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Father Does Not Always Know Best

Feb 1, 2008
Every Father's Day in magazines and newspapers across America we see professional athletes posing with pictures of their father. The stories always talk about the encouragement, education and inspiration the father has given his son or daughter to succeed at their sport and in life. However, there is another side to parental involvement we do not always see. Parents whose personal needs or dysfunctions lead to their child's detriment or destruction. These are the dads who do not make the cover, but whose exploits are found printed in the pages featuring the columns of shame.

Dominic Dokic

It is natural for any parent to want to protect their child. So it's not uncommon to see a father who is a coach standing up to referees or countering decisions by the officials that do not favor their athlete. However, when a parent is fueled by rage and alcohol, they aren't helping anyone including their child. Dominic Dokic was one such coaching parent. The father of Jelena Dokic is known more for his off court antics than any win his inspiration created for his daughter's on court success.

His legendary tantrums at tennis grand slams have forced the WTA to order him to be thrown out of tournaments and suspended from the Women's Tennis Association matches for a period of six months. He once called an umpire a Nazi, jumped on top of a car, and then stood in the middle of a public road until he had to be taken away by the police. Jelena had to distance herself from her father, and at one point, get a restraining order to keep him from bothering her. The sooner the WTA ejects him permanently from the sport of tennis, the better off both father and daughter will be.

Richard Williams

The success and dominance of Venus and Serena Williams is nothing short of an American tennis fairy tale. Two girls from an impoverished family living in the Los Angeles Compton area playing and dominating the women's professional tennis field was something only their father could believe in. However while his coaching of them at the game enabled them to climb to the height of the tennis arena, his inability to maintain a professional demeanor and understand the world of tennis has led to downfalls in competition and conflict between each other and with other players.

Richard Williams has overstepped his bounds by committing them to tournaments they were not ready to play because of injury, fighting with officials in the tennis world, claiming racism on behalf of spectators and drawing negative to attention to a largely positive tennis dynasty. While the girls openly praise their father for his constant belief and support of them, they're also taking steps to seek expert coaching and remove themselves from his constant strain of media controversy.

Stefano Capriati

Until Dominic Dokic came on the scene, Stefano Capriati was lifted up as the number one bad tennis dad. As a coach and force in the life of his teen phenom Jennifer Capriati, Stefano pushed her to inhuman limits, starting her in professional tennis at a time when her body and her mentality were not ready. He was glaringly guilty of pushing her and pressuring her throughout her young singles career, while magazines and analysts lifted Jennifer Capriati as the next great tennis hope, her fragile psyche was crashing and burning. After a few years on the circuit, she eventually was arrested first for shoplifting, and then for drug use. She entered rehab and retired from tennis at an unthinkably young age in order to get her life together.

To his credit, Stefano Capriati stood up after her arrest and said that the fault for her downfall was his. He admitted he placed too much pressure on her to achieve at a young age to fulfill his dreams. His recognition and admission of his faults took him from being the bad dad of tennis to an open advocate for change in the tennis age system and the way stars are treated by parents and coaches.

Nothing's wrong with a parent wanting their child to excel at the national level. However, when a parent operates from their own dysfunction, issues or personal dreams it's the athlete in the sport who suffers. Parents need to stay in the parent box and leave the sport to their child and a qualified coach.
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