Tennis for Children: Catchy Bug
Formerly: “Smash the Bug”
Do you remember when you were young and having the coordination to ‘pat your head and rub your belly’ was a wonderful achievement? Well, learning the service motion, for a young child still building their coordination, is much like asking them to ‘pat their head and rub their belly.’
One of the most popular training games for children to learn the serve is called “Catchy Bug.” If there is an easier or more efficient way to train a young child to toss a ball above their head and swing ‘overhanded’ at the ball, I would be surprised. Here is the concept:
- Place the racquet in your child’s strong hand
- Have them set it on their shoulder, behind their head (like a serve)
- Place the ball in your child’s weak hand
- Palm up, have them attempt to toss the ball straight up
- Stand immediately facing a fence (preferably at a 45-90 degree angle)
- Your child should toss the ball up along the fence and attempt to catch it against the fence, above their head, with the racquet.
First, there is ‘walking and chewing gum.’ Next there is ‘pat your head and rub your belly.’ And now there is “Catchy Bug!’ Tossing the ball, underhanded, straight up in the air is no easy task for a young child. Swinging a racquet from behind your head, upwards towards a moving object is also not simple. We are now asking them to do both at the same time!
The fence should keep the ball from flying forward and you could stand behind them to keep the ball from flying too far away from the fence. Not only does this game help mitigate the struggles of a young child to toss and swing at the same time, it also shows where the contact point should be and ‘freezes it in time’ for them to physically see.
If you want to make it fun, consider creating a competition or a goal. Do this with your child and find out who can ‘Catch the Bug’ 5 in a row. Maybe you could set a goal for them and have them ‘Catch the Bug’ 10 times in a row, without missing. If they miss, they have to start over!
There are many ways to encourage a child to enjoy the act of tossing a ball up a fence and catching it against the fence with their racquet. The key here is to create an excuse for repetition. The more often your child has a tennis racquet in their hand, and the ‘funner’ (as my father would say) you make it, the more interest your child will show in ‘the sport of a lifetime.’
Good luck, and remind your child of Rule #1 for Ankle Biters Tennis:
- Never try to hit the ball with your face!
SjB – Nov 2010