Charlie my eldest son tried tennis for the first time last year during our Mark Warner holiday and absolutely loved it. He seemed to glow from the one on one time with his Daddy and enthusiastically ran around the tennis court trying his hardest to return the ball across the net. I was therefore delighted when we were invited to work with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) on a fabulous nationwide initiative called Tennis For Kids to encourage more kids to learn the sport for free.
What is Tennis For Kids?
It’s a six-week programme for 5-8 year olds, run by LTA qualified coaches. The initiative was set up after the success of the GB Davis Cup Team. The aim of the programme is to inspire young kids to take up tennis and get involved in a sport that they can continue to enjoy into adulthood. In 2016 13,290 kids took part! What is great about this figure is that more than half of these kids continued to play after completing the six-week course, many encouraging their friends to sign up too.
Due to the success of 2016, this year 20,000 wannabe Andy Murray’s and Serena Williams quickly snatched up the free places offered nationwide. Just a few days ago BBC Sport announced the fabulous news that an additional 4,000 spots were up for grabs. (Including at Evesham Rowing Club starting 6th June AND 6th Sept local Gloucestershire readers! You can sign up your child here).
Free Tennis For Kids sessions: Our first impressions
Charlie has just had his third free tennis session at our local tennis club. We signed up for his six weekly sessions at the end of March when the slots first became available online. He then did a daily count down, (why oh why did I make the mistake of telling him about it?!) until he very excitedly took part in his first session three weeks ago.
I was really impressed with the signing up procedure online, you literally enter your post code on the website and all the venues in your area pop up in a list with the different days and times to choose from. I opted for an after school slot, however there were also weekly weekend sessions available too.
The tennis sessions are 45 minutes long, rackets and balls are provided so all kids have to do is turn up wearing regular sports gear and a water bottle. Charlie is in a group of ten kids with one LTA qualified instructor, Steve, who is absolutely brilliant. He makes it so much fun for the kids. He is clearly passionate about inspiring a love of tennis in youngsters. You can hear him from the sidelines shouting out ‘”Come on lets feed the hungry sharks!'” ‘”All the filling is falling out of your sandwich!'”
Even the tennis stroke terms he uses are kid friendly and easy for kids to grasp and remember. Instead of boring old forehand and backhand Steve uses “fantastic forehand”, “ballistic backhand” and the ready position he refers to as the “Warrior Position”.
Charlie loves the games the group play during the sessions. His favourite so far has been Double Trouble, played using two tennis rackets. The kids work in pairs and do an under arm throw to their partner who catches the ball in between two rackets. He enjoys pretending the rackets are Chinese chopsticks like his coach tells him too!
I love that the coach mixes things up by putting the kids into different groups and pairs. Charlie attends the sessions with his school buddy. If they had the choice I’m sure they would spend all of their time playing with each other but they are both learning so much more and developing their confidence by playing against other kids too.
The 45 minute sessions fly by, as the kids are learning and practicing new strokes in between playing different games designed to develop agility and balance. Charlie is very energetic, (sometimes a little too energetic, there are a few balls stuck up in the rafters!) and easily loses concentration so the fast pace of the sessions really suit him and keep him entertained.
At the end of each session each child is given a sticker to proudly show their progress on a laminated Tennis For Kids sheet, (provided for free on the first week). They are also set homework designed to develop an understanding of tennis but also to inspire a love and passion for the professional game. The first week was to research famous tennis players which Charlie really enjoyed doing online and then reporting back to the class at the beginning of the second session.
I can already see Charlie has progressed with his tennis skills and he has only had three sessions of 45 minutes so far. He seems keen to continue with tennis beyond the six-week free course. (Although he has some decisions to make as something is going to have to give. He is already signed up for football, art, swimming and beavers….The Mummy taxi is worn out!) . The bonus from a parents point of view is that I won’t have to invest in any equipment, as every kid who takes part in the programme is given a free tennis racket. It’s also a sport we can enjoy for free as a family at our local park!
I am really pleased that Charlie has found a sport he enjoys and looks forward to playing. The Tennis For Kids has been a great introduction to the sport and the qualified LTA coach has certainly taught him more than his Daddy or I could ever have taught him. Here’s hoping that Charlie becomes the next Andy Murray and makes his Mummy lots of money!
If you would like to some more tips on how to make the most of the Tennis For Kids programme check out Nell’s article from Pigeon Pair and Me.
Disclaimer: I’m working with the Lawn Tennis Association and BritMums in a paid relationship, showcasing the FREE tennis sessions for children you can take up at your local club. Some spaces are still available for this summer, book your sessions here now!