10S BALLS: JIM COURIER – SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR PUSHY PARENTS
U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier is one of the most well- reasoned people in tennis, which is why he also received accolades as a TV analyst. He can offer up conservative opinions, as well as ones that go against the grain. When asked whether its possible for tennis parents both to develop a well rounded human being and tennis champion without being pushy, he said that history teaches that’s usually those parents who drove their children hard who ended up developing top players.
“I think it’s hard to get both,” he said. “ I think you’ll see just from the history of our sport in this country, which we can speak to, because [US Fed Cup captain] Mary Joe Fernandez and I lived it, there are a lot of extreme parents out there that have created some extremely good tennis players.
This is a hard sport to try to balance everything with. There are exceptions. I’m very biased when I say this – [Mary Joe and I] turned out to be pretty well-rounded people who have reasonable perspectives. That’s not always easy given the complexities of raising a child in a sport that’s not a team sport, where everything falls on their shoulders. If you want to raise a champion, I think history shows you need extreme commitment from the parents.
They’re not the parents who just watch, they’re the parents who watch and are on the court every day. They are the Yuri Sharapovs, Mike Agassis, Richard Williamses of the world who drive and drive and drive. I’m not saying [their children] are not well-rounded people, they all seem to be well-rounded now, but maybe in the heat of fire maybe they weren’t earlier in their career.”
Both of Fernandez and her husband Tony Godsick’s children play tournament tennis [Godsick is Roger Federer’s agent]. Fernandez says the she unexpectedly gets nervous when she watches her kids play.and is turned off when “Kids try to bully my kids, or parents get involved. I don’t remember it being quite as intense as it is now. It’s very not only competitive, but it just seems like it’s gone up so many notches in the intensity, how parents want to live through their kids. It’s the end all, be all.
My daughter is 10, my son is 8. You should see, some of these parents think it’s the finals of Wimbledon every time they go out there. I think the ideal tennis parent is someone who makes sure their children are enjoying the sport, gives them room and space, obviously support and guidance, but aren’t on top of them 24/7.”
Courier and Fernandez agreed that if a player doesn’t have high ranking in his or her section, that for parents to continue to drive them to be pros is likely a mistake.
“You’re not going to make a living playing tennis if you’re 30 in your section.” Courier said. “At that stage it’s something more about developing character, learning about yourself, creating skill sets and traits that will translate into success in other areas of your life.”
Fernandez added: “How great it is for children to learn characteristics that they’re going to need later in life? But I think so many parents just have this false sense of what their child, the road they’re taking, what they can be. You have to start off with the well-roundedness as the principal goal. If you see your child is excelling, then that’s the time where I agree with Jim, you do need someone committed. I always tell everybody, if my dad didn’t take me to practice every day or on the weekends, sign me up for tournaments, I would have stayed home and watched cartoons. You do need that commitment and support from a parent. But to me being well-rounded is a lot more important.”