Tennis is a fast-paced sport played with either 2 players or 4. One player competes against another in singles tennis. In doubles tennis, four players are split into two teams and the two teams compete. Children who aren’t interested in playing a team sport may enjoy tennis as an alternative. Playing tennis regularly can improve heart health, bone health, and improve hand-eye coordination.¹ It also uses many muscles in your legs, arms, and upper body, helping to increase your muscle strength. Tennis supports brain development by increasing alertness, which is especially valuable for growing children!
The first thing to learn about playing tennis are the different strokes (techniques for hitting the ball). Here are a few to get your children started:
- Forehand Groundstroke: In the forehand stroke, you hold the racquet in such a way that if the racquet wasn’t there, the ball would hit your palm. Wait for the ball to reach you, holding the racquet in front of you. As the ball approaches, swing the racquet at the ball with your arm and wrist relaxed. When the racquet makes contact with the ball, snap your wrist and follow through with the racquet over your opposite shoulder.
- Backhand Groundstroke: In the backhand stroke, you hold the racquet in such a way that if the racquet weren’t there, the ball would hit the back of your hand. Wait and hit the ball with a similar technique as in the forehand stroke. Except for backhand, pull the racquet to the opposite side of your body with your palm facing your body and the back of your hand facing out.
- Serve: Toss the ball up and fully extend your arm. Look at the ball as you pull the racquet behind your head and swing it back to hit the the ball.
The main difference between the forehand and backhand stroke is which side of your body you hit the ball on. If you’re right-handed, you’d hit the ball on the right side of your body for forehand and the left side for back hand (and vice versa if you’re left-handed). To learn more tennis fundamentals, visit https://www.usta.com/en/home/improve/tips-and-instruction.html.
Since tennis is usually played outdoors, make sure children wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Also, they should wear protective glasses or goggles. Such eyewear should be made with polycarbonate. Shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle injuries are common in tennis players, so advise children to practice proper technique and not to overexert themselves. For more tennis safety tips, visit
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/Pages/Racquet-Sports.aspx and http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/safety-tennis.html#.
Many parks have open-use tennis courts you can play on. Children who like tennis may also be interested in trying racquetball or badminton. Look at local sports equipment stores, yard sales, or thrift stores for rackets.
Tell us how your children enjoy playing tennis!