Can you tell that I was once a teacher? It was the longest year of my life because I loved those 7th graders so, but the school administration made my life a walking misery. But anyway, that's a story for another day. Today, I wanted to talk to you about Differentiated Instruction and how we apply this extremely useful classroom tool to our tennis instruction.
Differentiated Instruction is the process by which a teacher (or tennis coach for that matter) changes content, application, examples and/or methodology to effectively teach different students in different ways. To put it simply, we will meet your child right where they are in terms of their tennis game, and speak to them in a language they understand.
We practice this in an infinite number of ways, but most importantly, we always keep in mind that each child is unique, their experiences thus far are unique and the way they will learn best is ... you guessed it, also unique.
Some children need to feel physically comfortable on the tennis court before they hit one ball, some will need to come and watch from the sidelines a few times before venturing out to hit, some children will need to physically move before they can calm their minds enough to learn a new technical skill, some kids need to physically warm up more slowly in order to feel safe. Some children can learn to hit a forehand by watching others and imitating the motion, some children need an experienced coach to guide their arms and help them form the muscle memory for the swing, some children can hit a ball fed to them with ease, others will need a thousand balls dropped into their contact zone before their brain tells their arm to swing at the right time, and what I'm getting at here is that it's all good.
We teach tennis to kids because we think kids are freaking awesome and a ton of fun to be around, and we love the game of tennis. To that end, we differentiate each lesson, each minute, each hour to ensure that everyone on the court feels safe, comfortable, ready and capable of learning and most importantly has a great time doing it.
This is why, if you watch a lesson with us, you will see our coaches jumping over nets, dancing, singing (basically only me), shouting encouragement, smiling, giving fist bumps and high fives. Differentiated instruction works.
Whether it be in a classroom setting, or on a tennis court, if you meet a child where they are and teach them in a way they understand, they will be successful.