“Hey mom can you take me to the court and feed balls for me?”
Are you kidding me? Did my son actually ask me to go on the court with him to help him practice? Not that long ago he would have thought it the most embarrassing and useless activity in the world to have his mom on the court with him…and now he is actually asking me. What has become of my son?
It has been almost two years since I have had much to do with his tennis other than being the ever encouraging mom. Coaching and practicing has been left up to paid coaches or the school coach. Mom backed off to be a mom and let the coaches coach. Now my young man has invited me onto the court with him and there is no way I am going to miss this opportunity.
“Do you really want me to help you?” I asked filled with great pride and expectation.
“Well I want you to feed me balls, you don’t need to say anything.”
So maybe things aren’t so different but at least I can have a little hand in his tennis. Now it is up to me to keep my mouth shut and make the most out of this opportunity. If I ever want to be invited back again I can’t blow this.
I must say it is much harder than I thought to watch and not speak. Is he bending his knees enough…is he staying down…is he taking the ball early enough…no. Can I say anything….NO! Just keep feeding the balls and let him work it out. After all the years of tennis lessons these are things he knows and I don’t have to tell him. Do you tell your child to remember to pedal when he’s on his bike?
After an hour or so we collect the balls after emptying another cart of inside out forehands. I can’t tell you how enjoyable it was to be on the court with him again. Instead of talking tennis we talked about how his first year of college went, how his summer job was going and reminisced about old times traveling to tournaments. It might just be one of my best tennis moments yet.
After all the balls were picked up and the rackets put back in the bag we headed out off the court.
“I can live with that” he says, “after not hitting the ball for a month I didn’t do too badly. You know, it’s not like you forget how to play tennis you just need to get your timing down again.”
“Haven’t I told you that all along?” I respond
“Yeah, but apparently I couldn’t figure that out as a junior player. Do you know how much better I would have been in the juniors if I could have just wrapped my head around the fact that you don’t forget how to play tennis overnight. You hit one bad shot and suddenly you decide you don’t know how to hit a forehand or you can’t serve. I was a total head case in my juniors.”
I couldn’t have agreed with him more. The difference between the good and the great players is usually the maturity and confidence the player has in their game, the belief they have in their ability to play, the comfort they feel in their strokes.
So as a tennis parent how can we help our kids to become the best player they can be? We can encourage them to believe in themselves and help them to mature. Allow them to take the responsibility for themselves and their game. Encourage positive behavior and discourage the immature behavior. Most importantly watch your own behavior and your words.
If you tell them their forehand stinks or they had no backhand during the match, if you count their double faults or inform them of how many unforced errors they made during the match you are not helping them to build confidence in their game. Am I saying that everything needs to be sugar plums and fairies? Absolutely not. I am saying watch your words, be honest and be encouraging. Don’t lie, but remember sometimes saying nothing is an acceptable conversation.