If you’re looking for a comprehensive, up-to-date guide that teaches you to…
- Introduce your child to tennis in a safe and fun environment
- Become the ultimate, rock star tennis parent
- Ensure your child has everything they need to succeed
- Watch the many benefits of the sport rub off on your child in a positive way
- Encourage your child to take tennis as far as they want, whether it be a junior team, or a college scholarship
…Then you’ve come to the right place. The junior tennis experts at Kid Tennis Hub have been informing and advising parents for 8 years since 2012. There’s a lot to cover—let’s dive right in.
Junior Tennis Guide Contents
Why Your Child Should Play Tennis
We could spend hours telling you about why tennis is good for children, the numerous life-long benefits, how being a tennis parent is ridiculously fun, etc. However, because of the vastness of this guide, we’ll keep the “convincing part” short and sweet. Here are the top 6 reasons you should introduce your child to tennis:
1. Tennis is Safe—It’s actually one of the safest sports for kids out there! Because tennis is a non-contact sport, kids won’t run into each other. It rarely ever happens in doubles tennis as well. Yes, your child could be impacted by a tennis ball to the face. However, if they are younger than 11, the balls should be deflated relative to traditional tennis balls (if your child is playing with the appropriate tennis ball type). AKA it won’t hurt. It’s always a comforting feeling knowing your children are safe at tennis practice.
2. Tennis is the Perfect Exercise for Kids—The sport is a full body exercise. This means if they stick with tennis for the long haul, your child will be exemplifying a balanced mix of physical fitness. Even if they quit tennis prematurely, the associated exercise and health benefits will translate over to most other sports or physical activities.
3. HUGE Mental Benefits—The mental part of tennis is equally valuable as the physical part. Every time your kid hits a tennis ball, they are practicing mental focus, concentration, eye-hand coordination, and other healthy brain wave-producing processes. As a parent, you’re obviously aware that children are much more impressionable than adults. Scientists at the University of Illinois have stumbled across the possible creation of new brain nerve connections caused from children playing tennis. This can improve brain development during and after childhood.
4. One of the Best Social Sports—For both children and parents! It’s likely that your child could meet life-long friends at tennis lessons, practices, and camps. These events are also great opportunities for you to meet like-minded parents in your area. Tennis isn’t traditionally viewed as a “team sport.” This can be misleading though, as the only time kids aren’t directly interacting with others, is when they are participating in solo drills. Plus, you child can be part of a team through the USTA’s Junior program, high school involvement, or even college.
5. It’s Incredibly Fun—Classic tennis matches are always a good time for both players and spectators. Through the use of creative games and drills, however, your kid’s level of enjoyment can skyrocket. For kids below the age of 8, the vast majority of practices will consist of fun drills and games, as compared to competitive matches with scoring—these usually begin around age 12. Positive reinforcement is of the utmost importance in junior tennis.
6. Tennis Parent Perks—It’s one of the best sports for the whole family. It can be difficult for parents to participate in other sports with their children such as soccer and volleyball. With tennis, your entire family can head to the local court and have a fun time hitting around in a moment’s notice. Here’s a quote from a parent who’s enjoyed watching their child play tennis throughout the years.
How to Spark Your Kid's Interest in Tennis and PRESERVE IT
When introducing your child to tennis for the first time, here is what truly matters, and what doesn’t.
This all boils down to a simple fact. Kids want to have fun in everything they do. Especially in sports! In a recent study, “fun” was the number one answer by kids, when asked why they play sports. The runner up reason was that kids like to do things they’re good at. Winning was not one of the top reasons.
During your child’s first experience with tennis, make sure fun is emphasized over winning. If it’s just you and your child hitting at the local park, let them try and hit balls as far as they can while providing encouragement. If your kid is in a group setting for their first lesson, they will likely start with basic ball drills such as Ups, Downs, Pancakes, Trains, Hammers, and Freestyle. These warm-up exercises are designed to give kids a simple yet satisfying challenge. They should be accompanied by words of encouragement and technique suggestions from coaches. All of these exercises only require a racket and 1 ball. Here’s a brief rundown of the basic kids tennis drills:
- Ups-Holding the racket flatly, bounce the ball up in the air and see how many in a row they can get.
- Downs-Bounce the ball down on the ground and see how many in a row they can get.
- Pancakes-Bounce the ball up in the air, but each time flip their racket 180 degrees. (for age 7+)
- Trains-Holding the racket flatly with a ball on top, carefully tilt in a circle to make the ball travel around the racket’s frame.
- Hammers-Bounce the ball down on the ground using the narrow frame of the racket. Precision required.
- Freestyle-Kids make up their own challenge. This is a good way to end warm ups on a fun note.
Practices for younger kids age 4-7 will usually consist of more fun-oriented games. Don’t be fooled though, they will still play a massive role in the early development of habits, skills, tendencies, and technique.
Once your child has been introduced to tennis, and they are initially interested, (they almost always are) the next challenge is keeping them interested in the sport. The top 3 reasons kids quit tennis are as follows.
- It stopped being fun.
- Too much pressure from parents.
- Bad coaching.
The obvious answers to preventing these factors from playing a part are to keep tennis fun for your child, don’t overload your child with pressure, and ensure your working with adequate coaches. This isn’t as simple as it seems, however.
For your child to truly develop a love of the game, “having fun” should be viewed as a long term goal, rather than short term. This means implementing at least 1 fun drill or game each practice, at least until they are 12 years old. This age is when repetition and match play become a larger point of emphasis.
As a parent it is easy to get overly attached to your child’s tennis career, similar to how some people become extremely attached to their favorite sports team, living and dying by their wins and losses. Don’t be that person. When it is clear that your child has found their comfort level with tennis (i.e. how dedicated they want to be to the sport), don’t push them to take it more seriously. This will only encourage them to quit in order to alleviate the pressure.
Good, professional tennis coaches are immensely underrated. The impact a great coach can have on a child’s tennis career is obvious. But a coach can be an enormously positive influence when it comes to your children’s lives in general. Back in my junior tennis days, the head pro at my tennis club taught me important life lessons, gave me my first job as a tennis coach, and even wrote me a strong recommendation letter that allowed me to attend the college of my choice.
Not all tennis coaches are amazing, though. Some don’t have the required enthusiasm for the job, and some push young kids too hard, thereby removing the fun factor and dissolving any chance of love for the sport. Do your homework when looking for a tennis coach for your child because if you pick a good one, you can see massive compounding benefits in your child’s development.
When Should My Child Start Playing Tennis?
Kids can start playing tennis as early as 4 years old. It is strongly recommended to avoid tennis-related activities for kids 3 years and younger, mainly because they don’t have enough coordination, body control, and overall strength.
For kids 4-5 years old, tennis practice should be a mix of fun games, rather than an actual training session. Around the age of 6 is when kids start becoming both physically and mentally developed enough to consistently play with adequate technique, while retaining important tennis skills (leading to improvement).
Can someone ever be too old to start playing tennis? Absolutely not. In the past, I coached senior citizens, many who had never played a day in their life. There should never be any FOMO (fear of missing out) in tennis, so don’t ever be afraid to get your kid involved with the sport just because they’re older than their peers already playing tennis. Hence, if your child is at least 4 years old, the answer to this question is NOW!
What is QuickStart Tennis?
QuickStart Tennis has been around since 2008. Popularity of the initiative, has only become evident over the last 5 years, though. Created by the United States Tennis Association, QuickStart Tennis is a set of programs, guidelines, and concepts designed to introduce children age 4-10 to tennis.
This is QuickStart tennis in a nutshell: lighter/slower balls, and a smaller court size. It essentially scales the game of tennis down to the size and ability of your child. The Kid Tennis Hub team and most professional tennis coaches are huge fans of QuickStart tennis balls. There are 4 ball types, each with specific air pressures, sizes, and colors. The lightness of the balls mean they don’t hurt at all if someone gets hit, even at high velocities. QuickStart balls bounce lower, which helps kids practice their natural swing without having to reach way up. Balls travel through the air at a slower pace, giving children more time to react, get their technique right, and hit a complete stroke. Tennis balls that are optimized to particular ages create longer rallies, more repetitions, and faster overall improvement.
Scaled down nets are one of our favorite junior tennis training tools.
The USTA offers official QuickStart classes and camps in various major cities, but you don’t really need to enroll your kid in a branded program to reap the benefits of QuickStart. You have 2 options. Enroll your child in a tennis class/camp/program that utilizes QuickStart, OR buy the equipment yourself. If you take advantage of a program that uses QuickStart, the coaches should know which colored tennis balls to use with your child in drills and games. On the other hand, if you are planning on coaching your child or at least investing in QuickStart tools to help them develop faster outside of weekly practices, this graphic will show you which balls to get based on age.
|Age||Ball Color/Type||Net Type||Court Size|
|5 to 8||Red||QuickStart||36’x18′|
|9 to 10||Orange||Either||60’x21′|
|11 to 12||Green||Full-Size||Full-Size|
|Age||Ball Color/Type||Net Type||Court Size|
|5 to 8||Red||QuickStart||36’x18′|
|9 to 10||Orange||Either||60’x21′|
|11 to 12||Green||Full-Size||Full-Size|
My Kid is Too Old for QuickStart Tennis... What Should I do?
Is your child more than 11 years old? Are you worried that they’ve “missed the bus” in terms of the opportunity QuickStart tennis presents? Don’t fret. Kids can pick up a racket for the first time at 13, 14, or older, and they can still potentially be great if they choose to dedicate themselves (some of the top pros didn’t start playing tennis until they were 12).
Before 2008, all kids learned tennis with normal, yellow balls. When kids are over the age of 12, their bodies are developed enough to execute full strokes while hitting normal tennis balls. QuickStart balls are redundant at this age and can even lead to the development of bad habits.
A great alternative to QuickStart is USTA’s “Net Generation.” Founded in 2019, Net Generation is the USTA’s newest program to give juniors the necessary resources to further their growth on and off the court. The platform is intended for parents, players, and coaches to connect and foster a valuable tennis education. One of our favorite features is their Serve Tennis program, in which coaches can market their services, such as training sessions, tennis camps, events, and local tournaments.
The USTA also has a Safe Play Certification, which is critical to the Net Generation mission. This program promotes a safe environment for your children and ensures that all adult coaches featured on the platform are USTA-approved. To receive this certificate, coaches must complete a background check and finish Safe Play Training, which focuses on the active facilitation of a harassment-free environment. Net Generation is committed to credible and safe coaching and will only allow Safe Play-approved coaches to broadcast their services on the Serve Tennis portal.
Net Generation includes a variety of other resources. Coaches primarily use the Tennis Service Center, but the platform also shares resources for K-12 physical education teachers. For instance, it includes tennis curricula to teach children and adolescents proper racket technique. In addition, there are over a hundred blogs and videos on their website that define tennis terminology and discuss tips and tricks to improve one’s game. They also have a free virtual summer camp on their website.
To access Net Generation’s features, players must register for a free USTA account. There is also a free app available to download on Apple and Android devices. The app has all of the same features as the website and includes a player’s journal for your child to document progress on their tennis journey.
How to Get Your Kid Involved with Tennis
There are countless factors to determine the best way to get your kid on the court. The first to consider is “season.” If it’s Summer, Kid Tennis Hub’s absolute favorite option is to enroll in a tennis summer camp program. Any tennis club with a junior program will surely offer summer camps. Tennis summer camps combine the two best things for kids playing tennis: fun and repetition. Most tennis camps last for at least a week (Monday-Friday) and this is where we see the most improvement by far in juniors. By playing 4 or 5 days in a row, children develop muscle memory that will aid them throughout their tennis life. Tennis camps can be a great deal of fun, as kids tend to make long-lasting friends after spending long, character-building days with similar children. Not to mention, all good summer tennis camps feature refreshing treats such as Otter Pops, to help kids deal with the heat while also acting as a slight incentive. Long story short, if it’s Summer, enroll your kid in a tennis summer camp!
But what if it’s one of the other 3 seasons? There are plenty of year-round options including:
- Parent coaching
- Private 1 on 1 lessons
- Tennis club group lessons
- Rally Ball events (for younger kids)
- Year long camps
If you have reasons to coach your kid yourself, you don’t have to be USPTA certified to do so. All you need to do is get informed, (our website has plenty of helpful resources) get the right tennis equipment, and find a place to hit! If you live in a sunny region, then you should have no trouble finding a court. I grew up in Seattle Washington, where we had to play in an indoor inflatable “bubble” in the Winter, due to excessive raining. If you are in a climate in which you have to invest in a tennis club membership for indoor court access, it could make tennis a little more expensive for you. The silver lining is because tennis is such a popular worldwide sport, indoor or outdoor court access is pretty much anywhere.
If money is no object, opt for private 1 on 1 lessons with a good coach. Tennis pros can only dedicate a limited amount of time and instruction to each kid in a group lesson. In a private lesson, a coach can analyze a junior player, figure out what they are fundamentally doing wrong, and dedicate the entire lesson to fixing this problem and making the player much better in the process.
The All-Important Role of the Tennis Parent
As your child progress through their tennis experiences, they will learn valuable, life-long lessons. Tennis is one of the most effective sports for building character. An large part of the sport is based around players being honest (about line calls and scoring) as well as practicing good sportsmanship. In a perfect world, you can drop you kid off at practice, and when you pick them up they will have built up their character automatically. Tennis alone doesn’t build character, it reveals it. In reality, parents NEED to step in and notice teachable moments. Once identified, parents should take these opportunities to show their children how to treat certain situations. Whether it’s winning humbly, losing graciously, or dealing with a hot temper, there’s almost always a lesson to be learned.
Besides taking advantage of teachable moments, the most important role of tennis parents is to give their children the opportunity to take the sport as far as they want, given that they are putting in the necessary work. If it’s obvious they want to quit before high school because it isn’t fun anymore, let them do so. If they are utterly determined to be the next Roger Federer, make sure they have the appropriate kids tennis gear. When it comes to a child’s experience with tennis, their most important resource is not the coach—it’s the parent.
Equipping your Child to Succeed
New advances in tennis gear are always happening, especially because the popularity of kids tennis has been rapidly growing over the past 10 years. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to find the very best kids tennis gear, and provide you with our top recommendations for rackets, shoes, bags, and other equipment. The following links will take you to our gear-specific recommendations and reviews.
- Best Kids Tennis Rackets
- Best Kids Tennis Backpacks
- Best Kids Colored Tennis Balls
- Best Portable Tennis Nets
- Best Kids Tennis Shoe
If you want to learn more about making the most of your child’s tennis journey, read our helpful kids tennis guides. We hope this overarching guide to junior tennis was helpful, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions.