July 28th, 2014

Tennis Parents are the Key To Success, and Most are Doing a Poor Job


In the tennis triangle  (coach, kid, parent), two of the three parts know their job, but the parent does not, that is the weakest link in the path for a child.

The parents make the first mistake by hiring the wrong coach. The problem is they don’t know he/she is bad and also don’t learn or spend the time to know if he/she is bad (by the way the majority of you will hire bad coaches and waste time in the process) . Then the poor kid enters a cycle in which, if lucky, you get a great coach, if not you get a coach who  likes to win a  lot or is pressured to win.

In my opinion a good coach understands the basic path for a tennis kid. The athlete comes before the tennis player. What this  means is the good coach encourages the athlete to be — to spend more time developing the athlete (that means less tennis lessons)  so he can be a better tennis player. The bad coaches that encourage 5-6 days practices and only are selling hype. Parents don’t know they are being sold hype and buy more hype, not helping the kid.

Then the parents also fail to understand this basic concept, kids love to compete, parents love to compare, so in this second huge error the parents create the “compare” mentality which of course hurts the child. Then, little Jon is comparing himself, and excluding and including others at his ill-perceived level of play. Parents, you well know there is always someone better than you.

The main rule for tennis is very simple: “If its not fun, don’t play.”

But, parents fail to understand this as well and take the FUN out of playing. Why do you do that? Then the errors continue as the parents never bother to explain to the kids that tennis is a horrible business and feeds dreams that will not happen. I am not saying don’t encourage a dream, I am saying “Stop feeding the idea that they will be winning an Oscar, and spending money as if were going to happen,” because I can tell you most likely they will not be holding an Oscar anytime soon, no matter how much money you have.

The worst mistake parents make is to pay for everything — new racquets, new shoes, academy lessons, trips to Spain etc. This failure to understand that the secret sauce in tennis is “hunger” and the parents do everything to make sure the kids never feel the need to be hungry (for something). Feeling hungry for something is what makes you search for a light of opportunity, for you to understand what you have and what you don’t and how bad you want something. It is the trigger to self analyze how bad you want to work or what other ways you will find to reach your defined dreams.

There are multiple examples of this in today’s pros. If you disagree with me that is perfectly fine, but at least,  please take this one concept from reading these few lines, and ask yourselves: “Are you making them feel hungry for something?” If not, FIX IT NOW.

Then, another gigantic mistake parents make is take them out of school, thinking that’s the way to get more practice. Big mistake. If I told you that none of your kids will be pros, you then hurt the child even more as he will be an uneducated 20 year old, with very little chance of becoming a high-earning individual in a more and more educated marketplace. We all want for our kids happiness and having a high-earning potential helps a lot.

The last big mistake parents make is  hiring these big-name academy coaches, shelling out $250-$800/hr. for learning a forehand. Are you serious? An iPad Mini per class? Come on. What are you buying?

If your kid is any good, you as a parent will have made the right choices for them, for his coach and for your own money, and all those involved will have made tennis fun. How many of you reading this can say you are not making those mistakes?

Tennis is a game, and we play games to have fun. Parents please educate yourselves and learn that it is you who are making the biggest mistake in your kids tennis journey. Therefore it is you who can  make the biggest contribution to his/her tennis, and to tennis in the USA. Wake up! And help your own kid and American tennis in the process. Thank you! jpalenque@yahoo.com; @palenquej