I am going to come right out and say it. I believe there is a real disconnect in how tennis is marketed in the United States to youth and their parents and it is holding the growth of the game back. In my opinion the overwhelming majority of parents do not sign their children up for tennis because they want them to win a tournament, establish some ranking, get a college scholarship, or turn professional. This is especially true at first with young children. Parents sign their kids up for tennis for a variety of reasons but the bottom line is they want them to become involved in something that makes them a better person. Trying to sell a parent on the idea that taking tennis lessons will get them a college scholarship, a ranking, or win a tournament does not meet the core needs and desires of a parent for their child.
Put yourself in the role of a parent or think specifically about you son or daughter for a moment… I want to talk to the parent in you directly…
What is it that you want most for your child?
How do you define success for your child?
What do you fear most for your child as they grow up?
What kinds of values do you want your child to carry into their adulthood?
These are some pretty serious questions. I do not even have children (just yet) but I regularly think about those same questions very deeply. When I talk to parents about issues I see through the surface and understand their real desires and fears. Parents want their children to grow up to be successful, hard-working, value-oriented, and someone who makes a real contribution to making the world a better place.
This is getting into some pretty deep stuff but think about it for just one second…
Why do you really sign your child up for tennis or any sport for that matter?
Do you sign them up because you believe they will win a trophy, get a college scholarship, or turn pro?
Do you sign them up just for something to do?
Or do you really sign them up because deep down inside you believe sports can teach them lessons on some level to become a better person?
I believe for the majority of parents sign their children up because deep down inside they believe there are things that can be learned through the sport that can make their children better people. Lessons like the value of a work ethic, persistence, dealing with failure and success, developing confidence, and so many more. Sure if they win a championship, get a college scholarship or even play professionally one day that would be great but it is not at the core of their reasons why.
In my coaching I certainly want to make the players I work with better athletes and tennis players. However, first and foremost I believe in developing the person first. Tennis and fitness just becomes the means in which I can have a positive effect on the life of a young person. Certainly athletes get better at tennis but whenever possible I always teach lessons that, regardless of how far they go in tennis, will always have a lasting impact in their lives. If a college scholarship, tournament win, or playing at a high level is within their grasp certainly it can become a performance goal to strive for but in the process I never lose sight of making the player a better person first and foremost.
If you are a parent interested in placing your child in a sport to make them a better person and looking for a coach who understands that need then reach out to me, follow the blog, join the email list and check out our summer tennis camp experience. Tennis is the greatest game in the world, a wonderful metaphor for living life, and a gift you can give your child for a lifetime.