Teaching Tennis to My Children Was One of the Best Decisions
As a tennis coach, I knew I had the knowledge to teach and guide my own daughters in learning and enjoying tennis.
But the pressure was too much: they would be a perfect reflection of my skills and I would expose myself to criticism from friends, fellow coaches, family... After all, the children of a tennis coach should turn out to have perfect technique, to be tough players and so on. I had to deliver and provide my daughters with the best that tennis could offer.
Now, you might say: “There are other coaches who could do that and make your job easier…”
It’s true… Fortunately I had the inspiration to enrol my two daughters into group lessons, taught by other tennis coaches, which was a great idea because they saw other children playing the sport and enjoying it.
If you want to introduce your kids to tennis, put them first into group classes that are appropriate to their level and age.
After a few weeks of taking part into group classes, they began asking me to teach them. That’s what I was waiting for! :)
Bianca, the younger one (5 years old when she began her first lessons with me) proved to be more enthusiastic and eager to play than her older sister, Cezara (6 years old).
During the first lessons I tried to introduce the basic technique without over-emphasising it, and lots of fun games and drills like: "Dodge Ball" (tennis version)," My Imaginary Friend", "Bounce It" etc. They loved the games!
Slowly we began practicing more and more technique and footwork; mostly in the form of games.
Oftentimes I had to control myself from correcting them for every piece of technique that I did not approve. The fact that they had fun was more important. I knew that technique can be improved and corrected later on.
Do not stress too much the proper form and perfect technique. For beginning tennis players it is important to enjoy hitting the ball, running to it and playing games appropriate to their age.
After two years of practise and fun games, my daughters began showing an interest to compete against other children.
I enrolled them into local tournaments according to their level of play (orange). They won some matches and lost a few as well...
The defeats were sort of normal because we knew that victories will come with experience and more practise.
At the time I write this article they have already two years of competitive tennis and are still "hungry" for more. They play about one - two tournaments per month in the warm season, and a tournament every two months during winter.
Following are the lessons I have learned while teaching my own two daughters:
- Talk about tennis on the court, not at home!
Give the kids a break from it and only discuss about tennis if they bring it up.
As a parent you would be tempted to ask your child to join you when watching a tennis match; but he/she might not be that interested as you would...
- When watching them competing in tennis tournaments, you are not helping if you interfere during their matches.
Words like “Move your feet!”, “Pay attention!”, “You can do it!”, etc…. only distract and sometimes frustrate the little players. Remain quiet and accept that your children can think for themselves and they do their best (even if you don’t think so).
- Praise their effort and not their performance.
Keep your comments positive and criticise rarely or never.
- As a parent you’ll have moments when you will lose your patience.
It’s normal to feel that. You are a parent and you care. If you didn’t, you would not be spending so much time with them.
Accept that you’ll go through some tough moments with your children and you’ll have to put your parenting skills to the test.
- Before stepping on the tennis court with your children, remind yourself how fortunate you are to teach your kids a sport they will enjoy for the rest of their life.
In ten, twenty or even fifty years from now they will tell everyone that they learned tennis from their mother / father. Isn’t that the best reason for you to keep going? I think it is… Enjoy the journey! :)