A dilemma: so-so group or expensive private lessons?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BMC9670, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    I’ve been playing with my 7 year old son 2-3 times a week for a year and he’s enjoying the game and his success. However, next month I’m having shoulder surgery and will be out at least 4 months. My dilemma is how to keep him going while I’m out. Here’s why:

    He did group lessons at our club for a few 8-week sessions. He liked them, but said they were a little boring. When I watch the sessions, there are 6-8 kids of whom 2 or 3 can actually rally, so things fall apart really quickly and the kids stand around a lot. The pros seem to insist on doing games that are beyond the kids’ rally skills. The feeding drills are OK because the pro can feed a hit-able ball, but there are very few rallies going on. I would love him to be with other kids, but the group lessons are a little lame.

    When I play with him, I feed him regular tennis balls for drills and play rallies/games using Play n’ Stay balls (25% less speed/bounce). This is great because we can have longer rallies and he can swing through with good form and put spin on the ball while covering the court. And, probably most importantly, he LOVES to play games/sets because he’s playing real tennis.

    Here is a drill we do and part of a set we played:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHdr4L3qipk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2suEGKic2Y

    So, options while I’m out are to go back to the so-so group lessons or spring for expensive private lessons, which I would only be able to afford 1 hour per week max, which is far less time on the court. What would you do?
     
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  2. tennisdad65

    tennisdad65 Hall of Fame

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    My son is 7, and I have been coaching my son for 2.5 years now. And I have had shoulder problems for ~6 months now.. so I can advice you :)

    If a parent is not demanding, not pushy, not expecting to create a 'pro', just having fun, easy going, then they are the best coaches.

    Because of your shoulder, you should stick with hand feeding drills. Keep the balls low, from knee to shoulder height. Even with sets, one hand is probably all you need to play with your son. Start teaching him to serve, volley, slice etc.. 4 months will pass in a hurry.

    STAY AWAY from private coaching. Limited group classes now and then are okay. From my experience, the BEST thing is to have him play with a friend or a couple of friends. You can train them together.
     
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  3. Jay_The_Nomad

    Jay_The_Nomad Professional

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    It depends on your child's temperament.

    If he's the patient type who is able to concentrate for an hour straight then private lessons might be a good idea.

    If not, see if there is an older age-group group session.

    Supplement with ball machine.
     
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  4. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    Do you have friends that would play with your son? It may sound strange, but I've had a couple of parents that asked me to play matches with their kids. I didn't mind at all. Some I just had easy hitting sessions where I kept the ball in play. Others I played all out and it was all I could do to hold my own. As a 50 year-old 3.5 adult I had some great matches against a 10 year old girl that was in the top 10 in the nation (or maybe the region). Anyway, she was darn good in every aspect except serving.

    Your son isn't as good as she was, but my point is that there may be some adults that would be happy to play - as long as you don't go to that well too often. You can coach from the sidelines.
     
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  5. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    I would advise that you start mixing in some private lessons - as well as finding more advanced hitting partners for your son like the other poster said. Adults would work but so would an older kid. You might want to talk with a pro after getting the private.
     
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  6. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Another option is to have him do something else for a couple of months. At age 7 it really is not going to matter in his final tennis skill outcome.
     
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  7. mikro112

    mikro112 Semi-Pro

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    Are you a good enough player to play with the other hand? If yes, that would be perfect for rallying with your son, because he will get different types of balls (spin, height, bounce, etc) to hit. Also, it could be a great challange for your son to beat you when you play with your weak hand.
    For all other drills handfeeding or feeding with your weak hand should work as well.

    Nonetheless, from my experience as coach (about 10 years now) and player (about 20 years) I can tell you that practice is important, but having your son play with other kids is at least equally important, if not more important.

    About the group lessons: 4 players should be the maximum for all group lessons that are on one court. Everything above that number won't help improve your kid's abilities at all! In my opinion, you should talk to the parents of the kids in that group who can hit pretty good. Schedule hitting sessions for your and their son for example a once or twice a week, and practice with your son alone on the other occacions.

    I haven't had any surgeries yet, but if you can hold the racket after the surgery and if you're able to simply get the ball over the net, it should be sufficient for continuing to practice with your son. If it's the case that you're not able to even hold the racket or to feed balls with your hand, I'd go with private 2-people lessons. Get another kid that is playing on that level or better to share that lesson. That will reduce the costs and in 2-people-lessons, the actual playing-time is still sufficient enough. Then, you might be able to actually get 2 hours per week and if you schedule another hitting session with the other kids('s parents), your son still plays three times a week.
     
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  8. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Kid is looking Great! You must be doing a nice job. He really looks to enjoy it too.
    I really like the way you have him moving so well.
     
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  9. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks 5263. We work a lot on movement - he is tall for a 7 year old (4'8") and has struggles with his length sometimes. Playing some soccer and basketball also helps.
     
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  10. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Great advice all around - thanks!

    I think what I'll do is have him take a few lessons with the pro at the club and once the pro gets an idea of his ability, ask him about getting a small group of similar kids together.
     
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  11. tennisdad65

    tennisdad65 Hall of Fame

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    yep.. he is TALL :) my son is 7 yrs and 4'2" ( 6 inches shorter), and is 60% in height. Your son is probably 95% + or off the charts. Your son will be serving like Isner in a few years :)
     
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  12. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    It was about age 7 that I got my son hitched up with a pro for private lessons (1x per week). Once he got to the point where I felt focused instruction would benefit him, I didn't hesitate. At the time I didn't realize how important this move was, but looking back nearly 7 years I can see that seeking out a professional established a solid foundation for my son's strong fundamentals.

    The key is to find the right pro, with the right attitude (remember he's working with a 7 year old boy). He needs to keep the tennis fun and not overly technical or anal. That can be tricky when teaching stroke fundamentals but really good pro's who have a track record of working with juniors know how to do this and keep it fun for the kids.

    If you can afford it, I strongly recommend you get an experienced pro involved now.
     
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  13. Blake0

    Blake0 Hall of Fame

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    You could get him privates..but i don't really think you need to unless you're really rich, just a waste of money at this point...maybe in a couple years. You could do privates twice a month though..I'm just assuming though, unless you get a really good coach, you're just paying someone else to do what you were doing.
    Maybe get him into a group lesson with older kids? Or try to feed him balls to practice. Or play soccer against him, work on his leg coordination :).
     
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  14. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    One thing I haven't seen suggested is to find the 2-3 best kids in the current clinic and suggest that you form a group clinic with the most suitable pro.

    This will cut the cost, give him hitting partners and be more fun than private lessons.

    [edit: Whoops, I see this idea is already in play. My bad.]
     
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  15. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    He's always been over 90% in height, and at 6 he went off the chart. He gets a little discouraged because kids half his size run circles around him in soccer, but he's beginning to grow into his body and become more coordinated. His eye-hand has always been good.

    I wonder how today's tall players (Isner/Querrey/Ivo/Del Potro, etc) were as kids.
     
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  16. USERNAME

    USERNAME Professional

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    Have him start taking private lessons now. He has the ground strokes down pretty solid, a coach will now perfect his technique. He/she will also start working on the serve to develop a good solid motion and (depending on coaching style) he/she may start working on volleys alot or just enough to get his mechanics down. After he is fairly solid in the technical aspect of his game u and the coach can start teaching him the strategic aspects and how to execute, also start to develop a weapon to work points around. From there its mainly getting alot of court time in and playing tournys for more experience. Thats the progression I went through just at a slightly younger age and now at 17y/o I have my technical game set, weapons developed, and solid mental toughness.
     
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  17. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks USERNAME. Can you give me an idea of how much you played when you were younger (8-12) and what you are like now (level/rank etc)? I only ask because I did not play tennis when I was young and am trying to get a sense of it all.
     
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  18. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    ^^^ I'm in the same boat. I never played when I was young either, and only very recently sought private instruction for myself to correct some technique issues (still a work in progress).

    When my son started with lessons, he was 7 going on 8 years old. He took 1 private lesson per week, and attended a 90 minute clinic. I also hit with him 1 day per week to help him grove his strokes. So all in, he was on the court maybe 3.5 hours per week at that age. As he got older and his stroke technique improved, he progressed to a stronger clinic with more capable partners. He also started to compete in a few USTA tournaments throughout the year at age 9-10.

    It's amazing to see the speed of improvement kids at this age are capable of with proper instruction. Just make sure the pro you hire has a good track record of working with YOUNG juniors. The emphasis should be primarily on fundamentals at this age (i.e. stroke technique and footwork). From your video, it looks like he already has a decent foundation in both of these categories so I would expect his progress to really accelerate working with a professional.
     
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  19. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    This is a good example of why I became a proponent of MTM's approach to training. About 15 years ago, when my oldest son was playing and 95% height chart, we were facing a lot of the same decisions. Like you, I worked hard to get the best answers I could for him. He had the same size and speed issues that you mention, but was pretty fast in a straight line even then;
    just not circles. lol We worked with some very top coaches over the years in our very strong area (very big tennis market), as well as he went to Everett each summer, except when he went to Macci once and Nick B's one year. My son was very coachable and made a great effort to step into shots and swung down the target line when ever he could, as all the coaches gave this common advice (why I call it conventional). This went fine til he was about 13 and his size and power began to really come on, and where things started to unravel, just when you might think they were going to improve.

    A couple of things happened at the stage. The kids most of the coaches called pushers for pulling off the ball instead of thru it, were actually hitting across topspin and often working a nice open stance recovery method to keep big hitters like my son in points much longer, and using high shot tolerance to draw more errors. Another surprise was that these so called pushers, really had a knack for a crisp putaway whenever someone left a mid ct sitter. The other aspect is that my son began to have more overuse injuries. The extra footwork and balance issues forced by stepping into a majority of his shots was most likely responsible for the heavy physical toll . As he became bigger and stronger, keeping the ball in the court became more of a challenge with his previous training style.

    Yes, I was doing much of his coaching thru the years, but was doing it in concert with many of the best and I was a certified instructor, along with being a pretty good 4.5 player (went undefeated 2 years, regular season at #1 spot). And yes, we did run across one or two of those modern type coaches (that noted coaches showed little respect) thru the years, who suggested a more modern approach for my son. Who would listen those guys right? I let the belittling of Oscar's grassroots program keep me away. I wanted to stay with the tried and proven. And my game was pretty sharp doing it the more conventional way, so why wouldn't my son be even better with his bigger tools ?

    The shortened version from here is that finally I gave MTM a good look after an odd chain of events. We adopted it, as it removed the false data we had been taught thru more conventional instruction and added some improved approaches as well. Yes, we are quite impressed with this comprehensive system, that also leaves major room for personal style! Our games are still lifting as a result!

    *note to coaches-
    if your teaching is not conventional, then please do not be offended.
    if you feel you are conventional, you have a right to your point of view as well, and I respect that. This is just mine. thanks
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
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  20. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Interesting. I've read about this and there seems to be a big debate in the teaching community about it. Most of what my son does on the court has come naturally. I've kept it very simple for him mainly because I'm not formally trained - move to the ball, balance, racket ready, finish over the shoulder.

    This brings up a good point in choosing a pro. For example, the tennis director at our club has been teaching for 30 years and has a traditional game - closed stance, 1hbh, hits more flat and through the ball etc. He's a great player, but his game looks much different from the younger pros at the club. Another is fresh out of playing Div. I college and works with the younger kids - her game looks much more modern - open stance, 2hbh, hits more topspin.

    It makes me wonder if I do go with a pro - which is better suited for him and today's game?
     
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  21. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    There are a lot of super coaches out there. Yes, I would recommend a MTM certified as first option, but as pointed out on this forum, there are many modern thinking coaches in all organizations. My position would be to at least seek someone who works well with open stances and more modern style.
     
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  22. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Just keep him playing. It didnt sound like he hated group lessons and keeping him out on the court may be a good option. Talk to the group lesson coach and see what you can arrange.

    You may want to mix in a private every other week to hone some skills.

    You can be involved for the next four months. Consider yourself his manager. Discuss your goals with the coaches you are thinking of. You can tell them that at group sessions you want to get takeaways to perhaps use at the private lesson to work on specific skills.

    Such as if you see your son needs work on the backhand side, use the private lesson to do that. Just be proactive, develop a game plan, and communicate that with the coaches for their input. Listen to their side as well and come to an agreement. Manage it from there with progress meetings.
     
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  23. USERNAME

    USERNAME Professional

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    5-7: 3 days a week with my coach for 1 hour, plus hitting time with my dad.
    8-10: 5 days a week with my coach for 2 hours, plus hitting time with dad and friends (started tournys at this age.)
    11-13: 5 days a week with my coach for 2 hours, plus A LOT of hitting time mainly with friends (playing open lvl tournys at this age.)
    14-16: 5 days a week with my coach for 3 hours, gym time with a trainer for 2 hours, plus hitting time with friends (went to Bollettieri for a summer at 15 which was a lot more court time, 7 days a week.)
    17 (present time): 6 days a week with my coach for 4-5 hours, gym time with a trainer for 2 hours, plus hitting time mainly with my GF (playing 18-under Nationals, ITFs, and Futures.)
     
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  24. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Wow! That is a ton of time, investment, and commitment. Congrats!

    Have you had any trouble with injuries with that much tennis? Also, what are your goals - are you going to play in college, try and turn pro, etc?
     
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  25. USERNAME

    USERNAME Professional

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    Going pro is a dream of mine... I am gonna play in college tho, I have not had to many injuries thankfully just hurt my shoulder and back a few times. I always have been very athletic, if I didnt really get as good at tennis as I am now I would b playing football. I was the 1st string MLB for my school soph and junr years. Only played very little HS tennis actually cause I was playing a lot of tournys.
     
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  26. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Good thing is that is does not always take quite that much time. If you can keep them building nice strokes in the early years with hitting 2-3 times per week for 1-2 hrs per session, then they can still be in the slot to do most anything they want in tennis if the desire and talent are there in the early teens. Just need to be good quality overall if the training sched is less. Of course it needs to be quality either way though, doesn't it?
     
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