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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does the U.S. Really Lack Crazy Tennis Parents?

That's the theme of this recent piece from Slate, which was sent to me by several zootennis readers this week.

They didn't know, because I didn't mention it and neither did the he, that I spoke for nearly an hour to the article's author, Huan Hsu, right before the NCAAs began. We discussed USTA Player Development, what's wrong with American tennis, how champions are made and yes, crazy tennis parents. He seemed to know a lot more about the latter than I did, especially those of the Grand Slam champions from the U.S., but I tried to provide a different perspective, citing the Couriers, the Davenports, the Samprases, the Roddicks as counterpoints to the Mike Agassi, Stefano Capriati and Richard Williams examples he gave. As you can read, my viewpoint didn't make the story.

I've seen enough junior tennis players and parents over the last five years to know that it does take a committed parent to create the opportunities that their child must then seize. I am in absolute agreement with Robert Lansdorp's closing quote: "The basic principle is the same. Every person who has made it in this game, Americans or foreign, it has been the parents who were behind it."

But I know, not many, but enough, crazy junior tennis parents in the U.S. who will not produce a Grand Slam champion or anything close to that. There is simply no cause and effect that says crazy parent=champion. The real challenges facing the sport of tennis in the United States are much more complicated than that, and I don't see how this article addresses any of them in any meaningful way.


hmm.. said...

this may be true or not, but if this is how champions are created, then i dont think we should be encouraging our parents to become crazy and "hit their kids for there own good". We have this same discussion every year after the clay court season.

tennis said...

all i know is that the US certainly does not LACK crazy tennis parents. i know a handful of nutjob parents, but there child simply has little or no talent. so although a crazy tennis parent may help, it certainly doesnt lead to greatness by any stretch of the imagination. all it does is make the child tennis player fearful and resentful in the long run

Karin Burgess said...

Thank you for your insight. I had seen the Hsu article and thought it a little one-sided myself. High level junior tennis does requires total dedication from the child and parent(s), especially with no top-caliber training facility nearby. The time, focus and money that it takes can be straining and some parents may snap or appear crazy when the results that they are seeing are not equal to expectations OR the pressures of the financials get the better of them. There are perfectly normal families however as you point out. Who know what types of strain they might have been under but they didn't blow the gasket as the other parents did.

Diane said...

Then there are parents who are not quite "crazy" (as in Agassi's father), but who nevertheless are over the top. Jimmy Evert is a good example. He was relentless in his training of Chris, to the point that she had no life other than tennis. Evert is bittersweet when she talks about her father's very strict training methods.

dissappointed in conduct said...

I have seen my fair share of the whacked out parents. My child plays in Florida. It seemed to be extremely bad in the 12s. I will not menton names, but some of the top players now, (they are playing itfs) the parents were verbally and phsically abusive. My child plays up now in the 18s and the parents have gotten even crazier. They are point chasers and will try to influence the outcome of a match outside of the court. 99.9% have no shot turning pro, but have funny eyes when they see their childs playing ability. Our goal has always been to keep our child focused on something positive and maybe the outcome will be a college scholarship. My child is a top ranked player. We are realistic in the fact only a small few will earn a living playing the sport. It is a shame that the parents do not look at the positives in raising a child to be a dedicated, hard worker in a very tough sport. Capriati was not the normal athlete, she was gifted in every respect from the get go. If it costs more to train and chase points then it would be to send your child to college per year, then the red flags should be popping left and right.

Amtex said...

The author of that article conveniently ignores Sampras, Federer, Henin, Davenport, and on and on. Where were the crazy tennis parents with those champions?