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Sports Psychology Guidelines for Tennis Parents

"Eight Tips for Tennis Parents" Patrick J. Cohn

Tennis parents have a big impact on their young tennis players’ mental health. A young athlete’s healthy and successful experience in tournament tennis depends on tennis parents' ability to instill confidence and positive mental game skills."

Junior tennis and youth sports play an important role in today’s youth. Often, we receive emails from concerned sports parents asking how they should help their child superstar win at and enjoy sports..

Below are eight sports psychology guidelines for tennis parents.

Eight Simple Guidelines for Tennis Parents:

1). Tennis should be fun for kids. Treat tennis as a game—It’s not a business for kids. Parents can get too wrapped up in their child’s ranking, the next tournament or the possibility of a college scholarship. With all the money in professional sports today, it is hard for parents to understand that it should be just good fun for most tennis players.

2). Your own agenda is not your child’s. Young tennis athletes compete for many reasons. They enjoy the competition, like the social aspect, engage with being part of a team, and enjoy the challenge of setting goals. You might have a different agenda than your child and you need to recognize that tennis is your child’s sport, not yours. Young tennis athletes need to compete for their own reasons, not to satisfy a parent.

3). Emphasize the process of playing one point at a time instead of results, scores, or trophies. We live in a society that focuses on results and winning, but winning comes from working the process and enjoying the ride. Teach your child to focus on the process of playing one shot at a time instead of the number of wins or trophies.

4). You are a role model for your child athlete. As such, you should model composure and poise courtside. When you’re watching matches, your child mimics your behavior. You become a role model in how you react to a close match or the questionable behavior of a competitor. Stay calm, composed, and in control during matches so your tennis player can copy those positive behaviors.

5). Refrain from match-time coaching. During tournaments, it’s time to just let your kids play. Most junior tennis tournament organizers do not allow parents to coach their young athletes anyway. All the practice should be set aside during matches because this is the time that athletes need to trust in the training and react on the court. “Just do it” as the saying goes. Too much coaching (or over-coaching) can cause kids to make mistakes and play cautiously. Save the coaching for practice and use encouragement at matches instead.

6). Help your tennis players separate self-esteem from achievement. Too many athletes base their self-worth on their performance or the outcome of the match. Help your children understand that they are people FIRST who happen to be athletes. Success or number of wins should not determine a person’s self-esteem. Help your child find other activities or roles that are different from sport, such as music, theater or being a student or sibling.

7). Ask your child athlete the right questions. Asking the right questions after matches will tell your child what you think is important in tennis. If you ask, “Did you win?” your child will think winning is important. If you ask, “Did you have fun?” he or she will assume having fun is important.

8). Pledge the: P.A.Y.S. Parent’s Code of Ethics. PAYS (Parents Association for Youth Sports) provides a parental handbook and code of ethics that adults must sign before each competitive season. This is a great tool to guide tennis parents in their interaction with young athletes.

Dr. Patrick J. Cohn is a mental game coach to nationally-ranked junior tennis players and many professional athletes. Please visit Sports Psychology for Tennis for more tips and articles on tennis psychology.

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Related FAQ's:

When should my child start playing in tennis tournaments?
Should my child play in tournaments above his or her age group?
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