For many parents, tennis gives their children an outlet for developing confidence, athletic skills and good sportsmanship. The thrill and excitement of competitive tennis can definitely be addictive for young kids, and with their seemingly boundless energy, they're often eager pursue their passion for the game through every available avenue. As a parent, your child's love for the game can put you in an interesting position, because while you're more than willing to help your child succeed in tennis, you may not be exactly sure how to go about feeding this passion. This is especially true if you've never played tennis yourself, or if you don't consider yourself to be a good tennis player; you may feel completely unqualified to help your child develop his/her skills. So how can you help your child excel in tennis, even if you're far from a tennis pro yourself? Below are some simple tips to help you encourage your child's development as a tennis player.
1. Deepen their knowledge base with tennis-related resources.
As a "tennis parent," one of the first things you have to get rid of is the feeling that you're not qualified to help your child because you don't know enough about tennis to contribute to their understanding of the game. There are plenty of instructional DVDs, YouTube videos and other resources that are more than capable of teaching your child whatever they need to know about tennis. All you have to do is point your child in the right direction, and their own love for the game will do the rest.
It's also good to encourage them to study the past and present masters of the game, such as Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Steffi Graf, Roger Federer, Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic. There are tons of great YouTube videos featuring footage from various matches that each of these legends have played. These types of resources will expand your child's knowledge base, and give them a well-rounded education in the game of tennis. Spend time doing this together and you'll also learn a lot about the sport, which enables you to better support your child's activity.
2. Perform simple tennis drills with your child.
You may not be ready to play a full-fledged tennis match with your child, but you can help them improve their basic skills and coordination by performing certain simple tennis drills with them. One of the easiest places to start would be with the ball toss drill. With a basket of balls at your side, stand at the center service line of the court, roughly three or four feet away from the net. Your child will be on the opposite side, also standing on the center service line, about three to four feet back from the net as well. Toss the ball to the left and right side of the court (alternating tosses), making sure that the ball reaches about waist high off the bounce. Your child can then practice hitting the ball with their forehand and backhand strokes. Simple drills like this do not require any high level of athleticism on your part, but they can help your child improve his/her essential tennis skills such as judging ball speed and adjusting footwork.
3. Provide genuine support for your child.
Children are remarkably keen when it comes to detecting sincerity and genuineness. What an aspiring young tennis player needs most from his/her parent is genuine support and encouragement. Experienced tennis coaches will tell you that well-meaning parents often make the mistake of trying to make everything perfect for their child, when real life simply doesn't work that way.
Tennis is a psychologically demanding sport, and your child will need to be able to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. They'll need to develop the ability to analyze their own game and make the necessary adjustments when a flaw is discovered in their technique. If a parent is too quick to jump to their child's defense for the sake of protecting his/her emotions, they can actually limit the child's opportunities to make important progress in their game. This is not to imply that you should withhold praise; in fact, the opposite is true. Pour on the love and encouragement, and demonstrate that you're always there to provide them with genuine support, regardless of their performance.
Few things in life bring greater joy to a parent than watching your child excel at something that they truly love doing. Your child's tennis education is a journey that will have its ups and downs, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your child; just do your best to enjoy every moment along the way.