The USTA Eastern Section is one of the most competitive tennis Sections in the country. The Eastern Section also has one of the worst reputations in the nation in terms of parental and player behavior, in my opinion.
Parents today are getting out of line in regards to their children’s tennis results. The result of this behavior is that fewer children are competing in tournaments. The amount of players competing, not only in the Eastern Section, but, all over the country, has been declining. We can blame that children today don’t have American idols anymore, such as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Chris Evert and others. But the truth is that tennis is an individual sport with no teammates, no referees and no coaching allowed during the matches.
Tennis parents are putting a lot of pressure on their children to win in hopes that they become scholar athletes or professional tennis players. It is important to be a competitive player and learn how to compete, but parents need to be guided on how to be parents of tennis players and not tennis coaches. The term “burnout” is only used in individual sports such as tennis, gymnastics, swimming or golf. You don’t see children saying that they are “burned out” in team sports. The reason is because they are sharing their frustrations and failures with other teammates and coaches. If you are having a bad day in team sports, a substitution can be made and the “burned out” child can support the team from the bench.
The biggest mistakes that parents make is to compare their children with others who they are competing against. They tell their children how much money they are investing in them, judging them on things that they are not doing right, and not being a role model for their children at home. The child’s success, or lack of success, doesn’t indicate the kind of parents we have out there, but having a child that is coachable, respectful, tough, resilient and tries their best is a reflection of good parenting.
Parents need to focus on teaching their children how to be confident, determined, engaged and how to control their emotions, both on and off the court. These qualities can be taught and are very important to the development of a player. Coaches need to have more time to teach the children tennis skills, tactical movements on the court, along with all of the mental strength that the child can learn at home.
I recommend that all parents choose a coach and an academy very carefully. Beyond that, the parents’ only focus should be on being supportive and giving the child the love and respect they need. Let the coaches be coaches, and then we will have more players competing and enjoying the game of tennis.
Vinicius Carmo is Tennis Director of The Ross School Tennis Academy and Coach of the Boys and Girls Varsity Tennis Teams. As a player, Vinicius was ranked among the top five junior players in Brazil and played several international junior tennis tournaments. He attended the University of Tennessee for four years on a full scholarship.