More and more parents and coaches are introducing their kids to the game of tennis. As a certified tennis instructor, I’ve never been responsible for teaching so many children at such a young age.
The goal of this article is to help parents and coaches recognize some of the common pitfalls that can hinder a child’s improvement on the court. There is so much more involved in teaching small children than the technical aspects of the game.
At this level, there is an argument that it is more important that young children’s focus should be on having fun and playing games on a tennis court rather than looking at the sport as something they should learn to do well. While this may be true, I believe that some children at very young ages are capable of understanding the game more than some parents and coaches give them credit for.
My experience working with small children has shown me that, even though some children are capable of understanding and developing fundamental motor skills associated with coordination, stroke production, footwork and movement at an early age, most are not. There are also the elements of child growth and development principles to consider. This includes their central nervous systems, the musculature and skeletal system, as well as their vision – these factors must to be considered.
Parents and coaches must understand that a child is not just a smaller version of an adult player. Children have developmental stages that they must go through before trying to teach them like small adults. What we must do is make the game fit the child, not make the child fit the game. We must strive to have an understanding of how physical growth and development affects what a child can do and when, and simultaneously try to understand their mental capacity. In a nutshell, we must be able to recognize their limitations. If you think about it, we, as parents and coaches, must also be learners.
Having said that, we must recognize and acknowledge that we are, in actuality, students ourselves, and our assignment is to learn the way children react on the tennis court physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Keep your eye on the child, not the ball!
This lesson is an excerpt from Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors http://www.wishpublishing.com/teaching_tennis.htm