By Leslie Roark, Stillwater High School Tennis Coach
What’s a tennis mom to do?
Seriously! That’s a question I ask myself repeatedly during tennis season. And off season. And pre-season for that matter! It’s usually followed by any one of its sister questions: Should I push my daughter a little harder? Am I pushing her too hard? Does she need a break from the pressure? Is everyone else getting better during her break? Have we missed the critical window to really make it big in tennis? Does she even want to play tennis? Is she washed up at age 14? Did we start her too young? Should we have started her earlier? Have we played too many tournaments? Should we have played more tournaments? If only we lived near a tennis club. If only we could afford a tennis club. And so on and so on.
I know I’m not the only one out there thinking these thoughts and struggling to know how best to motivate, encourage and support our children as they develop into competitive tennis players. I’m sorry to say, I don’t have any answers, not really. The only thing I do know with almost certainty is that you can’t start anywhere but where you are now. You can’t go back and do more lessons, or play more 10 & under events. You can’t suddenly endow your child with natural athletic ability or will them to be taller, or faster or stronger, more self-motivated or driven. As I’ve struggled to help my own daughter grow and improve as a young player, I’ve come to realize that most importantly, you can’t force your own ambitions and aspirations for them onto them, even when it should be obvious to the entire tennis playing population of the world that your child is God’s greatest creation and could someday be the world’s #1 player.
I think it’s safe to say that as parents, our primary mission in life should be to listen to our kids and to figure out what they like to do (please God let it be tennis!) and support their interests (please not the drums or professional computer gaming…yes that really is a thing). We all want to help them set obtainable goals and figure out ways around roadblocks and setbacks. That being said, if we don’t push a little here and tug a little there, many kids’ interests and aspirations will be fulfilled on a game-thing or in front of a computer screen. They all need a nudge out of the nest and into the fresh air sometimes!
The real trick seem to be figuring out the difference between your interests and their interests, your goals and their goals, motivation from you and motivation from themselves. So I’ve come up with my own version of a tennis mom’s serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept my child’s actual athletic abilities (or lack there of), their level of self motivation and desire to succeed that I cannot change; courage to change (my own ambitions and agendas) that I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Remember moms…just as the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, so does the hand that carries the ice chests, cleans the uniforms, makes the snacks, drives the minivans, cheers the victories and consoles the defeats holds a special place in the hearts of tomorrow’s champions.