Being a tennis player is a journey which we as tennis coaches are guides. From a child enjoying the fun exploration of the ball and racket, through to tennis being a game for life, we’ve documented the eight stages of the tennis journey in our SYSTEM-9 Philosophy.
Many coaches miss out on certain stages of the tennis journey, perhaps they don’t include competition, while many parents push their children into learning tennis and therefore the child misses out on the FUN game-based stage where the child falls in love with tennis.
STAGE 1 – FUN
The right coach attracts kids into the game and manages to grow the club programme through this very important aspect – FUN. Without this element it is far too easy for kids to leave tennis for one of the many other sports on offer.
STAGE 2 – FALLING IN LOVE
From the FUN stage it is all too clear when the player falls in love with the sport. This tipping point is when the coach can push the player further and offer individual lessons. This will keep the thirst for tennis alive and progress the following stage:
STAGE 3 – LEARNING TO PLAY
Over the years we have seen many 4+ year olds being pushed to early to this stage without having experienced the previous two. This is especially true when the player has pushy parents who may have been told by coaches that their child is talented. Unfortunately, this often leads to burnout or the player turning around to parents and telling them enough is enough and they no longer want to play tennis.
By progressing steadily through the previous stages, we can now teach the player everything required to give them a solid foundation in tennis. It is possible with SYSTEM-9 to teach percentage tennis tactics and the majority of all technical aspects by the age of 10/11.
STAGE 4 – PLAYING TO LEARN
This stage compliments the previous stage, and generally the player will be here at 7 years+. Many coaches miss out on the playing aspect and we find kids turning up for their once a week hourly lesson having not played tennis. We have turned into a nation of lesson takers and not players. When we play, we learn more about what is required to play the game well.
STAGE 5 – MASTERING YOUR GAME
Orange and Green ball players can begin to understand their own game once they have a tennis age of 4-5 years. By this time they begin to understand their own strengths and favourite shots. At 10 years of age, this will begin to show despite the lack of strength in the body, and they will begin to favour certain styles of play. However as coaches we need to give them the complete all-court style until the ages of 12 when they will take on their own identity.
STAGE 6 – UNDERSTANDING YOUR OPPONENTS GAME
This area is what SYSTEM-9 calls ‘unlocking the combination’. It starts its basics in red and comes to fruition by the end of green ball at 11 years old. This is where we truly gain a ‘Tennis Mind’ and understand what is happening on the court.
STAGE 7 – THE CONSTANT PERFORMING PLAYER
Players now put all the skills, training and practice together to hopefully continue on a path to where their personal passion lies; whether it be as a club or county player, or trying to play for your country. The goal is to constantly search for a never ending improvement of one’s own game.
STAGE 8 – GAME FOR LIFE
Tennis, and the love of tennis, will stay with a player for life.
Remember, the 80 year old player waltzing across the court in doubles once stood where the youngster is today: ready to take on the world.
Enjoy the journey!