Lisa Stone is the founder of ParentingAces, an invaluable resource for parents to help guide them (and their children) through the complex world of junior tennis. We caught up with her to talk about her mission and company as a whole.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a little bit about your own tennis journey
Lisa Stone: I grew up in a tennis-playing family and started playing at a pretty young age at a club in our neighbourhood. I was very lucky that our club alternated between hosting the Boys 14s Nationals and Girls 14s Nationals during my teen years, so I got to meet and watch some incredible up-and-coming players along the way.
I played throughout my state but didn’t travel outside the immediate area too often – I wasn’t that good and really didn’t have the desire to become good enough to play on a national schedule.
I competed on my school teams in the 8th grade (my doubles partner and I won the state high school varsity doubles championship that year!) and in the 9th grade but stopped playing for many years after that. I picked the game back up as an adult living in the Atlanta suburbs where league tennis is HUGE and continuing playing league and recreational tennis to this day.
How and where did the idea for ParentingAces come from?
My youngest child, a son, fell in love with tennis and wanted to pursue it at a high level with the goal of playing Division I college tennis.
Since I had never played at that level, I needed guidance to help him reach his goals but was unable to get the information I needed from my son’s coaches or from the governing body. I started posing my questions in a tennis group on Facebook and received some incredibly helpful information and advice.
One member of the group suggested I compile the information and put it on a website for other tennis parents to use. That’s when ParentingAces was born.
You provide a wide array of services to junior and college tennis players, tell us a little bit about those?
Really, my services are geared toward the parents of the junior and college players rather than the players themselves.
I am not a tennis coach, but I do have access to some of the world’s best coaches who are gracious enough to share their knowledge with the ParentingAces community through articles, live stream video sessions, and podcasts. I like to think that ParentingAces has given tennis parents a voice with coaches, tournament directors, and governing bodies.
I also like to think we’ve helped coaches do a better job by helping them understand not only what their players need but also what the parents need. Having gone through the college recruiting process with my son, I am available to offer guidance to families who have questions along the way.
I have great relationships with several junior and college coaches as well as many of the organizations such as the ITA, UTR, and USTA, which means I can usually help get answers to most questions parents have during their child’s junior and college tennis journey.
How about your podcast? What are its key focuses and purpose?
The podcast was a natural offshoot of ParentingAces.com. It is a weekly interview with someone who can shed light on the overall journey from those just beginning to play tennis to those weighing their options when it comes to going to college or turning pro.
The purpose is simply to provide more education and resources to the parents out there.
My guests range from junior tennis coaches to members of the various governing bodies to the parents of successful players to sports psychologists and fitness and nutrition experts. The podcast is available on our website as well as our YouTube channel and most podcast apps.
What have been some of the success stories, positive outcomes of running ParentingAces?
I view “positive outcomes” as parents contacting me to tell me of their child’s success at a tournament after practicing mental skills learned from one of our articles or podcasts, or parents telling me about how their child found the “right” college fit after having learned the “right” questions to ask from one of our posts, or parents telling me how they reassessed their tennis budget and decided to reduce travel all over the country or world and focus on playing tougher opponents and events closer to home.
And the challenges?
The challenges are slowly starting to resolve, thankfully!
The governing bodies are now offering parent education and more education to coaches on how to interact positively with parents. These are huge wins in my opinion.
Tell me a bit about the players who come out of your programs and support?
ParentingAces isn’t a junior development program. I am not a coach.
We simply serve as a means to educate the Tennis Parents out there on the process and how best to navigate it, recognizing that each child – each family – is different and needs options to make Junior Tennis a positive experience.
What is your mission as an organisation?
I’m not looking for “champion tennis families” – I’m here as a resource for ALL tennis families who want or need guidance through the junior development and college recruiting journey.
My goal is to help tennis parents do a better job through the process so they come out on the other end of it with a stronger relationship with their child(ren).
If I can help parents learn what and how to communicate better with their children and their child’s coach; if I can help parents better understand that junior tennis development is a process and not only results-driven; if I can help parents know when it’s time to change coaches and how best to choose the right coach for their child; if I can help parents understand the college tennis landscape and what each of the divisions of college tennis have to offer, I consider that a win.
What are you currently doing with ParentingAces to assist parents and players during the COVID-19 lockdown?
We have created a COVID-19 Resources Page on our website at https://parentingaces.com/covid-19-resources.
We are also continuing to produce podcasts to help parents, players, and coaches stay ready for competition once it is back on the calendar. In addition, I’m doing a weekly live stream with coach Duey Evans out of Austin, TX called Tennis Takeaways with Lisa & Duey that streams live on the ParentingAces YouTube Channel and is also available there on demand.
Duey and I are addressing the various challenges impacting junior and college tennis during COVID-19. Lastly, I’m doing regular Facebook Live interviews with players, parents, coaches, and tournament directors to share their creativity during this unusual (to say the least) time in our history.
What can we expect from your company in the future? And where do you envision yourselves?
I’ve said from the very beginning that if our governing bodies step up and do their job in providing quality parent education, that I would gladly close shop.
My involvement in tennis has morphed quite a bit in the 8+ years since ParentingAces started. It started as a way for one parent to get the information she needed to help her own child reach his goals.
Once my son entered college, I became much more interested in the nuances of recruiting and choosing a good college fit. As my son decided to discontinue his own college tennis career, I started looking more deeply into what the real purpose of junior and college tennis should be and how I could help develop and disseminate good and clear messages around those purposes. That’s where I find myself right now.
What are some of the things that you say to young and upcoming tennis players about playing the sport?
The most important thing, in my opinion, about playing tennis is learning the incredibly valuable lessons our sport has to teach.
As I’ve watched my own son go through college, graduation, and finding his first full-time job, I’ve realized just how valuable those lessons can be.
My son regularly reported during his interviewing times how the majority of each interview was focused on the fact that he played college tennis, NOT on his academic achievements or other work experience.
This sport can prepare our young people for many of the great challenges life will throw at them if only they take the opportunity to observe and learn.