Players & Parents
I am often asked by parents what they could be doing to help their child with tennis. For this reason I have set out some information that may assist you in guiding a conversation with your young person and making a plan towards a healthy and active future, hopefully for life!
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to chat further.
The Parents role: A Checklist
Read the Players and Parents article by Jim Widdowson (below)
Go through the Jim Wid Tennis Terms & Conditions
Review the Player Pathway model for coaching & competition
Talk to your player about their tennis goals using the Tennis Goals Survey
I have found as a parent and a coach that kids interests wax and wane, sometimes hourly!!!
It is important to have regular check-ins with them about how they are enjoying their sports, what they are learning and what more they would like to achieve.
The key thing to remember is lessons are for learning and players need to go out and practice what they have learnt to see good improvement. This is true for anything whether it be a sport, mathematics or music. There is learning time (lessons) and practice time (homework). For example, a piano teacher would expect their student to practice every day!
I am a sports teacher and like any teacher I think my subject is really important!
Sport and recreation has been proven to provide:
A greater sense of general well being
Higher self esteem
Higher quality of life
A break from academic studies for exercise is followed by more efficient study upon return
Health benefits (what is more important than that!)
Tennis is a very technical sport and as such is different to a lot of other activities in that it can take a lot of time to reach a playing level. This is unlike soccer for example, where young kids with no playing experience can easily pick up and play a match with limited technical skills.
How much practice?
This depends on a number of factors:
How keen is the player?
What level are they hoping to achieve? (playing goals)
Do you as a parent have enough free time to facilitate practice? Whether it is driving them to the courts or actually having a hit with them.
There is no wrong or right answer and depends entirely on what the player wishes to achieve.
Below I have laid out some guidelines for reaching individual player goals. It may be worth talking to the player and asking them what they hope to achieve. They may surprise you!
As a coach I am always happy to help facilitate any playing goals an individual may have and remember this is entirely up to the individual player.
Guidelines for Tennis Goals
1. Social Player
Some players will see tennis as an activity for fun with friends and stay active. These players will enjoy having a lesson a week and maybe play competition at weekends. Looking to play at a social level.
Other players will be hoping to achieve a competitive local level. That is, be able to play and be competitive in local age based competitions.
This might look like:
2-3 hits per week
1 x group lesson per week
Unstructured play per week (A hit with friends/parents)
Local competition (Saturday morning comp)
3. High level competitive
Maybe representing the region and play and be competitive at some local/state tournaments.
This may consist of:
4-8 hits per week
1 x group lesson per week (regular or hotshots plus)
1 x private class per week
Unstructured play per week (Hits with friends/parents)
Local competition (Saturday morning comp)
For players looking to play for their state or take it even further. The age of the player should be the average number of hours they are doing tennis specific play per week. So a 10 year old should be doing around 10 hours on court on average (Plus or minus 2 hours) per week.
This should include:
Group lesson (Development squad) to work on matchplay/tactics
Private and/or semi-private lessons - to work on individual technique
Unstructured practice - alone or with with parents/friends
Age specific strength & conditioning
Players looking to reach this level need a high level of commitment from themselves as well as from parents who would need to offer a lot of time and money to facilitate.
Tennis Specific Play
This can include a number of different things such as:
Hitting against a wall or practising racket and ball skills
Other sports - There are a lot of great cross over skills that would help with tennis play (eg: footwork, speed, perception)
General gross motor skills - running, skipping, lunges, tag etc.
PE - The school PE curriculum gives a rounded skill set that helps improve tennis play
The closer to tennis an activity is the more it counts as tennis specific.
1 hour of quality practice at a good intensity is worth many more hours of low effort practice. Maximising the efficacy of your practice is paramount to making the best of your practice time.
Many professional players do not even start playing tennis until relatively old (10 years old or more in some cases), but they have all done some form of sport that has helped them develop their overall sporting prowess. Lleyton Hewitt played a multitude of sports at a very high level til he was 17 years old before eventually specialising in tennis.
It is important that players play a multitude of sports when young. Some sports allow easier acquisition of skill sets than others and all sporting skill sets are important. This helps create a well rounded sportsperson and alleviates the risk of burnout as well as injury.
As a player develops, each sport will start to require more and more of the players time. From this point a player will need to make some decisions on which activities to continue and which to cut down on. A player should not be looking to specialise completely in any given sport until at least the age of 15 or 16 or even older. Even after specialisation, other sports should still be played to help maintain a rounded skill set.
It is important to adhere to the age = number of hours guide should players be enthusiastic about their sport. Playing more than this can lead to:
Burn out - Players getting bored of playing and quitting. (Can be prevalent in the activity being more parent led than child led)
Fatigue - Players who are fatigued will be unable to play at their best during practice and therefore stunt their improvement.
Injury - Playing too much sport without a chance for the body and muscles to recover can lead to fatigue and repetition based injuries.
Because of these factors, players will get a lot more out of play and see more improvements faster with the age = number of hours guide. Quality is better than quantity.
KEEP IT FUN!
It is supposed to be a game after all! However much a player is doing, make sure they are enjoying themselves. If it ever becomes a chore, it may be time to cut down a bit to avoid disinterest and burn out.
Tennis coaching is different from a lot of other sports coaching in that it is a professional career and requires a Tennis Australia qualification to coach at certain levels. Other sports coaches tend to be volunteers and/or parents who can be awesome but generally have varying levels of knowledge, experience and qualifications in the sport. With a Tennis Australia qualified coach you know that the coach has:
Professional high level qualifications for coaching tennis.
Working with children check
First Aid certificate
Tennis is a superbly social game for life in that you can play up to any age (I hate to admit it, but am getting on a bit and starting to struggle playing the youngsters at soccer!). Tennis players have also even been scientifically proven to live longer!
Tennis is a game you can travel with. Go on holiday and tennis courts are everywhere. You can even play a proper match of tennis with just one other person so it is great to play and learn as a family.
Tennis coaching can be more expensive than other sports because of this. However, the quality of the coaching and the longevity of a tennis player provides great value and a perfect choice for staying active, healthy and social well into the future.
The Coach's Role
As a coach I see it as part of my job to help parents and players find their way in tennis. Please get in contact with me if you would like to ask a question or discuss any aspect of coaching, player goals or player development. I am always happy to come up with a plan/schedule to help meet your playing goals and can liaise with other sports coaches to come up with a holistic program that is best for the player.