I have taught tennis to hundreds of junior tennis players over the years. It is only natural that parents want their children to do well. The following tips could help youngsters be more successful when they take lessons.
Tip One: One of my pet peeves has always been when a parent or parents sit near the court to watch their child take a lesson. Many junior players, especially those under 12, get very nervous when their parents are sitting nearby and watching every stroke that they hit.
Lessons are a time when juniors should have their whole focus and concentration with the teaching pro that they are working with. If a parent is watching his or her child taking a lesson and showing negative facial expressions or body language when they miss a shot this can cause a major distraction.
Parents should have enough confidence in their teaching pro to let them teach lessons without any distractions from the child’s parents.
Tip Two: Junior tennis can be quite expensive; especially if you have a really gifted child who plays in tournaments. Children should be aware of the costs of lessons, equipment, and going to tournaments.
However, don’t ever bring up the costs in the following negative manner. For instance, never say, “Do you realize how much we’re spending on your lessons? Why aren’t you playing better with all of the money we have spent on you.”
If you do this you are looking for disaster with your child. Instead, if your child isn’t doing as well as you’d like you could say, “It seems that you are missing some of your clinics and you’re not practicing as often as you have in the past. Is there a problem?” If you feel your child is losing interest in tennis you could discuss the costs of lessons, equipment, and if it applies, going to tournaments, in a positive way.
If they feel that they want to change to another sport you should tread lightly, talk to their pro, and then make a decision with your child as to what their feelings are as to still playing tennis or trying a new sport.
Tip Three: We must realize that children are only human. Even though they are told that they must behave appropriately on the court by not cheating or using profanity, unfortunately, it does occur in some occasions.
The child must know that if he or she behaves badly on the court it reflects on them and their family. Unfortunately, on too many occasions, when a child has acted badly, his parents are waiting for him to come off the court and discipline him immediately.
When a child has lost a match and walks off the court he is physically and emotionally drained. Disciplining him immediately will make him feel even worse; especially if his peers are witnessing you berating your child.
My advice is to address the matter in the confines of your home. By this time you and your child should be calmed down quite a bit. Your discussion should be firm and compassionate. Hopefully, your child will take your advice and be a much better sportsman when he plays again.
Tip Four: Have your child play at a level in which he is competitive. This would be a good time to talk to your child’s pro. He could give you a correct evaluation as to what level your child should be playing at.
Although you feel that your child should be playing at a higher level than he suggests I would follow the pro’s advice. Let’s say that you feel that your child should be playing at a certain level and you pursue this avenue. What happens if your child loses, 6-0, 6-0? Without a doubt his self-esteem and confidence will be ruined.
Let your child play in competition that is compatible with his skills. He doesn’t have to win every match. However, if he is winning or playing well even if he loses he will feel much more confident in his play.
Tip Five: If you are a parent who puts a tremendous amount of pressure to win on your child and show that his loss was a great disappointment to you, you are courting disaster. I could mention at least 10 outstanding players that I worked with who quit playing tennis because their parents were always berating them about losing. Almost every one of those players quit before they reached 20. Their parents all said the same thing: “My child has been playing tennis for so many years, he is burned out.”
Having known all of these children’s parents, I know for a fact that these juniors quit because they felt that they could never meet their parents’ expectations, no matter how well they played. Please remember this: You should be supportive at all times. You are not a participant.
Tip Six: Set realistic goals and review them periodically. Parents should make a big effort to discuss a child’s progress, success and needs.
Please listen carefully as he/she discusses the aforementioned. You may be surprised to learn that your child knows what his or her accomplishments and shortcomings are, and is realistic in evaluating what his/her strengths and weaknesses are.
After serious discussions with your child, be sure that the goals that you have come up with in a joint discussion are suited to the abilities and dedication that the child has for the sport.
Summary: In most instances, junior tennis is a very enjoyable experience. With the advent of the Quick Start Tennis Program, children as young as 4 years old can actually keep the ball in play for short rallies.
The experience of playing tennis teaches that playing hard and exhibiting great sportsmanship will be helpful for children in later years, whether or not they continue in competitive tennis.
The following are some simple rules that you can instill in your child.
1. Always be a gentleman or gentlewoman on the court.
2. Play the best that you can.
3. Win or lose, congratulate your opponent on a good match.
4. Play as well as you can on every point and enjoy the game.
Summer championships upcoming
The Buffalo $22,000 Summer Championships at Miller Tennis Center, a Buffalo Tennis Series event, will begin on May 23. The championships are sponsored by Orville’s Home Appliances, Sargent & Collins LLP Attorneys at Law, and Twin Village Recycling. The schedule is as follows:
• May 23-26: Men’s and Women’s Doubles. Divisions, Open, 9.0, 8.0, 7.0, 6.0.
• May 30-June 1: Mixed Doubles. Divisions, Open, 9,0, 8.0, 7.0, 6.0.
• June 6-8: Men’s & Women’s Singles. Divisions, 4.5, 4.0, 3.5, 3.0.
• Men’s and Women’s Open Singles will be played in a separate event June 6-8.
Sargent & Collins LLP will also have a $3,500 Wild Card tournament for men.
The tournament has the largest amount of prize money ever offered in Western New York. Last year’s tournament had the largest number of entrants in WNY history. For further information call Miller Tennis Center at 632-8600.