Young tennis players are a unique breed of athletes. That can be said about young’n’s from every sport, right? Tennis has its own unique challenges and frustrations, but at the end of the day, youth sports are about feeding a craving for competition, life skills and victory over one’s peers.
Even if the athletes have no idea this is what’s going on.
It’s normally the parents of young athletes who are driving the bus (literally), but without an internal drive to go to the court every day, eventually a young tennis player’s ‘career’ will stagnate.
Before we can claim success in youth tennis, we first must define success.
In a sport where there can only be one best player at every level, it’s tricky to define what one individual player’s vision of success will look like.
Major tournament wins? Endorsement deals? Lucrative contracts? Uh oh, I’m falling back into hockey mode here. Sorry. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not talk about hockey in tennis posts.
I suppose I could just go back and delete … nah.
Anyways, what does success look like from the perspective of a ten year-old tennis player? They probably just want to have fun playing a sport they love while improving on a daily basis.
So, with that in mind, let’s try to determine what’s needed to achieve that success.
Practicing your forehand ground shots over and over and over again is as mentally tough as it is physically tough. But it’s necessary. When the moment calls for such a shot during an emotionally taxing match, the last thing a ten year-old tennis player wants is to think. They need to react. This is why these shots are practiced for hours on end.
It’s not always about the physical effort being extended. If a player can relax and stay patient while working on those shots, then the body and mind will have a much easier time turning those shots into habits. It might not always be the most exciting sport to work on, but neither is hockey, uh, I mean, horse jumping. Yeah, that will work.
Practicing your shots over and over again might lead to good habits, but it also runs a risk of leading to complacency. We play sports because they’re fun, first and foremost, so the fun ought to outweigh the work for the majority of the time.
The mark of the best coaches on Earth are those who can brainwash their athletes to work on specific skills while having fun. It’s a tall task, and one that’s not always possible, but there are great advantages to be realized when a player enjoys working on skills and habits, because players are at their best when they’re relaxed and enjoying the game.
Even when the light of competition is shining its brightest.