Some people call this age group “tweenies” while others call them “pre-teens” and others “pre-adolescents.” Whatever you call them, this is arguably one of the most critical age groups to get involved in platform tennis and get them to stick with it. Options for teens are many and if they are jumpstarted with platform tennis, their teens years will be grounded in a terrific sport, setting them up for a lifetime of fun and satisfaction.
One of the main challenges will be success. We all know that teen years are full of the struggle of identity, each teenager finding their own path, their own rhythm that makes them an individual. The preteens are just beginning this process.
Be sensitive to it, and remember that self-esteem plays a large role in determining whether they will continue with platform tennis past this pre-adolescent phase.
Make sure they experience plenty of success and receive truckloads of encouragement. Most experts say that a 60-70% success to failure ratio is appropriate, and certainly over 50%. If they are beginning to play competitive platform tennis, arrange matches with this goal in mind. If they are learning and drilling, make sure the drills and exercises are organized with these same percentages in mind.
Children in this age group are able to make many good decisions for themselves, and they will seek these opportunities. By this age children understand that fun and effort must go hand-in-hand to achieve results such as improved tennis skills.
It is up to the teacher, coach, or parent to make sure it is fun. But the ingredients of good effort and attitude can only come from the child. Share with the children the benefits of platform tennis, compare platform tennis to other sports and activities so they are part of the decision to play, instead of making the decision for them. Then, allow them to be part of the decision as to how they will learn.
You see, there is a current dilemma in the United States that causes some underlying friction between college coaches, high school coaches, and teaching professionals.
The college coaches complain about the high school coaches not sorting out the grips and technique of players BEFORE they get to college. The high school coaches blame the teaching pros for not sorting the grips out BEFORE they get to high school.
As a teaching professional myself, the buck obviously stops with the teaching pros. There’s no one else to take responsibility. We all know the right standards to set. The challenge has been keeping the students having fun and feeling encouraged. Many teaching pros will argue that they cannot stress proper mechanics too much without losing the students’ interest.
It’s the same challenge that every teacher faces in every environment, whether it is in school or on a platform tennis court. Just keep in mind that once bad habits are allowed to take root, it becomes more and more difficult to change them as children grow older.
This age group is the place to start. One of the keys is getting the children involved in he process. Let them determine how they will learn and improved effort and attitude should follow quickly behind.
Shoot for lifetime participation
Whether you are a parent or a teacher, set a goal of lifetime participation when you get your children involved in platform tennis. The jury is in deliberation no longer. Platform tennis is the best lifetime sport in the world. Period.
The challenge in getting children to commit to tennis is not as simple.
Children at this age become increasingly affected by peer pressure and continue to look for immediate enjoyment, usually in that order, which is very telling about the tremendous impact of peer pressure.
Therefore, getting the right teacher and the right environment of peers is critical.
Parents must choose the right program
Parents should look carefully and ask hard questions before signing their children up for a a program. Find out what percentage of the children in the program stick with it from year to year.
It’s also important to observe a class before signing up your child for two reasons.
- First, to see how much fun the children are having and to ascertain whether or not you feel your child will fit in both physically and emotionally with that particular group of kids.
- Second, speak with other parents. Experience is the best teacher. Ask questions of other parents and you will learn a lot about the program from just a few minutes of listening.
Groom your own slope
Each child is unique and this presents a seemingly paradoxical situation.
First, we just reviewed and probably agreed upon the need for children to learn in a group environment. However, it is also equally true that each child is unique.
How can a “unique” child be taught tennis effectively? Most will agree that a combination of private and group instruction is the best plan of action.
Group versus private lessons
Although group lessons present the best opportunity for fun and friends, it is a rare teacher who can adequately work on developing solid technique in the context of the game-based learning that usually is the benchmark of group instruction.
On the other hand, most teaching professionals are quite good at teaching technique and mechanics in a private lesson.
Our recommendation? If you are a parent and can find a talented teacher who can help mold a child’s technique while keeping the group lessons fun and engaging, you are fortunate.
On the other hand, if you are concerned about your child forming the right habits that will serve him or her well for an entire lifetime of tennis, consider complementing the group lessons with some private instruction. If you can afford it, it is usually well worth the extra investment.
The value of mentors
The value of mentors in a broad range of activities is so well known, it always surprises me that more teaching pros and coaches don’t take advantage of this concept.
The idea is to create an environment where your older children act as role models to inspire the younger or less advanced players.
Whether they are just playing on adjacent courts or acting as assistant coaches for a portion of the more beginning classes is only a question of impact.
The rule of thumb with mentoring is fairly simple: Most younger children act more focused and play with more concentration and intensity when older peers are watching. You’ll also find that the older children will, in turn, act more mature.
Use the idea of mentoring to your advantage.
Length of lessons
Generally speaking, for eight and nine-year-olds, session lengths can easily last 60 or even 90 minutes.
Keep it fun and they will want to keep playing.
Study of 10,000 children
Let’s finish this article with a review of the top reasons kids want to play sports and why they stop as reported by the Tennis Industry Association. First, the main reasons for playing are:
- Learn and improve skills
- Exercise and stay in shape
- Do something they are good at
- Play as part of a team
- The challenge of competition
- To win
And, finally, here are the top reasons why kids stop playing sports.
- Lose interest or get bored
- Don’t have fun
- Sport takes too much time
- Coach is a poor teacher
- Too much pressure
- Coach plays favorites
- Overemphasis on winning