Exposing your kids to different activities and hobbies is great, but at some point, every parent feels the crunch of trying to manage a too-full schedule and often kids can feel the same. When spread too thin, it's impossible to give 100 percent to every activity, so there comes a time when you need to have The Talk: which activities are going to be the best use of time and energy, that will pay off in the long run? If tennis is a favorite, here are some tips for communicating with your child about their intentions regarding their future with the sport.
Gauge Your Child's Interest Level First
Before any talk of committing to more tennis lessons or traveling to tournaments, you have to first of all be sure that your child's interest in tennis goes significantly beyond a passing phase. They should demonstrate a genuine enjoyment of the game, as well as an eager willingness to play without being coaxed or steered into doing it.
You should also take some time to soberly assess your child's aptitude for tennis. This is admittedly difficult to do, because all of us as parents can be tempted to estimate our children's abilities with rose colored glasses on. Because of this tendency towards partiality, it's a good idea to seek an honest evaluation from a tennis coach in order to help you set more realistic goals for your child.
If your child is indeed demonstrating a solid aptitude for the game along with a passion for playing, you can then feel more comfortable with talking to him/her about possibly pursuing tennis on a competitive level, and not just as a hobby or casual recreation.
Guidance Without Pressure
Tennis history is replete with stories of parents behaving badly, and although many overly passionate tennis parents would claim that they're "only trying to help," they can do more harm than good if their actions aren't tempered with patience and selflessness. In your quest to be as supportive as you can for your child, make sure that you're able to encourage them in the direction of their goals without pressuring them.
While there's nothing wrong with providing guidance with firmness, be careful not to become overbearing to the point where tennis becomes a joyless drudgery for your child. If they become noticeably unmotivated to practice or play in matches on a regular basis, or if you no longer see that spark in their eyes, it may be time to reassess your approach.
Showing unconditional love and support for your child, regardless of on-court performance, is the most important thing you can do to keep them motivated and encouraged to continue developing as a tennis player.
Be Realistic About the Good, Bad and Ugly of Competitive Tennis
Your child may be very enthusiastic about the idea of playing tennis competitively, but he or she must be fully aware of all the time, sacrifice, commitment, hard work and discipline it's going to take to become a high-level player. Let them know that there will be emotional ups and downs, wins and losses and internal/external pressures that come along with playing competitive tennis.
While you don't want to come across as negative or pessimistic, you do need to be very honest and paint a realistic picture of the road that lies ahead if your child chooses to get serious about playing tennis. It will require a huge time commitment, and your child will have to be willing to sacrifice at least some of the activities that kids his/her age would normally do in order to spend more time on the court.
In addition, make them aware of the type of demands it will place on your schedule as well, in terms of taking them to regular practices, driving to tournaments, etc. This is not for the purpose of making them feel guilty, but just to let them know that their decision to pursue competitive tennis affects more than just them.
But don't forget about explaining the positive aspects as well! Not only will your child have a chance to meet new people and travel to new places, but they will also develop several important life skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives, including developing strategic and critical thinking, handling pressure, dealing with adversity, winning with humility and losing with grace.
Don't forget to let your child know that getting serious about tennis means there are excellent opportunities available for athletic scholarships, too. The prospect of being able to derive valuable benefits from doing something that they genuinely love will be a powerful motivator to keep them pushing towards the fulfillment of their goals.