One of the toughest things is deciding where your child, or children, should go for their training and coaching. Even when you have committed to a centre and its programme, it’s difficult to know if the service that you and your child are receiving is right for them and the best available.
The article gives a bit of guidance in the things to look for in a tennis programme and is divided into three areas helping to provide information specific to your childs playing standard and ability. The sections are
The following article will give you a few pointers, you may not have high-level tennis knowledge but don’t forget your good solid parental instincts.
If your child is just starting out or is involved in a mini tennis programme have a look for the following1. Coach to pupil ratioFor me one of the most important things about a mini tennis programme is the coach to pupil ratio. Mini tennis is a big income driver so there is a tendency to pack the programme with players. When this happens, even the best coaches, end up concentrating on controlling the kids rather than teaching them.I would look for a coach to pupil ratio of 1 to 6. As a coach when I’m working with 6 players I feel that I can teach them, as the number grows I feel that I concentrate on organising them. The other thing to look for is the use of coaches and assistants. Using assistants is great and provides extra hands for feeding balls etc but it should be in addition to the coaching staff not a replacement for them.2. What are they doing in the sessions?As parents it is unlikely that you are going to be in a position to judge the quality of the information that your child is being given, but there are a few things that you should look for.I would expect the sessions to be physically challenging; by that I mean that the players should be worked hard in terms of effort and the tasks they are set.I would also expect every child in the session to get some one-to-one time with, and feedback from, the coach.Perhaps the best way to sum it up is are your children being occupied or are they being taught? I would look for a session that is busy, stimulating and fun but that contains improvement.3. How many older players are there – and what do they look like?A lot of centres have thriving mini tennis red (under 8) programmes, but then have very low numbers in their mini tennis green programme (9 and 10yr olds). This, for me, is a definite clue to stay clear, the best evidence of good coaching is retention of players.Also have a look at the standard of the older players. If they are playing good tennis at 9 and 10yrs old and playing matches unsupervised, that’s a very good sign.
If your child is just taking up tennis at this age or is moving into this age group from a mini tennis programme then I would have a look for the following areas:1. How many players per court?In mini tennis I would prefer a good coach pupil ratio in favour of lots of space, once the kids are a bit older having a bit of space to play in becomes more important.It obviously will vary depending on the facilities available, but 1 coach taking 8 players on 2 courts is great. I would prefer this to 1 coach taking 6 players on 1 court.2. Is there more on offer than just a one hour coaching session?This is the age where tennis should be becoming an important part of your child’s life and they should be developing an independent love of playing the game. This is not going to happen if all that they do is go for a 1 hour coaching session every week. I would look for centres that offer longer sessions, perhaps where coaching is combined with matchplay sessions. I would also look for a range of additional options that your child can take up during the week such as free practice or social nights.3. Are there competitive opportunities?Coaching is important but if your child is to stay in tennis long-term then playing and competing is more important. Look for a programme where all players are offered regular competitive opportunities at a level that is appropriate for them. I would steer clear of a club where competition only seems to be something that the best players take part in.
4. Does the club have a community feel?Tennis clubs are very healthy places for children and teenagers to be around, in all senses of the word. If you see a club where there is evidence of a community within the junior membership then I would jump at that opportunity. If the tennis club becomes a place that your child likes to be and hang out with friends as well as a place to train then you will get fantastic value from it.
If your child is playing a lot of tennis and looking to reach a good level then I would look at the following areas:1. Track recordHistory does tend to repeat itself! The best way to judge a programme is to look at what it produces.How many players do they have that have made it into the qualifying or main draw of the national championships in the past few years? If the answer is none and they are billing themselves as being a high-level performance programme then I might look around a bit more. Bear in mind though that different set ups specialise in different age groups, for example a centre may not have any players in Nationals, but they may have got lots of players started and then passed them on to other clubs where they have done well.Don’t just look at the standard of players that a programme produces also look at the type of player and person that the programme produces. If the players are motivated, happy and love their tennis then there are clearly some great things going on at that venue.2. All round programmeAs players improve they need an increasingly rounded programme to carry on succeeding. For a player to reach their potential their tennis programme needs to be first class, but they will also need a great physical programme, nutritional advice and mental skills work. A programme where the player has a team around them providing this all round advice is the one to look for.3. Individualised goal settingMaximising your potential is an individual journey. It is great to train with the support of a team around you, but to really improve players need individual goals that are specific to their game. A programme for better players should provide individualised goals for each player at least once per term. The whole of the team around the player should then be aware of these goals and work towards them.4. Consistency in coaching teamAs tennis grows the numbers of kids in the programmes grows and so does the size of the coaching team. This is great in some ways, but it can lead to a player working on court with a wide variety of coaches in any one week. In my experience this rarely works, I would always look for consistency in terms of no more than 1 or 2 coaches working with a player in any week plus perhaps a physical trainer.
In order to improve it is important to be in the right coaching and training environment.
An ideal coach is one who can:
The coach should be hold a current LTA coaching Licence, and be fully up to date with the methods of teaching young kids.
As well as providing the players with the fundamentals they will, as the children improve, take an active interest in their development through keeping a good communication link with the parents, helping in the planning of tournament schedules and training goals and go to competitions to watch some matches.
This will serve as a confidence boost for the player and allow the coach to assess how they are improving and developing.
Ideally your club or centre will:
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