Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The best age to start your child in tennis

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

The best age to start your child in tennis...obviously this is open to debate, but a very relevant topic in my household with young children as I'm sure in yours as well. As long as I can remember, I've had a racquet in my hand. I'm the youngest of 5 children that grew up in a tennis playing family. I never had a shortage of players to hit with, I had the option to play singles or doubles, I played against players better than me, someone was always there putting their two cents in how to improve my game (whether I wanted to hear it or not), and we had a tennis court at our house. I was incredibly fortunate to have that pathway as a child. To not play tennis never crossed my mind. But in most cases, families don't have that clear of a route. And now being a mother of 2, I'm now wondering when do I capture the "right moment" in starting hopefully a lifelong interest?
Kids ages 3-5 enjoy a day of Little Tennis.

You can ask friends, family members, teammates, coaches or check out when certain pros began playing tennis, and you will find a whole range of answers. U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens didn't start playing tennis until she was age 9 for crying out loud. So great news is my daughters can still be U.S. Open champions if they start later in childhood; bad news is I'd like to introduce them sooner, but how do I know when they're ready? With USTA's new youth tennis program, Net Generation, the guessing game has become a lot more clearer.

What is Net Generation?

In an effort to make the game more accessible to parents and kids, Net Generation has created a platform for parents and guardians to connect to local programs, as well as seek out all of the information about youth tennis around the country in one location. Designed for kids ages 5-18, you will find on their site certified teaching pros, facilities, instructional videos along with other "how-to's" about the game. This is the first time the sport has had one unified brand for kids interested in playing tennis, so whether kids are introduced by a parent, picking up a racquet at school, training with a coach, playing recreational tennis or competing at tournaments, Net Generation has created a development program with a singular pathway in which all children should follow.

The Pathway

As you grow, so will your racquet!
So often do we hear parents wondering, "Is my teenager going to have to take lessons with a 12 year old if they're the same level? How do I know when my child is ready for tournaments? What do I do if my child wants to play high school tennis but has never picked up a racquet before? What racquet size is needed for my child's age?" The great thing about a singular pathway, is you won't hear a range of answers. The Net Generation curriculum will spell out what skills and knowledge each player should have before moving on to the next color ball, court size and level of play. I remember playing a young boy half my size in high school, and while rolling my eyes at having to play somebody younger, he cleaned house! After that, I was more focused on how many games I could get off of this hot shot. To be the best, you have to play the best--no matter what age!

Certified Pros

What's great about Net Generation, is all tennis professionals who join the program are certified and have passed a background check. Safety is the #1 priority, so that parents can sit back and relax and trust that their kids are in good hands.

Progress Reports

One of the best parts about Net Generation is you'll be able to track your child's on-court progress! In 2018, parents will be able to create an account to check out the latest updates on how their child is doing during lessons. So for those times you won't be able to watch, it'll feel like you didn't miss a thing!

To answer the primary question, the best age to start tennis is when your child shows interest! Tennis is not an easy sport. Hand-eye coordination is key. Some kids will have a knack for it and will pick it up a little faster, but for many it'll take time and dedication to get a good grasp of the game. Therefore, the most important factor is and shall always be their interest level. If they're enjoying their lessons, which Net Generation has devoted it's philosophy to into motivating and inspiring kids by making the game enjoyable at all ages and levels, then your child without a doubt should have a healthy career in tennis.

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