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Children and Tennis – How Young is Too Young?

Tennis is a sport that demands training.  No matter what skill lever you are, it all had to start somewhere and the earlier someone begins, the better off they are.  This is true for every Olympic sport there is, where many athletes are started on the path to becoming champions pretty much from the moment they can walk.  Should tennis be any different or are there other considerations for this particular sport?

EFG1087Most children begin developing enough motor skills to participate in group sports by age four or even a bit earlier, depending on the child of course.  Little League baseball begins around this age bracket and children often begin playing musical instruments around this time and do well because of this early inclusion.  They develop social skills as well and peer group activities can go a long way towards building their self esteem and this is important for anyone, regardless of sporting choices.

The temperament of the child is very important to understand before deciding to begin tennis training.  Attention spans can waver dramatically from child to child and this is what can make the difference with your child’s training and the choice of the instructor.  Some teachers are better with younger kids, too, so keep that in mind as well as you look for someone to teach your child to play tennis.

Some schools offer after school activities that include your choice in various sports so picking tennis for your child could be the right move, even as early as elementary school.  You can go to a local tennis court and look for some other children that might be playing there and find out where they are getting their instruction from.

With very young children, as young as 2-3 years old, beginning with simple eye hand coordination drills would be the right choice to make.  You can have them practice throwing and catching a ball so they can get used to the specific motion that tennis involves and make sure they learn slowly and you can build on this foundation with ease.  Let them learn each step and make sure they understand the basic concepts of tennis before moving on to the next step in the evolution of their development.  This way, you can reinforce the basics and they in turn will feel more comfortable.

Once they reach an older age, say 5 or 6, they can begin to pick up a racket and have at it!  Swing away, kids, swing away.  Because now the action gets more difficult and the eye hand coordination required is greater.  Never fear, because as long as the child has practiced the simple throwing exercises, they should be okay to go from there.  Getting proper racket is very important, as getting the wrong one can lead to a lack of confidence and frustration on the child’s part.

This leads to another very important point and that is having fun.  Children’s activities should be geared towards having as much fun as possible and if playing tennis is not fun for them, they are guaranteed not to keep laying it for very long.  Then all your hard work is for naught.  Keep things light and simple and fun will follow.  Ask them questions along the way, gauge how they are enjoying the sport, and let them lead the way sometimes.  Let them feel like they are contributing their part and that they have a choice in what they are doing.

Tennis can be a rewarding experience and if you start children at an early enough age, it can provide a lifetime’s worth of enjoyment.  The benefits of a healthy life can not be measured and exercise should be a large part of that.  Once they show an interest in something like tennis, nurture that interest by encouraging them to invest more time and energy and watch them grow.

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