Last week, I had a great conversation with my colleague Richard Crowell, Director of Community Tennis at Tennis Canada. Not very familiar with the concept of tennis leagues or teams, he brought me up to speed on this model of learning the game, and most importantly, how well it’s being received by Canadian children and youth.
“Team tennis has really gained momentum in the last couple of years,” says Crowell, and now that I understand the model better, it’s easy to see why. For starters, kids love it. Why? Because it’s more FUN! Right from the get-go, participants have the opportunity to practice and play as part of a team (yes, beginners too). They can join with a friend, they develop as a team, and the practice portion of each day provides participants, whether beginner or experienced, with tips to help them improve their game while learning work ethic, communication skills, self-discipline, and perseverance… all valuable life skills, wouldn’t you agree?
Research tells us kids prefer learning and developing with this method over the traditional approach of lessons, lessons and more lessons – perhaps never having the opportunity to actually play the game for real. In fact, since chatting with Richard, I’ve been thinking about my own experience with tennis as a child and teen: lesson after lesson to learn and improve strokes; hours of skills and drills at camp; and lots of hitting with others, but never any real competition. This old-school model of teaching tennis never taught me the rules, and kept me wondering if or when I’d ever be ‘good enough,’ to play for real. Feeling I wasn’t making progress, I left the game for almost 20 years before returning to it when my youngest daughter began to play.
Essentially, youth leagues and team programs offer a refreshing alternative to the traditional approach of learning the game. They provide participants with the opportunity to be social; to combine practice and play; to focus on skill development through match play, to mentor one another; and to have fun while learning. I love that you might have both new and more experienced players on a team (a perfect opportunity for mentorship) and that every player’s efforts and points count towards the team’s overall performance and score.
To find out about leagues or teams in your community, or for tips on starting one, contact your provincial tennis association.