Usually, Sunday is when we (me and my two daughters) play practice matches. No more drills or technique instructions… just games and fun.
So I told my two daughters (Cezara and Bianca) that I would require them to play against their mother in a game to 10 point tie-break and the winner will play against me for the “final” (playing against mother would be the semi-final 🙂
Bianca (my little one, who is 8 and a half) beat her mother easily. She played aggressively and gave my wife no chance.
But it came down to my older daughter, Cezara (who is now 10 years old)… she is very competitive but the nerves and her desire to over-achieve can be her greatest enemies.
Seeing that her younger sister beat the mother easily she wanted to prove she can do it too. But those thoughts tighten her up and nerves took over. Therefore she played slowly (I’d say less than 50% of her power capabilities) and made most of the mistakes.
I could not believe when my wife beat her 10-2… easily. Most of the points were actually lost by Cezara.
When they shook hands at the end of the game, I went to her and first thing I said: “Cezara, you played too slowly!” She looked at me like I just hit her with a stick. I could see that that was the last thing she needed to hear: a negative comment when she was already feeling miserable about her loss…
Even though I knew I should not had said it, considering it was a friendly family match, I thought that a realistic feed-back would help Cezara know why she lost.
But her reaction made me understand, again, that the last thing a player (student) needs to hear when they are upset is a negative comment.
It re-enforced my knowledge in the following regard:
– we should never say negative comments when teaching tennis or any kind of lessons to our children;
– feedback should be given only if it is asked or permission is granted (especially if it is about a negative action).
As a person who grew up being criticised a lot, I find it hard to keep things always positive. But I know that it can be learned with practice.
We just have to remind ourselves that positive words make a much better difference in someone’s performance and they bring us closer to those who need them. After all, we want our children to feel understood and loved. That can be done with words of love and honest attitude.
What should I had said to my daughter after she lost a match that she should had easily won? Maybe nothing… just a hug to show her that she is loved. And a smile.
Should she had asked me why she lost… I could had told her. But usually players do not want to talk about the loses. If they do, we should postpone the discussion until they cool off and some time passed (maybe next day).
Be careful when teaching children… What we say and how we react in front of them is always a lesson that can shape our relationship with them. Even their future…
The idea to write this article came to me right as I was watching this YouTube video of a 9 year old tennis “prodigy” girl… This particular video was the last drop in the bucket for me regarding a debate that is kind of tabu for a lot of parents and coaches. !!! If you are a tennis parent or coach you might want to stick with me and read this article all the way.
For those who don’t know me, I am a tennis coach and have been teaching tennis since… I was a kid. I have always loved teaching and sharing my knowledge with anyone willing to learn and improve. But this is not about me. It is about a debate that seems to be a sensitive subject for many. It is about whether parents should PUSH their kids to pursue a certain sport…
It’s a great scenario when your child loves a sport, let’s say tennis and he is motivated to improve and cannot wait to get on the tennis court. But there is also a scenario in which you, a parent, love a certain sport, let say (: tennis, and you see your child has no drive, no desire to practice a sport even though he/she has talent and you know that by practicing the sport he/she will benefit tremendously later on in life.
During my tennis teaching career I have met and taught countless adults who confessed that they regretted the fact their parents did not “push” them to stick with and work harder in tennis when they were kids. They are aware that when they were young they had other hobbies who were more comfortable to them like: hanging out with friends, watching TV, video games etc. Those distractions did not account for a more enjoyable life later on.
Now, as a parent myself, I am put in a situation where I have to guide my two daughters (7 and 5 years old) to whether pick up tennis or not. As a tennis coach I would hate myself to have any of my daughters, in 20 years from now, asking me why did I not teach them the sport I am so knowledgeable about? I would hate to know that I have the necessary skills to give my children the gift of a healthy habit (of playing tennis) and not do it.
My problem is the following (and I am sure a lot of parents and coaches have this dilemma): my kids are not “crazy” about playing tennis! My kids would rather just hang around with their friends all day, watch TV and/or indulge in short term fun activities like playing online video games… As a parent I am aware that a few years from now they will find that these activities are not providing a healthy lifestyle for them.
So the BIG question is: should I, as a parent and a coach, step up and “push” my kids into playing the sport I am very proficient in? (Tennis Lessons with Little Kids)
Before I give you MY answer I would like to give YOU some arguments:
– I’ve seen and heard the opinion of many parents stating that kids should be given options and let them choose. I think it is a very wise decision. But what if… while you give your child the many options, you and your child, actually focus on at least one sport that you are sure your kid will benefit in the future. Something like running, swimming, basketball, tennis, surfing, iceskating… These are sports that they can practice for the rest of their life. These are sports that will allow them to stay in shape even after the age of 30, 40 or older. What if we “push” our kids to learn a sport they can practice for the rest of their life? As much as I think playing American Football or Baseball are great and teaches them discipline, hard work and team play, these sports are kind of “dead” for them (as far as the possibility of continuing practicing them) after the age of 25… On the other side, if we just let kids experiment all the sports hoping that one day they will stick with one, they might end up knowing a little bit of every sport but not be good at any one…
– Think about how you were at the age of 7, 8, or 9… Were you aware what would be good for you in ten, twenty, thirty… years later? No, of course not. Therefore we, as parents, must present the future to our kids describing the importance of doing sports and activities that could have an impact for them later on. Even though Johnny loves to play online games, that will not help him be more sociable, driven and outgoing in the future.
Having said that, here are my opinions in regard to providing our children with skills that would help them become successful later on in life:
Every kid should be given the opportunity to learn at least one foreign language.
Kids should also learn how to dance (how many times you went to parties or social gatherings and you envied the ones who were able to move gracefully on the music?).
Every kid should, at some point, know how to defend themselves – get them into a few karate or any self-defence classes.
Children should be given the opportunity to learn how to play at least one musical instrument (piano, violin, saxophone etc.).
Every kid should practice and be good at one sport. Why? Because in order to be good it takes dedication and perseverance. It is easy to begin a sport or anything else and… quit. But if we, as parents, encourage the kids to stick with a sport they will learn that whatever they do and work hard at will become a habit and great things happen when we persevere.
With these said, I think that I should “push” my kids to learn tennis and they should learn from my knowledge to become as good tennis players as they can be. I am sure that whether they will decide to stick with tennis or not, the skills they will learn from practicing and persevering in tennis will help them in life later on too. And I am sure of one thing: my kids will not tell me “Hey Dad, how come you did not teach us tennis?” As I do this, I want to make sure that my kids learn a foreign language, play piano (or guitar), take self-defence classes and take dance lessons too. Everything else… is up to them.
I would love your opinion on this. Please share this article and contribute with your feedback… Thanks!