Training players of all ages is an amazing experience as a coach because if you listen really carefully, the children are telling you – “I want to have FUN!” It’s not about what I want to give them, it’s about what they “need” to PLAY and have…. FUN!!
The most important catalyst that motivated me as a coach to “Develop Creative Environments to PLAY” was inspired most of all by my group of 8 and under players. All they want to do is “PLAY” – and as I tuned my ear and listened to their small voice, a BIG message came out – “Hey coach, it’s NOT about what you want for me – I want to give you something amazing, I want to teach you how to “PLAY”! So come on, let’s go coach!!
So with that message ringing LOUD and CLEAR in my ear, I simplified and found a way to create this environment with those 8 and under players to rally to PLAY!!
1. Little children know how to TOUCH and they know how to HIT. So I chose TOUCH because I knew touch would “send” the ball with CONTROL (speed).
2. Little children know what it means to FINISH, because they know how to race and they need to finish the race to play and win! So I chose FINISH, because I knew FINISH would “send” the ball over the net with height.
The backswing can cause many issues with point of contact, so I removed it (a designed moment) for the sake of the children making solid TOUCH with the ball.
emphasized FINISH (catching the racquet with the non-hitting hand over the shoulder).
So it’s TOUCH and FINISH, TOUCH and FINISH!!
Progression to Rally: Receive and Send
1. Eyes track, Hands reach to TOUCH and trap off to the side (receive), underhand throw with non-hitting hand back to coach (send).
2. Eyes track, Racquet and Hand reach to TOUCH and trap off to the side (receive), underhand throw with non-hitting hand back to coach (send).
3. Eyes track, Racquet and Hand reach to TOUCH and trap off to the side (receive), drop ball off to the side, TOUCH and FINISH back to the coach (send).
4. Eyes track, Racquet to TOUCH ball (receive), and FINISH back to coach (send).
I believe in my most humble opinion that the #1 REASON WHY KIDS QUIT TENNIS……
It’s NOT FUN!
I believe the #1 reason WHY it’s not FUN for them……
Coaches and Parents loose sight of the FUN!!
I know that may sound a little harsh and simplified, at the same time, – LISTEN to your kids, juniors, adults, whoever comes to your court to take a lesson, group session, training program. It’s true, as adults we’ve drained the FUN OUT OF TENNIS, either intentionally or unintentionally.
As Coaches and Parents, we try and live our lives too much vicariously through the children – we are looking so desperately for our “PIE IN THE SKY”, that one break that says to the whole world as a coach, “I’m AWESOME!!” As a parent, we expect our children to perform at an unrealistic level because we LOVE them so much, we only want the best for them! I know, I have (3) children, all PLAY tennis on their own accord. Yes, do I need to push them sometimes, for discipline sake, self-control, and commitment. Yes, I get it! But at what “COST?” The cost of FUN?! Never.
If you take the FUN, the enjoyment, the passion, the PLAY out of tennis – expect them to quit at some point. When FUN AND PLAY is the #1 reason why we walk out on the court with them……… EXPECT THEM TO STAY!!!