by Stephen Hoh on May 6 2018
One of the best ways to engage beginner/intermediate kids in the game of tennis is to get them playing it in its truest form, which is matches. Competition, when used in the right way, can inspire kids to work towards bettering themselves and reaching the next level, and ultimately provide them with a sense of achievement.
Competition can boost a junior player’s development as well as their love of the game, as it:
1. GIVES PLAYERS SOMETHING TO WORK TOWARDS
The motivational aspect of competition can be truly remarkable as players become keen to perform well in their matches. Every player, regardless of age or ability, wants to bring their best on match-day, and as they gain more experience they realise how much preparation and practice affect performance. If kids know that they have matches on the weekend, they are typically more motivated during the week to improve, as they have something to work towards. It gives their lessons and practice sessions a purpose.
2. GIVES PLAYERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TEST AND SHOWCASE THEIR SKILLS
Having an opportunity to test their skills on a regular basis is vital for keeping kids engaged in tennis, as it is their ‘outlet’ to showcase everything they have learned. Without this opportunity, it is much easier for kids to wonder ‘why’ they are having lessons, especially as they grow into teenagers and develop other interests. The great thing about competition is that there is always a next level to reach, from Hot Shots Match Play all the way up to Grand Slams and everything in between, so kids will always be stimulated and have another small step to take.
3. BUILDS COMPETITIVE SKILLS
The ability to try your hardest regardless of any external factors is the foundation of ‘being competitive’, and is a skill that kids will take with them into their lives away from the tennis court. Being able to problem solve and give maximum effort when they are losing, winning, playing in poor conditions, etc, is an ongoing process that keeps improving the more kids compete. Competition can be mentally challenging as there are so many things that can throw you off your game, but by being consistently exposed to the ‘pressures’ of competition, kids develop the mental toughness and clarity required to perform when stakes are high.
4. GIVES PLAYERS A CHANCE TO BELONG TO A TEAM
Tennis can be a lonely sport sometimes due to its individual nature. Junior club competition, such as the Eastern Region competition in Melbourne, gives players the opportunity to belong to a team, represent something larger than themselves, and support/be supported by others. The social aspect of tennis is very important for most juniors growing up, so club competition offers the experience of a team environment where players can feel like they are a part of something.
Competition can add a lot of value to junior players and drive their tennis forwards, but the key is to reinforce the perspective that competition for junior players is primarily about learning and growing, rather than results. Too much focus on short term results can backfire and do more harm than good, but developing a growth mindset will lead to a junior player’s long term success.
If this can be done, competition has a lot to offer in terms of motivation, development, and experience, and can inspire players to strive for the next level.
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