This post was written by Lisa Stone, author of Parenting Aces, a blog for parents whose children play tennis. Over the years, Lisa has chronicled her journey as a tennis enthusiast and mom through her son, a top junior player in Atlanta, who is on his way to play competitive college tennis.
Tennis can be expensive – we can all agree on that point – but for those junior players aspiring to play college tennis and beyond, budgeting for private lessons on a regular basis can mean the difference between realizing their dream or having to be satisfied with playing recreational tennis only.
When looking for a private coach, it’s important to ask several questions to ensure the right fit. First of all, find out if the coach is certified by one of the major tennis coaching organizations such as PTR or USPTA, and make sure he or she has experience working with young players who are on the collegiate tennis pathway.
In your child’s first lesson with the coach, observe them in action. Take note of your child’s facial expressions and body language during the lesson. Also note the same with the coach. Do both the coach and the player look engaged and interested during their time on court? Does the coach explain him or herself in such a way that the player understands clearly what’s being taught? When it’s time to pick up balls, is the coach talking to the player or is he/she disengaged for those few minutes? If your child comes off the court after the lesson excited to come back, then you’ve probably found the right coach. If not, keep looking.
For a beginning player, private lessons can be the key in getting them off on the right foot, technique-wise. It’s very difficult for a coach to catch every flaw in a group setting, so investing in private lessons up front can put your child in good stead moving forward. One or two lessons a week, supplemented by group drills is a good way to start.
For players who are past the beginner stage, one group lesson each week is usually sufficient to make sure the player isn’t falling into any bad technical habits. At the end of the lesson, ask the coach to give your child specific tasks to work on during the next week. The coach should hold the player accountable for practicing between lessons so progress is being made. Otherwise, you could find yourself paying for lesson after lesson with no positive improvement in your child’s game.
For more advanced players, private lessons can be scheduled to work on a specific issue the player may be having or to hone a specific skill or shot. While weekly lessons are still great at this stage, they aren’t always a necessity, especially if your child has friends at a similar level with whom to play practice matches on a regular basis.
The bottom line is finding a coach you and your child like and trust, who has the background and experience to work with players of your child’s level, and who will hold your child accountable for doing the work required between lessons to continue to improve. Junior tennis development is a long road – up to 10 years or more – so focus on the process, and the results will come.