Are you a tennis coach? Perhaps you’re a parent with fond hopes of your child becoming the next Wimbledon champ. Of course, you don’t really mind, as long as the kids are having fun, but how can you identify a talented tennis player? The fact is, almost any child can learn to become brilliant at tennis (Young Aces tennis program information), but researchers have identified some factors that talented young tennis players have in common, as well as some of the things it’s important to bear in mind if you’re training them.
Under-12’s that are great at tennis have certain things in common
Coaches and experts agree that the top young tennis players are a few months younger than most of the kids in the group they played in. They were also slimmer, with more of a focus on agility and speed than strength.
They started young
Kids who start playing tennis at around six years old have a head start on their compatriots. Well, it makes sense. The younger you start doing anything, the faster you learn, and the better you ultimately get!
Competitive play started young too
We’re not talking about the usual match, facing your friends on the court. Young tennis players who started playing tournaments aged around nine seem to have more motivation to develop their skills.
Lots, but not too much, practice
Keeping it fun is important. About ten hours a week of tennis practice is ample for the best young players. Oddly enough, practicing more didn’t seem to make kids better at tennis. Could it be a matter of too much pressure?
Matches, not just practice
Practice is great, but you only really get to test your skills when playing in a real tennis match. Kids who do best at tennis play about 50 singles matches every year (around about one per week) and 15 doubles matches (a bit more than one per month) to hone their skills.
Not too many matches!
Unless they’re just friendly matches, too much competitive play puts pressure on the promising young tennis player. Let them focus on technique and skill rather than expecting win after win.
Although tennis is great exercise, extra fitness training can really get the body working at optimum level. Kids who spent about two hours a week doing fitness training other than tennis, seem to do better on the court than those who focus on tennis alone.
Mom and dad matter too
When parents take an interest without trying to “manage” their kids, the kids seem to be able to really shine out. Be supportive, cheer your child on, encourage them, but don’t turn it into an “issue”. Remember, having fun is the most important thing. Even if your child doesn’t turn into the next champion, tennis teaches valuable skills.
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Not too much pressure
Coaches, moms and dads sometimes put too much pressure on kids to perform at their sport. The result? They can’t wait to give it up! 70% of children will give up tennis simply because there was too much pressure to perform. Imagine having “burnout” at such a young age!
It’s not just all about the tennis
Let promising young tennis players enjoy other sports. Not only does it take some of the pressure off, it’s also good for young minds and bodies to play as many different games as possible. When the equation sports = fun gets broken, kids just give up. Let them be kids!
As long as tennis remains a pleasure, your child will keep playing. Reinforce the fact that tennis is a fun game rather than a grim business, and your kids will enjoy playing the game for years to come. And who knows? Maybe you have a champ on your hands after all!