003 – 4 Parenting Lessons Every Tennis Dad Understands Well

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Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18, 19 HCSB)

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I’m not a tennis player, I much prefer basketball and baseball. However, all three of our kids have latched onto tennis with great enthusiasm.  I know when it started, but I have no idea where it came from.  Our daughter just made the announcement one day that she wanted to play tennis.  That may well have been the first time the word tennis was used in our house.  To our surprise, she started playing and really liked tennis.  Her enthusiasm for the game became contagious and our boys soon followed her to the courts.

Even though I really stink at the game, I try hard not to miss an opportunity to get on the court with our kids.  I’m really struggling these days to stay relevant in their tennis lives because I just haven’t learned any tennis skills. While I haven’t learned any tennis skills, I must admit that tennis has taught me a lot about parenting. I’ll share with you the 4 parenting lessons every tennis dad understands well.

No coaching during the match

This, without a doubt, has been the most difficult adjustment for this tennis dad.  In case you aren’t familiar with the rules of tennis tournament, there is absolutely no tolerance for coaching during a match.  In fact, cheers of encouragement are closely monitored and required to remain minimalistic.  This was completely foreign to me early on.  Being a basketball and baseball guy, yelling and coaching from the sidelines is mandatory.  In tennis, the players take the court and they are on their own to coach themselves and even officiate the game themselves.

You know that as a parent, you have no choice but to sit back, watch, and hope they demonstrate the character and skills you’ve tried to teach them.  You watch your child walk onto a court, tennis bag on their shoulder, water cooler in one hand, and 3 fresh tennis balls in the other hand; at that moment comes the realization that your child is now on their own.  This feeling and realization plays out at the beginning of every match just like it does every time a child gets on a school bus, walks into a classroom, steps on stage for their first play performance, or spends a night at a friend’s home.  The parents are left helpless to coach and mentor during the match, so we just pray they remember all we’ve taught them.

Cramming is not effective

Having explained the first point, this second lesson is often overlooked.  While I haven’t developed any tennis skills, I have listened very closely to our kids’ tennis coach so that I can at least reinforce what he tells them.  So I find myself in the final few minutes before a tennis match, knowing that I can’t coach during the match, trying to cram all the information into our children that I can.  “Keep your composure; it means stay focused on the next point and don’t feed your opponent by showing negative emotions.”  “Good, aggressive placement; it means stay focused on placing the ball deep and in the corners or on the sidelines with heavy topspin.”  “Keep the ball in play; it means to settle in and focus on very long points by keeping the ball in play and forcing your opponent to make the first mistake each point.”  And I can go on and on.  And often I do because I know I can’t coach them once they get on that court.

But I’ve come to realize this cramming method is rather useless.  Two things happen: 1) it becomes too much information to consume, so they stop listening, 2) over time my children have come to expect the cramming session, so they begin to ignore me before I even start.  Understanding this lesson has taught me that I must consistently teach my children these principles, not just the final few minutes before each match.

Be on the lookout for overload

Tennis can be a very grueling sport.  A tennis match can last for 2 to 3 hours, in the hot sun, with no shade.  A tennis tournament is typically 4 matches minimum, over a two day weekend.  Add to that tennis practice a few times during the week and the fact that every weekend of the summer can easily be filled with a tournament.  Also, there is no real off season for tennis.  While the tournament scene slows during the winter months, there are tournaments to be found.  You put all this together and before you know it your children can be overloaded and burned out.  It could even get to the point that tennis isn’t fun anymore.

As tennis parents, we have to be mindful and watchful for overload.  Often times, we can even cause the overload – one tournament isn’t over and yet we are searching for the next one.  Additionally, I don’t recall my children ever turning down the opportunity to play.  They are not mature enough to recognize the physical, mental, and emotional toll tennis can take on them, so we parents must be diligent and watchful on their behalf.

Recognize the good

Just as cramming before the match is a great temptation for me, unloading after a match is equally a temptation.  Give me some credit, I’ve sat quietly for a couple hours.  Actually, giving feedback after a match is not the problem.  In fact, good feedback after a match is super important.  However, it must be good feedback.  Meaning I have to avoid just unloading all the negative, or things our child did wrong while on the court.

Isn’t is so easy to recognize what we don’t like?  Not so easy is recognizing the good in our children.  It isn’t because there is no good in our children, but rather because recognizing it doesn’t come as easily as recognizing the bad.  I’ve had to be very intentional about recognizing the good elements of our child’s tennis match and couple that with the things they need to work on.  They receive the feedback so much better when it isn’t just the negative.

 

So there we have them, I promise that any tennis parent you encounter will agree with these well known parenting lessons.  These lessons apply to tennis and life in general – coach your children always in order to avoid cramming, be on the lookout for overload or burnout by recognizing the good.  These lessons remind me of a couple Bibles verse that have become very important to me as I seek to lead my family spiritually.  Hmmm, maybe Moses, the writer of Deuteronomy, was a tennis dad also.  Of course, Moses was referring to teaching our children the Bible, not good form for topspin.

Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18, 19 HCSB)

What are your thoughts on these 4 parenting lessons? How can you apply these lesson to your parenting? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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