Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Help Parents Help You

During Anne Pankhurst's session on 'Helping Parents Help Their Kids in Tennis', she reported an interesting statistic:

96% of tennis parents have never had a child in tennis
80% of tennis parents have never played tennis themselves

Whaaaaaaat????? With USTA membership topping 700,000, and 300,000 high school tennis players nationwide, I found this info surprising, to say the least. But if Anne Pankhurst said it, it must be true. Which brings us to the point of her presentation: with so many parents new to the game, we as coaches need to be mindful of this. They probably have lots of questions not only about their child's instruction, but very basic questions about the game itself. 

According to Anne, some of the top questions new tennis parents have are:
  • How to select a tennis coach
  • Recommended frequency of lessons
  • How to define success

I have a few more that I am often asked:
  • What to expect from the tournament experience
  • What is the proper way to fuel a player during a tournament
  • What gear is recommended/required
  • How best to help my player between lessons
  • What is proper match behavior for fans/parents - coaching, cheering, other points of tennis etiquette
And I am sure you can add to this list. Anne had a great suggestion for educating the parents: hold a lesson for parents only. Walk them through a sample lesson plan so that they understand what their children will be learning on court. Laramie Gavin of Midwest Athletic Club Rochester NY improved on this idea when he suggested hosting a parent meeting (with adult beverages!) in conjunction with pizza party for the players after a fun match play event. We have just created a Junior Tennis Instruction FAQ which is now printed on the flip side of our program fliers as well as on our Facebook page. Whatever works best for your operation, consider implementing simple and effective ways of keeping communications open with your parents.