Lately, I’ve really been struggling even more than usual with how much interaction and involvement I should have in my son’s tennis life. He’s 16 1/2 now, driving a car that we provide him, with 24/7 access to a computer and iPhone. That means he can get himself to the courts and take care of any scheduling or planning that needs to happen related to his tennis. That also means, theoretically, that I can take a step back and let go, let him handle any tennis things with his coach, simply serve as a funding source and chauffeur for the out-of-town tournaments (and, of course, as a sounding board, too, when he needs it). The problem is that he’s a boy, and, like many teenage boys, falls a bit short in the communication department, especially when it comes to sharing school-, personal-, or tennis-related information with his mom and dad. Hence, my struggle . . .
Last week, I posted a simple poll and survey on this site in hopes of shedding some light on how much other parents are involved. While my sample size is relatively small, I feel like it’s probably pretty accurate, so let me share what I learned.
The first question I asked y’all has to do with taking responsibility for your child’s tournament schedule. An overwhelming number of respondents – 78% – said either the parent alone or the parent and child together plan the schedule. Only 20% indicated that the coach has any involvement at all in the scheduling (1% said the coach handles it completely; 7% said the coach and parent handle it; 4% said the coach and player take care of it; and 8% said the parent, coach, and player plan together) and only 2% said the child takes responsibility him or herself. So, I guess it’s not out of line for me to be the one checking MyTennisNetwork each week to look at upcoming tournaments then emailing a list to my son (and cc’ing his coach) to find out which one(s) he wants to play, right? It sounds like most of you are doing the same.
Based on the poll results, the coaches simply aren’t taking on this task for whatever reason – junior coaches, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your take here. Is it because you have too many players to manage or because the schedule is constantly changing or some other reason? I think it’s important for us parents to understand our role in tournament planning, what the coach’s expectations are in this regard, and how to fulfill this aspect of our “job” without becoming too involved in the other parts of our child’s tennis training. After all, if I’m doing the planning but don’t have a clear picture of when my child needs a break from competition in order to work on new skills or tactics or whether my child is struggling with burnout or confidence issues or when my child is ready for a higher level of play (or maybe needs to drop down a level), how can this be helping my child??? And, coaches, do not assume that my child is sharing that information with me – in my case, I can promise you he is NOT – so please keep me in the loop!
Next, I asked you how often you interact with your child’s coach. Almost half of you either talk face-to-face or exchange text messages at least once a week. What I found interesting was that the age of your child didn’t make a difference in terms of how often you’re in touch with the coach – parents of older kids (17-18 years old) are communicating just as regularly as parents of the u10s. Also, the level at which your child competes made no difference in the frequency of your interaction with the coach – if your child competes locally or if your child competes internationally, most of you are still in touch at least once a week.
What I neglected to ask is exactly what you talk about with your child’s coach – and this is an important omission on my part, so please use the Comments box below to share that information. Are you discussing tournament results or your child’s training or something else? Please be specific.
So, this begs the question . . . should I really take a step back at this point in my son’s junior tennis “career” and let him and his coach handle all-things-tennis? Or, is that an unrealistic expectation to place on both my son and his coach?
My son says this is HIS tennis, and I respect that 100%, but is he mature enough and responsible enough at 16 to manage everything himself? And is his coach able to juggle the needs of every single kid he works with to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks? Or are we parents a crucial piece of the puzzle here, a necessary evil so to speak?
At some point, I’ll share the impetus for this article. Suffice it to say that things have been a bit rough in the Stone house in recent weeks as we are all struggling to define – and refine – our role in this junior tennis thing. I know what my ideal situation looks like, but I also know that “ideal” isn’t always realistic, and so I continue to write in hopes of shedding some light for myself and for my readers, too. Marching on.