Parental Involvement in Table Tennis

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Parents have a huge impact on a child’s table tennis experience. From the actions and reactions they display on the side lines to the opportunities and feedback that they supply. They have considerable influence over the child and can effect their enjoyment and performance on and off the table. This influence can effect the child either positively or negatively. Some negative consequences of inappropriate parent involvement are competitive anxiety, fear of failure and reduced perceptions of competence. Therefore increasing a parents positive involvement in table tennis is important. This article looks to provide some suggestions to coaches about how they can help parents be a positive influence for their child in table tennis.

It is tough for parents to know how best to support their child. As coaches we need to try and understand, support and educate parents so that the children gain the most enjoyment possible from table tennis. Parents want a coach who will share information relating to their child’s development, goals, and potential progression. As coaches we are also of benefit to parents by advising their children on matters other than table tennis.

Studies of parental involvement in tennis have identified some areas where parents feel stress. These instances include; uncertainty regarding appropriate behaviours at tournaments, difficulties when watching their children under perform, struggling to finance their children’s involvement in sport, encountering issues at work due to the time commitment required to take their children to training and tournaments, and general concerns regarding their children’s development (Harwood & Knight, 2009a; 2009b). With all this potential stress it important that coaches provide emotional support to parents whether it be a shoulder to cry on or just listening to concerns and providing advice.

Understanding the parents concerns will allow you to help them. Coaches can learn about the parents experiences by directly asking them in an informal or even a more formal setting. Another way to develop deeper understanding could be to host a parents evening or meeting. This would allow the parents to interact and perhaps learn from each other about different issues the parents have faced.

With an increased understanding it is easier to educate the parents on what may be perceived negatively by the child and what may hinder the childs’ development. Also, it may be easier to suggest some behaviours to adopt that will have a positive impact on the child.

Some positive behaviours to encourage parents to adopt would be providing unconditional love and support, logistical and financial support, and holding the player accountable for their behaviour on the table. Some behaviours that may negatively effect the player and should be discouraged are; overemphasizing winning, criticizing the child, and lacking emotional control. (Gould et al., 2006, 2008; Lauer et al., 2010a; 2010b)

Additonal to these behaviours a further study identified some preferences described by children as supportive behaviours that have a positive impact on their development (Knight et al., 2010). These can be found below:

  • Do not provide technical or tactical advice (unless the parent had the appropriate knowledge due to being a coach or having played at a high level).
  • Ensure feedback from the parents focuses on the players’ effort and attitude, rather than their performance or the result of the match.
  • Provide practical advice to help players prepare and recover from matches (be careful not to become repetitive).
  • Respect the etiquette of the game by not becoming involved in matches or excessively supporting the child during one-sided matches.
  • Match non-verbal behaviours (such as facial expressions and body position) with supportive comments and keep these consistent throughout the match.

Coaches should look to understand the parents point of view and educate and support them through their journey. By doing this the players experience will be more enjoyable.

References

Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rolo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2006). Understanding the role parents play in tennis success: A national survey of junior tennis coaches. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, p632-636.

Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rolo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2008). The role of parents in tennis success: Focus group interviews with junior coaches. The Sport Psychologist, 22, p18-37.

Harwood, C., & Knight, C. (2009a). Understanding parental stressors: An investigation of British tennis-parents. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, p339-351.

Harwood, C., & Knight, C. (2009b). Stress in youth sport: A developmental investigation of tennis parents. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, p447-456.

Knight, C. J., Boden, C. M., & Holt, N. L. (2010). Junior tennis players’ preferences for parental behaviors. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, p377-391.

Lauer, L., Gould, D., Roman, N., & Pierce, M. (2010a). Parental behaviors that affect junior tennis player development. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, p487-496.

Lauer, L., Gould, D., Roman, N., & Pierce, M. (2010b). How parents influence junior tennis players’ development: Qualitative narratives. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 4, p69-92.

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