Tuesday, February 26, 2013

7 Free Things To Improve Your Junior's Tennis

Anne Pankhurst
More good info from the recent PTR 10 and Under Tennis Conference in Hilton Head. Physiology and instruction guru Anne Pankhurst led a couple different sessions which you will be hearing more about in future blog posts. Anne is a big shot in this field. The Baltimore Ravens recently had her over to consult with them on their junior sports program.

One of Anne's sessions was entitled 'Helping Parents Help Their Kids in Tennis'. She included some great tips on general ABC's (agility, balance, coordination) that will help any child improve in any sport. We have talked about these before in previous blog posts, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. These basic skills are often sadly lacking in today's TV and video game-based sedentary lifestyle. All are simple things you can do with your child at home. All are things your child should be delighted to do. I sometimes call these things 'homework'. That often results in a sour face from my students until they hear just exactly what the 'homework' entails.

Parents often ask me what they can do to help their kids improve their tennis skills outside of our lessons. The easy answer is to take your child out to the neighborhood courts and play. But this is often not an option for some. So here are some beneficial activities that can be done right at home - no courts required!

Here's the Magnificent 7:
  • Reaction/tracking - performing some of the 'bounce, catch' and other similar activities shows me the student is focused on the ball and is learning the proper timing and reaction based on what the ball is doing.
  • Throwing/catching TO SIDE - very important if you have a tennis player in the family and want to play a game of catch, please have them catch and throw from the side rather than from the belly button. This simulates the proper point of contact when they are hitting the ball. For example, for forehands - out in front racquet distance away (arms outstretched) at 2 o'clock for righties and 10 o'clock for lefties.
  • Overhand throwing - just as if they are throwing a football or baseball. This simulates an overhand service motion.
  • Running - good footwork and fitness is key in many sports. Tennis is no exception. 
  • Jumping - improves footwork, timing.
  • Skipping - great for coordination! Skipping is harder than it looks!
  • Jump rope - I brought some jump ropes to class recently to use during the warm-up. They were a huge hit. Strongly recommend adding them to your tennis bag of goodies. 
Anne said she tells parents 'don't pay coaches to do [the above activities]'. I understand her point - why waste valuable on-court time on things you can easily take care of at home for free? But let me give you a different perspective: if you see your child's coach including some of these activities, don't despair. This may be the only time some of the other students get to do them. Since they are so critical to physical development, a reasonable amount of time spent on basic athletic skills shows me the coach understands their importance, especially for very young players (8 and under).