Monday, September 03, 2012

Your Child Wants to Play Tennis

So you have a young child and you want that to introduce your child to tennis. How should you go about it? Private lessons? Group lessons? Tournaments? League team? If you just go play with your child should you use regular yellow balls, foam balls, red, orange, or green dot balls? Should you play on a full court or one of the smaller courts? What size racquet should your child use?

Wow. With all these questions, tennis seems like a tough sport to start! Luckily, all of the above will work out fine as you introduce your child to tennis. Sure, lower bouncing, slower balls will make tennis a bit easier at the beginning. Smaller racquets and smaller courts help, too. But you can introduce your child to tennis with old-fashioned equipment standing near to each other, either on opposite sides of a net or the same side, maybe rallying over a crack in your driveway.

Once your child can tap the ball somewhat reliably, or even before that, it's time to let them play the game, either with you or with friends. If your child enjoys playing the game, then leagues and tournaments with the 10 and Under format are wonderful introductions to competition. Your child will learn to score (sort of), serve (poorly), and play games. Your child's relative lack of skill at this stage is perfectly natural and shouldn't be an impediment to getting out and playing and enjoying tennis. We all stink at things when we start. Some of us stink for a lot longer! But the games are still fun and rewarding.

When it comes time to introduce stroke development, lessons can be helpful. Some people believe lessons should precede play, but I think you're better off getting your child hooked on tennis before you begin the sometimes tedious stroke development. A great modern tool for helping kids develop better technique is video feedback. Most kids (most animals) learn by imitation. Allow your child to see tennis played well. If you don't play well yourself, let your child watch great tennis players either in person or through video. Let your child see what high quality tennis looks like and let them try it.

If you own an iPad or iPhone, you can even let your child see what he/she looks like, at regular speed or frame-by-frame, with a cool, free application by Coach My Video (iTunes app store). Just use your iPad/iPhone to film your child hitting some shots or playing some points. Then have the child look at the video in the mobile coaching app and let the child compare what he/she sees with what he/she feels. You can even set up a professional model for side-by-side viewing. This is a great way to help kids learn better technique.

Don't let all the daunting questions slow you down. Introduce your child to the great game of tennis. If your child enjoys the experience, they'll play the game more and more and they will definitely get better over time.

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