Encouragement and the next Venus Williams

Encouragement is one of the most powerful ways to influence children. Encouragement is so much better than praise. Encouragement can change your relationship with your child.

Photo by Steven Pike.

I saw an incredible example of encouragement last night at the community tennis courts.

Just before dark, a father pulled up with a basket of balls and his daughter, about 7 years old. She skipped out to the court with a racket. Dad began gently hitting balls to her, which she began swinging and mostly missing.

This is what dad said — these are direct quotes:

  • Good!
  • That was your best swing! (after she had swung and missed)
  • Yup.
  • Keep your eye on the ball.
  • Wow! That was a good shot! (after the ball careened out-of-bounds)
  • Keep your head up.
  • Nice.
  • That was your best swing.
  • That was too close to your body, nice swing, though.

I could feel the tenderness with which he hit the ball to her. His patience and encouragement — noting effort made — captivated me.

She said, “Dad, can you do a high one now?”

Dad immediately complied with five lobs,which she either hit into the net or out-of-bounds. Dad offered a correction, “Turn your body sideways.” When she slammed a ball down, he growled and said, “That’s nasty.”

Dad kept his voice calm and even as she swung and missed until darkness descended 20 minutes later.

Dad walked around the court and picked up the balls while daughter bounced a ball on a racket — which is good practice.

Saint Dad is dedicated to his daughter learning to play tennis. I would have involved daughter in picking up the balls, of course. He made it fun for her. I was jealous of the time and attention daughter had with dad.

No matter what role tennis will play in the daughter’s life, they are setting up a fun activity they can do together for a long time.

I want to be there the day daughter beats dad! That’s always a triumph.

I remember playing backyard volleyball with my father and our big family. I treasure those memories — and it gave me a skill and can-do attitude for life towards sports.

What sports did you do with your family?

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