Help & Advice for Parents

Provided by Camilla Knight PhD our resident Sports Psychologist

Negotiating the post-match period: Tips for providing feedback to players

Tennis tournaments are emotional experiences for players and parents. In this emotionally charged atmosphere players often turn to their parents for feedback after competition. The feedback parents provide has the potential to influence players’ perceptions of their performance and abilities and their motivation for continuing involvement in sport. Post-match comments also influence players’ feelings prior to and during the next competition. Consequently, ensuring that feedback is well-timed and delivered is very important. I hope the following advice regarding where, when, how and what feedback should be provided to players is of some help in negotiating this emotional post-match period.

Where should feedback be provided?

Whether players have won or lost, they do not like receiving feedback in front of their peers. This is particularly true with regards to excessively positive or negative parental reactions (e.g., shouting at players, extreme displays of affection, or appearing too proud of the performance). Young players, especially as they enter adolescents, are extremely self-conscious and highly aware of how others view them. As such, any parental behaviours that may draw attention to players or parents is not well received. Rather than providing post-game feedback in public it should be saved until players are in a private environment, such as the car or away from the tennis club.

When should feedback be provided?

Players and parents are emotional during the post-match period. Providing time for players to process their performance and for parents to become more objective about the match is important. However, choosing exactly when to provide feedback is likely to depend on the outcome of the match and also the individual child. For example, some children like to discuss the match instantly, whereas others do not. As such, it is important to engage in discussions with athletes regarding when they would like to receive post-match feedback. However, as a general rule parental feedback should be provided when the child initiates the conversation. If possible, providing players with an opportunity to talk to their coach before discussing their performance with parents can be useful. A helpful tip might be to ensure that no feedback (especially negative feedback) is provided before children have completed their cool-down.

How should feedback be provided?

Feedback should only be provided when the players are ready. Waiting until players indicate that they want to talk about the match or asking them if they would like to talk is the best way to initiate the post-match conversation. Post-match feedback should take the form of a discussion rather than a lecture. Players should be asked for their views on their performance and parents need to take the time to really listen to what they are saying. Children and adolescents are highly sensitive to feedback from their parents, particularly comments that appear critical. Ensuring feedback is positive and focused on areas for improvement is important. Players usually prefer parents to provide general positive praise regarding their performance, and then identify an area for improvement followed by specific praise regarding one aspect of their game.

What feedback should be provided?

Feedback should be provided regarding particular skills players have been working on or the goals they have developed with their coach. The information parents provide must be appropriate to their knowledge and experience and also be consistent with the coach’s message. Feedback should focus on aspects under players’ control, such as attitude, effort and behavior rather than the game outcome. Focusing on the outcome of the match is likely to lead to players feeling under pressure to win. Emphasizing effort and attitude helps players to remain motivated and interested in the match, regardless of how the match is progressing.

The above guidelines are presented to help guide the post-match conversation between parents and players. However, providing post-match feedback will never be easy, as comments need to be adapted to the game outcome, individual performances and any controversies that arose during the game. Parents also need to cope with their own emotions (either positive or negative) and ensure that these emotions do not dictate the feedback that they provide to athletes. Engaging in frequent discussions with players regarding the types of feedback they like and how they perceive the comments they receive is likely to ensure the best possible reactions and responses to parental feedback.

Regularly updated information can always be found on the British Tennis website, just follow the link below:

Useful PDFs

  1. Providing Post Game Feedback
  2. Parents Leaflet
  3. Tennis Parents Cheat Sheet