Megan Moulton-Levy blog: Dos and don’ts for tennis parents

February 7, 2017 10:36 AM

Megan Moulton-Levy competed on the WTA Tour in both singles and doubles, advancing to the round of 32 at all four Grand Slam tournaments and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 50 in the world in doubles in July 2013. Moulton-Levy was a four-year standout at the College of William & Mary from 2004-08, where she earned All-America honors six times and reached the 2006 NCAA singles semifinals and the 2007 NCAA doubles final. A two-time recipient of the National ITA/Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship, Moulton-Levy currently serves as a senior coach at the JTCC in College Park, Md., but also still plays competitively and recently competed in doubles at the 2017 Australian Open. For the next two months, she will be writing a blog on that will focus on her coaching career. In her latest entry, she gives some “dos” and “don’ts” for parents of young tennis players.

By Megan Moulton-Levy

At this moment in time, I am in a unique position of having the opportunity to both compete and coach at a high level. Because of this, I have gained a greater understanding and awareness of the differences in mindsets of player and coach. I can easily oscillate between both "worlds" in order to build a stronger connection with my players. However, when talking about the development of a young player, there are other key people whose role is essential – their parents.

Parents, as your child strives to be a great tennis player, you should strive to be a great tennis parent. I believe the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," can be applied to tennis, as well. Your role as a parent is just as important as any other person in your child's "tennis village," which is why I have compiled a list of do's and don'ts to keep in mind throughout your child's tennis journey.

DON'T put so much pressure on yourself to watch every practice.

DO make an effort to occasionally take a step back. Taking a step back will allow you to see more progress and growth in your child's game.

DON'T criticize every mistake your child makes on court. Allow the coach to do what you are paying them to do. Usually there is a method to their madness. If you have a question about the coaching methodology or your child's development, schedule a meeting with the coach. Like any great relationship, communication is key.

DO monitor and enforce effort levels. One great way to ensure your child's success on and off the court is to demand they give maximum effort at all times. Anything but 100 percent should not be acceptable.

Megan Moulton-Levy (left) at age 11, competing at a tournament in Jamaica.

DON'T treat wins and losses as the only measure of success.

DO have conversations with your child about the importance of having a good attitude and sportsmanship whether they win or lose.  A tennis player is a person who is beholden to their habits. There has to be more value placed on a young tennis player's ability to control the controllable, such as in-between point routines, attitude and effort. The more consistent they become with managing those things, the more likely it is that the wins will follow. On any given day, a tennis player's best stroke can momentarily disappear; however, does he or she have the mental fortitude to find a way to compete in spite of the missing stroke?

DON'T focus solely on your child's development as a tennis player.

DO use tennis as an avenue to build character traits that will be used in every aspect of their life – perseverance, time management, problem solving, hard work, overcoming challenges, etc. As coaches, we gently (or forcefully) nudge your child outside of their comfort zone to help them realize they are mentally and physically capable of much more than they know.

DON'T allow your child to see that you are nervous, frustrated or angry during their match. Assuming your child is giving maximum effort and behaving like a champion, keep your emotions to yourself. Yes, your child is trying to beat their opponent, but often times the biggest battle is against themselves. Adding a third variable (seeing a parent's negative reaction) makes it virtually impossible for them to compete. When I talk to tournament players as young as 11 years old, during the match they are often thinking about what their parent is going to say after the match. That does not leave them much mental space for critical thinking and problem solving.

DO try to put yourself in their shoes. I always loved traveling with people who provided me with a calming energy. It was clear as day when I double faulted at the least desirable point of the match. In that moment, I would be filled with doubt. I would be embarrassed, ashamed – the list could go on and on. The last thing I needed was to look up to see a disappointed family member or coach. I felt bad enough without that. As someone who supports your child, you cannot allow him or her to see how you are feeling. They are trying to overcome their own internal battles and need to be assured that you are solid as a rock.

Megan Moulton-Levy blog 1: My next big life goal/challenge

DON'T place all of your eggs in one basket.

DO make sure your child is well-rounded. If the stars align for your child to be a professional tennis player, just remember that at some point it will come to an end. Being on the WTA tour, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of how top players feel as they approach the ends of their careers. Most are often left without an education and feel uncertain about what the future holds. I will be eternally grateful for the many opportunities tennis has afforded me, including a free college education, travel around the world, friendships that will last a lifetime and an extreme sense of pride for all that I have accomplished. However, I am also grateful for being well-prepared for life after tennis. Keep this preparation in mind throughout your child's tennis journey.

This list of do's and don'ts is not the answer to every hardship you or your child will face throughout their development as a tennis player, nor is it a single formula for each child, as they are all unique in their own way. However, I do believe every child needs and deserves certain things, and this is just a snapshot of a few I would put at the top of my list.