How to know when your child is playing too much tennis and competing in too many tournaments
Do you get more of a thrill from your child’s tennis matches than he/she does? Do you spend your spare computer time looking at junior tournament web sites? Have you scoped out all the competition in your child’s age division? You could be a pushy tennis parent and you might need to ease up on your child, and on yourself.
Children’s sports have become part of the American social scene. Going to soccer matches, baseball games or tennis tournaments on saturday afternoons is a way of life for many families. But when does a pastime become an obsession?
Manfred Grosser and Richard Schonborn, authors of the book Competitive Tennis for Young Players say kids should participate in lots of sports. And they shouldn’t concentration on just one, until their early to mid teens. Children six to ten years old should play no more than 30-40 matches per year. Can you count how many tournaments your youngster has played in this year? Grosser and Schonborn, both German coaches, say not only does too much tennis lead to burn out, but to injury as well.
You see a lot of 17 or 18 year old tennis players about to compete in college, becoming sidelined with rotator cuff injuries. Orthopedic surgeons at the Mayo Clinic say years of repetitive over head arm motion is to blame. Symptoms include:
Pain and tenderness in your shoulder, especially when reaching overhead.
Loss of shoulder range of motion.
Treatment includes exercise therapy, steroid injections and possibly surgery. Instead, work on preventing injuries and burnout by listening to your child, suggests family therapist Carleton Kendrick. "Far too many parents pressure and push their athletic kids right out of playing sports. These kids decided it just wasn’t worth all the anxiety, the constant demands to be the best, and the demeaning lectures when they didn’t perform up to their parents’ high expectations." Kendrick adds some parents vicariously live through their kids’ athletic achievements.
Here are some tips to make tennis fun for your kids and not a stressful experience:
Don’t immediately ask your child if he won or lost. Instead ask, "Did you have fun?"
If your child does not want to participate in a tournament, don’t make him.
Watch your child’s matches, but don’t keep track of the score.
Don’t pressure your child to win, just because you didn’t achieve your own childhood athletic ambitions.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Family Education.com Competitive Tennis for Young Players by Grosser/Schonborn