Hello, my name is Victor Pinones-Haltenhoff. I am an ITF and an ICI international coach with a BBA in marketing. I am the director of Giammalva Elite Tennis Academy (GETA).
Mental toughness is one of the biggest issues with junior tennis. Most of our players are incredibly naïve and unrealistic. For example, if they miss one or two balls they automatically think that they can’t make it. So, how do we help them to see the reality and the facts of things? How do we make them mentally tougher?
The first step to help a child throughout a competition, is to know what kind of player we are dealing with. I believe that every player is a personal project, since each one of them needs different coaching approaches and ways to get through to them. Therefore, our job as coach and parent is to understand them, help them and never give up on them. Remember, we want the best for your child. Our success is based on their success! There is no other way than us all being a team (player, coach and parents).
Thus, we need to consistently encourage your player, and become a master of NOTICING WHEN HE/SHE IS SUCCESSFUL instead of noticing when he/she makes a mistake. It takes good awareness and practicing for a while to change this automatic pattern we have in our minds. I have seen the dramatic difference in the consequences when they do something good compared to when they do something bad. Bad attitude and poor results are normally a big deal to parents and I always see consequences one way or the other. We believe in balance. Positive reinforcement is a great tool in this case. If the player does something good on the court they should be rewarded (with praise) not only punished when they do something bad. Otherwise, it is best to take no disciplinary action. As a result, they would begin to react the same way on court and in life.
Secondly, show them that what they are seeing or perceiving is nothing close to reality. A good way to help them is by keeping track of statistics in a match. This is an amazing tool and resource for us as coaches and for you as parents to see the match in a more analytical way. You can get a free app on your phone (for example: ProTracker Tennis) and share the results with your player and the coach.
Finally, one of the hardest things as parents is to see your kid fail. Unfortunately, there is not a better way to learn how to fail than by experiencing failure itself. Learning from failure improves our mental toughness and builds character that will be of great value in life. Therefore, doing everything for them in order to prevent them from failing is not going to expedite the process of maturity. If you can’t t tolerate it and is extremely hard for you to do so, the best and healthiest way is to take a step back and let them compete by themselves. When they are ready they will ask you to come just for the matches.