I have been coaching tennis for over 25 years. I have seen so many talented kids quit the game. Over 20 years ago, the USTA published a very frightening statistic; 65 percent of all junior tournament players quit playing before they are 16 years old. It is now 3 out of 4 kids that are quitting all sports before they are 13.
Why are kids quitting you might ask? The answer is “Burn Out.” “Burn Out” is not always from playing too much. In my opinion, the definition of “Burn Out” is, the game of tennis is not fun, and kids can’t handle the pressure of performing any more. Here are six tips to relieve the pressure to perform and keep it fun for your kids.
#1 Leave them wanting more
Most kids have a short attention span, especially under the age of 10. If they are just beginning to learn the game I recommend that you play with them no more than 20 minutes. Let them be the one to say, “One more, Please?” When you hit with your kids, at any level, keep an eye on their body language. If they are walking around with their racquet head by their feet and their shoulders slumped, STOP! Pick up the balls. Hopefully you can stop before they get bad body language.
#2 Avoid teaching them
We all want to help our kids but taking a lesson from your parent is not much fun. I use what I learned from Wayne Bryan, (father of the Bryan Brothers). Wait for your child to ask for your help before you try to teach them how to play the game of tennis. If they never ask, then never teach them. If your kids are in a group or private lesson, then that’s the place for them to learn and become excited about the game of tennis. I send my daughter to other tennis-teaching professionals. The information seems to get translated better from someone else. When we teach our own kids, the information gets scrambled somehow.
#3 Avoid post-match criticism
Critiquing your child after a match is one of the leading causes of stress. Every time they play, they will know that you are watching every move they make. They will not retain any criticism until they are in a calm environment. When they come off the court, you must make every effort to let them know that they are your child first and athlete second. Charting a match helps. You can put it on their desk for them to look at later.
#4 Keep your distance
The USTA recommends that you stay a minimum of two courts away. Some kids can handle their parent breathing through the fence, but most kids can’t and won’t say anything until it is too late. Wear sunglasses so they can’t see you roll your eyes. If your child is looking at you after every point, you are too close.
#5 Get along with the other Parents
Parents are always complaining that there is no one for their child to practice with. Introduce yourself to the other parents, exchange phone numbers. If your child sees you getting along, they will feel more comfortable going to clinics, tournaments or other tennis events. They will have a better attitude on the court. My philosophy, “Whoever has the most friends, wins!”
#6 Avoid talking about money.
Another ingredient for pressure is, “We are spending hundreds of dollars on your tennis and you …” Talking about money doesn’t work, never has and never will.
“Burn Out” happens over time. Just be aware of some of the things you say and do near the tennis court. Don’t let your child be a statistic. Follow these tips and give your child a better chance to stay in the game.*
About Barry Boren
Barry Boren has been in tennis since the age of eight years old. He played junior, college and pro tennis throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1986, he has been the head tennis professional at the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club in Laguna Niguel, California. Over the years he has coached nationally ranked juniors and senior players as well as professional players including his daughter, Brynn, who is currently playing the Women’s Pro Circuit. He has seen firsthand why young players are quitting the game and wants to do something about it.