As parents, we all wish for a wonderful life for our children. We want them to grow up healthy and happy, and sports are an essential tool to accomplish this. Sports provide exercise, mental challenges, and social interaction, three essential building blocks for a successful life.

But as you know, sports can vary greatly. Some emphasize strength, others endurance, and others coordination. Some are individual sports and some are team sports. Some accentuate the mental side and some the physical side. So, it is important to pick a sport carefully and understand what it offers, and this is where tennis is hard to beat.

Tennis stresses all fitness components: speed, agility, strength, power, flexibility, and endurance, providing a very balanced conditioning benefit. It is incredibly mentally challenging because you are on the court alone, there is no time limit, the scoring system promotes many “key moments” in the match, and the circumstances are never the same (different courts, the weather, different opponents, etc.), which teaches players to solve problems and handle adversity. And from a social perspective, it is ideal. You can start playing at a very young age and you can play your whole life. You only need one opponent to have fun, and you will find players at your level everywhere you go. What else can you ask for?

I come from a tennis-playing family. My grandparents played, my parents played, my sisters and I play, and my wife and daughters play. Tennis has given us many wonderful memories and has absolutely enriched our lives.

I would encourage all parents with young children to introduce their kids to tennis. Whether they play it competitively or socially, it will enhance their lives.

But for those who choose the competitive route, it is important to understand that “struggle” is an integral part of competitive sports and that tennis is no exception. Competitive tennis is very challenging, full of ups and downs. It is a constant uphill battle, but in the end, learning to handle pressure and deal with adversity is one of the most important gifts that you can give your child. It is the perfect preparation for life.

Having said that, being a parent of a competitive player can be very stressful. Injuries, losses, slumps, disappointments, are all part of the game. Put on your seatbelt and get ready for a rollercoaster ride, but never forget that tennis is just a “game”. Relax and enjoy the process. You have little control. Competitive tennis is a great way to spend quality time with your child but it can also easily damage your relationship if you do not handle it correctly. Here are a few things to always keep in mind: It is your child who is playing, not you. If you feel disappointed, imagine how your child feels. Praise effort, discipline, and preparation over victories, and never ever forget that it is only a game which regardless of the results will positively transform your child’s life.

I wish you many wonderful experiences sharing this amazing game with your child!

Edgar Giffenig