Lindsay Davenport Says You Have to ‘Get Creative’ When Kids Want to Quit a Sport

08/18/2016 at 01:50 PM ET

On the latest episode of PEOPLE’s Mom Talk, 1996 Atlanta Games tennis champ Lindsay Davenport admits her parents had to start her early to make the sport a foundation of her life.

“Here I was, at 6 … to get me out of the house, my mom put me at a local club to start playing tennis, and I loved it so much,” says Davenport, who’s now 40 and a mother of four. “I would go and play and I’d come home and hit against the garage and they’d yell at me to stop [because] it was too loud. Then my sisters would yell at me.

“I always feel so lucky because [being in tennis] just came by chance, and I got to find my true passion in life,” she adds.

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Lindsay Davenport Son Tennis
Source: Lindsay Davenport/Twitter

Though Davenport, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014, admits being dedicated to one sport is important for serious competitors because “There’s just such a small percentage of athletes that make it to the highest level,” she’s still trying to keep her own children well-rounded.

One small problem? It seems like her oldest is already fine with specializing and not looking back.

“My 9-year-old plays tennis every day for many hours, but each season I make him do one team sport,” Davenport explains. “But he fights me on it. He doesn’t want to do it — he just wants to play tennis.

“But I’m not giving in yet,” she clarifies, laughing.

“You have to get creative with that,” Davenport tells water-polo player Ashleigh Johnson‘s mom Donna of the thought process behind encouraging kids to continue their involvement with a sport beyond the initial interest.

She also explains that just because she stuck with tennis doesn’t mean it was a natural thing to do — and that her own mom found a clever way around her daughter’s (temporary) rebellion.

“I remember my mom, one time … I said I wanted to quit,” says Davenport. “I was 14, probably top three or four in the nation. And [my mom was] like, ‘Okay, well then, tomorrow we’re going to water polo or basketball or [something else]. You’ve gotta do a sport.’

“I was like, ‘Well, no, no, I just want to stay home! I just want to [be] with my friends!’ ” she continues. “She was like, ‘No, you find a different sport then,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, tennis isn’t so bad.’ ”

Jen Juneau


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Lyn on

Wow. Bogus philosophy. So many parents push kids into something [from Toddlers & Tiaras to sports] and the kid focuses so much on that they never get the proper tools for an alternative career when they fail as 80% do. High school and college athletes seldom make the big leagues and one injury can sideline them forever. Academics matter more.

Amy on

So would you force them to keep doing academics? If they wanted to quit school at 14, would you let them? Because that’s the logic you’ve got going on right there, Lyn.
With respect,

Lyn on

Your reply makes no sense. By what logic does stating that academics matter bring you to a conclusion that I would let them quit school? Your choice of the word force is curious. Education is mandatory and quitting at 14 is not an option in the US. What are you talking about? Is English not your first language? I’ll simplify for you. Don’t neglect a good education in favor of extracurricular activities.

Amy on

Lyn, you said that “parents push kids into something…” and say that academic matter more (so people should focus more on them.) You criticize someone who keeps there kid in sports, calling Lindsey’s choice a “bogus philosophy.” But sports are important to her and her kid. You think that academics matter more than sports. So what if you had a kid who wanted to quit academics? What if you had a kid who wanted to get straight C’s all through school? Would you force them to keep going, even though you are more than happy to criticize someone else who forces their kid to do something beneficial for them? The problem I see is that you appear to be willing to force your kid to do something that you think is beneficial for them (succeed academically.) But if another parent sees physical competition as beneficial, you don’t think they should keep their kids from quitting. And furthermore, playing competitive sports and also focusing on academics are not mutually exclusive. Lindsey’s kids might do very well in class. I don’t see how it’s wrong for parents to encourage their kids to finish what they start.

whatevs on

why FORCE your child to do sports? it’s a waste of time, money, energy, effort, and real quality time. my son played select baseball religiously until 14. he said one day, i just don’t want to anymore. as disappointed as i was, i sure wasn’t going to force him to do it. let it go. it’s not worth it. and after years of spending thousands, it was nice to have money to go to movies and and other things we didn’t get to do because it was all baseball all the time

MM on

My mom put me in flute lessons. Why? I don’t know. I hated it. It was boring and too complicated. Then one day I decided to quit. Of course she was mad at me, but she got over it and didn’t try to put me back in those lessons. It’s not the end of the world if he/she doesn’t want to be in tennis anymore, chess club, whatever.

TLC on

Her point being that her mom wouldn’t allow her to quit. My child is the same way, wanted to quit. Then I noticed when it was time for practice, he was curled up in the recliner, in front of the TV, with his cell phone. Then I thought, “Oh-No!!!” I gave the option of continuing to practice and then when tryouts are near, he could have the option. It’s something about allowing a child to quit. He or she will never learn the value of growth or how to stick it out. Believe it or not, that can convey to a child’s academics.

Sarah on

This headline made it sound like she is forcing her child to continue in sports when the child wants to quit, which is not at all what she’s saying. Shame on you for publishing such a misleading headline.