• Parents play a very important role in their child's tennis activity, including at the highest level since many fathers put on the coaching hat, without necessarily coming from the world of tennis.

  • Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin, Coco Gauff, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Richard Gasquet, the Williams sisters… All were, or still are today, trained by their father.

  • This intertwining of the professional and the family is not without generating tensions, given the stakes.

    Hence the need to better support parents.

John Tomic.

An infamous name in the world of tennis.

The man became known as the father and coach of Bernard Tomic, former 17th player in the world and Wimbledon quarter-finalist.

For dark reasons.

In 2013, he was sentenced to eight months in prison by the Spanish courts for headbutting his son's sparring partner, Thomas Drouet, who left history with a fractured nose and a damaged brow bone.

Violence, John Tomic was also subject to his own son since, as Bernard confided in the show

A Current Affair

, his father hit him “with balls, rackets and other things”.

In the same lackluster category of fathers who lost their minds, slip those of Jelena Dokic, Mary Pierce, Mirjana Lucic – who was beaten “when she lost a set” – and Aravane Rezaï, against whom her daughter filed a complaint for moral harassment, intentional violence and death threats.

Extreme cases, revealing the omnipresence of parents in the tennis sphere, the problems they can pose, and therefore the need to integrate this data to avoid seeing the vase overflow.

The figure of the parent-entrepreneur

If the parents are also present (even pressing) with the little yellow ball, this is largely explained by the characteristics of tennis.

An individual sport, which involves a lot of travel, commitment, and therefore a whole family organization.

Sandrine Bouchareb is working precisely on the subject as part of a thesis at the University of Paris Nanterre.

"I have listed 17 different tasks that the parent must manage and some require the acquisition of skills of a professional nature", explains the sociologist.

“For example, the coach can ask the parent to have their child do extra training on weekends.

Parents must also plan the competition schedule and accompany their child to tournaments, she explains.

Often, he improvises himself as a physical or mental trainer, but must also invest in tasks such as changing a strap, looking for sponsors to finance the project, etc.

These are new tasks that fall to parents when they enter high level tennis.

»

In her work, Sandrine Bouchareb seeks to show that parents invested in the sporting success of their child engage in a career as a “parent-entrepreneur”.

"They have a driving role in leading this journey to the top level," she says.

Especially since beyond the professional skills to be acquired or developed, you have to get your hands on the wallet.

“Via the federal sector, the best children are selected from the age of 5 in a departmental committee.

The cost of this training represents between 5,000 and 10,000 euros per year, excluding tournament fees.

In the private sector, with academies, which have their own structures, or self-employed coaches, it takes at least 40,000 euros per year, ”estimates the sociologist.

An investment that can generate expectations, and therefore pressure.

And this is where we risk tipping over to the dark side of the force.

When mom and dad ask for a return on investment...

Bernard Tomic said it himself: “I was on the court 8 to 10 hours a day when I was 10 years old.

My father always put a lot of pressure on me and it's not easy.

To be number 1, to win 10 to 20 Grand Slam tournaments… His expectations of me were always too high.

The competition and the stakes mean that some parents can become borderline, like the cases mentioned above.

"I have received testimonies from parents who have observed physical violence against children following a defeat," says Sandrine Bouchareb.

Some parents are blindsided by how caught up they are in these careers, in what they have invested and what they are planning.

The project for their child to become a high-level athlete then takes precedence over their educational role.

When parents focus solely on a sports career, they sometimes set aside their second mission as a parent, which is to help their child flourish.

»

An observation shared by Yannick Hesse, father and trainer of Amandine, who has several selections for the French Fed Cup team.

“Parents have only one interest: the happiness and balance of their children.

It went well with Amandine because there was real trust and real expectation, above all, of her happiness and balance.

I see things like that, but it may not be the case for everyone… For some parents, it's a real financial project, there is a big investment, and success comes first.

I've seen some who taught their children, very early on, to cheat, to behave badly…” Everything, you see everything on the circuit.

“We must also guide parents in supporting their children”

Since parents are inevitably a given in the tennis equation, support is gradually being put in place.

On the sidelines of the Lagardère Trophy, Paris Racing organized a conference on the place of parents in tennis.

The discussions were moderated by sports psychologist Elise Anckaert, who is involved with the Paris departmental committee in monitoring young players and their parents.

“Some departmental committees organize training for parents on the management of emotions, nutrition or hygiene of young athletes, adds Sandrine Bouchareb.

Training parents seems essential to me, in order to provide them with the necessary knowledge to effectively support their child and avoid situations of abuse of authority or mistreatment.

»

And Pauline Parmentier, responsible for girls in the 15-18 category at the FFT, to engage: “Parents are more and more in the project of players.

The parent who travels, who is there all the time, is almost the norm today.

We guide players to the top level, but today we must also guide parents in supporting their children.

A way to ensure that we will train athletes, but above all human beings.

And if possible, balanced human beings who, once their careers are behind them, will not suffer the backlash of those years under pressure.

Sport

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Aravane Rezaï files a complaint against his father

  • Sport

  • Tennis

  • Roland Garros 2022

  • Parents

  • Child

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