The Tennis School of Life

As a parent what do you think of the controversy in Australian tennis at the moment surrounding Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.

Everyone has an opinion on this with many labeling it “unaustralian”. I learnt a new word “tanking”.  It is “unaustralian” to not try your best for every shot. There is no denying that they both have talent and have set challenging goals to beat the best in tennis and that it is difficult to try and do this in the spotlight of the world’s media.

So what can we learn from this to teach our own kids.  The word Grit comes to mind- passion and perseverance towards a long-term goal. Watch Angela Lee Duckworth in this Youtube video.

Perseverance will out last talent and no matter what sport we are watching or playing. We respect someone who tries hard and is a “good sport”.

The other word that comes to mind is feedback. There is a call for tennis greats in Australia to support them through this time. That is hard to do when they have publically criticized them.  We have to be open to feedback. I am sure we have all reacted as adults like this and blamed others for our frustrations, mistakes and lack of success. We don’t like hearing negative feedback or losing.  In education, feedback from teachers is the key to improvement as it tells you and your child what they need to be working on- a way forward (Hattie, 2012)Feedback is critical in our lives and we need to teach our child to see feedback, not as criticism, but as helpful information of where to next. We need to teach students to seek out feedback, receive feedback as well as give and act on feedback. 

The last word that comes to mind is respect.  Although, in the end Kyrgios was not fined for “tanking” he was fined for inappropriate behavior. Respect for others, for those in authority (umpires) is still seen as important in the world of tennis. How to express disappointment and frustration appropriately is key in the education of our children.  In a lovely interview with Nick’s mother she also said that to express emotion is good but to do this appropriately is something to be learned. Rod Laver, one of tennis great, says Lleyton Hewitt, is the epitome of sportsmanship and trying hard and a great role model for others.

Read more:

  1. Take opportunities to teach respect for self and for others- have conversations about real life situations such as the tennis. Research shows that one of the greatest strategies for parents to have an effect on their child’s education is parent-child conversations (Fox & Olsen, 2014).
  2. Explain the need to preserve and not give up easily. Allow your child to experience failure and see failure, as a learning experience not a defeat, be willing to take risks and enjoy the challenge of learning.
  3. Teach them to see feedback as a way forward a way to improve and always be open to it, ask for it and learn how to deliver it to others.

The goal of education is to help students develop respect for themselves and others so to “develop into citizens who have challenging minds and the disposition to become active, competent, and thoughtfully critical participants in our complex world” (Hattie, 2012, p.27).

Tennis footnote. The 2015 final between Djokovic and Federer is an example to all of the respect they have for each other and the respect the have for the game and the greats of the game. Happy tennis everyone.


Fox, S. & Olsen, A. (2014). Defining Parental Engagement. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2012).  Visible learning for teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.

Cathy Quinn has been involved in schools for most of her working life, as a teacher, principal, consultant and most importantly as a parent. After 10 years as a principal she choose to devote her time to bringing up three children through their critical teenage years. Over this time she conducted study and research in the topic “Parental Engagement in Schools” As a result she has developed specialized strategies based on the latest world-wide research in relation to parental engagement and in particular meeting the Australian Professional Standard for Principals –“Engaging and Working with the Community”. She discovered life from the other side of the Principal’s desk and realized that all parents want the best for their child but knowing how to do that, can be very confusing despite the large amount of information out there.

She has developed six basic strategies, which are aligned with requirements of both the teacher’s standards as well as the principal’s standard. She provides ongoing guidance in a “How To” format in conjunction with parents, teachers and principals.

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