When doing sports psychology coaching for tennis juniors, I work closely with my students’ parents. Why? I want my tennis students’ parents to understand the mental game of tennis and how they can help tennis juniors’ confidence, not take it away.
Tennis parents need to understand sports psychology too! Tennis parents of junior tournament players can get in the way of the mental training process sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, tennis parents have the best intentions for their juniors and really want to help.
However, tennis parents’ high expectations for their kids can make kids feel too much pressure. For example, parents might impart their own expectations on their kids, in an effort to boost confidence.
When doing tennis psychology with my students, I try to help the tennis parents and players realize that very high expectations can backfire and cause kids to feel more pressure. You expectations for tennis kids don’t build confidence! In fact, the opposite happens….
You want tennis juniors to play with confidence. However, expectations cause tennis players to feel like they are failing when they do not perform up to their own standards.
When I work with my young players and tennis parents, I make sure they understand how these two concepts differ and help them realize expectations that undermine their performance, and eventually confidence.
Tennis parents want to be supportive, but will say stuff that kids interpret as expectations. You as a parent with good intentions might say, “You should get to the finals today – and beat Lisa.”
I know what you are thinking… This sounds like what a good tennis parents would say to support a tennis junior’s confidence, right? Be careful as this approach can backfire. Your statements are often interpreted by tennis juniors in ways parents don’t realize.
In this case, your tennis player internalizes high expectations from you and now she might become worried about losing and disappointing you! She may feel more pressure to play in the final match and focus too much on results instead of playing one point at a time.
This is why tennis parents must understand my goals when working with players on sports psychology strategies for tennis… I want you to teach kids the same mental game of tennis lessons that I teach my students.
Note: Dr. Patrick Cohn is co-founder of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, “Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes.”