I did not believe there were such things as anxious parents until it hit me 😛. I have gotten better over time, but I still find myself guilty of that from time to time.
Recently another tennis parent (relatively newer than me :)) was standing next to me watching my son’s game rather than his own son’s. He said he could not bear to watch his own son’s match; it was making him anxious. While we both made fun of that, I knew the issue was real.
I do not think its only limited to parent-child as such. I remember watching Federer match and feeling anxious when he was not winning or making unusually poor selection of shots. Trust me I am not related to him from a long distance (I also never gambled on his match outcome) 😆.
I also do not think any parent really cares about winning or losing as such (especially in junior years). I never felt anxious when my son was playing with much higher skilled or older person, against who he is most certainly expected to loose. Its only when he is not playing up to “his potential” against some one, he should be able to, I felt anxious.
I think it happens when we “believe” a certain minimum level of a given person (our child or Federer ) and when things do not go according to our that “belief”. We feel anxious because some thing happened which seemed to contradict with what we believed. We don’t doubt the ability of our kids, rather we start to doubt the ability of ourselves to judge our kids and that makes us uncomfortable.
Whatever is the reason its never a good idea to show our state of mind to others, especially our kids. Nobody likes it. Other parents do not like it, organisers do not like that and worst part is our kid will most definitely hate us doing that. Kids do not like parents owning their matches. Kids work hard to impress their parents by showing they are independent. So they also do not like parents making happy faces or encouraging gestures when clearly they are not playing well. In fact, in my experience, its also fruitless to show happy faces when they are playing well.
Best thing is to have no reaction at all during the match and that will help them to learn to ignore anything or anyone happening outside the court while playing a match. This good habit will go long way.
So how do we hide our state of mind or better change that? One trick I have been trying is to “write” about every point play. So I note down what happened in the point from my perspective, like if he won the point what did he do correctly or if he lost the point what did (or didn’t) he do to deserve that. Basically I noted down my state of mind at the time. That helped me with two things: first it released my anger because I was no longer thinking about it as an aberration and second it gave me most important notes about his game, which (I could share with his coach as well and) also gave us the parts of tennis we need to work on. Suddenly I was looking at the whole match as an improvement exercise, where the match was telling me the things my son still needed to improve on and that feeling was much more pleasant 🙂 .