There are various stages to a child’s playing and competitive journey. As a parent, consider where your child is on the journey (rather than where you would like them to be), and support them while they find their way.
Stage 1 – Trying the game
Children are just trying out tennis. They’re not sure if they like the game yet, and their participation may have been a parental decision.
Competition should be simple, and based around a set of skills that children can perform. Competition should be team based with a festival fun feel.
Competing as a youngster can be a daunting experience, especially when competing for the first time. Be patient, your child may require some time to process the environment that they are in, and kids develop confidence at different stages.
Stage 2 – Playing the game
Children are committed to tennis, but perhaps only once a week and it makes up a schedule of other sports and activities which children enjoy. If tennis gets boring because they don’t improve, they will probably leave.
Competition AND training should follow the ‘learning through play’ philosophy and set at a level where players feel like they are achieving some success in competition. Team events are preferable and children may want to commit to learning and playing more in order to continue to enjoy competition.
Stage 3 – Being a player
Tennis is a child’s number one sport. They play tennis more than other activities (but still play and enjoy a variety of sports).
Lessons, training and practice matches are a way of preparing for competition and children are comfortable in competitive situations both within and away from their local club environment.
Children should play a mixture of individual and team events, still within appropriate formats as there will be periods of winning and losing, during which the child still needs to enjoy the sport, have fun, have clear goals, see the results of improvements made in practice, and have good parental and coach support.