At some time, children will be on the court competing against another player or doubles team. Competition at the correct time will provide a focus to the game, bring an awareness of strengths and weaknesses and sharpen skills and tactics. Competition will also provide valuable opportunities for your child to make decisions in real time.

On the other hand, competition too early can lead to discouragement and the development of skills and tactics could be compromised if kids revert to bad habits for short-term success.

Competition for children 10 & under should be short in duration using modified scoring. Most other sports shorten the competition by reducing the number of innings or the time of the periods compared to adult competition. Playing a two-out-of-three set match makes little sense for young players. Short sets, no-ad scoring, tie-breaks and even timed matches are much more appropriate.

Parents should keep up-to-date with Hot Shots Tournaments and Junior Interclub Tournaments with Main Draw Tournaments (www.maindraw.co.nz) who provide young players opportunities to play with and against a large number of children instead of events that eliminate children. These events for young children last between 1-2 hours, sometimes up to half-day. Round robin events where everyone has a chance to play every player are good because nobody is eliminated and everyone players the same amount. Main Draw events allow children to move into the best competitive groups and continue playing, win or lose.

These events should be the foundation for competitive play.

Young and inexperienced players should avoid single-elimination tournaments where there is one winner and many losers. These tournaments generally have documented results that lead to standings or rankings. Competing in these events with poor results is very discouraging for young players. It is never fun to play and lose and have your name at the bottom of the ranking chart.

Remember, there are great variations in skeletal development in young children, and early developers have an advantage at the younger ages. The late bloomer will eventually catch up in strength and size if they are not discouraged and quit because of poor competitive results.

Competition in the right form is fun and challenging for young players.

Children will learn to compete if they are given many opportunities to play with and against a large number of players. Events such as festivals place children on teams that compete in many different activities on the tennis court, including skills, fitness and movement activities, games and modified match play.