If you’ve watched any professional tennis in the past couple of years, no doubt you’ve noticed Novak Djokovic’s parents in the stands during his matches – they are the ones cheering loudly, wearing their son’s image on their shirts, standing and fist-pumping after every winning shot. Rumor has it that the King of Decorum, Roger Federer, once told them to be quiet (not the words he used!) during a match with their son. They are the epitome of the hard-core Tennis Parent.
In most junior tennis families, though, typically there is one parent in charge of all-things-tennis and one parent who is less involved. Even in families where the parents are no longer living in the same household, I’ve seen this distinction develop. There is one parent who you see at pretty much every tournament though every now and then the other will make an appearance.
The role of the All-Things-Tennis parent are pretty clear – and I think I’ve covered them sufficiently in previous posts (click here and here) – but what, exactly, is the role of the Non-Tennis parent?
I actually posted this exact question on a Facebook group that I frequent consisting of former junior tennis champions who are now Tennis Parents, coaches, or otherwise still involved in the Tennis World. One response I received was, “If I get this question right, what you will have is a non-tennis parent who becomes totally disenchanted with the behavior of the tennis parent. He/she voices their opinion to said tennis parent who immediately tells the non-tennis parent that they have no clue what the heck they are talking about and stay out of anything that has to do with Jr’s sports. ”
According to David Benzel, founder of Growing Champions For Life, in a family where one parent is “NOT the tennis parent”, the opportunity exists for this parent to provide the voice of balance for both the spouse and child who are immersed in the tennis culture. It’s important that tennis occupy the appropriate amount of space, time and energy for the health of any family. However this is a tricky role to play because this parent may come to feel alienated from the tennis two-some and their dedication to the sport. Therefore, the ideal scenario may actually be when two parents alternate with each other in playing “tennis-parent” with all its travel, time, and emotional demands. This facilitates an equal sharing of the tennis experience with the child and keeps both parents on the family team, not just the tennis team, in the eyes of the child.
In our family, my husband is the Non-Tennis parent (duh!), and his role ranges from earning the money to pay for our son’s sport of choice to reigning in the All-Things-Tennis parent (Moi!) when she gets out of hand. Though we have definitely had our share of moments like the one described in the paragraph above, I think we have done a pretty good job of finding the balance and working TOGETHER to keep our son’s tennis in perspective. While I’m typically the parent who goes to the tournaments and communicates with our son’s coach, my husband does do Tournament Duty a few times a year and does get involved when there’s a Big Issue to discuss. I’m always grateful for that break, and our son is definitely grateful to have Guy Time with his dad.
That said, I wouldn’t trade my Tennis Parent role for anything – it has given me the chance to spend some high-quality time with my son and to meet some wonderful people. What is your role and how do you keep balance in your family?