Tennis for Children:
Balance the Ball. Don’t Let it Fall!
A wonderful way to teach a young tennis player the relationship between the racquet and a tennis ball is to have them balance the ball on the racquet strings. This builds strength, coordination and understanding of the “ball and stick” relationship. Many young children can grasp this concept quickly but others will need significant assistance.
As simple and easy as this may seem to an adult, you may be fairly surprised to learn that balancing a tennis ball on a tennis racquet is quite difficult for many young children.
Here is an easy plan to help:
Have the child place their racquet flat on the ground
Place the ball on the strings so they can visualize level
Have them lift the racquet off the ground attempting to keep the ball on the strings
When the ball falls off – place the racquet on the ground and begin again
The idea here is to help the child connect the idea of a level ground with a level racquet. This of course, might assume the child does not have the strength and coordination to hold a racquet (with one hand or two) and balance a tennis ball on it.
If your child struggles with either the coordination or the strength to keep the ball on the strings, certainly offer to help! This can be easily accomplished by standing behind the child and reaching around them to aid in leveling the racquet. Feel free to let the tennis ball fall off to the left, right, front or back in an effort to show the child the feeling of the ball leaving the racquet.
Try saying things like “Oh no! It fell off!” or “Don’t let if fall!” so the child understands that their singular task is to balance the ball on the racquet. As many children have a fairly short attention span, it is often necessary to remind them of the goal or find ways to make the task more interesting.
Consider a timed goal and have the child count how many seconds the ball stays on the strings before falling off. Even have them count in different languages! This engages the brain with the physical coordinated act of balancing a ball on a tennis racquet. Counting in different languages also makes counting to “three” or to “five” less redundant!
“Balance the Ball. Don’t Let it Fall” is a wonderful introduction to hand-eye coordination and the relationship between the racquet and a tennis ball.
Good luck, and remind your child of Rule #1 for Ankle Biters Tennis:
Never try to hit the ball with your face!