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Cayman Parent | Articles | Expert Advice | CP Tips | Raising A Good Sport: Parenting Young Athletes

CP Tips | Raising A Good Sport: Parenting Young Athletes

Nick Bollittieri coaching cayman kids

Parents play an important role in a child’s development as an athlete and a good sport. In fact, they have the power to either help their child reach their maximum potential or hinder their overall long-term development. To avoid the latter, follow these top tips from IMG Academy; find out what to do and what not to do to become a winning sport parent. By instilling a love of exercise now, children have more chance of becoming healthier adults with a sunnier outlook on life! – Erin Fitzgerald, IMG Academy


1. Build a Strong Support System

World renowned tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, founder of IMG Academy, says that parents today may have the single biggest impact on youth athletes, particularly in one-on-one sports like tennis and golf. “They are their child’s bloodline” said Bollettieri. He further explained that the trick to fostering a positive support system is to get the young athlete, parent, and coach on the same page. “If you can get that formula to work, you’re one step ahead of everybody else” explained Bollettieri.

2. Give Positive Feedback

Timing is also important when communicating with your child during a competition. Receiving feedback from both a coach and parent during play can be difficult for young athletes. It can cause frustration, a change in attitude and a lack of focus. In addition, constant verbal feedback during practice or a competition does not allow a young athlete to process and learn independently. Sadly, this can hinder their overall long-term development. Margie Zesinger, a tennis coach at IMG Academy, suggests that parents should pay keen attention to their children to decide when they are most open to feedback and once that has been determined, parents should follow a consistent feedback schedule after every competition.

3. Put Education First

When a young athlete improves and reaches the next level in their sport, they often set athletic goals and dreams they wish to achieve in both the short and long-term. While this is a very important part of their athletic journey, it should never take the place of one very important aspect of their life: education. Parents should always push and motivate their children in the classroom, just as much as they do in competition. A young athlete must always be aware that the skills and discipline they develop at school can be applied on the field or court.

4. Avoid Short-Term Thinking

When it comes to athletic growth, it is common for some parents and athletes to be singularly focused on the next competition or upcoming opportunity. Zesinger warns that “parents should avoid having short-term vision when it comes to their child’s development.” Instead, they should always think of the long term while celebrating each success or stage of their child’s athletic development.

5. Develop An Identity

Young athletes should begin developing their athletic identity early. Parents, coaches and teammates can also help shape this unique identity along the way. Zesinger advises that parents should take an active role in helping their child build their identity as an athlete, while allowing them the freedom to develop their own game-style based on their strengths and favourite skill set.

6. Always Be Supportive

Finally, parents should always be supportive of their children, no matter their level of achievement. Feedback given to young athletes should always be constructive and meaningful. One helpful technique for parents is the “positive-negative-positive” approach, where a parent points out what went well, followed by specific areas that could be improved, and then ending with a positive and encouraging comment. Additionally, parents can provide support by allowing their children the freedom to make their own decisions and mistakes, while offering guidance when and if needed.



Cayman Connection: Nick Bollittieri founded the tennis programme at IMG Academy over 40 years ago. Since its inception, the programme has developed 10 worldwide #1 tennis players, 51 combined Eddie Herr and Easter Bowl titles, and has had 4 NCAA singles titles in the past 7 years. Outside of IMG, Nick owns the Tennis Courts at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. If you drop by, you can often see Nick frequenting the 3 beautiful red clay courts and 2 blue hard courts, or popping into the #1 specialised tennis pro shop on Island. For information on children’s lessons or to book court time for yourself, call (345) 323-0049.


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