Advice for Tennis Parent Newbies

advice

Recently, I posed a question on the ParentingAces Facebook Group: Experienced Tennis Parents, what’s your best piece of advice for those parents just starting out on their child’s Tennis Journey? For those of you NOT on Facebook, here is what some really experienced parents (and coaches) had to say . . .

  • Enjoy the journey with your child as time will fly fast. Remember that your child’s learning curve and the parent’s expectations is a process that’s should be reinforced with realistic goals. Always make the journey fun and memorable. – parent of 4-star D1 college player
  • Research and utilize an experienced and certified tennis professional to ensure your child develops proper technique right from the beginning. – parent of 4-star U12 player & Executive Director of Regional USPTA office
  • If the goal is to get to a very high level, be ready for the commitment necessary (lots of money and time). – parent of 3-star junior player
  • Find a good coach and let them enjoy it! – former WTA player and current coach
  • Enjoy the adventure. Losses don’t matter! Always another match. Never talk about the match right after the match. Let your child come to you and discuss. – parent of D1 college player
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be impatient or let your child get discouraged expecting winning results right away. With hard work they will come. 
  • 1) UTR is now the most important; rather than chase USTA points make sure you are playing UTR tournaments.
    2) Play pro circuit tournaments once your kid is say 16. Makes a much bigger impact on coaches.
    3) MAKE SURE you play doubles! With the changes in formats for points in conferences and divisions coming many now have players just for doubles and players for singles. And if not you can hurt a team by winning singles but losing doubles. Play doubles!
    4) Make sure your child plays Junior Team Tennis, JR World Team tennis, sectional team tennis and even school tennis (just make sure your school reports the records to https://tennisrecruiting.net and now to UTR!) – they need to learn how to be a team mate and a team player in College! The biggest reported problems for college coaches per the ITA coaches convention is players not being team mates and being all about me, my, mine and transferring because they feel they want to be on different team rather than trying o make it with the one they picked! – junior coach
  • Junior ITFs are good even if a High School player only plays 1-2 that are located a close drive from home. Even kids who have never played a junior ITF can usually get in Qualies for a grade 4 or 5 tournament, and if they play well, they can get in the Main Draw-lot less hoops to jump through than USTA. – parent of 5-star D1 player
  • *UTR is so important now, don’t have a HS kid play a tournament when they are sick or injured. We’ve all probably had the experience when we travel to a tourney, player is fine Friday night at sign in, and then wakes up Sat am with a bad cold. Might be a good idea to pull out singles and just play dubs. UTR holds players accountable for every game, not just if they win or lose. If a player plays with a cold or a minor injury, it will probably hurt him/her on UTR. – parent of 5-star D1 player
  • Find a mentor to explain the entire developmental pathway, how you can measure progress, what to look for regarding burnout and overtraining, and how to create a long-term plan for success. Know the path. – junior and professional coach
  • Front load your investment early to build a proper foundation technically. Saves you thousands in the end. Find a real developing coach not just someone who played at a decent level. A developer with a proven record and time to commit to your child. Make sure the developer includes you in the process. – junior coach
  • Play multiple sports. Don’t worry about results. Junior tennis means nothing. By the time the junior is in the 16s, if they’re going to be good enough they will be competing in open category tennis. Junior competitive tennis from top to bottom is a money making cartel that means absolutely nothing when you step into your first Futures event! Find the way to benefit most from a system that is not set up for your benefit. Take from it what works for you and don’t waste loads of money travelling the world in search of ranking points for a junior ranking that means absolutely nothing! – parent of internationally-ranked junior
  • Match play is more effective and less expensive than clinics. Also sign your kid up for a tennis specific fitness regimen – it will help with injury prevention. – parent of 4-star D3 recruit
  • Don’t waste money on travel until you can beat every player in your city and state including adults. Play at least one other sport a few times a week in the winter. Play adults, play kids older and younger, play college players, play former college players, play men and play women. – former D1 player and coach, former recruiting consultant, junior coach
  • Realize tennis can help your child get into a college he/she might not otherwise get into but don’t expect any scholarship money, especially for boys. We were given that advice years ago by a tennis coach on Long Island and it was priceless and accurate advice. – parent of 4-star D1 player
  • Support and feed your child’s passion, not yours. They will take the sport as far as they want to and enjoy the ride.
  • Make sure it’s the funnest thing that they do in their life. – former top junior & pro player
  • Don’t take it too seriously. – parent of high school player
  • It is all about the child: the more fun he/she has the more engaged he/she will be. Remember it’s all about them, not coaches, not parents, not money. Make them love it first, train later, and compete last. – parent of 1-star U14 player
  • First off, make sure to find a coach that can show you a blueprint for development. Players must develop an overall game at a young age to perform later on. Too many kids are solid at an early age, but struggle when they get older because they haven’t develop the tools to succeed. They must have fun and enjoy the process of development. Unfortunately many coaches are concerned about the wins and losses early on because of the risk of losing a client. If you sit down with the parents and students and explain the developmental process it helps greatly. – junior coach
  • Don’t raise a cheater. Or a whiner. Or a crier. : ) Raise a kid who can hold his or her head up high, win or lose. – parent of 2-star U14 player
  • Watch non-verbal body language.
    Ask more questions than make statements.
    Don’t give up family vacations.
    Always take the long view.
    Play another sport: Basketball, soccer, flag football.
    Go to school.
    Don’t care about your ranking until the 16s.
    Tennis is the sport that will get you into the college you want to go to. It’s the gateway sport. – parent of top D1 players and current D1 coach

If you have other advice to add, please do so in the Comments below. We’re all in this together!

*I do not totally agree with this one. I do agree that your child should not play a tournament if he/she is sick or injured since that could absolutely make the illness or injury worse. But, pulling out of singles because it might negatively impact UTR is a mistake in my opinion. There is something to learn from every match, win or lose. As others stated, a child should not be playing solely for rankings or ratings (i.e. do NOT chase ranking points). 

3 Comments on “Advice for Tennis Parent Newbies”

  1. Some great advice here, some good advice here, and some bad advice here. But all of it would be much better if it had context around it. By context I mean the background of the person giving the advice. If I had a nickel for every piece of advice I’ve received from the parent of a 3-star I could start my own academy.

    This has been an incredible journey. My child expressed zero interest in sports of any kind other than throwing a ball with me in the backyard. She was in a dance academy for a few years and then grew bored. Around that time my wife joined a ladies tennis league, and what daughter doesn’t want to do what mom is doing? So at 7 years old my daughter took tennis lessons in our city’s recreation program (imagine at least a dozen kids who have no idea what to do other than show up with a new can of balls). After a few months of this she started taking group lessons at our club, which was better but not much. My wife and I would take her to the club on weekends and hit as a family but my wife and I are hackers so it was just for fun.

    At some point the guy teaching the group lessons at the club approached my wife and I and said our daughter needs private lessons to get to the next level. I was adamantly opposed to spending money on private lessons for something that was nothing more than a light recreational activity and decent exercise. And I held out for at least a year. I finally gave in, watched a lesson, and saw some talent.

    We aren’t wealthy, we didn’t have a trusted guide, we’ve changed coaches half-a-dozen times, made a lot of mistakes, and learned a lot of things we would do differently if we had a “do-over”. But we made it work. And by “we” I mostly mean my daughter, who busted her ass and harnessed an incredible competitive spirit.

  2. Play multiple sports and do not specialize in just tennis at an early age. My daughter received D2 scholarship offers from California schools and even played HS basketball 2 years. She was recruited and finally chose a top15 ranked D3 program for the school’s academic reputation. Go to a tennis showcase and be proactive contacting tennis coaches.

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