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I am a tennis parent. How can I help my child best?
In case that your child really likes to play tennis and you choose it as a sport, the most important thing to know for the parent is that your child tries his/her BEST in the lesson/practice/match to learn and improve. Of course, children have different abilities to learn, but they all have their level of BEST. You can always ask your child: “Did you do/try your BEST today in the practice/lesson?” As long as the answer is “yes” you are on the right track.
It is not really recommended to give your child instructions regarding tennis skills, this is a job of the coach. If you do have some issues to discuss, the right thing is to discuss it with the coach.
If, as a parent, you give your child instructions about tennis skills, most probably you will make your child nervous because they know you do not do the sport yourself, therefore they doubt your instructions. Also, when you make comments to your child on the court, they feel that you are not happy with their performance, which disappoints them, and puts them under pressure and causes a negative effect. Keep in mind, tennis is not easy, can be very complex, therefore it is always better to discuss things with the coach to pass it the right way to your child.
It is great if you can be present and watch the practice/lesson, it gives your child great support as they always want to please their parents with their performance, to make you feel proud of them, but you must control your emotions and let the coach do their job.
A very important part of your child’s effort is the level of energy they have when they practice. A lot of it has to do with food. Ideally, your child should eat 2 hours before the practice/lesson. Make sure before the practice/lesson your child eats pasta, rice, boiled/mash potatoes, chicken/beef (boiled or grilled), no creamy sauces with it, a few vegetables, if you have very limited time before the practice soups are good (chicken soup with pasta, vegetables) with some bread, bananas should be always present in the diet, they can eat bananas on court as well during lesson/practice/match. If the child eats muesli (oat flakes) before the lesson it is better with yoghurt than milk.
In case there is not enough time to digest the food before the practice/lesson, make it a smaller portion, they can have their little snack on court as well, (banana, energy bar) and eat another meal after the practice.
It is extremely important that your child takes enough fluids before, during and after the practice! A big bottle of water MUST be present in the bag, some juice with it is good as well.
Avoid giving your child a lot of vegetables, fruits, salads and sweets (“bad sugars”) BEFORE the practice/match. After the practice/match, they can eat as much salad, vegetables and fruits as they want.
Make sure, your child learns to change his/her t-shirt after the practice, especially if they sweat a lot.
Would be also great to thank the coach for the lesson/practice, it is a very big part of the right attitude and teaches mutual respect.
How can I help my child best during a tournament, tennis match?
Unfortunately, many times the coach cannot be present during the matches due to engagement on court with other players who do not play the tournament.
This is where the role of the parent is very important and can totally influence the result of the match. It can be this way even if the coach is also watching the match. Therefore it is extremely important to have the right attitude and behaviour before, during and after the tennis match as a parent.
Normally, children are engaged at school in the morning. However, if the match is scheduled for early afternoon, it is reasonable to take the child out of school around 12.00 (if possible on that day) to be able to rest and take their meal on time. It is advisable not to talk to the child too much about the match in order not to create anxiety. The plan for the match should be set with the coach the day before or let the child talk to the coach if he/she still has questions regarding strategy and tactics for the match.
Your child should eat about 2 hours before the match, preferable products that I mentioned above and have a snack with you in case of delays. Remember, food and fluids are VERY important!
Arrive at the match early enough to make sure your child has about 20 minutes to warm up. If there is no opportunity to hit before the match, make sure he/she does the routine warm-up that they learnt with their coach. If you want to know what the sign of a good warm-up is – your child breaks a sweat. Ideally, they do not sit down for too long afterwards.
During the match: Make sure you wish your child a good match and as long as he/she tries their BEST say that you are proud of them! Be prepared that BEST looks many times not pretty on that day, however, you must control your emotions outside the court. Do not show your child that you are disappointed or very nervous, it will add to their anxiety.
Tennis is a sport where coaching on court is not allowed. It is simply the rule that must be respected regardless of different opinions. It has meaning. The player performs out there alone (in the single events). It is extremely stressful to be out there and physically perform at the top under that pressure. When you start talking to your child from outside it will consciously or subconsciously have a negative effect. Your child knows that coaching is not allowed, and also, as I mentioned before, instructions are not coming from a professional person. Mind you, many times, even when instructions are coming from a professional person it can also make your child very nervous and have a negative effect during the match.
Your task is to support your child on good shots, on good behaviour, on daring, brave game, by applauding winners and good rallies and having positive eye contact. WELL DONE, is always a good comment!
If, in your opinion, the child did not do his/her best in the match discuss this matter with the coach. Keep in mind, the pressure is very high out there, you can definitely feel it as a parent by just watching, so try not to be too judgemental. Take your time to discuss things with the coach and your child.
Driving your child, investing time and money into the sport deserves the highest respect, it should never be taken for granted and be appreciated by your child and coach. Always ask for advice from the coach, educate yourself as a tennis parent, it will help your child tremendously!
How many hours (practise) per week needs a child who wants to be a professional tennis player?
It depends on the age of the child. Children under 12 years old, in my opinion, shouldn’t practice more than 3 hours per day, 2 hours tennis and 1 hour specific fitness, 5 days per week.