Teaching Tennis to Kids

Next week, my soon-to-be five year old grandson will be coming to Florida for a visit. I will again be putting a tennis racquet in his hand; but what is the best way to get him really interested in playing the game?

He and I have “played tennis” since he was just three. That mostly means letting him swing his kid-sized racquet and try to hit some balls over the net, as I hand feed them to him.

I have also invented this “ball on a string” thing that he swings at; but our sessions have usually lasted about five minutes, until he loses interest.

The challenge for me is that my grandson has a need to do well at something (even at such a young age); and doesn’t want to play a game if he can’t “win.” And we all know, when learning any new sport/stroke, you miss more than you make.

Last visit, we tried using the new USTA foam balls on the tennis court and that seemed to work much better. But any tips would be welcome…

• Better to hit on the wall than on the tennis court?
• Play some kind of “game” or just hit the balls?
• Worry about strokes or just hitting the ball?

8 thoughts on “Teaching Tennis to Kids

  1. George. I taught my youngest son to play when he was 5 years old by taking him with a small bag of balls (20?). We used to stay for 10/15 minutes (max). i’d toss the balls to him and just try to have him hit them, not worrying where they went. after the balls were hit, we’d pick them up and go home. i always did less, rather than more. he’d look forward to it and we’d have fun. eventually, when he started to ask me to do this little fun “game”, we start to do strokes. most important is to remember his attention span is 1/100 of yours.

    this is unless, you want to pull an agassi and buy a “monster”, and make him hit 1000 balls a day.

    Joe – tks. george

  2. Hi, George –
    I have enjoyed informally teaching my nieces and nephews, (now approaching 50) and some of their spouses, and their children (I have 9, the oldest is now 13). They have enjoyed it, of course, they mainly wanted to succeed in hitting the ball over the net. And they have (with one exception – a very bright grand-niece, who had hand-eye coordination, problems, though she’s an excellent hiker and skier).

    I taught children one summer for the Flagstaff Recreation department and it was great fun! And, I did a little informal hitting with boys and girls of Natonal Tennis team in Botswana.

    Good luck – you’ll have a lot of fun – and success, I’m sure!

    Nick – but what are your secrets to success with the kids??? george

  3. I have to go with Wayne Bryan (father of Bryan Bros)- just make it fun. And I agree with short, too. Working with kids, my best game is “around the world”. Put about five markers in a loose semi-circle, and when the kid hits a ball over the net from one spot, he moves “up” to the next. I called the spots New York, London, India, etc. They love it. Or they spell a word….don’t know why that is so appealing, but again they seem to really like to spell their names by hitting a ball over the net. A sense of accomplishment I guess.
    Good luck!

    Mike – great idea! tks , george

  4. George – I’ve coached youth sports (baseball, basketball, soccer)for 15 years & last 3 years youth tennis program & lessons at The Sanibel Rec Center. For 5 years old, 1/2 hr max & I never do the same ball dropping/feeding more than 5 minutes with plenty of laughter & praise at anything positive you see. If the youngster that young likes to succeed, I use hula hoops (anything big for targets) & make sure the feed/game is easy enough they can do well, then make it harder as they improve. Most of all make sure you have fun & they will see that too & want to get back on the court for the next time.

    Jeff – i like the big target idea. tks , george

  5. How bout some foot games using those “balls”. Do this on the court. Keep score if he wants to. Make up the games as you go.— running, throwing,etc. Mike Lewis is quite good at working with children and games for/in tennis. good luck. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Think of what you’d like to do and vice versa.

    grace – tks! george

  6. Make the session fun but challenging. A good ploy is ” I”ll bet you can hit 10 balls over the net” If the racquet is too heavy, let him use 2 hands. Since tennis is a game of movement, toss the ball a few feet away from him and say “I”LLC bet.

  7. I agree with everyone in that it must be fun. If you have anyway to lower the net and use the foam balls you should be able to achieve success. Don’t forget the games of balancing the ball on the racquet, hitting up and down. Play a game within the service box on one side of the net where the objective is to alternate hitters after the ball bounces. Works like a tennis game without having to deal with getting it over the net. HAVE FUN

    Larry – good pointers! tks , george

  8. George, my nephew was visiting two years ago from Germany. He was 5 at the time. He had never played tennis before. I took him to the court , placed some balls on all the intersections of the lines and had him run all the lines on his court side where he had to pick up the balls and throw them at the net. Then he had to run and place the balls back and run once more to pick them all up. It tests eye/hand coordination. Then I had him throw balls (about 50) over the net from about 10 feet behind the net with his right hand and with his left hand, I corrected his foot and shoulder turn. After that I placed him almost with his stomach against the net and I would toss balls against his racket to test his eye/hand coordination. I was amazed about his natural ability. Then I had him step back about 5 feet and I tossed slow bouncing balls to him and told him he should try to hit me. With a lot of giggles he hit me a few times. With his natural ability he made contact with at least 65 out of 100 balls, some into the net and a lot over the net. He did not want to stop for about 1 hour. He had to collect the balls running back and forth to the hopper. He had so much fun that he “bugged” me every day for the rest of his 2 weeks’ stay to play with him.

    He is now ranked # 3 in his age bracket 7-10 years old in Niedersachsen, which is comparable with being ranked in California. He has continued tennis from the day he went back to Germany. My son is his hitting partner and they have a very good coach nearby. Since February he plays almost every weekend in a tournament (half court, like a tie-breaker – up to 10 points, win by two) He won several tournaments, which makes training even more fun for him. Fun is the highest goal to teach.

    I have tried the same method with my granddaughter here and could not interest her, she is the same age as my grandson, so I will wait a few more years before trying to teach her again as well. Naturally not all children have the talent and will to learn our game! All the best! Rolf

    Rolf – i got tired just reading that workout!! george

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