You have seen talent in your child and you want him or her to pursue their passion for tennis. You have made the progression from summer camp lessons to group lessons to semi-private or private lessons.
During each step along the way, your child has just fallen more in love with the sport. he or she also has become a stronger and stronger player, and is now ready to make an impact on the regional rankings.
As you’ve watched your child play, you’ve realized that playing lots of matches yields a certain level of fitness, but that your kid is often losing to children/young teens that appear a bit bigger or a bit more fit or less winded when the points go on and on.
A light bulb has done off in your head: you realize that your child needs to do some training if he or she hopes to fulfill the dreams that he or she has. And, you need to do some research on appropriate tennis training for kids.
Understanding the Different Needs of Your Child
When talking about training and children, great caution needs to be exercised. Kids’ muscles are very different than older players’.
Their bodies work quite differently as well—hormones are different, hydration is different, soreness can reveal something much more serious than a muscle pull, etc. Simply put, a child’s body can wear down much more quickly than a teen’s.
In other words, if your child already has a packed schedule of tournaments, school and perhaps other sports, you need to be very careful before adding a training program on top of it all. Proceed carefully as you devise a suitable tennis training for kids.
Fortunately, the people who run tennis organizations have thought long and hard about these issues. In fact, the United States Tennis Association has created a fitness protocol for juniors who want to enter the USTA’s national training program.
Your sights might not be set that high, but using the top juniors in the country is a good measuring stick for discerning which exercises your child needs to do to jump higher, run faster, move more quickly and gain more strength.
You can check these numbers online, and in the meantime, get your child ready to compete with the best through a solid mix of exercises that focus on tennis training for kids. These exercises matches the many different movements done in tennis.
Here are some suggestions for devising a sound tennis training for kids:
Tennis Training For Kids: Muscle-Building Exercises
Leg strength is central to playing well in tennis, and the USTA tests juniors in their ability to run dashes, jump high and make quick, side-to-side movements, all needed on the court. Any tennis training for kids should include exercise to help build leg strength through low-stress exercises that use the body’s weight to work the muscles. One great example of such an exercise that can be done without weights is squats.
To do a squat properly, stand normally with your arms sticking straight out ahead, in front of your body. Slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, bending down by moving your buttocks backward while bending your knees.
As you maintain an erect posture, lower and raise yourself with your upper and lower legs, both of which are used extensively on the tennis court.
Lunges are another exercise that uses body weight rather than dumbbells. To do a lunge properly, stand straight up with your hands on your hips. Take a huge step in front of you and lower yourself down as you take it, bending your front knee as you push forward, and bending your back knee almost to the ground. You can also do lunges to the side, bending your knees as needed, getting as low to the ground as you can while taking giant steps.
Finally, you can do calf raises, which involve simply standing on your tippy toes and holding that position for a few seconds, then lowering yourself down again. Do several sets of 6-8 for calf raises, as well as squats and lunges. If the child is a young teen, then dumbbells and resistance bands can be added to increase the stress put on the muscles and lead to faster gains, but most tennis training for kids should be weight-free.
Tennis Training For Kids: Jumping Exercises
The muscles used in jumping are also important in tennis, so the USTA measures the vertical leap of prospective national training program participants. To increase your child’s hops, he or she will have to do exercises that draw on both explosive power and reactive power. One great exercise for this is box jumps. Find a box or bench that is no higher than your knee, then jump straight on top of it with both feet. Do this 8-10 times per set, repeat up to three sets.
For a variation of this jump, put one leg on the box and push yourself up as high into the air as possible. A final variation is to stand on the box with both feet and jump off, bending your knees downward when you hit the floor. As soon as you hit the floor, jump as high into the air as you can in an explosive movement. Again, do all of these jumping exercises in sets of 8-10 per set. Concentrate on blasting out of stationary positions into your jumps.
Sprint Training Exercises – A Good Form of Tennis Training For Kids
Tennis does not just require brute strength and speed, it necessitates endurance as well. Any child who has played a long rally against a player of similar skill level can attest to the very heavy breathing done in between points.
To prepare for those long points and shorten the recovery time needed to play the next one, focus on cardio exercises that are tougher than simply running on a treadmill or jogging around the park. Those two types of exercises have some value, but not much for the tennis player, and they should not be included in an ideal tennis training for kids.
To better prepare for the demands of tennis, a child should work on sprints and dashes, movements that are much closer to what occurs in a game than a marathon run.
For example, the USTA trains its juniors by having them move to the point of exhaustion for 30 seconds, then taking a 90-second rest to recover. That 90-second rest period can train the heart and lungs to recover quicker during a tennis match.
To mimic such sprint-and-recover exercises, children can dash across the length of three tennis courts then walk slowly back. They can also do “suicide” line drills for 30 seconds, then recover for 90 seconds. To add more fun to these difficult runs, children have been known to enjoy doing shuttle runs with tennis balls placed at the service line, halfway up the box and at the net. To add even more fun to the sprint work, create relay races involving groups if your child is training with others.
Try to have a watch handy to stick as close to the 30-second work/90-second rest pattern. This type of training has been proven to be most advantageous in tennis training for kids. Another caution would be to not do a large number of sprints in the early stages of this training.
The soreness that can result will wear down your child’s enthusiasm, as well as delay the time when he or she can get back on the court to play and/or train.
Ease into all of the training drills described above. They should be seen as a helpful supplement to the joy of playing tennis, not a work duty done to meet a parent’s checklist. Tennis training for kids is always more fun when done with a partner or in a group, and kids are even more social than most adults.
Training in a pack will be much more fun for your child. Arrange such times if at all possible.
With these simple exercises done as your child can fit them into the tennis training schedule, he or she will gain the strength and endurance to not only compete with peers, but to beat many or all of them.
The time spent in training will pay off when your child wins match after match over opponents who have done no extra work to get fit off the court.
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