Mini Tennis, Pee Wee Tennis, Tiny Tots Tennis, Little Mozzies! Coaching Junior Beginners has been called everything. The bottom line for tennis coaches is that having a strong beginner tennis coaching program is the key to a long term sustainable business operation.
Putting together an exciting and challenging tennis coaching program for the young player should be a priority for any serious coach. These young beginners also need some special coaching methods to teach them to love tennis and stay in the game.
Tip 1 – Success equals Confidence equals Fun! Tennis is in the recreation business and coaches are fighting to attract young athletes to the sport so that grass roots programs flourish and we produce players at the elite level. Be constantly positive; play fun games which all players can succeed; create an atmosphere at your club that parents and children can enjoy. Do your best to keep children in tennis for life.
Tip 2 – Use modified tennis equipment. This relates to tip number one because by using lower nets, softer tennis balls, lighter tennis racquets and fun equipment we can help our students succeed and therefore enjoy tennis.
Tip 3 – Use cones to position players. Use cones or spots to position students for games and activities. This will give them a reference point and prevent them from wondering off.
Tip 4 – Refer to the names of lines and areas of the court. Use the names of lines and parts of the court when giving directions. This will provide a “full” tennis education and help when playing matches later on.
Tip 5 – Demonstrate before you explain the drill. Young children are fantastic learners. They learn best from observing and copying; as well as experimenting and feeling how something works. In your tennis lessons give the players lots of visual coaching and have them shadow swing so they can feel the correct stroke. This will be far more effective than explaining to a child with a very short attention span who may not fully understand the meaning of your words.
Tip 6 – Don’t get too technical! This relates to tip number five. Technical instruction is wasted on young children but they do understand simple distinctions. For instance using higher or lower; softer or harder; to the left or right are effective words to guide a young player. This is one reason why the use of targets and cones can be a very valuable coaching tool.
Tip 7 – Use targets for students to aim at. The reason for using targets is to compel the players to use control over power. Many young players will associate success with how fast and far they can hit the ball. Studies have shown that in sports that require both speed and precision (like tennis) it is far better to learn slow, controlled moves and then make them faster; than learn fast uncontrolled moves and them slow them down. By hitting accurate controlled shots our players will become better at rallying (which should be foremost goal of any program.)
Tip 8 – Don’t take private lessons too early. While some parents will expect us to dress up in a clown suit and entertain a 4 or 5 year old in a private lesson it is inappropriate at this age. The children at this age enjoy the excitement of playing with their friends and social interaction – the coach will soon become weary and lose passion for their job.
Tip 9 – Progress the program. Keep giving the students a reason to come back to the game. Progress from a mini court to full court; a mini racquet to a graduate racquet; low compression balls to championship balls; a 30 minute lesson to a 45 minute lesson. Keep challenging the students or they will feel they are not improving and find another sports which offers a pathway.
Tip 10 – Let them play the game. As coaches we are trying to teach players the game of tennis. Once the fundamentals have been taught modified game play should become an emphasis. While at a young age hitting the ball over the net seems miraculous, and returning an impossible dream; let the students experiment with a modified rally. The coach can help or make special rules so it remains enjoyable and the students can experience some success.
Follow these tennis tips to success in your own junior tennis program!