Crazy Tennis Parents

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Venus and Serena's mellow dad

Venus and Serena's oh-so-mellow dad

 Here’s a provocative idea to save American tennis, entertainingly floated by Huan Hsu in today’s Slate: junk the expensive academies, the fancy training programs, and the sophisticated scouting systems, and replace them with what really produces champions: nutjob tennis parents. Huan writes:

Tennis consists of only a handful of basic strokes and strategies. As such, parents who wouldn’t dare try to teach, say, golf can read a book, watch a few videos, and give capable instruction. What separates the best players from their peers isn’t superior teaching. It’s maniacal devotion.

It’s a good point. Of course, that maniacal devotion often comes with a hefty price–namely, the generous helping of pathology, abuse, and all-purpose weirdness that goes along with it (which the article lists in frightening depth). The unspoken question is, are we willing to pay that price? Or would it perhaps be smarter to take a look at the slightly-less-insane way in which some other successful players are raised (like Federer and Nadal, for instance)?


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4 Responses to “Crazy Tennis Parents”

  1. Ross Kay says:

    Huan Hsu really is not far off. What is it that creates a willingness or desire for any child to believe enough in something that they put aside the no effort pleasures of childhood for something requiring effort. I suspect it is presented by these parents as “Just the way it is”.

  2. Alec H says:

    Huan Hsu has very good points but leaves out a lot to be sure.
    First off, the williams sisters were not produced by some dad that did not have any coaching background.
    You may want to do little investigative reporting there…uhhh Rick Macci perhaps. Certainly growing up in california it really bothers me to have time and time again people reporting that certain players (like the williams sisters) never had any coaching.. we know this is not a fact…crazy parents…yes (like a fox)!
    Richard is a genius, deflected all problems away from his daughters, if you know the man at all, he is a genius.

  3. Zed says:

    Well first of all as a former college tennis player and current tennis teacher I absolutely disagree with the statement that tennis consists of a handful of basic strategies and techniques! That’s ludicrous! As a matter of fact it is generally considered one of the hardest sports to learn and gain basic proficiency! There seems to be only a handful of strokes or strategies involved but what makes tennis difficult is actually the numerous technical and tactical varieties of this “basis” that can and will occur during a tennis match.
    Secondly, citing Rafael Nadal as an example of a professional athlete who grew up without pushy tennis parents is absolutely wrong. As a matter of fact his uncle is widely considered as one of the most intense family members of any player on the tour, still today!

  4. Tennis Dad Jon says:

    Zed, you are totally wrong. Most matches consist of basic ground strokes, serves, perhaps some drop shots. Singles players rarely even volley or overhead anymore. The tactics are basic patterns played out again and again. Its a hard game to play at a high level but quite easy to play at a rec level. Get over yourself. I had zero tennis background and using videos trained my kid to dominate her age groups all through juniors and get a top D-1 full ride.

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