As a parent, there are few things as rewarding as watching your children conquer new challenges, try new things or improve in a sport or hobby that they’re excited about. Many of us choose to become coaches in order to play a more active role in this kind of development, but you don’t have to be the one wearing the whistle and holding a clipboard to take a more active role in your young athlete’s training. Nor do you have to be a tennis pro to give constructive feedback after a tough match.
It’s natural to want to be more involved—you are your child’s biggest fan, after all. While enthusiasm and encouragement are a good place to start, we’ve got a few pointers to help you help your child be the best athlete they can be while still enjoying a sport they’re learning to love.
Help them outline goals
At the beginning of each month, sit down with your child and ask them how they’d like to improve. Help them break down broad goals (I want to become a better player or win more matches) into smaller, more measurable steps (I want to successfully complete five overhand serves in a row or hit a cross-court shot with my non-dominant hand, for example).
Ask them to show you what they’ve learned
After each practice, ask them to demonstrate new skills—footwork, grips, proper serving form, etc. Asking your child to play the teacher and reiterate new skills helps them better commit them to memory and gives them a sense of accomplishment as they work toward mastering basics.
Play with them
Take advantage of any access to public courts or open play time you might have. Even if your tennis knowledge and ability is limited, being out on a court and getting a simple rally going will allow your young athlete to work on the skills they’ve learned in practice. It’s a great opportunity to ask them to show you their new skills and keep them engaged in the sport outside of practice—just be sure to keep it fun and friendly. There’s no need to put unnecessary pressure on budding athletes when they’re still getting the hand of things. It’s important that you don’t take on a coaching role (even if you do have a coaching experience) in these situations, because it can quickly change from a fun, bonding experience to a tense and annoying one.
Be an active listener when they’re frustrated
It’s easy to brush our children off when they’re just starting to learn a new sport and are feeling frustrated. We can tell them to “just keep at it,” or we can ask them why they’re feeling defeated, remind them that everyone feels this way at some point and ask what they think they can do to improve.
When giving feedback after the match, start only with what they’re doing well
If your child has just had a tough match or practice, pointing out the obvious will only make them feel more discouraged. Find at least one thing—their hustle, composure, sportsmanship—that they did well, and then ask what they’d like to work on for next time. Deciding to refrain from corrective criticism immediately after the match will save you a lot of headaches. When their emotions are already running high, listening to a lecture on what they can do better will only further frustrate your young athlete. Wait a few hours to give productive feedback so you can be sure that your child is emotionally ready to hear it.
Make time to learn about the sport
If you’ve never played or watched tennis before or only have a cursory knowledge of the sport, it’s not a bad idea to do some research of your own. You’ll have a better idea of what’s going on during matches and will be more equipped to provide constructive feedback. Make it a family activity—keep an eye out for professional matches and major tournaments and tune in with your young athlete.
Practice clear, respectful communication with coaches
Your child’s coaches are on the frontline of their training and development. If you have questions about helping your child improve or how you can give them better feedback, ask their coach if they have a moment to discuss your child’s progress. That way, they can provide you with resources and make time to have a productive discussion that doesn’t interfere with dedicated practice or play time.
Celebrate the little things
Big wins and tournament victories are great, but at ROGace, we put a lot of emphasis on mastering skills one at a time. We know that each building block is a learning experience—a chance to grow and improve. As you make a conscious effort to track your child’s progress through each level of play, get excited when they tackle an obstacle or reach a milestone. Encouraging them to be proud of themselves will help them build confidence they need to work hard and improve.
Stay in touch with ROGace
Take advantage of our Parent Portal for updates and stay in touch with us on Facebook and Instagram for tips and advice. We try our best to make it easy for you to stay engaged and informed so you can be as present and supportive as possible.