July 18th, 2014

Why I Want my Kid to Lose in Tennis


Guest blogger Javier Palenque of Miami writes for www.TennisConsult.com – “Tennis blog. Advice from tennis coaches and experts.” He is also the father of “a talented 10 year old,” and blogs advice on “how to find a good tennis coach, a tennis academy and develop a great tennis player.”


heninA couple of months ago, a fellow parent and I were sitting at a final in a 12U tournament. As the match started and was getting intense, the two competing parents were cheering for their loved one.

Each obviously wanting their kid to win the match. Then, as I saw one of the dad’s cheering and being completely immersed in the outcome of the match, I asked the dad a curveball question:

“Why do you want him to win? He learns less if he does,” I said…

This threw the dad off, and he said, “Well, the points, the trophy, winning, etc.”

Nothing that matters much, I thought.

Then I said, “If it were my student, I actually would like him to lose.”

“Why would you want that?” he said.

For one, if he loses, assuming a valiant effort, we will know exactly what areas of his tennis needs work — whether it’s the footwork, the follow through, the mental aspect, or any combination of them, etc. Then, we would also know how much difference there actually is in the perceived skill and the needed skill to be winning higher-level tournaments.

Also, I said, if he loses, and if the loss is properly focused, the kid will be more willing to learn, and listen to avoid another loss. Probably even changing old bad patterns or habits. The feedback from a loss would make the coaches job easier. None of this would happen with the level of attention needed if the boy had won. All the attention would have been focused on the outcome, and since it was positive, very little effort would have been placed on what needed to be documented to improve.

As parents and coaches, we focus on winning, and every weekend we can see countless matches in which it seems the only objective is to win. My take on tennis at this particular stage (12U) is that winning matters very little, and the sooner we focus on improving, the sooner the actual real winning will occur.

Unfortunately, we all fall trapped in the common belief that winning is better. Tennis is a tough sport to master, it takes time and an inordinate amount of dedication and feedback. There is no better feedback than losing, assuming its documented. Most likely if you win, one would probably disregard any documentation and lose valuable time in the process. The parents would be happy, the coaches pleased and the kid confident. It seems better. My belief is that at this age, losing is more valuable than winning.

Next time your kid is in a tough match and the outcome is yet to be determined, ask yourself: can you really teach him more if he wins than if he lost? Then, as you answer this question honestly, you will realize that maybe as a parent or coach, you were too focused on the outcome and not the process, and maybe a refocusing on the value of the process will occur, and the kid will be better off even though he lost. Maybe.

I am sure we all have different opinions — in our case, our losses have become almost turning points in going to the next level, and my experience has been that we are jumping levels very fast.

It is just a thought, thats all..