but mum and dad will always be there as a shoulder to cry on in tough times. Parents who treat their child the same, regardless of the match outcome and emphasis enjoyment, development and effort over winning tend to have a better long term relationship with their ward. The player should always know that their parents are there for them to confide in and with additional life experiences parents can offer valuable life advice that will prepare the player for the many challenges ahead that they will face.
Tennis is an expensive sport and without certain funding the opportunities that the player will be given may be limited hence putting more pressure on the player to perform with the limited opportunities provided. As a general development rule, the majority of money should be targeted towards skill development when a child is younger (8 to 14). As the child develops, this money will then shift to tournament travel (15 +). Budgets should be made clear at the start of the parent/coach relationship so as the coach can plan accordingly.
My advice to coaches/parents
Set clear roles/boundaries
Understand that all three parties have important roles to fill and that crossing previously agreed boundaries will have a negative impact in achieving original goals. Having clear expectations from both parties before the union begins will see many future potential problems be avoided.
Have regular meetings with all three parties
(coach, parent, and player). Most problems start small however with poor/no communication these can turn into big problems fast. Monthly meetings are required.
Relationships will evolve
Understand that the player will be developing both as a player and as a person. As the player matures the style of communication and increased player input should be encouraged. The player may even undertake responsibilities that the coach/parent had previously being responsible for. This must be seen as a positive step as the player is taking ownership for their game/development.
Listen to your inner circle
Many inexperienced parents will often wish to share their advice on what is best for improved performance and what parents should/should not do. My advice is to always listen and should the parent feel that the advice given is valid to then discuss it with the coach/player. Many times new tennis parents will be influenced by more “seasoned” parents. Remember what works for one, may not work for the other.
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