Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Strawberries and cream optional

If you are a regular reader you will know that we are an active family who love to do things outdoors and my boys love sporty things the most. Since he was 18 months my bigger boy has been playing all sports including football and basketball and in the last year he got into playing tennis too. For a long time he didn't really enjoy it as kicking or throwing a ball was simpler. Then when he got a bit older he had some really great coaching and it made all the difference. Suddenly he was interested in tennis and he was also pretty good at it. He has been fortunate to have great coaching in lots of sports as we live in an area with some very affordable and professional coaching by our favourite sports organisation Totstars. My boy is blessed with natural talent and great hand-eye co-ordination so he is good at most sports (which he does not get from me or his Dad incidentally) he picks things up pretty fast and does well straight away. Now I've never been any good at tennis, but this month Highland Spring are providing free tennis lessons for families as part of a spring promotion to encourage families to participate in the sport. It has made me think it might be worth giving it a go to see if there is any potential for me to learn a few skills. 

Highland Spring Mini Tennis Month 2015 will take place in schools, parks and tennis venues across the UK in April 2015.  Tennis venues will be hosting free parent and child coaching sessions for the whole family to promote tennis as a family sport by showing parents how easy it is to play tennis with their children. Highland Spring is committed to getting more children to adopt better hydration habits and take part in active sport. This passion is reflected in Mini Tennis as an opportunity to inspire and motivate more children to take up the sport and get active. Mini tennis has smaller courts, nets and rackets and lower bouncing balls, offering the perfect introduction to the sport, with all the fun and energy tennis offers. This programme has been developed by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), enabling players to develop vital skills and techniques at an early age. You can also find your closest Mini Tennis events here 

I always thought tennis was only for posh folk - not least as you had to keep the outfits white ! - but it's simple enough to practise and play with very little kit. Of course you don't have to take my word for it - here are Judy Murray's tips for how to get started - and as the mother of Andy and Jamie and a tennis coach herself she knows a thing or two about it. 

Judy Murray’s Top 10 Tennis Tips:

1.‎ Tennis can be played almost anywhere with a little bit of creativity and imagination. Our first "court" was our driveway at home, with two chairs and a piece of rope for the net.

2. The physical skills needed to play tennis can be developed at home using everyday household objects. ‎Jamie and Andy used to knock balloons over the sofa in our living room using their hands or cardboard cut out bats when they were toddlers. 

3. Tennis is quite a complex coordination sport, so learning how to handle a piece of equipment and to throw and ‎catch a ball are prerequisites to hitting a ball with a tennis racket. 

4. Tennis is a two-sided sport so it's important to develop coordination in both sides of the body. Make sure kids learn to throw, catch, roll and kick with left and right limbs.

5. ‎Because tennis is a combat sport, you always need someone to play with. Parents and siblings are usually the first port of call so even if your time is limited, 10 minutes a day of simple but fun skill-building activities at home, will help your kids to progress. 

6. Tennis is an unpredictable sport. You never know where or how your opponent is going to hit the ball. So you need to have quick reactions and be able to hit at different heights and varying speeds. Try throwing and catching with left hand, right hand and both hands together... from ankle height to above the head. 

7. Serving is often the hardest thing to learn. Pinata is a great way to get kids hitting above their head with a bat in their hand. ‎Fill a plastic bag with ripped up paper (and a few wrapped sweets). Tie a knot in it and loop the knot over a stick or the washing line. Ask kids to run and jump up to smack the pinata with their bats until the bag breaks and the sweets fall out. It’s a simple way to learn the serving/smashing motion. 

8. Learn to judge distances/heights and improve aiming skills by putting a number of targets at varying heights/distances/directions. Start by throwing at the closest targets and then move to those further away. 

9. Always start simple and achievable. Build confidence through success and then make the task tougher. As soon as a kid can do something easily, make it more challenging. That's the way to develop coordination skills. 

10. Be encouraging and demonstrate how to do things. Kids learn best by copying.

So, not excuses find a local mini tennis activity and give it a go. You don't have to aim for the Wimbledon final, you could just aim to have some fun. You can find more tips and some ideas for activities suitable for different ages in this handy guide. Strawberries and cream are - of course - optional :)

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