One of the toughest parts of being a tennis parent is experiencing those inevitable times when your child loses a tennis match. Seeing your child in pain after a loss is very difficult, especially when you know how much time and hard work they've invested into improving their tennis game. As a parent, your first instinct is to do whatever you can to help ease their pain, but how exactly do you go about doing this? Below are some ways that you can provide some much-needed encouragement, consolation and perspective to help your kid deal with their tennis losses.
- Before you do anything else, pause and think about what's actually happening at the moment. Your child just lost a match, and their emotions are probably running high, because let's face it--losing doesn't feel good. This means that the moment they step off the court, they're probably going to be a little emotionally fragile. They're trying to sort out feelings of frustration, disappointment, self-doubt, etc., and more than likely they're going to feel like they've let you down as well. At a time like this, do your best to empathize with what your child is going through. Try to put yourself in your their shoes, and be willing to absorb the feelings of the moment with them. Let them know that their feelings are perfectly normal and valid. Something as simple as "I know it feels rough right now, and I'm sorry" can go a long way.
- Some kids will want to discuss the loss immediately, while others would rather have some quiet time to think and process everything first; either way, do your best to be supportive, and be willing to go at their pace in terms of post-match conversation. Give them a hug and tell them you love them. They should be reassured that their self-worth is not wrapped up in their tennis performance, and that you're there for them, regardless of whether they win or lose.
- Point out to them that the reason why they feel so bad is not so much because they lost, but because they care that they lost, and that caring is actually a very honorable and important thing. It shows that they're engaged in what they're doing, and that they're not just phoning it in or being half-hearted about their tennis aspirations.
- Remind them that tennis, as strange as it may sound, is largely a game of losses. No matter what size or type of tournament you play in, there will always be only one winner; that basically means that everyone else goes home with a loss. Professional players lose all the time! If you were to visit the players' dining room of any professional tennis tournament, you might be surprised to see players joking, laughing, loving on their families, and hanging out with friends, all after taking losses on the court. The point is that life goes on after you lose a tennis match.
- Help them develop the habit of analyzing their game (after the emotions have died down, of course), so that they can learn from things that they may have done wrong. Perhaps their second serve wasn't as crisp as it needed to be, or maybe their two-handed backhand shots could have been more accurate. Of course, any pointers regarding tennis-specific techniques and strategies will probably be covered by their coach later, but many times giving them the opportunity to talk it out informally can help them process the loss and gain some insight into what they can do better next time.
- Remind your child that even in a loss, there are certain things they can gain from the match. Maybe they made it to the third round this week. Maybe their forehand was sharper this time than in previous matches. Perhaps they had an opportunity to face off against a high-caliber player, which will only make them better in the long run. Teach them to always look for the silver lining in every circumstance, because it's always there if you look hard enough.
Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes when it comes to helping your child deal with a tennis loss; it's going to hurt for a little while, but then they will move on and continue to improve. Your main job as a parent is to show your unwavering support, and help them maintain the proper attitude and perspective about the game they love. Keep the tips listed above in mind, but remember that if all else fails, a good round of ice cream can work wonders.