Earlier this year, during the excitement of the Australian Open, we brought you some top tips for teaching kids how to play tennis. Now with Wimbledon well underway, we have even more tennis based activities to get the children outside and get you all active.
Side Stepping Being able to run backwards and forwards along the baseline, without taking your eyes off the ball is an essential skill for any tennis player. Practice this lateral movement with a game of catch. Mark out two white lines, approximately 20 feet apart (you may want them closer together if you are playing with a young child). Each player must stay behind their white line and keep their eyes on the ball. Now play catch, but keep moving. Add an element of competition by keeping count of your longest rallies of successful catches to see if you can beat your own scores. Keep the pace slow for younger children.
Mastering The Ball Have you noticed how the professional players bounce the balls over and over on the grass, then examine them before choosing which balls to serve with. They aren't doing this to show off (much), it enables them to get a good feel for the properties of the ball, and predict how it will behave in reaction to their serve. How embarrassing would it be if they bounced the ball on the grass then failed to catch it, or pinged it off their shoe? Tennis players must be masters of the balls, not at the mercy of their furry green unpredictable nature. Teach your children to calmly be the boss of the ball by bouncing it on the floor and catching it with one hand, and by gently bouncing it up and down on their racket.
Varying Hitting Strength To be able to play a variety of shots, a tennis player must have great control over how hard they hit the ball. During the match they are thinking ahead to which shot they would like to play next, and must hit the ball with the corresponding amount of strength. Children can learn to hit with different levels of strength by playing this easy game, ideally within a fenced tennis court so you don't need to keep retrieving the balls. Devise a labeling system for three levels of hitting power, for example 'mouse', 'cat' and 'lion' or 'bike', 'car' and 'rocket'. As you through the ball to them, call out the level of strength they need to hit it back with.
Volleying Secure a bucket to the top of the climbing frame and teach your children to volley the ball skywards, but in a controlled fashion, so the ball lands in the bucket.
The easiest way to practice tennis in the back garden is with a swing ball set. There's no hassle setting up a net, and no need to run around retrieving balls from the neighbours gardens.