If your child is aged three and over they can start tennis lessons this month – free of charge. As part of Highland Spring Mini Tennis Month, 1500 venues across Britain are hosting free parent and child coaching sessions to promote tennis as a family sport by showing parents how easy it is to play the game with their children.
Developed by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Highland Spring mini tennis is played on smaller courts with child-sized nets and rackets and lower bouncing balls. The coaching sessions enable players aged 3 to 10 to develop vital skills and techniques at an early age. To find your closest Mini Tennis events, click here
Judy Murray, mother of tennis champion Andy and a former player herself, is devoted to encouraging more children to take up tennis and is patron of Mini Tennis Month. “Tennis can be played almost anywhere with a little bit of creativity and imagination. Our first “court” was our driveway at home, with two chairs and a piece of rope for the net, and the boys’ first “match” was hitting balloons to each other across the sofa,” she says.
“It’s a great way to develop your child’s physical and coordination skills. Always start simple and achievable. Success brings confidence, but be ready to increase the challenge when something is too easy. Be encouraging and demonstrate how to do things. Kids learn best by copying.”
There are four stages of Highland Spring Mini Tennis; Tots, Red, Orange and Green, each with their own court size and type of ball.
There is also the Highland Spring Mini Tennis Rally Awards scheme, designed to help mini players learn in stages and take part in exercises with rewards to encourage them to develop their tennis skills at a pace that suits them.
1. Tennis can be played almost anywhere with a little bit of creativity and imagination.
2. The physical skills needed to play tennis can be developed at home using everyday household objects. Jamie and Andy used to knock balloons over the sofa in our living room using their hands or cardboard cut out bats when they were toddlers.
3. Tennis is quite a complex coordination sport, so learning how to handle a piece of equipment and to throw and catch a ball are prerequisites to hitting a ball with a tennis racket.
4. Tennis is a two-sided sport so it’s important to develop coordination in both sides of the body. Make sure kids learn to throw, catch, roll and kick with left and right limbs.
5. Because tennis is a combat sport, you always need someone to play with. Parents and siblings are usually the first port of call so even if your time is limited, 10 minutes a day of simple but fun skill-building activities at home, will help your kids to progress.
6. Tennis is an unpredictable sport. You never know where or how your opponent is going to hit the ball. So you need to have quick reactions and be able to hit at different heights and varying speeds. Try throwing and catching with left hand, right hand and both hands together… from ankle height to above the head.
7. Serving is often the hardest thing to learn. Pinata is a great way to get kids hitting above their head with a bat in their hand. Fill a plastic bag with ripped up paper (and a few wrapped sweets). Tie a knot in it and loop the knot over a stick or the washing line. Ask kids to run and jump up to smack the pinata with their bats until the bag breaks and the sweets fall out. It’s a simple way to learn the serving/smashing motion.
8. Learn to judge distances/heights and improve aiming skills by putting a number of targets at varying heights/distances/directions. Start by throwing at the closest targets and then move to those further away.
9. Always start simple and achievable. Build confidence through success and then make the task tougher. As soon as a kid can do something easily, make it more challenging. That’s the way to develop coordination skills.
10. Be encouraging and demonstrate how to do things. Kids learn best by copying.
- For a short video to show how to encourage your child’s tennis skills, click here