Is it worthy to use mini-tennis approach?

All coaches know different methods to teach little kids how to play tennis. From years, we teach in both ways: traditional or so called modern”. I think term modern” is not proper because mini-tennis was known and used many years ago. Right now, mini-tennis is more ordered and popular thats why we think it is a new way. Honestly, it is not. We have more resources about this method, it is more common and available at most tennis courts worldwide.

Lets first analyze what traditional and mini-tennis terms mean. Traditional approach to teach kids is playing in the same way as adult players. Kids train with regular rackets, regular yellow balls and on the full court. In this situation, coaches focus on perfect technique, proper biomechanics and efficiency of isolated strokes. Also, this methodology results in playing drills in lines because a lot of players are at one court. It is quite boring especially for kids who struggle with new skills but it can be nice for viewers because strokes look really good.

Tennis is a complex sport because every hit includes factors like reaction, coordination, moving, decision, technique, execution, stress management to count a few. To create real players, we have to train as many factors as we can at one time. On the other hand, we have mini-tennis methodology. This way of teaching is also called Quick-Start Tennis, Tennis10 etc. What is the difference in this approach? Honestly, it is completely different.

This approach is totally kids-centered and coaches have to create friendly environment for these little stars. Kids start with smaller rackets, softer balls and on smaller courts. They learn whole bunch of skills at the same time. They learn how to cooperate, have fun and progress from one level to another. Mini-tennis focuses on kids so every step, every way and every drill is created to help as much as it can to improve. Kids are perfect material to teach a lot of difficult and complex moves but it must match their way of learning. We must remember that kids learn really fast in an environment they like. We should take care of this reality and do everything towards this way of teaching.

I know that for many years, they had been champions of tennis who have been trained in both ways. However, we have to care about modern tennis and demands of it. Todays tennis is sport based on quick movement, variety of skills, decision-making, tactical options and mental strength. If we want to raise our players to achieve their best, we have to train them in a way which is the most similar to match conditions. Modern coaching is focused on individualities which means that every player is different and we have to train everybody in a little different way. Lets first analyze what mini-tennis methodology gives players and why it is the best way to teach kids.

 

Courts’ differentiation

In mini-tennis methodology, we have typically 3-4 tennis courts’ sizes. We divide full court into blue, red, orange and green court. Every court is appropriate for given age and level of play. Young players progress through all courts according to their skills and improvement. It gives kids opportunity to train a lot of skills on every level so they are not limited to play restricted tennis. Court size fits their growing period so they are not put in a too difficult environment. Environment is created for them.

Smaller equipment

Mini-tennis provides opportunity to have a success from the first ball on the court. It is because kids can play with rackets and balls which match their possibilities and abilities. Young players can choose between 19, 21, 23, 25’ or 26’ rackets. Foam and soft balls are common in mini-tennis methodology. By using this kids-customized equipment, they can be more efficient and success from first ball touch is guaranteed. This equipment was invented to help kids improve faster and to prevent injuries. Especially at young age, coaches have to be careful about players’ well-being. Playing with smaller rackets and softer balls minimize tension on players body so they can play longer and healthier.

Varsity of tennis strokes

Mini-tennis gives opportunity to learn all strokes at the beginning stages of tennis’ advancement. By playing on smaller courts and using smaller equipment, kids can learn and try varsity of strokes at young age. Strokes like volleys, drop-shots or forehands in the air are not mystery for young players because it is great way to win point on small court. Players rally longer and they learn how to use different strokes, different spins and different ways to be successful. They are not limited only to baseline game because smaller environment forces them to play all-court tennis.

Tactical wisdom

Mini-tennis opens tactical options for young athletes. Kids discover that coming to the net gives them opportunity to finish the point with volley and simultaneously it limits possibilities for opponents. They learn that drop shots are great to move opponent forward and force errors. Playing percentage and consistent rallies is typical for mini-tennis players because smaller courts limit the use of power. Even so advanced tactic like serve & volley can be simply executed in mini-tennis environment because distance from baseline to service line fits kids’ age and growing abilities.

Holistic approach

Mini-tennis is kids-centered so it cares about general development. Kids improve coordination by performing special drills, endurance by playing longer rallies, decision-making by executing tactical drills to count a few. Kids learn from the beginning how to play tennis, not to hit the ball. Mini-tennis’ environment creates possibilities to train a lot of tennis skills at the same time. Teaching tennis in these conditions creates basic athletic skills which prepares player for future demands. Tennis starts to be similar to the sport that kids can watch on TV.

Having Fun

Kids love to have fun. They want to learn only when it is fun for them. Mini-tennis gives them this opportunity every time. Kids no longer play boring drills in lines. They move, cooperate, rally, laugh and smile. They are in own world. All what kids need in this age is varsity of drills like jumping, catching, throwing, hitting, running and imagination.

 

As we all can see, mini-tennis looks so prevalent in comparison to traditional approach. All possibilities which are created by smaller courts, smaller equipment and kids-centered approach show great chances to train successfully. Personally I think that mini-tennis methodology is better in every point than traditional approach. To support my point of view, I will show you comparison of traditional and mini-tennis approaches. I will indicate the most important factors which should be included in case of long-term development.

 

 

Mini-tennis way

Traditional way

Rackets size

19′, 21′, 23′, 25′, 26′

Regular size for everybody

Balls

Foam, soft, regular

Regular for everybody

Courts size

Blue, red, orange, green

Regular size for everybody

Strokes trained

All strokes

Mostly ground strokes

Tactical options

All options available

Mostly baseline rallies

Risk of injury

Small

Large

Skills trained

Agility, speed, running, jumping, throwing, catching etc.

Running

Approach to kids

Kids-centered

Coach-centered

Motivation

High for all

High only for successful kids

Fun

Yes

Yes only for successful kids

Success

Available for everybody

Available only for the best kids

Cooperation

Most of the time

Sometimes

Match possibility

From the beginning

Only when kids are good

Rallies

Long

Short