© Ella Ling

Ana Ivanovic - Verano

Ivanovic exclusive: How to be a good tennis parent


Exclusive tips from Ana Ivanovic, a former world number one and French Open champion, on ‘How to be a good tennis parent’:

It’s a very bad idea for anyone to coach their child. “If you are coaching your kid, it becomes very hard to separate parenting from coaching. It’s hard for kids, too. All of a sudden, kids don’t want to see their parents as they’ve had enough of tennis and practising. For parents, it’s going to be hard to educate the kid and to talk about something else other than tennis. If a kid has to listen to a parent talking all the time about tennis, and then talking about life in general, the kid is going to be thinking, ‘okay, just leave me to live my life a little bit as I don’t want you to influence every part of it’. Coaching your child can only hinder them.”

The worst thing a tennis parent can do is to try to live their dreams through their kids, and make them play a sport they don’t want to play. “I’ve seen that over the years. Trying to live your dreams or your life through your child is just wrong.”

It’s important to make sure that your child is enjoying playing tennis – otherwise they shouldn’t be on court. So don’t force them to train as that could make them hate the sport. “The most important thing is to make sure that your child wants to be on court, and takes pleasure from playing tennis. There are so many talented kids out there who, at an early age, have been forced to train too much by their parents, and the kids become over-trained and they start to hate tennis. That’s because, all of a sudden, it’s something they have to do. Most kids just want freedom. They just want to play. Especially when they’re young, I think they just want to think that they’re playing a game, and that it’s nothing serious. So don’t force them to practise a certain number of hours or anything like that.”

Kids should be encouraged just to play points, rather than doing drills. “It’s important that kids should have a fun and interesting time on court. The kids should be playing points and some sort of competition – they shouldn’t be drilling or grinding as then they could lose the desire to play.”

Don’t put pressure on your child to succeed. Just support them. “My parents never put pressure on me. They just talked about how important it is to be happy. And to behave well on the court. For them, that was the most important thing. Looking back, that was great as so many parents these days put so much pressure on their kids. Parents shouldn’t put pressure on their children. They should offer unconditional support as that’s what kids need. Yes, you should show your kid the way. You need to give them discipline so that they respect the time and money that has gone into tennis, so they recognise that they have been given an opportunity to be on court. At the same time, don’t put pressure on them. Just make sure they’re enjoying themselves.”

Don’t try to control your child’s life. “There are so many cases when parents are very, very controlling. That’s so bad. When kids are growing up, they should be making some of their own decisions. The parents should be there to make sure that there are the right people around their kids. But then they should leave it up to their kid and the coach to play and learn and to go into the details. Don’t try to control it so much.”

Recognise that every tennis player needs to have a supportive family. ‘I feel fortunate that my parents were so supportive as I was growing up. When I was young, they would take me to practise, and spend time with me.”