There are a variety of reasons why parents are so passionate about their children getting involved with tennis.
For parents who grew up playing tennis, they naturally want to watch their kids play the same sport they love and enjoy. For others, it may be that they know tennis is a great sport for a child to learn lessons about perseverance, hard work, character development, and sportsmanship—plus it’s incredibly fun for kids and parents alike!
Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that as a parent, you want the best for your child. Once they are initially introduced to the sport, it’s highly likely that they will love it. However, we’ve seen over and over again that kids lose interest in tennis and all other sports if the proper guidance is not provided. Here’s how to maintain that spark of interest and keep your child interested in tennis.
Begin at a Young Age (if Possible)
One of the simplest ways to spark your child’s initial interest in tennis is to introduce them to the sport while they are young. Keep in mind that this does not mean that one should give a toddler a racket and tennis ball and receive coaching immediately. Instead, they should be able to slowly ease into it when they are mentally and physically capable of adequate hand-eye coordination and swinging a racket with modest ease. With these factors in mind, we believe the best time for children to begin tennis lessons is during early to middle childhood (ages 4-10). However, if your child is older than age ten and you still want them to get involved, it is never too late to start! Unlike other most sports, tennis can be played throughout one’s entire life.
An easy way to start tennis at a young age is to incorporate it into playtime gradually. For instance, some parents lightly hit a tennis ball with their child with ping pong paddles or small rackets to build control, while others make it a weekly tradition to go to a local park and doink a foam ball around for fun. If you notice that your child has reached their ceiling when it comes to hitting with mom and dad, then it may be time to consult with a professional tennis coach.
Everyone wants the best for their child, but not every kid is destined to become the next Roger Federer. In other words, it is reasonable to want to coach and help your kids to become better, but it is not healthy or force them into playing under inappropriate circumstances.
Rather than feeling pressure from their parents and coaches to do better, allow your children to have fun – just as kids should! Give them autonomy in letting them choose to either play competitively or just once a week with friends. The freedom to choose will enhance their investment in tennis and teach them valuable lessons about decision-making.
What truly makes a difference in preserving your child’s interest in tennis is finding the right coach that implements the perfect balance of fun and improvement in practices. With a coach that emphasizes these two values, your children are bound to be more satisfied when attending tennis practices, camps, and matches. Coaches who are consistently critiquing and yelling at young players instead of providing constructive criticism and facilitating engaging tennis drills, should not be role models for our highly impressionable children.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Good Tennis Gear
When buying tennis outfits and shoes, it is often difficult to know the right thing to buy that fits your child’s physical needs and overall style. An effective parenting strategy is giving your kids a voice in what they wear or tennis equipment they have. This does not mean that children should be able to shop for whatever they want. Instead, the process entails the parent choosing two or three different items and asking the child, “would you rather wear the blue or red tank top?” or, “do you want the blue or black racket?” By initially choosing what their options are and allowing them to choose, both parties are happy in what they bought, and the kids tend to be more confident with this equipment and attire.
Investing in the best kids tennis gear plays a significant role in encouraging safety on the court. For instance, every child tennis player needs high-quality court shoes that have a good grip and support the foot. Never let your little one run on a court with basic sneakers. Tennis is a sport that requires a lot of footwork, and with the wrong type of court shoes, kids may experience shin splints, blisters, or other injuries, which may lead to them not wanting to play as often.
As a coach, I’ve noticed that whenever a junior player gets a new racket or other piece of equipment, they love showing it off to the tennis pros and friends. This boost of enthusiasm and pride definitely helps children maintain interest in the sport.
Be Super Supportive
The language we use for encouragement and positive reinforcement profoundly impacts a child’s drive to continue in a sport. This phenomenon is being studied in developmental psychology, in which the type of praise we give others impacts their actions. The two types of praise include person and process. An example of person praise would be saying, “you are such a great tennis player.” Process praise, however, is stating, “your serve is much better when you keep your eye on the ball.”
Person praise may lead children to believe that being an invincible tennis player is a defining characteristic of who they are. While we all want our kids to feel this confident, they may not strive to do better because they assume it is unmodifiable. Process praise, on the contrary, allows children to look for opportunities to improve consistently.
Your Child Loves Tennis. Now What?
Once kids have developed a foundational interest in tennis, parents must consider the next steps for their child’s tennis career. The Kid Tennis Hub Complete Parent’s Guide to Junior Tennis goes into great detail about the wide range of opportunities to get your child involved on a team or private lessons, the best equipment, and tips on being an effective tennis parent.
If you have additional questions or insights on how to keep your child interested in tennis, please feel free to contact Kid Tennis Hub today.