Beyond The Score: Sound Advice For Junior Tennis Parents

By Kamala Nellen

The 2016 Southern California Junior Sectional Tennis Championships are here! More than likely, you as a parent are feeling the stress right alongside your athlete. You have made huge sacrifices for your son or daughter to become competitive. You are exhausted from all the time it has taken to get to practices and events. You may also feel strained from your huge investment in money. You want to see great results. You want your athlete to win and get the scholarship, the money and the fame. You visualize the headlines. Your investment will pay off. You are heavily invested in the highest outcomes. You are at the gate where the competition begins.


STOP!  This competition is not about you. It is about your athlete.

Here are five ways you can best support your athlete:

  1. Release your grip on your agenda. Zip your mouth shut (unless your athlete asks for your input). It is paramount that your youth learn to trust themselves in order to succeed. Just as your athlete must learn to trust themselves, you need to trust their process throughout the competition. It is their work ethic, their focus, their passion and love for the game that will keep their momentum steady. The athlete’s biggest fan has to be themselves. Champions do extra because they want to.

Tip:  Recruiters and coaches who are looking for athletes to add to their roster, in many cases shy away from athletes when they see parents’ micromanaging their kids.

Junior Tennis Parents

  1. Let your son or daughter know that you believe in them. Before the competition, tell them you know they are capable of handling whatever happens. Then let it be. They will grow tremendously when you show them you have faith they’ve got what it takes to handle whatever happens. This includes letting them fail and making mistakes.
  2. Take care of yourself. Do whatever you need to do to relax. Take a walk around the grounds or simply sit down somewhere you can close your eyes for a few minutes and breathe easy. Quiet your imagination and focus on simple deep breathing. Anchor yourself in trust; trust that everything is all right. Your calm and quiet will allow your athlete to focus on what they need to do.
  3. Have fun. Your athlete needs to have an attitude of fun in order to loosen up and play their best; in order to relax into their own rhythm and power during the heat of competition. Just as the attitude of fun is important for your athlete, it is important for you to enjoy yourself during the competition. Yelling and booing, fighting with a coach or official does not serve anyone. What it will do is increase your blood pressure. Having fun is good for your heart and your overall well-being. Reach out to meet and greet other parents who are every bit as invested as you are and feeling just as helpless to do anything. Enjoy some food, or simply enjoy taking in the scene. Your enjoyment of the moment will not adversely impact your athlete’s performance. In fact, if they see you looking enthused and happy, instead of worrying about whether you will explode, they can use their energy to focus entirely on playing the match. Results may be better than expected. Competition can be really exciting if you let it be so. The athlete who performs the best in the match will win, so, take delight in watching your kids stretch their limits to the max. Enjoy the present moment.
  4. Focus on the positive. If your athlete loses a match, ask them what went well during the match. It is more than likely the athlete knows clearly what went wrong and further, if they are motivated, they will practice hard, under the guidance of their coach, to remedy those issues. A supportive parent can reinforce the athlete’s confidence by noting the highlights of their match. Celebrate their accomplishments.

Note: Kamala Nellen is an author and performance enhancement specialist for elite athletes. She has been a professional dancer and has over 40 years experience and teaching the art and science of yoga. Her book, Working IN; The Elite Athlete’s Guide to Working Out from the Inside, is available on Amazon. E-mail or visit

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