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An Interview with Lisa Stone, The Tennis Mom Behind the Parenting Aces Blog
by Colette Lewis
, 22 June 2012
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A banker, a stockbroker, a fitness instructor and tech-savvy entrepreneur, Lisa Stone has had a variety of experiences in her working life. Yet tennis has been a constant companion since her childhood in Louisiana, with her latest venture, the blog Parenting Aces, created in response to the challenges she and her husband faced in navigating the junior tennis world with their son Morgan.
Committed to tennis since attending a University of Georgia camp the summer he turned 10, Morgan began taking lessons, attending an after-school academy and playing local tournaments near their suburban Atlanta home. In the six years since, Morgan, now a rising high school sophomore, has maintained his commitment to the sport, while Stone has remained dedicated to learning all she can about its pathways.
Unable to locate the practical information she sought to assist her son's progress, Stone, who has two older daughters who did not play junior tennis, took to social media to learn more about the ins and outs of junior tennis competition. There she found sources who encouraged her to undertake the job herself, and in November of 2011, her blog Parenting Aces made its debut.
At the NCAAs last month, I sat down with Stone to discuss her motives in going public as a tennis mom, the rewards and challenges of junior tennis parenting, the delicate balance of sharing enough but not too much in her attempts to help others in her position.
Questions and Answers
Colette Lewis (CL): Why did you start Parenting Aces?
Lisa Stone (LS): I had been asking and asking the USTA for years to please do more parent education. As the parent of a junior player, you're just really thrown into the shark pit and expected to figure it out. The coaches don't know how to guide you - the rules change so often, and they don't really understand it either. The other parents don't really want to talk to you because your child is competing against their child and god forbid they should tell you something that would help your child do better. So where do I get this information?
I happened upon a Facebook group called US Junior Legends Circuit, and I started asking my questions of these people because I wasn't getting answers from the coach and I wasn't getting answers from the USTA. There was just nobody to go to. I kept, not really complaining, but stating that it was frustrating not to have a go-to for information as a parent, and several folks in that group said 'you need to start writing.'
CL: What have you gained from your first six months of writing?
LS: It's been very therapeutic. I think my husband is relieved that I have an outlet. On the one hand I struggle with how honest can I be. I don't want to put my son in a situation where something I say comes back to haunt him. The tennis world is very chatty, people talk, and I don't want to do that to him. But at the same time, I want to be valuable. I want what I say to be useful to people, and I don't want to sugarcoat things that shouldn't be sugarcoated. It's a struggle. My son wasn't reading my blog at first and I knew he wasn't reading it, so I could say some things knowing he wasn't reading it. But now he does read it - not always - and I'm filtering what I write a little bit more. Sometimes the blog is a really nice way for me to tell him something that I can't say to him face-to-face because he'll shut down, he won't hear it. But if he reads it, maybe the message will come through.
I feel it makes me a better tennis parent, because I'm learning through the process of writing. It's been a great opportunity to talk to people who have been there and done that over and over and over again.
CL: Why do you think you want to share what you've learned while other tennis parents may not?
LS: A personality flaw, maybe? (laughs). I just feel like life is hard enough. Parenting is hard, but there are so many things people put up a front over, and that's just not the way I choose to do things. When I have issues I wear them on my sleeve and everybody knows it. For the last twenty-some years I've been in a position where I've been teaching or sharing, so obviously that's a component of my personality.