Last year we were fortunate enought to be involved in promoting the (then) brand new initiative from The Lawn Tennis Association, Tennis For Kids, which enabled 10,000 children around the United Kingdom to receive a course of six tennis sessions from qualified coaches free of charge. The programme was so popular that a further 5,000 places were created, in total this introduced 15,000 children between the ages of 5 and 8 to tennis, a sport that they may not have considered playing before. And at the end of the sessions, each child received a free tennis racket to keep.
The Lawn Tennis Association have contacted me again this year as they are running the fantastic and free campaign again this year. However, in 2017 they are offering up a whopping 20,000 spaces to children around Britain, giving them access to six free tennis sessions of quality coaching and a free racket!
It would have been easy last year to only complete the six sessions and then not continue taking The Boy to the tennis club; finding time as a working mum to fit in taxi-ing a child around to extra-curricular sessions can be hard work, however his enthusiasm and enjoyment of the sport far surpassed our expectations and as he had found a sport that he was keen to develop, we carried on visiting the tennis club where he had taken part in the sessions. In fact, my son continued weekly tennis sessions every Saturday morning until the end of November, and even attended several Tennis Camp days during the Summer holidays!
As the weather has started warming up again with the approach of Spring, so we have returned to the tennis club on a weekly basis. We are in the process of taking out annual membership for him as a junior player (and as social members) and enrolling him in weekly lessons after school one night. When he started the Saturday morning drop-in sessions back up, he realised that his skills had progressed significantly from when he took part in the #TennisForKids campaign last year, and that he now needs challenging and teaching.
We certainly didn't expect him to develop a love for the sport as much as he has, but are more than happy to accommodate his desire to master the sport. During my time spent on the court sidelines over the past year, I've discovered some handy tips which I thought I'd share with you!
- Enrol in the free sessions as soon as possible: The website is incredibly easy to use; simply type in your town or postcode and it provides a list of clubs near you that provide sessions; the dates for the course, time of day it runs, and whether it is suitable for 5-6yr old, 7-8yr olds or 5-8yr olds. It even tells you how many spaces are left!
- Wear appropriate clothing & footwear: Playing sports and being active is not the time to worry about the latest fashions or if your favourite t-shirt is clean to wear. Children need to have loose and breathable clothing to wear, you won't believe how hot and sweaty they can get in just thirty minutes on the court, let alone after an hour. The Boy always wore sports shorts and a lightweight t-shirt, with a hooded cardigan on top to start off until he warmed up. Layers are always best when playing sports. Oh and wear trainers on the court, not only to give them adequate support and protection for their young feet, but to protect the surface of the court for other players.
- Water & snacks: Take plenty of water or squash for them to drink during their mid-session break; they get incredibly thirsty and hot after running around the court for thirty minutes, and after an hour they'll be desperate for that banana in your handbag. Even if it has got a few bruises on it!
- Sun protection: Sunglasses aren't such a great idea as they restrict visibility of the ball flying around, but a baseball cap to cut down on the squint factor is a must; we favour a legionnaire style cap in the Spring and Summer. And if the tennis club is like our local one then it is a real suntrap, so sun cream is a must!
- Do encourage your child to turn up to every session: Children can be contrary creatures and may try and declare that they aren't sure if they'd like to continue attending. The reasons for this can range from not being picked first, missing the ball, someone not hitting the ball to them correctly or simply because the day has a 'y' in it! Encourage them to attend for the full length of the course as they will soon realise what a wonderful sport it is. I didn't like coffee the first time I tried it, and now my local barista knows my order as soon as I set foot in the coffee shop; perseverance pays off!
- Socialise: Talk to the other parents, and encourage your children to play with their peers after the session has ended. We've struck up some friendships that I'd never have thought of, purely as a result of tennis. The Boy has formed a friendship with someone in his tennis sessions that is also in his class, someone that he'd never really played with at school, but now they do! And as parents we've become more friendly with several of his classmates' mums and dads too, it makes waiting on the sidelines so much more fun!