Tennis can help kids develop many physical, social, and mental skills that they can use in other areas of life. We asked Go! Tennis director George Garland what age is right to start tennis lessons and what the goals of those early lessons should be.
How can a child benefit from playing tennis?
Physically, tennis is great for hand-eye coordination, development, and movement. It’s definitely not a game you play standing still. Kids can benefit socially, since most lessons for kids are in groups. And one thing that’s really important to remember is that tennis is an individual sport, so kids learn to be accountable to themselves. It’s a skill they can take into all areas of life.
Learn more about the benefits of individual sports for kids
At what age should kids start playing tennis?
It’s a very relative question. I can’t recall any kids being ready for tennis before 4 years old, and very few at 4 years old. With younger kids, you work on coordination games, movement games, and teaching them building blocks of playing the sport. But it depends on the kid and some are ready at a younger age.
What should the goal of tennis lessons be for young children?
My main goal is to have kids play tennis for the rest of their lives. Right now we have over 300 kids playing at all different levels. My one goal is for them to take the sport as far as they want to take it. Tennis can be a recreational activity. They can play for a high school team or a serious tournament team. I feel my job is to educate people on what their choices are with tennis and what it takes to go down each one of those roads.
What should parents look for in a tennis program?
The first thing you want to do is meet and talk to the director. It will tell you a lot about how the program is going to run. You should see what the makeup of the pro staff is. My [Go! Tennis] pros have been with me for 10 to 15, even 17 years. They’re adults, they’re full-time tennis pros, and you want that. You should also look at the program and see that it has a progression. At Go! Tennis we have five different levels. Look for a program that has the full spectrum of levels.
How do you determine which group or program is right for each child?
I do a quick evaluation by having kids hit a couple balls to see their skill level. I group as many kids of the same level and age, on four, five, or six courts at a time. It’s up to the kid to determine what court they get on. You have to play yourself onto the court you want to be on and earn it. If kids do go on to high school, collegiate tennis, or tournament tennis, it’s all based on rankings.
George Garland is the director of tennis at Go! Tennis, located at 34-28 214th Place in Bayside, Queens. For more information, call 718-224-6303, or visit gotennisprograms.com.