“Life Outside the Lines” is a new weekly column in collaboration with one of India’s promising Gen Next player, Mukund Sasikumar. With candid honesty, he shares his thoughts from a player’s perspective.

Read the first two episodes here –

Thanks to Suresh Sonachalam sir for asking me to write a blog about parents affecting a journey of a player in a good or a bad way. I am no one to advice how to parent a child, as I am a massive food-obsessed baby myself, whom my mom struggles to manage. So, just sharing my experience.

If we are in a restaurant with someone, {it will all make sense as you read, so keep reading} and the both of us have the menu. Sometimes we end up deciding what we going to eat quite fast. But then when the other person asks you to decide saying ANYTHING IS FINE, you end up getting hustled a bit. Even though he or she says anything is fine, you think so much just for a simple reason. You want that person to have the best dish. You just don’t pick a random item and say, you said ‘ANYTHING IS FINE’. SO, TO PLAYERS AND PARENTS, being a parent is extremely tough and hats off for that. Because making a decision on someone’s behalf is not at all easy. And once you have made that, it’s natural to have doubts, as the parent is anxious about the kid’s future. Choosing tennis as an example. So, what you feel is completely normal as a parent. The only thing you have to make sure is, your anxiety and your reaction to it doesn’t destroy the wonderful decision you took by making your child play sport.

When we come to the players’ point of view, it does take a few years into our teenage or maybe even later to realise that our parents want the best for us. Some might never even realise it. But between 13 till 20, it’s quite difficult for a child to stay calm and understand the parents’ emotions. So, though I might receive some backlash for this, but as an elder person it’s the parent who has to learn to control his/her emotions better. I feel one of the most important qualities to have as a tennis parent is, Emotional Control. It’s not possible every time, but you have to try. To make it clear, it’s very normal for many of you to feel disappointed when the child loses a close match due to a silly mistake. You may question yourself when the other kid plays better than yours, when you leave all your office work and travel to another city spending your money and the tournament doesn’t go well at all, you are bound to feel very down sometimes. All these things what you feel is HUMAN. It’s only a problem when you transfer these emotions or vent it out on the player IN EXCESS. For example, if a child loses the third set being 5-0 up and gets nervous after that and loses 7-5. If the child likes tennis, it’s already a lot of emotion as a player. He/ she is already extremely disappointed and shocked to know they got tight at 5-0 and lose the whole match. So the next time you want the player to not get tight or nervous, the only way as a parent, is to ease the player out a bit by saying “So what if  you got nervous, you are human and next time just try to play your game” and next time there is a good chance the child might end up overcoming the situation, because he/ she knows someone might not be mad at them for losing the match. In case they lose, they might be much more nervous if you frowned on them the last time, which makes them tighter than what they were the first time they lost. Although you may be sad that your child lost, what the child feels is what you feel.

One of the reasons why many parents get stressed is, they see tennis as a career option from a very early age. You may hate me for this but it’s TRUE! It’s not a career in the beginning! It’s a ‘passion’ which might turn into a career later on. Many people think and proudly say ‘for our kid we chose tennis professionally’. They are wrong. You can never choose pro tennis. Tennis will choose you if you are worthy enough. Until then just make the child enjoy the sport. Because unlike other fields, in tennis just by doing the right things won’t make you successful sometimes. You can still fail. It takes something much more than that to fall in place for someone to make it in sport. So, you spending a few lakhs here and there won’t change anything. Look at it like buying your child a video game. You don’t expect returns out of it, right? Sport is just a healthier video game which teaches your child values along with giving happiness. Don’t rush it! If your child has the destiny to make it up there, no one can stop it. So, try not to strain your relationship over small junior results and see it as a journey with your son/ daughter. Those times won’t come back later.

Some parenting lines I learnt by myself I could classify 3 main things with an example of your kid wanting to climb a tree.

Parental Education— “IF YOU FALL IT WILL HURT, SNAKES MIGHT BE THERE, BE CAREFUL”

Parental Support. — “YOU CLIMB, IF YOU FALL I’LL CATCH YOU! ALL THE BEST”

Parental Interference — “DON’T CLIMB’’

Try to balance between the first two along with the other million rules that apply for a parent and try the interference option only as last resort and extreme circumstances, where you are sure the decision or the child’s actions will lead to irreparable damage. For Tennis matches and general walk of life try and stick to the first two.

So some do’s or don’ts I can think of:

‘Be a Dad/Mom and not the coach, you will never be one”

‘The money you spend on your sport is not an Investment, it’s a price you pay for the child’s happiness and growth’

‘Most importantly admit if you make a mistake, it increases your respect and love from your child a million-fold. Nothing wrong in apologising to someone younger. We all can make mistakes. Doesn’t make you small.’

To end it, most of us kids will be parents one day and many of us may even fail to do what you are doing now. We all young guys have nothing but respect and love towards all of you and the main intention of writing this is to help some parents enhance their relationship with their kids. Not trying to find any fault with anyone. Thank you for all you have given us and no achiever will be anything without their parents.

Jai hind!

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