Tennis is a terrific sport for all ages and it’s a sport that grows with you. Here are 6 tennis tips for kids.
I played a little tennis as a kid, wait, I take that back, I took LESSONS as a kid but never really played. I remember one instructor telling me my moves looked more like I was dancing than playing tennis. Oh well. I moved onto other physical endeavors. I did a lot of individual sports like gymnastics, skiing and yoga, but I do feel like I missed out on something by not having participated on a team sport growing up.
Seven years ago, I decided I really wanted to play tennis. I began playing in the summer, quite intensely, I loved it and would play any hour of the day, sweltering under the burning sun, with anyone who would play with me. I was so obsessed that I felt disappointment, no matter how many hours we’d been playing, whenever my tennis buddies would wind down and end our session. For years, I only played in the summers and by the time July rolled around, I was practically back to square one. Finally, I joined our local indoor club and began playing year round about four years ago, that made the difference. I could at last begin to improve and up my game.
As a watched amazing tennis at the US Open yesterday (what a match between Serena and Azarenka) and during the past weeks, I thought about how much I love tennis and how happy I am that all three of our kids are enjoying the sport as young children. I’m so happy that Ali is playing on the high school team and getting that experience I never had – being a part of team, supporting one another, training, practicing, traveling together and cheering one another on. Tennis is giving her that.
[Tune in tonight for what's sure to be more stellar tennis with the Djokovic/Nadal match-up (5:00 pm on CBS).]
6 Tennis Tips for Kids
1. Make it Fun
Tennis should be fun first! When playing isn’t fun or kids feel pressured, they’re likely to lose interest. It’s important to keep it low key as kids learn. Allow them to just enjoy hitting, trying new things and socializing without any focus on results or winning. Skill building and improving will come.
One of the major reasons that 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13 is because they’re not having fun. A Michigan State University study asked girls and boys aged 10 to 12 why they played sports. The top five reasons given:
1. To have fun.
2. To do something I’m good at.
3. To improve my skills.
4. To stay in shape.
5. To get exercise.
The answer “winning” didn’t make it into the top ten reasons. And repeated studies found the same number one response of “fun” as kid’s reason to play sports.
2. Play Tennis as a Family
Hitting and chasing balls down is a perfect family activity. With younger kids, simply start by helping them watch the ball contact the racket encouraging hand eye coordination. As kids get older and understand how to play the game, it really becomes fun to play out matches and begin tennis strategy. Siblings can play together or pair up with parents for some friendly challenges.
With life so busy and scheduled, tennis provides an opportunity to spend time together as a family playing and being active.
3. Play Tennis Off the Courts
Have your kids hit balls against a wall or garage door. They can challenge themselves to bounce the ball on the racquet head 10 times in a row, then 15, then to keep beating their last number. Later, have them bounce the ball on one side, flip the racquet over and bounce it on that side reversing it with each hit. Little games and activities keep tennis fun (see tip #1) and begin early “pre-tennis” skill building. Even tossing the ball and having kids hit it with an open palm like a racquet is fun and has value.
4. Teachable Tennis Moments
As with other sports, tennis offers lessons in good sportsmanship, mental control and focus, respecting officials as well as opponents; it teaching coping with disappointments and frustrations. Tennis requires practice, hard work, fitness, physical endurance. From early recreational play to advanced competitive play, lessons abound and help kids and teens to develop character and learn about themselves in stressful situations.
Growing up, my brother had a framed picture in his room that said, “The trouble with being a good sport is you have to lose to prove it.” Kids will win and lose when they get to team play and competitive levels in tennis or other sports, and each teaches a lesson – how to win humbly and how to lose graciously.
5. Help Kids Experience Successes
Part of keeping tennis fun, is to help kids experience successes in tennis. Kids like to do what they feel they’re good at (see study results in tip #1). Help them to feel good at tennis, not with hollow praise, but with keeping them challenged while also building on simpler skills they feel sure about. Keep it positive and encouraging.
6. Tennis is a Lifetime Sport
I’ve played with women twice my age who practically stand still and play with perfect placement; they have me running everything down. No matter what level you play at, no matter where you move, tennis is the perfect way to meet new people in a new community and a fun way to stay fit and active from youth to our senior years. I guess this isn’t really a tip, but it is a benefit of tennis. Tennis helps develop agility, decision-making, balance and coordination. It’s one of the safest youth sports boasting a low injury rate as compared to other sports. (I say that as I continue to recover and feel twinges from a grade 2 ankle sprain two full months ago.)
Please leave a comment with any tennis tips for kids you’d like to share!