Junior tennis coaches commonly argue that parents must push their children and be very involved to develop their talent, despite the strain on the parent-child relationship that may occur from these tactics. To examine parental influence on talent development and the parent-child relationship, nine professional tennis players, eight parents, and eight coaches were retrospectively interviewed about each player’s junior development based Bloom’s three stages of talent development (1985). Results are presented through aggregated, nonfiction stories of three tennis development pathways: smooth, difficult, and turbulent. Smooth pathways were typical of parents who were supportive and maintained a healthy parent-child relationship while facilitating talent development. Difficult and turbulent pathways involved parents who stressed the importance of tennis and created pressure by pushing their child toward winning and talent development. For difficult pathways, parent-child relationships were negatively affected but conflicts were mostly resolved, whereas for turbulent pathways, many conflicts remained unresolved.
The authors are with the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.