Keeping your kids active and on their feet is crucial to their healthy development.
Tennis is a wonderful sport that encompasses physical determination, hand-eye coordination, patience, and overall awareness. Hence, it’s no wonder that tennis is one of the fastest growing children’s sports in the United States, and the world.
One thing that parents tend to not be too fond of, is the fact that tennis lessons are typically expensive.
If you want a professional coach, then you’ll have to pay a substantial fee. If you’re not up for that idea due to the cost – or for any other reason – then it’s entirely possible to self-teach your children!
What is the Age Requirement to be a Professional Tennis Player?
Coaching your kids in tennis is more than just a money-saving move. It’s a fun family activity that gives you an excuse to get outside and be active! Depending on how much running you decide to incorporate into your coaching, you could even classify it as a workout. Win-win!
If you’ve concluded that you wish to instruct them yourself, then there’s a few things you need to ensure you’re doing correctly. Becoming a teacher or coach in any art or sport requires skill, knowledge, patience, and the right equipment. Here are our top tips for parents looking to self-coach tennis to your kids.
Tip #1: Make Sure You Understand the Game Before Coaching Your Child
If you don’t understand tennis and how everything works, then you won’t be able to effectively communicate to your child how the game works. If you already know a thing or two, then it shouldn’t be difficult to teach them the preliminary stages of the game and the basic mechanics.
When you’ve had hands-on experience with tennis, it’s much easier to explain to your child how to execute proper technique. Tennis vocabulary can be especially confusing to first time players—kids and parents alike. To fully understand how the game works and what the complex lingo means, refer to our tennis terminology guide.
Tip #2: Ease Your Child into Tennis – Don’t Rush it
If you’re going to teach a child any new skill, it’s usually wise not to drop them in the deep end. The fundamentals of tennis must be developed before moving on to more complicated areas.
When it comes to easing your child into tennis, repetition is key. By practicing the same basic tennis fundamentals repeatedly, your child will develop a strong muscle memory for the game, which will aid them for however long they stick with tennis for. Without this early-stage muscle memory, children tend to lose sight of their previously learned proper technique when learning more advanced skills, leading to the development of bad habits and tendencies. As a parent/coach, it’s vital that you are always monitoring your child’s fundamental technique. Here are a few bad habits to look out for that suggest your child is forgetting critical parts of their early teachings.
- They are consistently failing to hit the ball on the sweet spot of their racket, meaning they are likely forgetting to watch the ball all the way until it hits their racket.
- They are repeatedly hitting the ball too hard, hinting that they have lost sight of their focus on control, which is much more important than power at a young age.
- They are not getting to reachable balls or they are not getting into position before hitting strokes, meaning they are beginning to get lazy with their footwork and are relying too much on their upper body.
These bad tendencies are easily fixable if caught at an early stage. If they are allowed to continue for a while, then it will take a bit more work to “unlearn” them.
Tip #3: Emphasize Positive Reinforcement
It’s crucial to be positive with children when introducing them to any sport. As kids turn into teens and teens turn into college students, a multitude of approaches can be taken when it comes to teaching and learning, including negative reinforcement.
When it comes to young children, however, positive reinforcement should be prioritized over other motivational methods. This is because if kids are consistently experiencing negative emotions when making mistakes, they will naturally dread going to tennis practice. As a parent, you never want to imagine your child feeling like they’re being forced to play tennis. You want them to WANT to play the game, as if it’s a privilege rather than a chore. During practices, be sure to let your child know that they’re doing great when they listen to your instructions. Don’t associate positive praise with WHERE the ball goes—focus on the technique and adjustments they are making from a long-term perspective. If they do everything you’re telling them to do and the ball dinks into the net, tell them good job and give them a high-five.
One way to utilize positive reinforcement in an actual tennis drill is to set up empty tennis ball cans on one side of the net, and have your child attempt drop-hits with the goal of knocking the cans down. This helps develop your child’s accuracy, while simultaneously giving them a challenge to take on. For a list of drills and games that help emphasize positive reinforcement, check this list of our favorite tennis games for kids.
Tip #4: Create A Routine for Practice
As with many undertakings, it can be easy to give up if you don’t hold yourself accountable. By setting aside set days and times for practice sessions when both yourself and your child are free, you can prevent yourself from accidentally slacking off.
Take 1-3 evenings out of the week to dedicate to coaching your child, depending on their age. Write down these days and times or put them in your calendar to give yourself further accountability. As your child ages and progresses in the game of tennis, you should begin to notate which individual skills, techniques and strategies each day will focus on in advance. That way you can make sure you’re prepared with lesson material beforehand.
It can also be useful to jot down notes on how your child is progressing, what’s going well, and what needs improvement, so you can build off these notes in future practice sessions. Try creating a list of SMART goals for teaching skills and techniques to your child—make sure you notate which specific dates you want these teachings to be learned by.
Tip #5: Use the Right Tennis Equipment for Your Child’s Age
If you have a small child, then you obviously shouldn’t give them a large, adult-sized racket to play with. Doing so can lead to injury risks, bad habits, and slower overall development.
A correctly sized kids tennis racket is essential for developmental purposes. After figuring out which size racket to get for your child, the next step is to make sure they are using a high-quality racket that is recommended by professionals. Check out our list of the best kids’ tennis rackets to find one that suits your child.
In 2008, the USTA launched the QuickStart program which emphasizes using age-appropriate tennis equipment and specifications with children. It encompasses new colored tennis balls with varying levels of air pressure, shortened nets for younger children, and customized boundaries for better control development. To learn which tennis ball color you should be using with your child based on age and experience, read our kids colored tennis ball guide.
Learn How to Become the Ultimate Tennis Parent
These 5 tips are important fundamentals of tennis parenting—there’s a lot more to learn, however. If you are serious about getting your child into tennis and want to go through the process in the most effective way possible, we suggest you read our Ultimate Guide to Junior Tennis. It covers everything you need to know, free of charge. If these tips were helpful, consider subscribing to the Kid Tennis Hub newsletter to get the latest junior tennis advice!