The 5 Top Things Sport Parents Do that Can Make their Kids Drop Out of Sport

The 5 Top Things Sport Parents Do that Can Make their Kids Drop Out of Sport

5 top thingsParents have a huge impact on how their child or children feel about sports. It’s not easy being a parent to a sports child, as we only want the best for them. Sometimes emotions can take over as well as crossing the line between coach and parent roles.

Here are 5 things parents do that can make kids dislike sport.

1. Force them to play a particular sport

A lot of parents want their kids to play a certain sport simply because they like it. Here in America, I’ve seen little girls pushed into playing soccer and hating every minute of it, just because dad loves the game. Hopefully your child will love sports as much as you did, but it’s important to remember that your child is their own person and not a chance to relive your glory years. You might have been a great soccer player in your day, but maybe your son (or daughter) would rather play tennis or something else. It’s hard to love sports when you have to play one you hate because mom and dad said so. Don’t force them into a sport they don’t like. If your child clearly loves one sport over another, then just let them play!

2. Talking about it all the time

Some parents just don’t know when to switch off. They will be talking about what their child should’ve done in their match in the car, at the store and at the dinner table that night. One important aspect about a child playing sport is that there is a healthy balance of other activities to talk about too. The child should have different hobbies and interests (just like the parents) to talk about. Find a balance, but also find the ‘off’ switch now and then. Your kid doesn’t need to hear about it all the time, believe it or not,they actually do get it!

3. Embarrassing the kid from the sidelines

No kid on the field or court wants their mom or dad to be “that” sports parent. You know the one — the one who coaches from the sidelines, yells at the officials or opposing team, gets into arguments with other sports parents and so forth. Most kids who play sports have put enough pressure on themselves already, you don’t need to be adding fuel to the fire by telling your son he’s throwing like a girl or moaning and groaning about how your daughter missed an easy volley or backhand.

4. The way you praise and support them

There’s too much and then there’s too little. Some kids may not mind, but most kids want the approval of their parents and want to make you proud of them. Seeing a smiling face in the stands can make all the difference for a youth athlete.
A kid doesn’t want to look across at their parents to see disapproval to a bad shot or mistake, that does not help anyone.
Also, the way you praise plays a huge influence their future. Make sure you have a growth mindset approach. Praise their effort, not the reward or result. A good balance is needed.

5. Comparing their kid to others

Like we just said, most kids want their parents to be proud of them. You may not even realize that you’re doing it but make sure you aren’t comparing your child to their teammates too often because it can start to eat away at their self-confidence. Comments like “You need to be like Paul when serving,” or “Jessica practices all the time, that’s why she’s better” might not be meant as harmful, but sometimes it can come across like you aren’t proud of your own child and what they have achieved.
Don’t compare, we are all our own unique self’s with different talents, qualities and flaws. Also, remember to compliment their effort and attitude, and not always the result.

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What Makes a World Class Tennis Player?

What makes a world class tennis player?   

JP article2Often I wonder if I could afford XYZ coach or send our kids to ABC academy, that would be a sure  way to make our kids quickly improve and get to the level above where they currently are. But, then another part of me (the numbers and rational one) makes me put more thought into this situation. How many new great tennis players have come out of the well known academies? Or, how many new players have the famous coaches recently produced? I don’t really know, but I don’t think many or we would read about them. This then made me question? What is the value of a high level coach? or the well known academies? Maybe I can hire Rick Macci? Or someone like him. But, then I ask? Who is their latest product of their teachings? I am unable to come up with an answer. What about the USTA player development with unlimited resources to develop players for 20 years going. Yes, years.  Again, I am unable to come up with new names. I then decided to do a careful breakdown of what I think are the components of the puzzle. What makes a world class tennis player? How are these parts made up.? How come it seems like this an impossible task? How are they intertwined and how can parents and coaches make it work?

Many of you will agree others will disagree, but nonetheless here is my reasoning.

  • Coaching 20%
  • Money 30%
  • Kids Talent  20%
  • Kids circumstances 20%
  • Kids will and focus 10%

Coaching + $$$ + Kid effort + Kids circumstances + will = greater probability of success

Let’s break these down a little more to make a better point with the stated premise.

  • If you go to a famous academy (IMG etc.) you will be the beneficiary of the experience and first class facilities that money can afford, yet that alone produces no world class players, in the past many years no stars were the product of what is probably great coaching. This coaching, has not only to be around tennis, but also life, and physical ability.  So, even if you have the best coaching, that is only 20%  of the mix according to the premise. If coaching was a bigger percentage we would have many newer players in the top 100 yearly.
  • Money of course, can provide you with opportunities that no one else has and can purchase for you the best coaching around. That is a great combination that only gives you 50% of the package. Unfortunately, money also takes away from the kids, “hunger and desire ”, which is one of those intangible ingredients that money cannot buy. Think Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Nole. These people are great examples of people with much more “desire” than their parents financial muscle. Travelling, hiring nutritionists, hotels, rides, tournament fees, it can quickly get to the thousands of dollars. These sums quickly make tennis out of reach for just about 9 out of 10  prospects.
  • The innate kid talent is in my opinion just as important as the coach, nonetheless, if the kid is short in talent, he can make it up in hard work. McEnroe seemed to me like he hardly worked, Lend was like a never ending working machine much like the eastern Europeans (Navratilova).

Conclusion, attitude beats talent any day.

  • Just as important are the kids’ circumstances that shape their young lives, Nole, Ivanovic in war torn Serbia. Li Na’s mother in huge debt, Nadal’s wealthy family, Williams sisters California experience. This exposure to good or bad, shape the much needed circumstantial situations that shape the character of the kids which is the fuel for the future.
  • The last point, the will of the kid, is shaped by the circumstances of the parents and how they build the character around the kid. Rafael Nadal is the best example of a world class player on and off the court. I believe that this is the essential component that can tilt the probabilities one way or the other. By the same token, this is the part that is least thought of, and the most important for parents and coaches.

So, doing some easy math here are my conclusions.

  1. All the money in the world will not make you world class.
  2. The best coaches and academies will not make you world class.
  3. Talent alone is useless if you don’t have the others.
  4. 50% of the solution is found in the kids’ circumstance, will and talent.

As parents where do you focus? As all of us have some but not all of the above listed components and we focus mostly on the ones we can purchase. When we fail to focus in the ones we can shape that are under our control and the ones the kids have the most weight in and don’t know it.

Coaches, spend plenty of time teaching the best techniques, but alone fall 80% short of the goal. The super competent ones can at best give you only 20% of the mix up. So, even if you have an average neighborhood coach you can get your chances up. Think papa Williams, Tony Nadal, Jimmy Connors mom, Martina Hingis Mom, Steffi Graf’s dad.

My belief is that as parents and coaches we should work together trying to develop the 40%  that is under our full control (20% coaching, 20% family circumstances), then we add to the mix the god given talent and now you are talking on having 50% of the mix or more. Top that with an awareness of the make up, that will lead to empowerment of the kids and some creative funding and you have a better shot at making the mix work for you and your kids.

So parents, don’t be oversold on the coaching, it is key, but in the overall scheme of things only a factor. Coaches, please guide the parents that you can only provide a portion of the mix, both, sit down and talk and plan and work in unison to work together and for the kid.

The most important part of the mix  to me is the kid, who knowingly or unknowingly controls 50% of the mix. We as parents have a say in this as well. Are we working under a culture of excellence to empower the kids to make the right choices? So, as I always tells all my kids, when they are not totally committed or wasting time. If you cannot give 110% of you every time all the time, someone else will and you control the majority of the mix. Decide! What are you going to do? Or better said as the great American coach Steve Smith told my son: Remember good is the enemy of great and, are you willing to pay the price to be a champion? Because most kids say they are, but they are not, and that is something the parents and coach have a say in throughout the years in shaping the champ.

Your comments are most welcome, I can be reached at or @palenquej

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Advice for Tennis Parents

Advice for Tennis Parents

Five ways for parents to know they’re on the right track when it comes to their kid’s sports development & progression:

1. First things first, the purpose of your kid playing sports should be on developing their social skills, not just athletic skills. So with that in mind, they have manners, they say hello, thank you after a lesson, please etc.. These are life skills and a good representation of you as a parent (not how good they are in a sport!).

Five ways for parents to know2. They are with a coach who has a passion for teaching and sharing the love of the sport. They grow a love for it over time.

3. They are excited to be going to practice. They say things like “I want to go to practice”, instead of “I have to go to practice”.

4. They are exposed to a variety of games and skills during practices. They are developing their athletic skills and not just their specific sport skills.

5. They are being taught with a growth mindset. They are allowed to make mistakes without consequences. Their coach rewards effort, attitude and a great work ethic. Here again, is a good representation of you as a parent, they understand the importance of hard work and a good attitude. (life skills).

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Will Cycling Improve Your Game?

Here’s a question I recently received via e-mail from an athlete. I get asked this question quite a bit, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Dear Allistair,

Thank you for your tips and inspiring posts. I have a question I hope you can answer. My coach has me doing cycling (indoors) as part of my fitness training. He has me doing intervals and hill climb programs. Is this helping my game?

Mark W.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your question!
Well the answer is ‘a big ‘no’ and a little ‘yes’.

Will biking improve your gameLet me start with the ‘No’: Unless you’re a cyclist or Triathlete, cycling isn’t going to directly help your game if you are in a sport where you are on your feet (moving). Sure It might improve your ‘fitness’ or aerobic capacity, but my view on cycling is that there are a lot better things to do to improve your movement and game skills. I would rather ‘save my legs’ and energy and focus on the needs that my sport demands.

You aren’t sitting when you’re moving in your sport, so why train that way?
You always need to keep asking yourself ‘WHY?’ – Why am I doing this? Is this making me better or just making me tired?

You get what you train for. If you train fast, you will get fast. if you train slow, you will be slow. If you bike a lot, then you’ll probably become a pretty good cyclist.

The ‘Yes’ – Where is cycling beneficial for the athlete/player?

A cool down on the bike after a practice or match to spin the legs and flush out some lactic is ideal. Also a ride on a regeneration day, where the athlete is ‘staying off their feet’ and doing some foam rolling, stretching etc..

Also, maybe the athlete has a lower limb injury, then I will have them on a bike to help maintain (to a degree) their fitness and aerobic level.

Hope this helps!

Best of luck,


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Performing Under Pressure

Performing Under Pressure 

Athletes, It comes down to this: You can be a beast in training (that’s good, that’s ok), the undisputed king of winning practice matches or points, but if your can’t perform under pressure when it counts (competition time) you won’t reach the elite levels.


In my experience of watching hundreds upon thousands of matches (in all sports), when two athletes or teams are of similar level in skills and fitness levels, the one who almost always wins, is the one who can handle stress and pressure best when fatigued. They stay positive under pressure. They focus on solutions, not problems.

The great athletes and teams thrive under pressure, whilst the others talk themselves out of success. They make excuses, they blame, they wilt, melt and fade away.

The difference in the preparation is this:
A mentally tough athlete is someone who has placed their body under tougher conditions during training. They embrace the difficulty and challenge. They ask the coach for more.
They don’t b*tch and moan about conditions, facilities or the weather, in fact, the tougher the better.

You want to be great? Then step up and do it.

Sugar coated practices with high fives and war cries won’t do it. You need the Ugly, the ‘search your soul’ practices. They bring out the reality, not the fantasy.

Players who have been placed under these situations will thrive when it counts more. Their body and mindset is prepared, they’ve been there already. They recognize it, accept it and adapt to it better.


It’s when practice gets ugly, It’s messy, you are ready to throw it in, you are in a negative state of mind, you hate your coach —- YES! That’s when. It’s what I call OPPORTUNITY TIME.
That’s the time you, as an athlete, need to be COACHABLE, TO LISTEN AND RESPECT THE HELP YOU ARE GETTING – NOT FIGHT IT.

The way you compete is directly related to the way you train – your habits, your routines, your attitude, your ability to think and perform under pressure, even your punctuality arriving to training sessions.

My message is this: If you want to perform better under pressure (for example – win those closer matches), then start to take an honest hard look at how you train, think and respond to pressure under fatigue. Are you coachable?
For me, that’s what separates the elite athletes from the nearly elite athletes.

Great athletes ask their coaches to challenge and push them, not vice versa. They want the ‘ugliness’ in practices.

Are you asking for uglier?
Because that’s where Champions are made.

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