"What, When, How" Dealing with the parent and player conversations.
The tennis match has ended. Your child played very well in the game and they won the match in style.
The comments you make are very positive and you sound very happy with the world.
“You played so well today. I have never seen you hit the ball as good as that! Carry on like this and you can win the tournament”
Round 2 just an hour later…..The child lost 6-1 6-2 to a player of a lower rating. The match was poor in playing standard, but the losing player was almost a completely different person than when he played his first round win earlier in the day.
The parent’s response this time has altered quite significantly, “Well that was a load of rubbish! You were so bad I could not believe It. What the hell was you doing?
It was so embarrassing to lose to that player, their rating is not as good as yours”
It seems the conundrum is set. If you play well and you get praise, if you play badly and you get slated.
The best option to all of this is to ask your child questions instead trying to formulate what they themselves are thinking. Instead of going fully loaded into a tirade of comments as if you are an expert tennis pundit on TV.
Questions could include:
“How do you think the match went there?”
“What was working for you in the game?”
“What would you do different next time?”
All open questions, all invoking replies requiring some thought from the player.
But make sure these questions are not straight after the match, win or lose. Let their thought process go through the match in their own time. As a parent do you have the skills to wait for them to bring up the match for discussion? Or are you to eager to make your point as quickly as possible?
There have been many times when I have run a ratings tournament where I have said in a general comment to a group of parents about What they say to their child, When, they choose to say it to them and indeed How they put their point across to them. The parents turn around to me and say, “Yes I know some parents are terrible the way they talk to their children”, I am left pondering the point that it was that very parent I was referring to in my comment!
So What is it you are going to say to them? Is it a positive comment or a negative one? Do they need you to say it at all? When are you going to say it to them, straight after the match, in the evening, tomorrow or next time on court?
How are you going to deliver your comments, in question form, or explain your point of view first? THINK before you SPEAK and your child will understand things so much better.
Fundamentally tennis is a game. You need to love it if you want to play it your whole life, so being chastised every time you lose or play badly is not going to lengthen your career in the game and neither will it improve your level of play in the long run.