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I would like to hear from current juniors and their parents on this issue:
I have my two children taking lessons ages 6 & 8. They both started at the age of 5 with an instructor. Here's a brief history which will lay the foundation for my issues/concerns:
1) both kids started taking lessons at age 5 with an instructor. (more later on this).
2) i want my kids to "enjoy" the game but i also want them to have a chance to play to their full potential if they stick with it, DI college tennis or perhaps a shot at the tour. not simply playing for the sake of playing, there's a long term goal here.
3) i have limited knowledge of tennis but was once a professional athlete myself so i understand "what it takes" to make it to the professional level in any sport
4) current instructors are relatively inexpensive ($30/hr). kids enjoy working with them, however, i'm not confident in their teaching methods: i.e. teaching flat groundstrokes.
Issue 1: I believe that topspin groundstrokes give a player power and control therefore why not learn the mechanics early on instead of having to relearn (retrain muscle memory) at some later point. instructors say, learn how to get the ball over the net and then focus on "fancy" parts later down the road. i really dont see topspin groundstrokes as being "fancy" i see them as a fundamental...?
Issue 2: how much is too much or not enough? currently , my kids spend one hour a wk w/ the instructor and one hour in a clinic (for socialization) and typically one to two hours practicing with me (more in the warmer months). for a total of avg of 4 hrs per week. for the most part they enjoy it, in other words i dont have to force them but at the same time they arent asking for more either or chomping at the bit to go.
issue 3: i'm torn between not wanting my kids to grow to hate tennis b/c they feel like i'm shoving down their throats but at the same time i dont want them to look back saying they should've done this or that earlier. I recently read in tennis mag about young kids particularly Jan Silva who is in full-time training at the age of 6. such a fine line between being overbearing and providing kids w/ an opportunity to reach their full potential.
I would love to hear from current juniors and/or their parents on how they dealt with the issues above and any advice, good or bad, they found along the way.
I am a tennis pro who now teaches youngsters. I used to feel that tennis was such a difficult game that I preferred to only teach 8 and above. I now have actually taught a three year old how to rally a few balls back and forth but I do have a lot of success with 4 years old and above and regularly get good results with 5 and 6 year olds.
Your comment about topspin is correct in that it is the basic fundamental of teaching tennis and a child is being harmed by being taught flat groundstrokes. I am a strong proponent of Modern Tennis Methodology by Oscar Wegner as being the best way to start all players, youngsters in particular. To quote Oscar of tennisteacher.com, you can hit every ball from the baseline flat at 100 miles per hour on a straight line just one inch above the net and if it doesn't have a force such as topspin (gravity, wind, angling) to bring it down, every single shot will go out. Just look at the videos on Oscar Wegner's website of the youngsters hitting with huge topspin and like pros. The little 4 year girl Mika is really impressive because the two different videos were only taken four months after she picked up a racket for the very first time. She is hitting and rallying with another 5 year old girl in the videos who also was raised on MTM. That experience with youngsters is not uncommon if youngsters are taught proper technique from the beginning which Oscar claims is to "copy the pros." I have regulary watched fellowess professional Susan Nardi get such results from her tiny tots and she is a nationally known coach who has taught at every level of the game and like me, now uses MTM as the core skeleton of her teaching system. I have no doubt she would also tell you she never got such good results with 5 year olds using the so called "certified" ways to teach tennis.
As far as the the new "prodigies" such as Boyer, Zachary and Silva cited on YouTube, note they all hit mostly open stance and not mechanically and their force is generated by hitting "across" the ball" as Oscar Wegner claims is the most efficient way to generate force. Keep in mind that if they are taught to hit out through the target line this will decrease their feel and will take a lot of unlearning. Believe me, that is the problem with most tennis teaching, particularly regarding youngsters. Current theory is only teach the gifted or the "special" ones how to hit like the pros. Even these coaches who are now receptive to "modern tennis" don't have a clue how much damage they do teaching flat strokes to a child's feel, or how much they hurt a player's "feel" and "instinctive" athleticism by teaching them certain mechanical positions that they will later have to undo when they get old enough. MTM, aka Modern Tennis Methodology, respects the gifts of each student and provides a natural learning curve by which every player in my experience learns to hit more efficiently and with spin and control and enjoy the game like never before.
Keep in mind in my experience I claim: players quit the game not because tennis is too difficult, but because they are taught harmful data that impairs their natural athleticism, leading to tennis ailments or not getting any better. For youngsters, I recommend you keep it simple, hire teachers who know how to keep the game simple (no one keeps it as simple to play like the pros as Oscar Wegner) and keep it EZ to play like the pros: that means moving efficiently and naturally, hitting with spin and using the hands independent of the feet (especially in the early stages), generating the most power with the least effort, and the emphasis on playing by feel, enjoying the experience of the "rally" most of all, back and forth, with control and feel.
If you are unsure, then find the Miracles with Kids site on tennisteacher.com and see for yourself. I once rallied 21 regulation balls from the baseline with a 4 year old. But I believe MTM is the key to starting youngsters. The numbers show the last thirty years, 80 percent of all children quit tennis after taking lessons. Is it the sport, or the lessons that caused them to quit? My experience, as well as a growing number of coaches who teach MTM, is that students taught the new techniques never want to quit and they all can play fairly well and nothing is as much fun as feeling like a game is simple. They can worry about tournaments when they are much older.
Last edited by teachestennis; 12-27-2007 at 04:38 PM.
I spoke to Oscar Wegner and he counsels parents to leave up the time spent playing to the kid's decision. Oscar said that some kids love the sport and want to spend a lot of time on the court. Others may not. He indicated that the teacher can make the kid like the sport or not. If the kid wants to play like Federer or Nadal or Sharapova, the teacher should let him/her do that. Oscar added that all the negative comments as seen on Tennis Magazine and other publications about the travesty of kids being groomed for professional tennis from a very young age is bunk. If that is what the kid wants to do, and the parent wants to help them, more power to them. If it is mainly the parent's goal, then it is more questionable. And if it is the parent just pushing it and the kid does not want it, then it could be a travesty. Oscar says that overall, the teaching technique matters a lot, and that topspin should be taught from the start. Oscar has some very interesting free tips on his website www.tennisteacher.com.. And I am coaching my grandson with Oscar's techniques, and he now loves the game.
You have received a lot of great advice year. My advice to you is as a parent to a parent:
2. Fair (with your child and your expectation)
3. Firm (ethics and sportsmanship)
Enjoy the journey.
hi. my name is sean and i'm a high school tennis player and i have been playing tennis for six and a half years now. And I know your problem but only four hours a week is just to start for now.But learning a flat groundstroke is a good way to start. Because a flat groundstroke does not have any muscle memory to it because when you are just learning you do it with out knowing it then when you start get better at getting it in then you learn the topspin hits.
Just to clear the record here... muscles don't have a brain, therefor they have no memory. The brain develops neuro pathways and tells the muscle when and how to fire.
I agree with teachestennis that the best way to learn from the start (to rally faster) is with a topspin groundstroke.
First of all you have to be realistic about your children athletic potential.In tennis there are things which are inborn as coordination and as such given to 80-90 % so there is little space for improvment.You have to test your children in this department, and accordingly to set your goals.
It is normal to set the highest goals.This does not mean that you have to practice a lot, but it means that you have to have global picture what and how to do it, and that you do it with highest quality.
Quality comes before quantity, but many parents wrongly think that small children do not need quality coach.On the contrary;what one learns at very early stage it stays, and it is very difficult to unlearn or change.
You have to go parallel in three partshysical conditiong, tenis, and psychological preparation.
Very few children have inner motivation.They usually have to be motivated from outside (to motivate my daughter to start tennis I had to teach her classmate;at first she was just sitting on empire chair, then she would try for 10 minutes, then more till the time she did need her classmate during tennis hour)
Children have to be taught in as much as possible pressure free environment, and sure dicipline is important , but they have to have fun
The thing about socializing is wrong.It is good that they are in the group, but it has to be group with same tennis potential, otherwise is waste of time.It is difficult to find such group so then is better that the children socialize, but somewhere outside tennis
very important part of complete trainig.Children has to work on the categories which are best suited to their stage of biological development, they can play some other sport which has something in common in tennis (ball sports).Physical conditioning at this stage should be general in scope
It is important that child learns essence of tennis.On good basics is possible to build and build.Do not pay attention to details.They come later.
Second it is important to use progressive approach.For example if tennis trainer decided that child sholud use western or semi-western grip for forehand that does not mean that he will introduce this grip right away.It is normal to start with eastern (easier for child), and when the time comes
go to semi-western or western.
The sam applies for flat or topspin shot.The most important is to learn good basic mechanics of a stroke, and once when is learned ,one is taught variations.
To make good junior, college, professional player is very complex.It is important to be led by logic, and child well being as long as possible.
I was with the same child from 6 year old to WTA rankings, and I am working on website where I will describe this process.
In Depth Description of Bringing a Child Up a Competitive Ladder with Advices and Recommendations
Last edited by Bubo; 07-14-2009 at 10:33 AM.
Congratulations, you just contradicted yourself. Those neural pathways you're talking about... Well, they're exactly the same as a "memory", because they cause the muscles to fire in a specific way. And i definitely believe that topspin strokes should be taught from the beginning. Besides playing 12-20 hours a week with a parent, i also play 1 hour a week with a group, a go figure, the rest of the group is absolutely horrible for one simple reason: They've never been taught topspin. And therefore, they're ridiculously inconsistent. Mind you, these guys are 15 and have been playing for years, and they can't play tennis for beans!
Originally Posted by Southerngirl
Teaching kids flat shots to start with is a bad, bad idea. Topspin, yes puh-leaze.
Hello Chappie, former tour player here and now coach at Smith/Stearns Academy. Teaching topspin is important as spin really creates control. Flat shots tend to sail while the topspin shots dip into the court. I recommend topspin. As for the amount of time, let the kids play as much as they want. It will be your job to put them around things that will make them hungry to play without forcing them to play. Take them to tournaments and let them watch the high level players. Most of all, having a good time on the court is what will make them want to play more often. Setting goals is important, so if you take them to a tournament, ask them if they would like to play in one eventually. Watching tennis on TV can be motivational as well. The best thing you can do is to get them good coaching so that their technique is correct and so that they can see results for themselves. If they feel like they are getting better at playing, they will want to play more. Have targets out on the court for them to hit to and if they hit them a certain # of times, reward them after practice for good work. This will add a little competition to the mix and they will be competing against themselves as they will be doing their best to hit a target. Good luck with it and keep it fun for them.
Originally Posted by chappie99
My wife and I have a similar background to what you described and have a soon to be 7 y.o. daughter that has been taking lessons since she turned four. Our reason for starting her that young was primarily because since she was about 15 months old, anytime a tournament/match would be on T.V. she would pick up my old racquet then watch all day/night while imitating the players. Later she started wanting to hit the real thing so my wife and I decided to also start playing again after quite a long layoff, take her out to the courts, and enrolled her in some lessons at our country club just to see if she took to it, which she did.
Regarding Issue #2 & #3:
We started taking her to watch D1 matches at TCU (we rarely miss a home match), she met and became friends with most of the Women's Team and even a couple of the guys. At first she was a bit shy but after going to a few matches she would be over talking to all the visiting team's players too. I can't say how great all those kids are for taking the time to just smile and have a chat. Having contact with people competing in the sport has done as much or more than anything my wife and I have done to encourage her. We definitely plan on taking her to as many events, pro and amateur, as we possibly can. I can say from personal experience that without a doubt immersion in the culture of tennis has paid dividends in increasing her determination and interest for playing. So, check out what is in your area. JC tennis and DII can be very good to watch as well and most of the kids are very friendly and approachable. Get out and support your locals and your kids will more than likely join in the enthusiasm.
We started to question if she was being taught the correct technique as well. Fortunately we learned of a coach that had experience with touring pros and teaching juniors in South Florida, interviewed him and made the switch to the tennis center where he is. They definitely begin teaching topspin forehand and backhand from word go just to answer Issue #1. They work on nothing but proper technique from strokes to footwork with the philosophy that the winning will come once you are solid in the fundamentals. It is amazing how in just 6 months our daughter has gone from just being able to rally a bit to entering tournaments and really looking like a tennis player. Of course having the right coach that gets the best out of them and makes them want to play and go to practice and work as hard as all the kids there do is paramount.
Most of all we want it to be fun for her and she has responded. We intentionally did not want to be her coach. We tell her what to do enough as it is and are quite delighted to let a group of very qualified coaches teach her tennis. It makes our family tennis time a whole lot more fun, that is until she starts correcting our flaws but even that's good in that gives her a sense of empowerment and self assuredness.
It may be a good idea to visit some place like Sea Pines for a family tennis vacation where they have clinics for both you and the kids where you can be evaluated by top notch teaching pros. We really believe that our involvement in the sport, like playing USTA league and tournaments, has encouraged her as well.
I wish you well and hope to see you on the juniors circuit in the not too distant future. Keep us posted on how it is going.
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