Supporting Your Student Tennis Player: On and Off the Court
Few experiences are more thrilling for a parent than watching your child's skills and talents flourish.
Every test passed with flying colors, every smashed tournament, every art exhibition—they're worthy of celebration at every stage. Life experience tells us that natural knacks and effortless talent can take a child as far as they're willing to go. And when it comes to nurturing them in a holistic way—body and mind—student-athletes need guidance to help strike the balance that supports success.
Future tennis stars only have so many hours in the day to dedicate to education and to show up on the court, as well as rest, spend time with family, and have time to socialize. No parent wants to see their child lack in any of these areas, as they're all essential parts of development.
Being their biggest cheerleader is a small piece of supporting a successful tennis player. In fact, supporting a winning student-athlete requires a whole team of support and guidance. Young athletes spend a lot of time proving themselves, especially if their goal is to play in a NCAA Division I program, which only an infinitesimal fraction of tennis athletes will achieve.
As a parent, how can you help your child accomplish their dreams both in the classroom and on the court?
Train, study, and rest: Student athletes need to strike a balance
Student tennis players may need to be acclimated to rising with the sun if they want to dedicate enough time to their sport and still do their best in school. That's not to say that your teenager should feel like every waking moment—and perhaps even some sleeping moments—should be spent stressing about school and tennis.
As a parent, it’s important to encourage discipline and structured schedules, but also recovery and care-oriented habits like eight hours of sleep, regularly seeing friends and family, and designated time spent away from the court and the classroom. While they may not be explicitly telling you, your athlete may be feeling an immense amount of pressure that could be having a greater impact on their mental health than is apparent.
Signs of behavioral or mental distress will vary based on each child, but here are some things that may suggest anxiety or depression in student-athletes, according to sport psychology experts from Pepperdine University:
- Substance abuse
- Productivity decrease, whether in athletes and academics or beyond
- Withdrawal from family and social circles, isolation
- Other abnormal behaviors and moods
Check in with your tennis athlete often, especially if their demeanor changes in times of great pressure—like preparing for an important tournament or after a loss.
Help your tennis player develop time management skills
Time management skills protect those important boundaries set for balancing a young person’s responsibilities and their leisure/downtime, and they also ensure that your student tennis athlete’s working hours are spent in a smart, efficient way.
One of the easiest ways to develop a student’s time management skills is modeling the same behaviors, so it’s a good idea to show your child that you’re very productive in your working time and mindfully recovering or resting in your off time. This proves to be especially important with high school students preparing for a career in college sports since their responsibilities are only going to increase in the coming years—while hours in the day do not.
Also, never underestimate the power of a solid schedule. Without your guidance, a teen who hasn’t yet established their time management skills may find themselves procrastinating, oversleeping, staying up too late, or having difficulty allocating the right amount of time to different tasks. From mealtimes to sleep to even social time with teammates and friends, having a structure—or at least a general weekly and daily outline that can be slightly tweaked as circumstances change—helps teens build valuable life skills like punctuality and proficiency, explains ADDittude Magazine.
There are several family calendars and organizational mobile and web apps that you and your child can use to outline the responsibilities of the week, rank them by importance, and then file them into the schedule as they best fit.
Your future tennis star’s NCAA eligibility
Unfortunately, even the best young tennis player in the country won’t be eligible for the NCAA if their grades have tanked and they have an underdeveloped academic profile. Athletic prowess alone isn’t enough for a future college student-athlete to secure their spot in the next tennis chapter. Division I hopefuls should be establishing their academic eligibility as early as freshman year. The first step is to create an NCAA Certification Account, which is the profile the NCAA will use to determine eligibility.
Your student should then plan to complete a set of 16 courses—known as the core courses—comprising various social sciences, English, math, and physical/natural science classes.
It’s very important that you monitor your child’s progress in these courses to ensure they’re not struggling, since the NCAA only considers the GPA of core courses for eligibility. A 2.3 on a 4.0 scale is the minimum required GPA for D1.
At Laurel Springs School, a placement management counselor will ensure that core requirements are being met with the classes chosen. Laurel Springs offers over 160 NCAA-approved courses to choose from—courses proven to support Laurel Springs Division I tennis recruits in their quest for the top. Over half of our 2021 graduates alone were accepted into Division I schools!
Completion and GPA of core courses in conjunction with SAT/ACT performance are used on a sliding scale to ultimately decide on NCAA D1 admittance.
Prepare a recruiter’s first-round pick
In recruiting season, thousands of players are competing for the attention of recruiters from their top choice schools. Your student’s got the talent and they’ve got the brains, but is that enough? Especially for athletic scholarships and the most competitive recruitments, your favorite schools may also be looking for a strong sense of character in their favorite picks.
Establishing themselves in the collegiate tennis community comes with more responsibility than grades. Ranking well in tournaments is an easy way to be noticed by recruiters, but that will only get your athlete so far if they struggle with sportsmanship. Completing the core courses is the bare minimum, but making sure you’ve got solid recruiting profiles and videos that show your athlete’s talent and personality is the extra mile.
And lastly, networking with the powers that be in the tennis realm—that is college coaches, recruiters, scouts—is a lasting skill that’ll benefit them long after they hang up the tennis rack. Teach your teen the ages-old adage for college freshmen: that professors won’t know every student’s name, but make sure they know your name. Being confident and proactive in their networking, making the first contact with the coaches of their favorite programs, and staying impressionable in all the best ways will help your student stand out as a first-round pick at their programs of choice.
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