Tips for Parents at tournaments and matches
So diving right in, I want to list the most common errors that I see parents(and coaches for that matter), making, when I go and watch my students play matches. I'm not necessarily talking about the parents of players I'm coaching here, although I'm sure they'll be the first to admit they're guilty of some of the things we will talk about. But I'm talking about the entire tennis community and some of the general errors I see from parents and guardians who come to watch their child come match time. It's my hope, that in writing today, I can help parents become more aware of how their actions can and do affect their children and how they can start to take steps to improve their demeanor around matches. And by doing so, their child(ren) can perform at their best when they step onto the court come match time.
Here we go..
1- probably the most disappointing thing I see is - Not getting to the courts early enough. parents and players are both responsible for this one. Remember - If you're getting to matches right on time, you're actually late because most tournament rules state that you should arrive/sign-in at least 15min early for matches
2- I see parents getting visibly frustrated and upset, sometimes even calling and shouting things out to players mid game. Not usually positive or constructive things either!
3- not giving your child enough time after a match to properly reflect on how they played and what happened. Instead, you're on there case, usually telling them what they did wrong
4- Not taking the positives out of each match - instead the focus is on what the child did wrong or could've done better.
So, how can we as parents and coaches, shift our approach to maximize performance come match-time and do the right thing by our child/player to help and allow them to play their best? Here's what I recommend for each of the above points:
1- Plan in advance. Come game day, plan to arrive at the courts at least 1hr early, allowing enough time for traffic, for your child to soak up the conditions and for them to do a proper 20-30min warm-up.
2- You cannot let your child see you getting frustrated or angry. They know your angry because they see you everyday, so they can read your body language. This can only create problems. Emotional control is a muscle and must be developed like any other muscle. So if your the type of parent that gets easily angry during matches, the best way to develop staying calm is to watch the game and stay calm as long as you possibly can. Just before you feel that you can't take it anymore, get up and go for a walk around the venue. Don't come back until you've fully calmed down. Then keep repeating this exercise, trying to go longer and longer.
3- This one is a hear-breaker when I see it. A player has just come off-court and is already visibly distraught. The parent or coach starts a barrage of "you should've done this or that". What you have to realize is that when a player has just come off-court, especially after a tough loss, they are usually already disappointed and highly emotional. Trying to bombard them with your "advice", will most likely not be fully absorbed by the player because they are in an emotional headspace not a logical one. Secondly, it tells the player on a sub-conscious level that their feelings aren't as important as you having to express your thoughts! My advice to most parents is to just say "well done" or "good game". Then allow about 30min (sometimes more depending on the player), for their emotions to come back to their baseline state. You may even find that when a player is ready, they will typically approach you to begin discussing the game.
4- I must admit that as a coach I still find myself sometimes slipping into this. No-one is always perfect. But when I find myself doing this I remind myself to make sure I follow the simple process of "positive, negative, positive". Meaning: First - emphasize what you child/player did well. Second Give the constructive feedback and third- re-enforce the positive. And look this one is tough I get it. This too, is almost like a muscle you build. The more you do this, the better you will get at it.
Anyway I hope that you were able to take some of these tips and you can apply them to future matches over the holiday season and beyond. Any questions, please comment or contact me.
Regards, Patrick Raducanu