Shouting through the windscreen

What is the role of spectators at a tennis match? What is appropriate and inappropriate?

I just returned from a trip to Vegas with 6 players and one other coach.  The parents stayed back home for this one.  I witnessed some very typical and disturbing behavior from the spectators.  The unwritten rule is that we are all to clap and cheer only on a winning shot.  Spectators are not supposed to say anything when the other guy double faults or dumps that forehand in the bottom of the net, right?  Ok, that's the easy part, but we have some other issues to explore here.

How many times have you seen it where parents and coaches interfere?  In my opinion, a spectator should never be involved in the match under any circumstances.  Even in the boys and girls 12's.  How are we supposed to help produce intelligent, thoughtful kids able to make their own decisions if we always help them out?  Kids need to learn to problem solve and communicate on their own.  That is one of the good things about our great sport.  We are alone out there in singles play and we must do it all ourselves.  If two players disagree on the score and get it completely wrong, and everyone watching knows the correct score, don't say a word!  Let the kids figure it out.  They will talk it out.  Actually, they will look to mom and dad for help if mom and dad constantly interfere with the maturation process.  

This sort of reminds me of the parents (and coaches) who carry their kids bags for them and check them in (for them) at the tournament desk.  I would never do that even if my kid was 7 years old and the bag weighed 50 pounds.  What kind of "life skills" will that help with if we are doing everything for our players and kids?  Players need to manage their own matches, period.

On this trip I witnessed a father yelling at his kid to drink water.  The same father yelling at his kid after splitting sets when 10 minutes of coaching is allowed.  I witnessed 3 separate incidents of parents helping out with a score dispute.  I witnessed 4 separate incidents of parents yelling at the other player for what they thought was a bad call against their kid.  I'm sure that parent had a perfect view of that 80 mph shot that was on the far singles line from the parents view.  It's up to players to learn how to say "are you sure" and go through the process of questioning and possibly getting a line judge.

Tennis is unique.  It's emotionally, mentally, and physically draining for kids.  We don't need to add to it as observers.  Remember, we are so close to the action as parents and coaches.  It's nearly impossible (apparently) to stay normal and uninvolved.  Step away from the court a few paces.  If your kid plays golf (or any other sport) you're much further from the action and less likely to get too involved emotionally.  If your player is on the 14th fairway, you're probably not right next to the action like in tennis.  Let the kids do it themselves and have fun.

Oh, one more thing.  When your player loses, try to explain to them that they play to get better and have fun.  They are not paid to win like the pros.  It's a fun learning process or this is all pointless.  Please remember that the majority of kids that I coach tell me that the car ride home is the worst part of the tournament experience.  The verbal bashing from mom and dad (and sometimes coaches) can be relentless on that dreaded car ride back home.

Adults are the only thing standing in the way of a fun and enjoyable experience at a junior tennis tournament...

Category: parent responsibilities

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