serena and venus williams with dad richard, huffpost, sourced at pinterest


The role of parents in sport always happens to be a tricky discussion. Depending on the competitive level of the kid, the role might be different and certainly undergoes changes. I have witnessed a lot of dramatic scenes with regard to difficult kid-parent-relationships in my own career. Personally, I am confident to say that I had very supportive parents. It was sort of a good balance between a more-involved ambitious father and a less-involved but empathetic mother. That way feet were kept on the ground and table topics did not only turn around tennis

The common denominator amongst experts seems that parents should primarily stick to their role as parents and the work on the court is the coach’s responsibility. Obviously the more professional a kid gets involved in sport, the more communication there should be between parents and coach. Important questions need to be clarified such as do we work from the same common ground? Do we share the same values in terms of education? Do we see an identical or at least similar path for the future?

When it comes to the topic of ambition, I have my own point of view and I am not sure it is shared across all experts, but I still would like to state it. I think a healthy dose of ambition is good for the kid and the parent as well as life in general. It is probably tough to get the balance right and it might in fact require re-balancing at times. However, I think that with too little ambition on the parents’ side, opportunities might be lost, whereas on the other hand, over-ambition can be damaging to the kid’s mental and physical health and break a relationship for life. I stick to the experts’ order though. Parents should be parents first and kids should be ambitious before their parents are. Hopefully when good support and the right level of ambition find together something wonderful can be achieved

Let’s go back to the very beginnings now. Firstly, we need parents who understand the value of physical education and who believe in the benefits of practicing a sport. So initially parents need to play the role of enablers by exposing kids to as much physical activity as possible and to allow for a variety of sports to be tried out. Never should a kid be placed in a tennis class with the objective to become another Steffi Graf or Andre Agassi. Let the kid try and have fun. With fun comes passion and when passion is joined by talent and discipline a lot of things can happen, but they will happen naturally

Experts further agree unanimously that the wider the variety of physical activities practiced the better. Better because each sport requires different physical and mental skills and different levels of endurance, strength, coordination and flexibility. The wider you train from an early age, the better the body will develop and the less prone it will be to injuries. Even for mental and social education it is better to go wide as it provides more opportunities to build social relationships and to develop one’s role in different type of groups

Finally, experts also stress the importance of making school education a priority no matter how talented a child might be in sport. Sport and school education can equally positively impact each other. From my own experience I can well say that balancing school and competitive sport is not an easy job. Depending on the level, it indeed requires rejecting on a lot of things throughout teenage years especially. Yet, with passion and a strong will, things work out

Keeping school and sport going in parallel for as much time as possible, will provide the child more opportunities and potentially also allow for better decisions. I had it pretty clear in my last two years of school that I would like to try professional tennis for a few years after finishing my high-school degree. Then, as out of the blue, six months before finishing, fluttered in the options of going to study in the United States via a tennis sport scholarship. Guess what? In the end I decided for the latter. And what about my first job? The tennis background was crucial without any doubt for starting a career in adidas tennis, however, without a university degree in business, the opportunity would have diminished

Summing up, we look for parents who understand and appreciate the values of physical activity and who, best as a role model, engage their kids in different types of sports. We look for parents who give support, empathy and love to their children and who consider this role their primary task. We look for parents, who no matter how talented their child might be, acknowledge that school education should always remain a priority

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