How To Teach Kids?

Many of us shared the game of tennis with our children – and are now doing it with grandchildren.  Putting aside the techniques for teaching strokes, what is the best way to deal with kids and competition?

Never Keep Score?

Both my sons played on the tennis court I built in our Connecticut backyard; but my philosophy was to never compete against them.  I felt it was a “lose-lose” proposition… starting them at 6 or 7 years old, I would beat them for at least a solid ten years; and then eventually, they would get better and beat me for the rest of my life!

“Let’s play a game, Grandpa!”

But two of my grandsons are different… they insist on “keeping score” and wanting to play games.  Of course, I moderate how hard I hit and how close the games are to maintain their level of enthusiasm.

But which way is better: to compete or just practice with kids?

Handling Outbursts

And when you keep score, there are winners and losers; and young kids don’t always take losing well.  So, what is the best way to handle the temper tantrums, where they throw down their racquets and refuse to continue playing?

I believe even the great and even-tempered Roger Federer was a volatile teen; and his parents took his racquet away from him until he settled down.

But, if you can successfully manage the process, it is a great joy to see your children and grandchildren excel in this great sport.

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3 thoughts on “How To Teach Kids?

  1. Believe it or not George I have taught kids aged 5 to 8 to play short tennis. More a case of do as I say & not like me, otherwise they will bore their opponents as I have done for so long !! I found that you can see quite quickly which ones have hand/eye co-ordination, which ones are potential athletes, which ones are eager to learn & of course which ones have a competitive appetite. There is no magic formula, most will be diverted elsewhere, but it doesn’t matter so long as they enjoy themselves & go home as tired as the coach ! Keep going George & stay healthy, nothing else matters.
    PS I am writing this message from my son’s hospital bedside waiting for him while he is having an operation. Puts everything else into perspective.

    Howard, good words and good thoughts to you and your son. george

  2. I teach mini tennis , small racquets, low nets, low compression balls. I stress getting better at your own pace, if someone is better then you on that day , you have a choice to make , get better by practicing more or quit. My quote to kids and life , If it going to be it’s up to me!!!

    Butch, thanks! george

  3. I believe it all comes down to a delicate balance between instruction and fun. There must always be a basic instruction of how to hit the ball. As soon as possible I introduce large targets. Kids are fascinated with hitting targets and the joyful attention must always be maintained. When they hit the target I have the others give them a high five. Then as they improve I make distance targets and always organize teams (usually the Pancakes against the Waffles). Then no one is isolated to feel frustrated by themselves and then the team camaraderie is created which keeps them all in a joyful state. During all this I am giving simple suggestions for improvement of the swing. When I very rarely have a kid get upset at their play I take them aside and put my hand on their back to comfort them and find something positive to point out about their playing. I always have them shake hands and congratulate after the “drill game”. Prior to the time when they move up and begin to play actual matches I teach them simplistic techniques to quiet their mind which is proven to relax their muscles. Its all been a “learning as you go” experience over the years with great help from the Master Spike Gonzales.

    Dave, good stuff! thanks, george

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