This week I interviewed a parent who has two kids who love to play tennis. I have known her for quite a few years now and while I was learning how to be a tennis coach I thought that it would be a good idea to talk to her to gain some perspective. Now it’s been some time since then, and I have learned quite a few things since. I found out that a lot of parents go through the same things and have the same concerns regardless of what level their kids are. For this reason, I decided to do a more formal interview and post it to the blog to show that creating a great tennis player is hard, but if done right is worth it. So without further ado below is the interview.
H: How did your kids get into tennis?
G: “I took them to lessons when they were young.”
H: That’s awesome. So they decided to stick with it?
G: “So they took lessons once a week. They didn’t really play much and then at one point at the end of 6th-grade one said she wanted to play tennis more seriously.
H: Wow so how long have they been playing seriously now?
G: My daughter has been playing seriously for about five years and my son for four now
H: How long did it take you to settle on a coach?
G: “My daughter had been with two coaches before and had one main coach until she said she wanted to be more serious. Then I knew that I had to find someone else.”
H: How long did it take you to find a someone that you really like?
G: “Well I really lucked out because at the end of 6th grade I was looking for something and was looking at a few programs and I almost settled on someone. But, without going through the details, he got upset, and we had it out. I was training at a personal training gym, and the owner said you know if you ever want me to take a look at your kids [tennis] I’d be happy to. So we went to see him for an hour lesson, and I just knew right then. My daughter was picking things up you know, and they clicked, so I knew he was the right person.
H: So you’ve been with this coach for almost five years now?
G: “Almost five yea.”
H: Wow that’s great! Now my questions are going to get a little bit harder. How involved have you been in your child’s tennis? Do you just drop them off and let them do their own thing or do you actively try to push them to get them to do more?
G: “When I first started with their previous coach I just dropped them off. Then I realize that with their first coach, to much time was spent with my kids picking up the balls and the coach on his phone, so then I started showing up to all their lessons. However, I didn’t have that problem their current coach but still like to be on the court when I can”
H: You’re absolutely right. A lot of time is lost picking up balls and coaches can sometimes use it as a time waster. It’s funny how that’s what made you more interactive as a parent. So once your kids came to you and said they wanted to be more serious with tennis have you taken more of a backseat waiting for them to ask for more? Or have you been pushier trying to get them to keep going?
G: “I ended up giving them whatever they wanted, which I don’t know if that was a mistake or not. My daughter, as many people have told me is a gifted athlete, so I’ve tried to push her but she in her wisdom decided a couple of years ago that she didn’t want to play in college and that she liked being on the high school team and she doesn’t want to work that hard [to play college] it’s not in her”
H: Nothing wrong with that. My next question is how has tennis really changed your kids? Do you think it has changed them much, if at all, for the better or for the worse?
G: “First, I think it’s kept them occupied and active in a very positive way. My daughter I think has gotten a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment out of being on the high school team. She unfortunately never got far enough for this to be a great life experience. You know she hasn’t learned to fail, to work, and to win, and to be really good at it.
H: As your kids started to get serious about tennis, what is it that you wanted them to get out of it?
G: “I wanted this to be a good life experience for them, as a role model for other things that they would do in life. So I wanted it to be an experience where if they work hard enough at something then they can succeed and that there are blips along the way. There are lots of things involved [in tennis] it’s not just athleticism it’s about sportsmanship, camaraderie and being on a team and getting along with others, and knowing yourself and also prioritizing things in your life. My kids have been more conscious about their health, about what they eat and what they put in their bodies and how they treat their bodies.
H: What has been the hardest part about watching your kids try to get better at tennis?
G: “Well I think as a parent you take responsibility for everything that happens to your child. So for my son, who now is very serious, I think about what I can do to make his experience better than my daughters. I know that they’re different kids, and that’s one thing, but I also know that there are probably things that I can do to help him because I understand the sport better and I understand how things work better at this point.”
H: If you had the chance to give your former self advice just as your kids were getting into tennis, what advice would that be?
G: “I would say to speak to as many tennis parents as possible because I find that everyone has different points of views and perspectives and it’s important to hear all of them. Then take all that information and try to adjust it to your specific child.”
H: That’s great advice. Do you think you would have your kids do tennis again? Or do you think you would try to push your kids into a different sport?
G: “I’ve never really pushed them so I would let them pursue whatever sport they were interested in. But I do recognize that tennis is a tough sport, and that’s part of the reason why my daughter had backed off of it. You know it’s one of these sports where you have to practice all year long, and it’s only yourself, and you can’t just be on a team and get to play the game, so it’s tough. And it’s also very competitive. I think there are lots of tennis players out there. There’s a term you pay to play, and it happens to be true for this sport.”
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