Teaching tennis to young kids: Resources, ideas, and best ways?

onehandbh

Legend
So I've decided to introduce tennis to the littlest member of our family.
Looking for ideas on how to make it fun and also develop technique, skills, and good habits to build a good foundation with proper technique.

For a tiny person slightly under a 1 meter tall, should they use the 19 inch racquet? (smallest one). I also bought some yellow and red sponge tennis balls from TW a little while back.

Will probably enroll in a red ball class next month.

I have only brought the little tiny person to a tennis court twice.
 
So I've decided to introduce tennis to the littlest member of our family.
Looking for ideas on how to make it fun and also develop technique, skills, and good habits to build a good foundation with proper technique.

For a tiny person slightly under a 1 meter tall, should they use the 19 inch racquet? (smallest one). I also bought some yellow and red sponge tennis balls from TW a little while back.

Will probably enroll in a red ball class next month.

I have only brought the little tiny person to a tennis court twice.
Don't let this person read the forums!
 

La Pavoni

Rookie
We put my son in for lessons too early (4.5?) He simply wasn't getting anything out of them except frustration and feeling cold (outside, Autumn, in the UK).

He and I have instead just done lots of fun things with throwing and catching the balls over the winter and a couple of exercises with the racquet to get him used to holding it. He's definitely better with small chunks of it though, rather than trying one longer session.

In contrast at the same age his sister was fine and enjoyed it a lot more. All kids are different and you've just got to adapt around them. I think I'm going to put him back in lessons once it's warmed up a bit more and I think he will now be ok.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Don't sweat it and just play! Roll a ball to each other with right hand, left hand, alternating hands, make some goals to roll to, stop the ball with foot and roll with hand, stop the ball with a hand and roll with a foot, use same hand same foot, use same hand opposite foot and vice versa, stop with hand and roll with racquet, stop with foot and roll with racquet, do some "high-5" volleys with hand and then racquet, play catch with different sized balls. Make it a game - "how many can we do?" "We get a point if we can do xx how many points can we get before my phone beeps?"

Just play! Self organisation will largely take care of the rest.
 

La Pavoni

Rookie
Some good clubs and coaches up that way
Definitely not the worst place to be. There's talk of LTA investment in a new centre nearby soonish. But I'm not sure what the current situation will have done to it.

I'm also a visiting member of a nice club down in Devon too. But opportunities to get there and play have been limited in the recent past.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I rarely work with kids under the age of eight. But I have worked with a few who were pretty mature for their age -- and more well-behaved and attentive than a few 8 & 9 year olds I've dealt with.

Best advice that I have is to work on the little one's hand-eye coordination. Teach them how to throw (properly) and catch a tennis ball. Toss them balls and have them catch it after one bounce. If they need 2 hands at first, that is fine. Eventually, they should be able to catch it with just the L hand and just the R hand. As this becomes easy try it from a further distance. Also vary the spin and trajectory so that they become aware of how different spins will bounce. Toss some balls with a high trajectory so that they bounce up. Both topspin & underspin tosses. Then toss balls with a low trajectory -- esp with underspin so that the ball will tend to skid instead of bounce high.

Also have them master catching balls on the fly (no bounce). Again, they should master this task with either / both hands.

Also have your kid learn how to dribble a volleyball (it's softer than a futbol / soccer ball). They should learn a proper dribble rather than slapping at the ball to make it bounce. They should also learn some foot-eye coordination. Kicking the ball and stopping a rolling ball with their fooot. I have found that some of the easiest kids to teach tennis are ones that have had a soccer (or basketball) background.

Can your little one do Ups and Downs with a tennis racket and ball? By "Downs" I mean dribbling the ball with the racket face. It might be best to have them start this with an Eastern Fh grip. (They can learn other rips later).

They should learn to do this with control -- standing in one place, walking forward, walking backward, side stepping, rotating their body CW, rotating the body in the other direction. They should also learn to run while dribbling a tennis ball. If dribbling becomes too easy for them, have them dribble with the edge of frame (racket face vertical rather than horizontal).

Ups are usually a bit more challenging than Downs. Your young one should first start doing this with the foam ball (but not in the wind). Have them start with low Ups -- bouncing the ball upward 10-20 cm or so. When that becomes easy, they should learn to bounce the ball upward a couple of feet or so. Also have them master this with various movements of the body I suggested for Downs. Ups can probably be most easily learned with a continental grip or an EFh grip.
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Have your young one play some "tennis golf". They can putt a stationary ball and try to hit a target. An empty tennis ball can make an excellent target since they will be able to knock it over with a well placed putt.

For the putt, they can use a short swing to gently hit the ball. However, it might be even better to have them start without swinging AT the ball. Instead, they start with the racket head tip right behind the ball and simply use the racket to roll the ball at a target with a short motion. They should be able to master both 1-handed and 2-handed putting.

After they've mastered that, you can take it a step further. Still, no swing into the ball at first. Have them roll the ball as before, but then add a full follow-thru over the shoulder. (This should help in learning topspin later in their development). They should learn to perform this drill with the R hand and then learn it with the L hand. Or vice versa.

They can also learn to perform this with a 2-handed motion. Of course, if they also learn to putt a ball with a 1-handed Bh motion, they won't be following thru over their shoulder.
 
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Whenever I rallied with my kids when they were little, I made sure to show them myself trying to get to every ball and they grew up copying me. When they started taking group lessons, they were the only ones covering the whole court, while other kids didn't bother taking more than few steps to get to the balls.

Buy some cones and court markers. Without these signs, little kids wonder everywhere on courts. These props can also make fun obstacle courses.

Kids grow up way too fast. Enjoy every moment.
 
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onehandbh

Legend
Can your little one do Ups and Downs with a tennis racket and ball? By "Downs" I mean dribbling the ball with the racket face. It might be best to have them start this with an Eastern Fh grip. (They can learn other rips later).

They should learn to do this with control -- standing in one place, walking forward, walking backward, side stepping, rotating their body CW, rotating the body in the other direction. They should also learn to run while dribbling a tennis ball. If dribbling becomes too easy for them, have them dribble with the edge of frame (racket face vertical rather than horizontal).
He cannot do ups and downs yet. He has only picked up a racquet a few times. Just starting.
I'll try doing some of the simple games you and @Ash_Smith suggested.

He took a single trial tennis class last week for the first time and he told me he liked it, so I'll enroll him in the next term starting soon.

When it comes to learning of anything, my goal is to make it fun for him so he will be motivated. Whether is is music, arts & crafts, science or gardening. So the instructors and teachers I have been selecting have been ones that make learning fun for him and make him curious.

A recent book I got him that really kicked off his interested in exploring and experiment is a book called "Ada Twist, Scientist." So good!
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
@onehandbh

If he's not quite ready for Ups and Downs try a simpler drill. Holding the racquet with an E or conti grip have the racket face in a horizontal position and place a ball on the stringbed. He should be able to walk forward and then stop w/o dropping the ball.

Ditto for walking backward. Next challenge is to do this with a side step shuffle (chasse step). Stop the side stepping in one direction and move in the other position. Often, the hardest part is stopping without dropping the ball. If this ceases to be a challenge, try it with 2 or 3 balls on the strings. (Putting a ball in the throat of the racket is cheating).
 

onehandbh

Legend
Small update and possibly a minor dilemma? (apologize in advance for the long post)

Ok. I enrolled the little 4.5 year old into a class. I did one trial class at another tennis facility a week ago and decided on this one.
The instructor led the kids through a series of exercises/drills similar to what some of you have suggested. They also started with a warmup or light jogging, etc.

Our little one was following along for a little bit but then he either started to get bored or lost some interest. The instructor struggled to regain his interest for the second half of the class.

Here is an example. The instructor uses a series of objects like cones, flat targets and markers, ladders, etc.

In one of the "drills" the kids each stand in one place in a line and about 1.5 meters distance from each other. The instructor tosses them a ball and the are supposed to catch it with a cone in their hand. Then he progresses to having them try to hit it with a racquet. He is standing quite close to them.

My son followed the cone catching part but then after that he left and started playing with the stack of cones he saw nearby. He put them all in a line and started hopping down the line with them between his legs. Another kid saw what he was doing and followed him and helped set up the cones and did my son's new made up drill. He probably got the idea or inspiration from his previous trial class.

Earlier in the other trial class a week ago the instructor (different guy) had set up a ladder on the ground and asked the kids to hop, jump in a specific pattern on the ladder. My son did this for about 1/2 of the way and then started doing his own improvised version of it, which included stepping his own way and turning 360 degrees as he went along.

So my question are:
- Should I try to convince my son to follow the instructor more closely at the next class?
- Give suggestions to the instructor on how to get my son's attention? (by making it more fun)
- any other ideas?

I'm not suggesting that the instructor use different drills, but maybe make it more fun.

** background. I have always played a lot of made-up imagination games with my son since he was a baby. Like when I was motivating him to learn to crawl or climb I'd play this game where I pretend I'm a monster or giant animal slowly waking up and then chasing him and he has to try and climb up onto the mattress bed to escape. He loved these games and was always laughing and then he eventually started making up his own games that he wanted to play with me and with other kids at pre-school.
 
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onehandbh

Legend
This all might be much ado about nothing, though. When I asked my son after the class, he said he liked the class and wanted to go again.

We recently enrolled him in some classes over the last couple months. The criteria we use on choosing classes and teachers comes down to this: does our son like it? does he have fun? and does he look forward to the classes?
 

chrisb

Semi-Pro
So I've decided to introduce tennis to the littlest member of our family.
Looking for ideas on how to make it fun and also develop technique, skills, and good habits to build a good foundation with proper technique.

For a tiny person slightly under a 1 meter tall, should they use the 19 inch racquet? (smallest one). I also bought some yellow and red sponge tennis balls from TW a little while back.

Will probably enroll in a red ball class next month.

I have only brought the little tiny person to a tennis court twice.
i am a teaching pro of 57 years now working witj my 3 grandkids I suggest you read Wegners better tennis
in 2 hrs and Bradens teaching children tennis. you are the best person to do the job
 

onehandbh

Legend
i am a teaching pro of 57 years now working witj my 3 grandkids I suggest you read Wegners better tennis
in 2 hrs and Bradens teaching children tennis. you are the best person to do the job
I have Wegner's book. IMO, it does not have enough fun games for younger kids. The class my son is in already has more.

Have not read Braden's book.

The reason I do not want to be the primary person teaching him is that he enjoy being in class with other kids.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Small update and possibly a minor dilemma? (apologize in advance for the long post)

Ok. I enrolled the little 4.5 year old into a class. I did one trial class at another tennis facility a week ago and decided on this one.
The instructor led the kids through a series of exercises/drills similar to what some of you have suggested. They also started with a warmup or light jogging, etc.

Our little one was following along for a little bit but then he either started to get bored or lost some interest. The instructor struggled to regain his interest for the second half of the class.

Here is an example. The instructor uses a series of objects like cones, flat targets and markers, ladders, etc.

In one of the "drills" the kids each stand in one place in a line and about 1.5 meters distance from each other. The instructor tosses them a ball and the are supposed to catch it with a cone in their hand. Then he progresses to having them try to hit it with a racquet. He is standing quite close to them.

My son followed the cone catching part but then after that he left and started playing with the stack of cones he saw nearby. He put them all in a line and started hopping down the line with them between his legs. Another kid saw what he was doing and followed him and helped set up the cones and did my son's new made up drill. He probably got the idea or inspiration from his previous trial class.

Earlier in the other trial class a week ago the instructor (different guy) had set up a ladder on the ground and asked the kids to hop, jump in a specific pattern on the ladder. My son did this for about 1/2 of the way and then started doing his own improvised version of it, which included stepping his own way and turning 360 degrees as he went along.

So my question are:
- Should I try to convince my son to follow the instructor more closely at the next class?
- Give suggestions to the instructor on how to get my son's attention? (by making it more fun)
- any other ideas?

I'm not suggesting that the instructor use different drills, but maybe make it more fun.

** background. I have always played a lot of made-up imagination games with my son since he was a baby. Like when I was motivating him to learn to crawl or climb I'd play this game where I pretend I'm a monster or giant animal slowly waking up and then chasing him and he has to try and climb up onto the mattress bed to escape. He loved these games and was no always laughing and then he eventually started making up his own games that he wanted to play with me and with other kids at pre-school.
Your kid is 4.5 years old - of course he's going to lose focus and go off an create his own games/experiences - it's exactly what he should be doing! If he was rigidly standing in line and following instructions to the letter I'd be concerned :-D

The coach should understand that when working with little kids this kind of thing happens and he/she should be engaging with that and using it to help them develop.
 

giantschwinn

Semi-Pro
I started my son at 4. Enrolled him in a group class with like 6-7 kids per court. After a month, we stopped going. The agility games are good but you don't need a class to do these. You can do them at home on your own. This is the best decision I've made.
After that initial month, he's had weekly private lessons ever since. The court was in a private community. Every time someone walks by with a dog, he would stare at the dog for like 20 seconds. The short attention span is totally normal. You have to be very patient. You have to repeat the same instruction over and over. His body and brain needs time to develop.
Once he can rally 20 times with orange balls WITH TOP SPIN on both wings, it's time to put him back in a group setting. For my son, this happened around 5.
The best advice I can tell you is strokes development doesn't happen over night. He will have funny looking strokes initially. It's the coach's and your job to keep molding it. If you keep at it, by age 8 most of the kinks are worked out and they look like little pros.
 
The best advice for people who want to have healthy kids play tennis might be .... to not introduce them to tennis until they are at least 14-15 years old (if not later).

In the meantime let them play sports that develop balance, flexibility and coordination.

:cool:
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
The best advice for people who want to have healthy kids play tennis might be .... to not introduce them to tennis until they are at least 14-15 years old (if not later).

In the meantime let them play sports that develop balance, flexibility and coordination.

:cool:
Because tennis doesn't do those things?

I happen to think that tennis does those things better than most other sports.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
The best advice for people who want to have healthy kids play tennis might be .... to not introduce them to tennis until they are at least 14-15 years old (if not later).

In the meantime let them play sports that develop balance, flexibility and coordination.

:cool:
At that age, if they find that they have no chance whatsoever to get into high school varsity or junior varsity teams and find that their peers and juniors are far far ahead of them, they will not have any motivation. School children are notoriously bad at tolerating those who are way less skilled than them. Heck, clubs struggle even with beginning adults who spray the ball, cannot find partners, and quit.
 
Because tennis doesn't do those things?

I happen to think that tennis does those things better than most other sports.
I find that skiing, swimming, cycling, badminton, table tennis and dancing in a combination do that better and with less stress on the body. If we include "newer" sport activities like yoga, climbing and similar it is even better.

I must admit: I am talking about a person who intends to do tennis strictly as a recreational sport. If the matter is about a person, who intends to try a pro tennis career, that is a completely different story.


:cool:
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I find that skiing, swimming, cycling, badminton, table tennis and dancing in a combination do that better and with less stress on the body. If we include "newer" sport activities like yoga, climbing and similar it is even better.

I must admit: I am talking about a person who intends to do tennis strictly as a recreational sport. If the matter is about a person, who intends to try a pro tennis career, that is a completely different story.


:cool:
I know a lot of people who are fit just from moderate eating, walking and stretching.
 

bobleenov1963

Hall of Fame
I find that skiing, swimming, cycling, badminton, table tennis and dancing in a combination do that better and with less stress on the body. If we include "newer" sport activities like yoga, climbing and similar it is even better.

I must admit: I am talking about a person who intends to do tennis strictly as a recreational sport. If the matter is about a person, who intends to try a pro tennis career, that is a completely different story.


:cool:
golf is probably the best for a young kid. You get to hang out and walk with your kid on the golf course. Best feeling ever.
 
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