As the proud father of my third daughter last week, I have been thinking a lot about parenthood. As a tennis coach and college tennis advisor for junior tennis players, I always think about tennis. If my kids play tennis, am I going to become a tennis parent? Am I going to be so nervous that I can't watch my kids play? Or am I going to get kicked out of a club because I am starting a fight with an opponent's father? Maybe I'll have my 10-year old daughter down 3 espressos before she plays. Maybe I won't discipline her when she throws her bag at my feet for me to carry because I'm afraid it will disrupt her mind-set for the tournament. Or maybe she will be a figure skater and I will tell the instructor what to work on each lesson. I mean, I watch the olympics on tv. Im a sports fan. I know my daughter better than anyone. What's the instructor who spent a lifetime in figure skating know about my daughter and what she needs to do. I hope not. I really hope not. Please don't let me become this person!
With this said, I would like to defend "Tennis Parents" or parents of kids who play tournaments. Firstly, there are a lot of people I have a ton of respect for who I consider very sane that have a lot of trouble staying "normal" during a tennis tournament. This tells me that the tennis parent thing can't be easy. It's easy to criticize tennis parents if you do not have a "dog in the hunt." However, until we watch our child play in a tournament, us parents, coaches, etc. of kids who do not play tournaments do not have a right to criticize.
Secondly, behind every great player, there is an involved parent. You name a top player, I'll tell you a parent that was on top of everything that child did. Of course, the context is important, but if the child is into tennis, then the parent deserves some credit for watching over the child's best interest and being involved. I have had many conversations with pros on Long Island about the analysis of how good a young child might be. Sadly, more than once, one of the pros said, " Big problem with the kid is that the kid is from (Town X) and I doubt his parents will be willing to give up their Saturday nights to take him to tournaments." Sadly, this is very true. Therefore, the parents who are willing to give up their social life to take their child to a tournament on a weekend deserves props..even if the parent enjoys doing it!
Also, tennis parents in particular get a bad wrap. My wife is a violinist and I have gotten the privilege of seeing some of the best violinists in the world. These parents are the same..maybe worse! They sneak around to see what pieces the other people are practicing. If you go to a high-level little league game or CYO basketball game, the same thing happens. Anywhere you have people performing at a high level, parents are intense.
Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at Glen Oaks Club. Ricky also coaches high-performance juniors throughout the year and has been the Director of Tennis at three of Long Island’s biggest junior programs. As a player, Becker was the Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis team and ranked in the top-five nationally as a junior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 516-359-4843 or via juniortennisconsulting.com.