How to Let Your Child Develop a Passion for Tennis

Parents want to do what is best for their children. They want to provide meaningful and positive experiences they enjoy, leading to the positive development of the child. Tennis is a sport a child can learn at a young age and enjoy with friends and family for a lifetime. It is important to keep participation in youth sports in perspective and to understand why children play. Many times adults have grand ideas of a professional career or even a college scholarship. While these could be long-term goals for those players who eventually specialise in a sport, children play for different reasons. They want to be active, be with friends, develop skills and most importantly, have fun.

As parents, one of the most important things you can do is to help your children discover their interests and provide experiences that develop a love of the game. For new players, it is not about winning, rankings and trophies, but playing, being with their friends, making new friends, being active and developing their skills. It might be participating on a team and having pizza after a match or practice. It might be going to a local school match or taking a trip with parents to a professional tournament.

What’s the key for my child developing a love of the game?

When 28,000 boys and girls in the US were asked in a study about why they played sports, the top answer was “fun’” followed by “to do something I am good at” and “to improve my skills.” Winning” did not even make the Top 10! To be a great player there must be an internal commitment required to do the necessary work to improve skills and conditioning. However, if the love of tennis does not burn deep inside your child first, burnout and dissatisfaction will probably accompany the inevitable plateaus on the quest for improvement and long-time participation.

Parents of players of all ages must keep both long- and short-term goals in perspective. The important short-term goal of fun and activity must be emphasised above all. If tennis is not fun, or if there is little activity, your child is unlikely to develop a love of the game and will instead find another activity that is more compelling.

Long-term goals include the enjoyment of an activity they can play for a lifetime. It’s a game children can play with friends and family. Tennis is a fantastic way to spend quality time as a family. Be aware of putting pressure on children for results, but make sure you recognise and acknowledge the effort.

In the US, 70% of children quit organised sport by the age of 13, the top three reasons were given by children are:
  1. It’s not fun anymore
  2. Parental pressure to perform
  3. Unmet coaching expectations

Parents must let children be children and let them play and discover. Let them have fun. Provide opportunities for them to be with friends. Permit them to play spontaneously, to experiment and to risk. Allow them to challenge each other to learn new skills and try new shots. Make tennis that haven where they can get away from their over-structured lives and learn to move, play and create on the tennis court. Research indicates that children develop personal motivation and a love of the game when they are given ample opportunity to participate in unstructured free play. Taking charge of their playing environment and recognising for themselves what effort is needed to excel is the basis for personal drive and motivation.