Parenting a talented young tennis player can be complex and challenging, and the pressures faced by families can be difficult to manage.
To understand these pressures Professor Chris Harwood and Dr Sam Thrower from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences conducted investigations into the experiences and needs of tennis parents within Great Britain.
Their published findings have led to the development of resources and workshops that aim to help grass roots tennis parents and children gain a positive and confidence building experience from their participation in the sport.
Working with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and its Competitions department, the duo have helped to develop the LTA Parent Support Programme. This includes a three hour parent workshop on Optimal Competition Parenting, a Start Competing Parents Guide and a series of short educational videos.
Speaking about the programme, Professor Harwood said: “Parents are key stakeholders in youth tennis with an active investment in the game and in their child’s happiness, well-being and development. It is very important as academics and practitioners who understand the multiple demands and intrinsic benefits of tennis that we share our knowledge with parents and help them to thrive in support roles to their children. The health of our game and our young players is a priority.”
The interactive parent workshop forms the cornerstone of the programme and offers insights and exercises into the challenges and benefits of tennis, as well how to help their children before, during and after matches.
Sara Clarke, a tennis parent from Warwickshire who attended one of the courses, remarked how “it completely changed the way I approach my child’s tennis training and competing. I wish I had attended the workshop years ago. With the knowledge gained from the workshop I could see how I was potentially hindering my child’s progress. Now he is playing with more fluidity and enjoying his training much more.”
Professor Harwood and Dr Thrower have delivered multiple parent workshops across the country as part of the LTA Competitions department strategy, and have now trained a network of LTA Tutors to enable even more to be delivered.
The LTA's Head of Competition, Keith Carder, highlighted the importance of developing such a programme. He said: “Tennis parents play a vital role in supporting their children when they are competing in tournaments all across Great Britain. We want young tennis players and their parents in the game for the long term. This programme aims to help create the right environment for this to happen.
“We are now aiming to reach over 1,000 parents in 2018, and the feedback received so far from parents has been overwhelmingly positive. It has been great working with Loughborough on getting this programme out and engaging with the tennis community.”