How To Teach Kids?

Two of my grandsons just left after a visit and “playing tennis with Grandpa.” But I question whether I did it right.

Control or Power?

The two boys are four and seven years old and usually only do anything with a tennis racquet when they visit with me in New Hampshire or Florida. We have the kid-sized racquets and foam balls to use; and I had them down in my basement hitting against the wall.

They were taking turns to see how many balls in a row they could hit against the wall (the seven year old on one bounce and the four year old was OK just scraping it along the floor anyway he could).

At first, they just whacked the ball and it bounced all around the basement. But when they accepted the goal of beating their personal records each time they had a turn, they became much more controlled in their hitting.

But is that the right way to teach little kids?

In Andre Agassi’s autobiography (and supported by other tennis teachers I have heard), he was told to “just hit the ball as hard as he could, and it would eventually go in.” So which way is the better way to teach the Under Ten crowd… hit the ball hard, with no rallies at all; or under control, with very little power in the stroke?

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7 thoughts on “How To Teach Kids?

  1. Talk about timing! I’m in Delray having just attended a 2 day conference in Boca on 10 and under tennis. Had speakers from France, England, and Australia, as well as the USTA. martin Blackman gave some demo’s on court from his academy. All countries are very strictly using the red, orange, green ball systems, which the US is completely going to also, albeit a bit late since the other countries have been using it for a couple years. I’ll give you the reasons why later. They’re even teaching the continental grip early on so kids can volley, serve, hit overheads and drop shots the proper way. Can’t wait to tell you all more. I’m sure there is a website if you google 10 and under tennis. Although we’re mostly talking about regular kids, Blackman had a 10 yr old girl from ny that weighed about 60 lbs that hit the hardest, best balls, all in, on the rise or fall, that I’ve ever seen. If they let her play, which they don’t, she’d beat some of the women on your. Not one of us could hit ground strokes as hard as she did, let alone be as consistent.

    Fred – You were one of the people i was hoping to hear from… so “control or power”? tks … george

  2. George I think control to begin with just like Wachtel. The power will come later. If
    they start with just power they won’t care if any ever go in and it will be like playing
    baseball to them. The main case here is you are making it another game adding
    a challenge to them. This helps them stay interested long enough to see improvement!! I bet they had more fun in the boat! Tennis fun will come in few years when they beat Grandpa!

    Phil – thanks. They will never beat Grandpa, because I won,t keep score against them ( like I did with my son). George

  3. kids need to play catch before tennis. If they can catch a ball on a bounce they are ready. If not dad needs to spend more time in the driveway

    Mike… Thanks for the tip. George

  4. One of the first things they were teaching at the conference, was NO LINES, that means using the kids as feeders, which means they have to be taught to toss correctly, which means using a large ball like a basketball or smaller and learn to toss it underhand and to catch it underhand. The balls all have to be low so that they can use the proper grip and not constantly be hitting balls at shoulder height. Competition with the foam or low compression balls helps them develop where to hit it to win points. So much to learn:).

  5. Geez…the pressure!
    Yeah, I was going to comment, but only now got a free moment.
    We totally teach control first. To a fault, we don’t teach power until at a sectional tournament level…and in most cases, power comes fairly naturally after consistency is ingrained.
    My philosophy: learn consistency and defensive skills first. Tennis is fun when rallies are developed. I’ve seen too many players quit after they’ve lost too many times trying to hit the ball hard.
    I didn’t like the phrase in GW’s script, “under control, but with very little power.” If you teach an effective stroke, swinging mostly from the shoulder with a disciplined follow-through, the shot will usually have sufficient power. (I don’t want players to “poke” the ball back for consistency, but to learn to control the backswing and follow-through.) After they’ve learned to hit with topspin (after they can consistently make contact with an effective stroke), they can start adding some power.
    I love Fred’s comments, and agree the 10-and-under approach is allowing for more advanced stroke development in little kids; but I’m tired of seeing “prodigies” put as an example of what TAUT can do. The girl Fred references would have been an outstanding player with or without TAUT training. The main advantage of TAUT teaching is that it allows younger kids to have more fun (better rallies) while they’re learning. We will have greater numbers of players, which will yield a greater number of prodigies!
    (Fred’s comments on the 10-year-old girl parallel what I saw in Jimmy Arias when he was only eight; and he, like Agassi, certainly didn’t learn with a shorter racquet and low-pressure balls.)
    Nuff said!

    Spike – Great stuff! I will work with my grandsons when they return this weekend! thanks. george

  6. I have taught youngsters (ages 5-9) the basics & from my experience it has to be fun, fun, fun, to such an extent that the better kids will choose it as their number one sport, not easy when there are so many other leisure options out there. I once heard Clarence Mabry say: ‘We teach kids to hit the ball on a hard court & we teach them to play tennis on a clay court’. I agree. Finesse should always take precedence over power ! Would you rather watch Guga v Nastase or Isner v Raonic ? George, I think all that hitting against the wall in your basement sounds like good training for future squash players, lots of slice & dice !!
    Best
    Howard

    Howard – tks. and you should know about the slice and dice game! george

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