Since N started playing tennis matches I’ve been really impressed with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). Ok, so their website is really slow, but there’s lots of information, and their customer service has been great when I’ve had problems. They really want to ensure players (and parents) have the support they need to help guide them through the levels in tennis.
N started playing in mini red as so many children do. This goes from age 5 (with tots before that who want to start earlier) up to age 8. He started playing team tennis at 7 for his last year in mini red, although many different clubs start heir players in matches earlier. Now he’s in mini orange we don’t have a team because they need 4 players and we don’t have enough who want to play matches, who are available and dedicated every week.
So the only option at the moment is playing individually in tournaments. Now is the stage where it gets a lot more competitive – many children playing in these are really competitive. They get points and then rankings if they’re playing grade 5 or higher, and often they play in county squads or at least for county training. Without playing matches, there’s a danger, they lose the match play skills, and drop further behind.
We do have local fun matchplays, but you get a narrower level of abilities and it’s often the same people turning up. So although N has been put off playing in other tournaments, he’s going to need to bite the bullet and find some lower level tournaments to play in where there’s a more friendly ethos than the really competitive ones.
Parents in tennis
For parents who haven’t played tennis juniors themselves, or for those who’ve played but have realised things are different when it’s your child’s time and ability you’re invested in, there’s so much to learn.
At mini red, parents tend to get nvolved with matches. Parents generally do the scoring, they support the team, and encourage fun and continuation of tennis.
Moving up to orange level is the first step into independence of play. Children are having to do the scoring themselves, ruling on line calls, and remembering to focus on their game. As 8-9 year olds who are playing tennis more for fun than always to win, it’s hard when you’re playing opponents who’ve got lots more experience. Parents need to step up and support their children in the right way.
N isn’t mega competitive, although he obviously wants to (and likes to) win. I do try and focus on the trying hard and enjoyment aspect because there’s plenty of children who are better tennis players than him. I want him to enjoy tennis for life not be put off by losing, and for him to want to improve and try hard to do that.
The LTA want children to continue to play. How else are they going to get their next Andy Murray, Johanna Konta and Jack Draper of the future?
While I’ve found lots of information about rules and regulations in the different mini tennis stages, I spotted a parents in tennis training session I could sign up for. I signed up for the webinar not really knowing what it would include.
Parents in tennis webinar
Run with Loughborough University, the webinar was interactive with tasks to feed back on and give our thoughts. There was also a quiz before for the parent and child to do, which you then repeated after the webinar, and again a few months later. We didn’t get this done in time to submit our answers, but it was good to hear how N felt I acted and spoke before matches, and how he felt about playing tennis. It was reassuring his answers were as I’d hoped.
The session covered:
- Psychology of tennis – it’s an individual sport where you either win or lose. Unlike other sports where you can lose but still gain personal bests like athletics or swimming, tennis you just lose.
- How you can avoid just the competitive aspect, and bring in a focus on improvement and enjoyment.
- Introducing targets and goals for matches so it’s not just about winning (or losing).
We were asked to look at different instances before, during and after matches, and think about what we would say to our children, what actions we’d take, etiquette, sportsmanship etc. Then the workshop lead would show us good examples, and we had to give our opinions on statements and conversations so we could understand what works and what wouldn’t. They had findings from tennis children themselves saying what they would like parents to do/not do as well.
It was really well thought out and helpful. Although a lot of the points are what I would already do ahead of matches, and would try to do afterwards, it was a great way to think of other things to say and do that could be better for N, and other children.
I think it was a workshop that all parents of children in sport should have available to them. I don’t know if other sports bodies run similar workshops or training. But if your children play sport and are at least half serious about it and playing matches, look out for anything on offer from coaches or membership bodies. A work colleague has 3 children who are excellent at swimming and she’s not come across anything on offer to parents in that sport.
Useful parents in sport resources
If you’ve not come across anything, there are a couple of useful websites: Parents in sport and the NSPCC child protection in sport unit. Both have a lot of information and support for parents with children playing sports.
Hopefully my doing this webinar will help me support N in any matches he plays, as well as his friends if I’m the parent taking them to matches.
Have you come across any similar workshops that could be useful?