What we Learnt from Coco Gauff

 

If you have been watching and enjoying Wimbledon 2019, then you will be familiar with the name Coco Gauff.

Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff rocket launched into Wimbledon with a bang and has left a lasting mark on an audience of all ages. Still at high school and not old enough to drive, Gauff has enchanted fans and beat her heroine, Venus Williams in the first round. Among those to congratulate Gauff on her incredible run included a host of American celebrities and influencers, including the former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. 

So, what can we learn from the parents of this 15-year-old phenomenon?

Her parents, Corey and Candi Gauff watched on during her historic week at Wimbledon. 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 parenting. 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. "Coco's parents say what all kids need to hear. 'I thought you could win!' not 'I knew you would win,'" Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a child development expert, told TODAY Parents.

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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!!!!"

"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. 

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It is clear to see that Coco has a natural talent and flair for her sport but we also know that success comes with hard work, hours of training, practice and mental toughness. A lot to juggle for a busy teenager who devotes at least 12 hours a week to practice, whilst trying to stay grounded at the same time. 

World-beating teens are rarer now in women’s tennis. Fernandez played in the era when Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Serena Williams emerged at a young age. Amanda Anisimova, another American, reached the semi-finals of the French Open last month at age 17 without making the same kind of stir as Gauff, which made me question what has made Coco so different. Perhaps it has a lot to do with what Coco wants to say and the story she wishes to tell.

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In a final quote from Coco herself, she said “"I hope they learned about me that I'm a fighter. I'll never give up. I hope they learned from me that, I mean, anything is possible if you work hard, just continue to dream big."

As a parent myself of two sporty children, I want to teach my children to dream big. I want them to think big and to believe in themselves. Who knows what is possible when we put our mind to it? The next tennis star, the next Picasso or Broadway star. Why not them?

Part of this desire comes from my passion to build their self-worth and confidence. Something they will spend many years working on. Coco Gauff showed the world what happens when you set your heart on something and believe in it. Gauff’s achievements at Wimbledon showed a young girl with a fighting spirit and an inner drive to learn from her losses and dwell only lightly on success. At 15 years’ old she understands how it means to lose but equally, knows how it feels to win. 

So, if there is one thing I am going to focus on this summer with my kids, I am going to encourage them to dream big. 

Article By Jo Wimble Groves

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