The first high school tennis match is over. My son walks off the court and I congratulate him on the match.
“We lost,” he responds.
“I know, it was still a good match. You where down 1-5 and came back to 4-6″ I reply.
“Ya, I was able to fix my serve, and I realized the guys serve was really predictable so the return got easier. I hit a lot of volleys long, I kept moving through them, I need to work on that.”
Wow, my fourteen year old just analyzed his tennis match and set up a plan to improve his play for the next match, amazing.
This scene would not have played the same if my reaction to his match had been different. Imagine the response if he came off the court and I commented on the fact that he had five double faults in his first two games, and he lost two game points on missed volleys. He would have become defensive and he would start making excuses for his game instead of owning it. Trust me I know, remember I am the “Crazy tennis mom.” I am speaking from experience.
With my older son I had the uncontrollable need to provide “constructive criticism” the moment he walked off the court. The scene never played well. He was neither emotionally or physically ready to hear any critique of his game. He became irritated and defensive and usually we ended up arguing or not speaking to each other. Neither option leading to a healthy parent-child relationship. It was this realization that lead us to our thirty-minute of silence rule.
What I know now, is that by analyzing the match for my children, they did not have to do it for themselves. I never gave them the chance to think for themselves about their game. Why bother, mom will do it for me. Knowing the problem with your game after the tennis match is not very useful. They need to figure it out while they are on the court and can make the necessary adjustments.
It is our natural instinct to parent and look after our children that can stand in the way of their progress. We are not trying to be the “crazy tennis parent” we are just trying to be a parent. We want to help and fix things for our kids, we don’t want to see them struggle or fail. We need to fight these instincts. The best way to help is to teach them to think for themselves. The ability to analyze and adjust on the fly is what will take them from good to great. When your junior tennis player can come off the court and tell you what they did well, what adjustments they made and what they still need to work on, you know you have been a good tennis parent.
Don’t get me wrong, later in the evening I did have a conversation with my son about some of the things he needs to work on. He is still learning after all. But the key is, we had a conversation. We didn’t argue, we both spoke, we both listened, and we both learned. I will support him, the coach will teach him, and he will do his best. You can’t really ask for more.