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Attention Parents: Practice Set Victories Are Meaningless

Parents deserve a ton of credit. A big round of applause for all the hours spent waiting in the parking lot during practice sessions, trucking kids to tournaments, keeping a positive smile after a rough loss, and footing the bills. Every child is lucky to have a parent who is willing to go the extra mile for them. Warren Buffet once said, "Being born in the United States and having two loving parents is like hitting the lottery. You are already winning in life and you should be grateful."

With all the hours spent toiling around the tennis scene, parents can't help getting caught up in the results. There is nothing more entertaining in life than seeing how you stack up to others. It is wired in our DNA to want to count the beans in the morning and see how we stack up with others relative to us. This is just human nature. We are no different from animals in the forest, all trying to jockey for position to be at the top of the food chain.

With the parents emotionally involved (how can they not be if they are spending all this time and money), the child eventually picks up on the cues that winning is the MOST important thing. A child can feel it everytime they get into the minivan and the first question is, "Well, how did it go?" Some parents try to be sneaky and ease their way into it, but in a roundabout way, they eventually squeeze out every groundstroke game or practice set score by the time the evening is over. How terrible!

For example, let's say Ben is a solid little player. He is improving and doing great, really enjoying the tennis. Despite losing to his good buddy Igor a couple times in a row in local tournaments, even getting cheated once, Ben is not too far off. Ben really feels like his time will come and eventually he will get him in a tournament. Since Ben and Igor live in the same city, Ben decides to give Igor a call to set up a practice match. What a great idea! The date is set and they agree to play next week.

Leading up to the match, Ben's Mom begins to say subtle things like "make sure you get enough sleep." "Drink plenty of water before you go to bed." "Remember, Igor doesn't really like his backhand." "Watch the lines." Before the match has started, Ben is starting to feel some pressure from Mom to win this silly practice match. Bless her heart, Mom is trying her best, but not understanding this is the worst thing she could do, promoting the culture that winning is the most important thing.

The match happens and Igor routintely drums Ben 6-3, 6-2. Ben really didn't play well, getting frustrated at himself everytime things got a little hairy. He mopes off the court and hops in the mini-van (his mother was peaking around a tree trying to watch without being seen). As usual, his mother wants to know the outcome of the practice match. Annoyed with his Mom and feeling the pressure, he says, "We split sets, but he won 6-4 in the third."

The perfect son who could do no wrong told a lie! It was a routine 6-3, 6-2 loss. Nowhere close to a split set decision as he relayed to his mother, how could this be?

Although horribly wrong, it is understandable why Ben suggested a 3 set loss.  He was feeling immense pressure from his Mom and wanted to save face.  By telling a somewhat decent scoreline, his mother would back off (maybe even be slightly happy because it was his best scoreline to date) and maybe even be in a great mood all night.  Kids are no dummies, they understand how a single practice set loss (imagine a tournament!) can affect the household and dinner conversation.  Last thing a child wants to deal with is a Mom talking about their practice matches.  Trust me!

Verbal and non-verbal cues can really affect a child negatively, so be careful. Winning is not the most important thing and if it is, you need to step away. The right course of action is to not ask at all because it really doesn't matter! Nobody cares! Nothing positive can come of it. The child will tell you if they want to. Good questions to ask are "did you have fun?"

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Reader Comments (1)

i think we're blogging in parallel universes, lol! check out today's post on my blog. p.s. sharing your post on my fb page ASAP!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa S

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