So many people ask me what age we start teaching kids tennis and they can't believe it when I answer with "we start them at 3 years old."
WHAT? They say. That's awesome, they continue, but I don't think my (insert 3 year old child they know) would have the attention span/coordination/stamina/balance/skills for that. And that my friends, is why we start kids at 3.
Intro to Tennis is the safe space where our very smallest athletes can learn the skills their bodies and minds need in order to be successful both on and off the courts. We work on conditioning, balance, gross motor skills, coordination, footwork, confidence, grit and so much more because we know they don't have many (or any) of those skills when they first arrive to our program.
Why do we do this? Because kids today (through no fault of their own or their parents) are having a very different childhood than we had 20, 30, 40 + years ago. Children today do not spend entire days outdoors climbing trees, riding bikes, playing jump rope and chasing their friends. Children today spend vastly more time indoors than in past generations, participating in sedentary or almost sedentary activities which might be educational in nature, but do not help them develop physically. And while our definition of a good childhood may have changed over the years, the things that children's brains need in order to feel calm, organized, confident and capable have not. This is where we come in.
Children NEED movement and play. To this end we use Federal gross motor skill guidelines/benchmarks for children aged 3-5 and work backwards from each desired skill set. For example: hopping on both feet successfully leads to assisted hopping on one foot which leads to balancing on one foot (this teaches children how to redistribute their weight and concentrate on how that feels); walking backwards leads to jumping backwards with two feet, which leads to being able to back-peddle in a tennis drill or match (this teaches children how to orient their bodies in a space and begin to understand omni-directional movement). And the list goes on and on.
We have broken Intro to Tennis down into 4 complementary sessions. Each session serves as a building block for the next one, so we always recommend starting at Session 1 (whenever possible) and completing all 4. Starting with Session 1, we introduce the court, the lines, a few of the rules of tennis and then work on stance, ready position, conditioning, balance and we learn the forehand volley. Session 2 builds on this by adding a few more skills to our set, we now work on all of the above plus forehands and movement (shuffling, back-peddling, running up to the net, etc.) Session 3 encompasses all of the above, plus learning backhands and we wrap up with Session 4 reviewing all of our skills and combining them into more complicated movements through drills (where appropriate).
Now, will every 3-5 year old be a competent beginner level tennis player after 4 sessions? No, absolutely not. This is building a skill set for life and that takes time. If your child enjoys Intro to Tennis and wants to do the 4 sessions for a full year, that's fine! If your child masters Intro to Tennis and wants to move on to a Beginners Class after 4 sessions (as long as they are already 5) that's fine too! We are constantly watching, changing, adjusting, differentiating and supplementing for each child in our program to ensure everyone feels both successful and challenged during each and every class.
Have more questions about Intro to Tennis that weren't answered above? Awesome - shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this slideshow with some images from class. Sign ups are always on the website at www.fortmyerstennis.com/book-online