The "tablet trick" and other tips for tennis parents
As coaches, parents often ask us how to best watch a junior tennis match. After all, matches and tournaments are long, and parents are usually the main “coach” at the event. Parenting a junior player is complicated. You want to support, enjoy, watch, and help where you can while building confidence into your child.
Here are three practical tips for parents when watching matches:
1. The Tablet Trick: This has been updated from prehistoric times (it used to be called the “newspaper trick”). It creates the illusion of loose engagement in the match, so the kid understands that you are not hanging on every point. When your child comes off the court, act like you are reading your tablet (or paper) and ask the score of the match, as if you don’t know. This lets the player know that you are not obsessing on the result and will help create an independence and calm for the player.
2. Keep it Simple: Have you ever seen those charting apps that record like 100 things? You don’t need that in youth tennis! A famous touring coach once said that strategy doesn’t matter until you are Top 20 in the world. That may be an exaggeration, but it probably is not far off. If you are really wanting to track something, track total errors from your player. Simply put: less than 10 per set, you win a lot; less than 15 per set, a decent chance; and more than 20, you do not win often.
3. Enjoy Your Time: Tennis may be one of the best ways to spend time with your child. You can play with them, spend time watching and hit the road for tournaments with them. Remember the most powerful thing to say to your child through this great journey: “I love spending time with you.”
To learn more about the USTA American Development Model and the "5 C’s,” visit netgeneration.com/adm.
Matt Dektas is the author of “The Perfect Tennis Parent," a guide for competitive tennis parents. He is also the executive director of the Cincinnati Tennis Foundation and has helped to develop over 300 NCAA athletes.