This is a question I get a lot, “How and when should I start my children in tennis”?
Introducing your children to tennis is a great idea. It is a sport they will enjoy their entire lives and incorporates many universal skills that can be used in other sports as well. As for when? Any age can be introduced to using and coordinating their senses and building fundamental skills. Skills develop with practice and the best kind of practice is engaged play. The earlier the better, so there is no time like the present!
I have been teaching beginners and children to play tennis for 30 years. I have a few pointers and principles I think will help everyone get started in a game they are sure to enjoy their entire lives.
When I introduce children to the game, I try to keep it light and fun, so they want to do it again. I choose activities that children can do successfully. Success is fun, it builds confidence and encourages more play. The more a child plays, the better they will become. It is a positive loop.
One of the most fun things to do in tennis is to rally. Rallying is when at least two players hit the ball back and forth to one another. One of my favorite drills is for coaches or parents to roll the ball back and forth with a child. This can be done at home in the living room or patio, or on one side of the tennis court, without a net. You can use a balloon, light ball, or tennis ball depending on your child's age and ability. Allow the rally to progress naturally rolling the ball at an easy gentle pace. Eventually, as their hand-eye skills progress, the rally becomes a multiple bounce rally that can be hit over the net. From there, players will keep progressing until they can maintain a consistent rally over the net with just one bounce. The speed of progress through this drill is based upon someone's age and coordination. Be assured, the more you practice, the better you will become. Keep in mind that there are diminishing returns when the activity becomes burdensome and less engaging. This might start as a one-minute exercise and progress to a 20-minute drill, as skills develop along with the challenge.
The above drill is a fun way to start tennis and begin developing basic ball tracking and hand-eye skills. This basic rally model can be done without rackets and should include smiles and laughs. A rally is a conversation without words. It is an invitation to be engaged. Children like to be seen and heard, when you respond to their roll or hit, you are acknowledging and validating them. What a wonderful way to build their confidence.
Players wanting to advance their skills more quickly, develop consistency and proper form will consider getting tennis lessons to improve their technique and progress their game.
Tennis is a dynamic, engaging, high skill sport, it requires hand-eye coordination, agility, and timing just to hit the ball. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) recognizing this reality has encouraged the tennis industry to provide progressive tennis equipment, such as shorter, smaller rackets and softer, slower, larger, easier to hit tennis balls that can be played on smaller modified courts with lower nets. Professional teaching organizations like the United States Professional Tennis Association, (USPTA) have incorporated this equipment into their coaching with games, drills, and skills that are appropriate for each player's age, size, and level.
Private or group lessons are a wonderful way to practice and progress. Private lessons are a personalized training session with instruction. A 1/2 hour or 1-hour class is typical and is customized to your level and needs. A group lesson is usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours and is a perfect way to practice with some coaching and oversight. Group classes are typically organized by current ability level with sign up for drop-in classes or for an entire seasonal session.
If you have questions, would like to take lessons, or sign your child(ren) up for lessons, please contact me. Tennis is a wonderful game, and I am confident it will enrich your life and your children's lives.