t feels like N has been playing a lot of tennis recently. For an 8 year old it seems quite a bit, although looking at the structure some clubs put in place (and which our training team suggest for children as they progress), he doesn’t do anywhere near as much focused play as some. But it works for him at the moment, and without installing a tennis court in the garden, or our tennis club adding a junior club night for them, it’s all we can manage while still allowing for him to have evenings free and do swimming lessons.
At the moment, he has a short private coaching session at school one lunchtime, there’s group lessons on Fridays (currently an hour, although we’re waiting til he can move up to the next level to do 1.5 hours). After school tennis has just started although that’s been sporadic for one reason or other, and because of the mix of ages and abilities, it’s more about just getting more playing time. Then matches at a weekend if they’re on.
He plays mini red team tennis in the Warwickshire league, which there are 5 matches over the spring/summer season. And then occasional friendly matchplay tournaments at another club. So far, he’s not wanted to try any solo tournaments, although maybe I’ll encourage him to try 1 or 2 over the summer to keep his eye in before he has to move up to mini orange stage.
I love watching the children train and play. They enjoy it, and it’s nice to see how focused they can be. And to see how much he wants to work at it and improve. That can’t be a bad thing.
What’s great about the team tennis is that the children learn about playing together. Yes, they play singles, but they learn to support, learning that each of them makes a difference in the win. And if they lose, they can learn to take that together, rather than it all being individual. It’s a lot of fun seeing your friends outside of school as well (plus I get to chat to the other mums, when I’m not scoring or organising everyone).
Recently there’s been a lot of mini red team tennis going on for N.
Local schools tennis tournament
N’s school do a lot of interschool sports events, and this one was their secondary school partnership group year 3 and 4 tennis tournament. There were 5 schools putting in teams and it was held at the club he sometimes has matchplay tournaments. Handy that it was at a familiar place.
The 4 boys and 4 girls were seeded 1 to 8 and then had to play each school against their opposing seed. After seeing them knock up beforehand, the teaching staff watching them had seeded the kids, which ended up being a little random. Given that 6 out of 8 of N’s school team all train (or have previously trained) with their tennis coaches, putting N ahead of year 4 girls seemed a little odd. But he ended up playing at number 2.
I turned up a bit early to support and see how they were doing. Apart from some dubious generosity by the scorers in replaying points that shouldn’t have been which was a bit confusing for our team, they did really well. Most of the children won 3-4 of their 4 matches, only the number 1 had a harder time of it. And as a team, they won overall, having 4 wins. For a school that has year groups at least half the size of the other schools taking part they did brilliantly. They were so chuffed to get their certificates and have a team photo taken.
We’re not sure if the win means they go through to the next stage of a wider schools tournament or whether that’s it.
Mini red club team tennis
Since then, N’s had 2 team league matches. The 1st was our first home match. It meant a long afternoon (luckily in the sun) because we had to arrive early to set up the nets, and get water from the football clubhouse to serve drinks before the away team arrived.
We only played over 2 courts, but it really did take a long time, so next time we’ll play over the 4 courts. Now I’ve persuaded at least 2 other parents to learn how to score, it takes the pressure off me a bit, although for the next they won’t be there so I need to get 2 of the others to learn as well. I’m determined by the end of the season, all kids playing will have a parent who can score.
The children had a couple of close rubbers, but we knew that match would be the easiest in their league. We won 14 rubbers to 2.
They then had another away match for the league, this time they whizzed through their matches in less than an hour, winning 11-5.
They’re really getting their groove for playing matches, although we need to remind them that most of them are a year older than many of the players in other teams. At larger clubs they have multiple teams, and usually start playing their children at age 6 in team play in the lower division, then they work up to the A team, or start playing in orange team matches where they’re in their last term. N’s team didn’t start playing matches until this school year when they’re at the top end of the age group. It might be a shock when they move up to orange, but I’m hoping N will reach his orange rating and be able to play up over the summer in some matchplays, giving him a bit of experience before having to go straight in to that level in September.
It’s so nice to see them playing as a team. They always seem really relaxed about playing, hopefully they don’t feel any pressure. They say they enjoy it, and we’ve had one comment already from another coach about how nice they are as a team and how he can see their good coaching in their strokes. It helps that so many of them are at school together which means they’re all good friends, and even those who’re at different schools fit in well as a group together.
For a sport that is usually so individual, getting the chance to play as a team provides so much for children being introduced to playing matches.
Do your children play tennis? How do they benefit from team sports?