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Excerpted from "Competitive Junior Tennis"
(All Rights Reserved, Pros Inc. 1991 ©)
Chapter #7 - Roles of Parents, Child, & Coach
Every good player has a strong support system. And there are two pillars to this support system. One is the Coach and one is the Parent, and they serve two separate and distinct roles. These roles should not be mixed by either party. In other words, it's just as bad for a Coach to do parenting as it is for a Parent to do the coaching.
The Parent provides resources, time, and emotional support. Resources means the money for instruction, travel, and equipment. Time means the time it takes to set up lessons, practices, travel, etc. Emotional support is the most important, however. Celebration, basking, even bragging, is the fun part of victories. Overcoming obstacles and meeting challenges are things that you can share in with your child.
Being a gracious winner and taking pride in a job well done are aspects of Competitive Junior Tennis that are oh, so, sweet. The losing part and the failing part are the places where your child needs you the most! A parent who is understanding, sensitive, not too critical, inspiring the beaten child to "keep going on," are priceless moments and crucial. This is where parents do what Coaches cannot do. This is your specialty. Just being there while your child is crying is all the support that's necessary. When the child has failed on the court he must know with a certainty that he hasn't failed in his parents eyes.
The second pillar of support is the Coach. He does the lesson planning and should recommend practice routines. He should approve the tournament schedule and advise the best equipment for your particular child. He should also measure the attainability of the goals that your child has set out for himself. And remember, it's your child's career.
Neither parents nor coaches should initially set goals. Allow the child to set the goals, both a short term goal (meaning that year) and a long term goal (two or three years out). Write the goals down and pin them on the bedroom wall. Look at the goals at the end of the year and see how close you came.
At first your child will be pretty bad at setting- goals. He might underestimate or overestimate his ability to improve. But as each year goes by he will get better and better at it. After the child writes his goals down, have the Coach write down underneath what he thinks the child is capable of achieving. After all, everybody is entitled to their opinion!
For instance if your child's short term goal is to be ranked in the top 20, the parent and the coach should accept that with the "caveat" that that goal will take more time and effort than the child has been putting in. The Coach may then write down "top 40." The parent may write down "top 10." The coach should be the most accurate estimator at the end of the year. It's possible that all three guesses may be similar, that's okay, it's neither good nor bad. It's the process that's fun and gives the Coach and the player a chance to work towards something, a point of reference to aspire towards.
I had a top local junior who wrote down "National top 25" as one of his goals. His parents kept artificially pumping him up telling him how great he was, trying to pack in lots of "positive reinforcement." But I knew the kid was lazy, even though he had talent, so I wrote down, "you're dreaming, #100, if that." All year I kept imploring the him to work harder, work harder, but he kept working at his normal lazy pace, and his parents kept telling him how great he was. The rankings came out and he was #105! That next year the child sat down with me and discussed exactly how hard he would have to work to attain certain rankings. His parents' opinion of his game was not as important to him as much as knowing what he could attain in relation to the amount of work he was willing to put in.
Chapter #8 - Setting Goals
Setting- goals and attaining goals builds confidence. Attaining goals leads to better execution, and better execution leads to winning more matches. Winning more matches builds confidence. There is a big difference between conceit and confidence. Confidence is an attitude built on the reality of execution. Conceit is an attitude built on the unreality of fantasy.* The way to better execution and the way to attaining goals, is ....
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* ESPN.com's "Quote of The Week" - 5/16/2000
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