Shropshire tennis coach hits out at pushy parents

Pushy parents are killing children’s enthusiasm for sport and need to calm down, according to a Shropshire tennis coach.

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Neil Devereux says they should instead serve up more encouragement for youngsters and help foster a lifelong love of sport, not dish out criticism and make enemies on the sidelines.

Devereux is the director of Firstpoint Tennis which runs the Telford Tennis Centre, in Oakengates. He trains thousands of youngsters at centres across the Midlands.

And his advice, across all sports, is that parents need to adopt a more relaxed attitude – limiting their involvement to being makeshift taxi drivers, financiers and cheerleaders.

He said: “The top priority for parents is to praise their efforts, rather than achievements, to give them a sense that your support is not conditional on them winning all the time.

“Parents also need to learn to enjoy encouraging their children’s sporting efforts and abilities, not just watch their every move like a constant critic.

“It’s important to provide a sense of humour at coaching sessions or clubs – because if you are having fun, that also means your child is more likely to enjoy sport.”

Devereux, a Lawn Tennis Association level five coach, said British ladies No.1 Heather Watson recently paid tribute to the huge sacrifices her parents made to further her career – while taking a backseat in it.

“Use the time on the sidelines to be sociable and chat to other parents,” said Devereux.

“There are countless occasions when parents chip in thinking they know best, but leave the coaching up to the coaches.”