How tennis builds character: Tips and reflections

Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D. | July 20, 2022

We had the extraordinary Jim Loehr Ph.D. as a special guest on a recent webinar, where he discussed how tennis can be used as a vehicle for juniors and young adults to develop ethical and moral character. When making decisions while coaching or parenting a junior, keeping that idea in mind can assist in nurturing a life-long love of tennis in them. Some reflections from the webinar are below.

  1. Using character as the scorecard. Dr. Loehr discussed the importance of developing character in the child rather than focusing on a win as a determinant of success. A child's healthy ethical and moral development provides a way for the child to navigate life’s many curveballs and experiences.
  2. Fun: If an activity is fun, a child is likely to continue it. Making tennis fun enables a child to learn new skills in an enjoyable environment, thus likely creating a sense of confidence and self-esteem in your child. 
  3. Stay positive. Being negative has no benefits. Criticizing a child will not maximize their potential; it will inhibit it. Encouraging and validating a child is more likely to enhance a child's sense of self and happiness.
  4. Connecting with others: Having a balance in life is essential for the healthy overall well-being of the child. Spending time with friends outside of the sport can increase a child’s desire to play the sport, as well as improve and maintain their mental health.

Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D., is a former WTA touring professional and current licensed psychologist who has been recently appointed to the USTA's Sport Science Committee. A nationally and internationally-ranked junior player who went on to an All-American career at the University of Indiana, Foltz-Emmons competed as an amateur at all four Grand Slams in 1984 and 1985.


She was the second-youngest player to earn a WTA ranking in 1984, and was also the singles and doubles champion at the 1986 Orange Bowl.


In the present, Foltz-Emmons owns her own business, Advantage Performance Consultants, and consults, advises and provides her services for various companies across the country. She is also brand ambassador and psychologist for SonderMind, a Denver-based company which offers technology-driven solutions for therapists and patients seeking online and in-person appointments, and is the tennis advisor and psychological consultant for the First Serve Tennis Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of Arizona youth through transformative and engaging tennis programs.

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