Parents play a critical role in player development. Quite often, early on-court interactions between parents and young children ultimately determine whether tennis becomes a passion, a hobby or ... sometimes a nightmare.
Here are some ideas to help you nudge your future tennis player in the right direction.
Understand your Role. If you are not the coach, your role is to provide extra enjoyment and practice for your child. You may give some instruction but be more of a practice partner.
Do not make hitting sessions mandatory. Let your child be part of the decision. No practice session will be productive when the player does not want to be on the court. Make sure your child is eager to play with you.
Let your child choose what he wants to do during the practice session. Does he/she wants to play, serve, practice volleys, etc. Support his/her choices. Do not impose yours.
Do not overextend practice. Play as long as you are both enjoying yourselves. Stop as soon as your child has had enough.
You do not have to be on court to help your child’s tennis. Parents can do quite a bit off court to help their children develop, especially when their children are young. Many basic skills will transfer to the court. All fundamental athletic skills serve as building blocks. You can have a great impact on your child’s tennis by simply catching, throwing, hitting and running with him/her.
Play a lot, talk a little. Remember, the goal is to provide extra practice. Help your child by hitting or tossing a lot of balls. Keep the explaining to a minimum.
Give positive feedback. If your child is not enjoying the time on the court with you, the arrangement will not work for a too long. Encourage and support your child. No one likes being constantly told that he/she is doing something wrong.
Guarantee success! Make sure the activities you choose are appropriate for your child’s age and skill level. Also, make sure the equipment you are using is adecuate. Smaller racquets and bigger ball make tennis a lot easier for young players. Constantly failing is not very motivating and will push your child away from the game.
Keep practices fun! Make sure both you and your child are having fun. Nothing positive will come out of it, if either one of you is not enjoying the experience.
In this introductory phase, less is more. Less instruction, less practice time, less judgement, etc.
Over eagerness on the parent's side is one of the main reasons why children lose interest in the game. If you really want to provide your child with the gift of life-time tennis, nudge but do not push!