The Coco-bration is over at Wimbledon, as 15-year-old American phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff lost to former No. 1 player Simona Halep in the fourth round.
But, oh, what fun it has been to watch Gauff and her parents, Corey and Candi Gauff, during her historic week at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. While their daughter showed the world her tenacity — not only by beating her idol Venus Williams, but also by staging an inspiring comeback in her third round match — the Gauffs have displayed grit of their own, in the form of positive sports parenting. Here, a few things we can learn from them.
1. Be encouraging, no matter what stage they are playing on.
Candi Gauff may now be widely known for the victory celebration moves she displayed after her daughter's incredible comeback to defeat Slovenia’s Polona Hercog. (Coco told reporters she hoped her mom would become a meme and that she planned to retweet it herself.)
But while Coco’s dad has always been her main coach, Candi embraces her supporting role. She told the New York Times: “I try to back away on the court, because too many voices can be a crowd. I let my husband be the coach, and I’m the supportive mom, the one if she hurts or is crying that she can communicate with.”
After beating five-time Wimbledon champion Williams, Coco was in disbelief. Her parents were not.
“We gave her a hug and she said ‘Mom, really, did you think I could win? Come on, tell me!’ And I was like 'Yeah, I really thought you could win!'” Candi told NBC News.
"Her parents know the difference between encouraging their daughter's best and demanding perfection. When we tell our kids we believe in them, and still allow room for failure and improvement, we allow our children to grow instead of making them feel our admiration is conditional on their success."
When Coco lost to Halep, Candi posted to Instagram with the caption: "So proud of you!!!! You did great. The BEST IS YET TO COME!!!!"
2. Teach them the importance of having good body language while competing.
Coco showed serious mental fortitude in her match against Hercog. Her parents told NBC News that developing Coco’s attitude on the court has been an important part of her training.
“Have a good presence on the court. Not drop your head, not whining, getting upset with yourself. Cheer yourself on and have good body language,” Corey Gauff tells his daughter. “When you’re frustrated with yourself, you can’t perform. Not just in sports, but in life. If you’re always frustrated, you can’t be at your best.”
"Sports participation can always build a child's confidence, as long as we focus on and praise our kids for what they can actually control — their attitude, body language, eye contact, preparation, perseverance and sportsmanship," says Gilboa. "No athlete can ever control winning — only what they bring to their game. Coco's parents have great lessons for all of us who encourage our kids to learn on a field or a court or in any competition: You are in charge of you. If you do your best, we're proud and you're doing your job."
Coco showed she has a good presence off the court, too, with the humility she displayed after defeating her idol Williams. When reporters asked what she told Williams as they shook hands, Coco said, “I told her 'thank you for everything that you did. I wouldn’t be here without you.'”
3. Let your kid be a kid.
Competitive sports — with all the training and practice and mental toughness required — is intense. While Coco devotes at least 12 hours a week to practice, her parents understand she needs to be a normal 15 year old.
That means that even though it was the week leading up to Wimbledon, Coco still had to take a science test, which she told reporters that she got a ‘B’ on. Candi says it’s all about keeping things separate. “We try to compartmentalize, and keeping school and her tennis life separate was important to us.”
On a night before one of her Wimbledon matches, Coco was on her phone communicating with friends when her parents heard her scream because she saw a social media message from Beyonce’s mom. She was equally thrilled to get a Twitter shout out from musician Jaden Smith.
Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, who at 16 became the youngest person to win the U.S. Open, told the Associated Press that she hopes the Gauffs will keep doing what they are doing.
“I just really hope that she has solid people around her, meaning her parents — they seem amazing — and coaches, agents, that make sure she just goes slow enough. You don’t need to grab everything. Make sure she has time to just be a kid," Austin said. "Carve out enough time for her to be a kid."