Tennis is often an all-consuming sport. It takes so much work to be good that the kids who play it—and their families—often get too wrapped up in forehands, backhands, wins and losses. It happens to all of us from time to time. Every so often parents have to take a step back and remember that tennis is an amazing teaching tool. The game itself is great, but the life lessons it can impart are far more valuable.
For instance, there’s discipline. Tennis requires daily practice, high levels of concentration and a lot of repetition. These are skills that will serve your children well in college, in their chosen professions and later in life if they become parents themselves.
Time management is an essential life skill and tennis teaches it as well as any sport in the world.
Tennis also helps with problem-solving and critical thinking. When children are locked in tight matches and need to finetune their tactics, they’ll be struggling with the same doubts and emotions as they would be if they were making big decisions at work or at home. Keep that in mind the next time you want to coach them through a tough match. In the long run, it’s better if you step back and let your children learn to coach themselves.
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Most parents probably recognize these added benefits of tennis. But there are many others, and it’s my feeling that a few of them are overlooked nowadays as parents become increasingly involved in every moment of their children’s lives.
One important benefi t is independence.
Go to a large junior tennis tournament and you probably won’t see a lot of children who are independent on the court or off of it. They stay close to their parents or coaches, or both, and the adults have full control of everything from meals and equipment to tactics.
There’s more to be gained by stepping back. As a one-on-one sport, tennis is an ideal way to learn self-reliance. So here’s a thought: Let your child go to a tournament alone. My son, who is old enough to drive himself to tournaments, has to pack his bag himself. He also has to make sure he wakes up on time to make it to the match.
Playing a tournament alone offers a different perspective on tennis and life.
There’s no one to cheer for you, and also no one to yell at you. You are, for a short time, a grown-up, doing the best you can.
It’s great preparation for college and can really help with the transition between home life and campus life. So many children who apply to top colleges all have great grades. Tennis can help distinguish your children during the admission process and help them succeed once they arrive on campus.
Another tennis lesson that’s usually overlooked: thoughtfulness. Tennis is a “me” sport. It’s you against everyone in a tournament—and that can be very lonely. There’s a tendency to forget that the rest of the players around you are people, too.
One way to change this is to encourage your child to hang out with other players. So what if one of them might be an opponent? Pros hang out with each other all the time. It’s normal; it’s healthy.
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It helps you grow and learn about others.
Socializing won’t prevent your child from being competitive on the court. Besides, learning how to develop relationships is more important than winning.