Photo Credit to: Ella Ling
Exclusive tips from Roger Federer’s mother Lynette on ‘How to be a tennis parent’. Click here for information on the Roger Federer Foundation.
It’s important that the child enjoys the game and isn’t forced into it. “I believe a child chooses tennis because he or she is attracted and fascinated by the sport, and that could be through the parents, friends or family.”
Discipline is part of the game. “If a child wants to play tennis, then it means he or she has to go to practice and play matches and to behave properly at practice and during matches. This is not always an easy task as emotions play a big role, influencing behaviour and results. If your child isn’t behaving properly, I would not intervene during practise, but discuss it with the coach and see why the child does not behave on court during practice or a match. Bad behaviour during practice can also be a result of a lack of interest, poor tennis coaching, or a child having a bad day at school or at home. I would also speak to the child about his or her behaviour. In Roger’s case, when his behaviour was poor during a match, I told him he was inviting or asking his opponent to beat him.”
Parents should go with the flow, and not be too ambitious for their child. “The progress of a child can differ in the same age group – due to size, maturity and other factors – thus some children are inclined to progress faster than others in the beginning of their junior career and will later be surpassed by those who were weaker at an earlier age. I believe parents should not be too ambitious for their child. Our role as a parent of a junior is to ensure they attend their practice (though not to stand behind the fence all the time), accompany them to their matches, motivate the child and comfort the child when necessary and most, importantly of all, to ensure that the child enjoys the game, and not to put pressure on the child in any way.”
A child can start playing tennis from the age of three or four in a playful manner. “Roger started at that age of three because my husband and I spent weekends at the tennis club and he just picked up the racket and loved playing against the wall, at home against the cupboard. Whenever he could we played on court with him. He could play for hours by himself. Later he played with friends on the road with a mini-tennis net and a soft ball.”
It’s not easy to say how you can help your child find the right coach. “We were very fortunate that we have a good system in Switzerland. If a child was talented they were selected with the best of their age group and had good regional coaches. We were also lucky to have very good coaches in our local club.”
I do believe a parent plays a very important part in the success of a junior. “Without the support and guidance of a parent it will be difficult for a junior to succeed.“
These are the worst mistakes you can make as a tennis parent: to force the child to play, and to intervene too much.
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