By Joe De Luna :: Photography by Kelsey Grudle
The Tennis Club’s instruction is tailored to all ages and skill sets.
I was born in 1972 and was raised in a baseball family. My father played high school and college baseball and my grandfather played baseball in a professional league in Mexico. So needless to say, I was throwing, catching and hitting baseballs as soon as I could walk. What does this have to do with tennis instruction, you might ask? Well, this was the beginning of my career as a tennis player. Little did I know, baseball at an early age allowed me to develop excellent hand-eye coordination, strong motor skills and speed.
After several Little League® baseball seasons, I was introduced to tennis around the age of ten and immediately was hooked. Tennis has evolved so much since I began playing back in the early 1980s. I started with a wooden racket and at that time tennis was taught with linear strokes, without a lot of body rotation or spin. Essentially the game was played from the hands down with touch and finesse and less power. Racket and string technology, as well as the evolution of the modern athlete, has turned tennis into a game of power and spin. Today’s game is played from the ground up by pushing off the ground with your legs and simultaneously elevating and rotating as you strike the ball. This technique, along with strategy and mental toughness, will give players of all age groups and all levels of strength and conditioning a distinct advantage.
This leads me into junior tennis instruction and how important it is to start your kids early with hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Regardless of whether or not you have a sports background, if you are interested in getting your kids involved with tennis, then start early with these skills. This can be accomplished with simple sending and receiving games that involve rolling and/or tossing balls or any object back and forth. This allows the child to follow the ball with his/her eyes over and over and leads to great hand-eye coordination. Allow them to play multiple sports as they grow. Do not specialize in tennis too early as this leads to burnout and injury. Make it fun and not too demanding when it comes to practice early on — remember to emphasize that it is a game and great exercise.
Once they are closer to 7 or 8 years old, find a Quick Start tennis program like we have here at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch Tennis Club. Quick Start incorporates low compression balls that don’t bounce over their heads and is a great introduction to the game. As they grow, the ball compression will change from red to orange to green dot and that will help your child transition to the regular ball by the age of 11. By using this transition, they will develop competitive skills through drills and match play, and develop tactics and techniques which will prepare them for tournament play. Not all kids are destined for college or professional tennis but many will participate in middle school and high school tennis or be able to play recreationally for the rest of their lives. Remember parents: less than 6% of high school athletes get to compete at the college level so be realistic on how you approach their development.
When you start playing tennis as an adult, the learning curve is different for every person. If you start at the age of 10, it usually takes ten to twelve years to reach your full potential because the learning curve is larger than when you are young. This takes me into adult instruction which is dependent on age, fitness and talent. Some adult players have a sports background and can advance their level quickly. Others who just love the sport of tennis and want to get better need to learn more about technique, tactics and strategy to improve their results. There is a lot of emphasis on stroke production and technique but analytics have shown that tactics and strategy are the main ingredients for success at every level. Putting yourself in the right position, using anticipation and the right shot selection is the key to giving yourself the opportunity to win a competitive match. A positive and relaxed attitude is essential to peak performance when engaged in high level or club level competition. It is important to understand that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal only win 55% of their points so all recreational and club players have hope if you play the percentages.
Overall, start your kids young with hand-eye coordination and motor skills if you want to raise a competitive junior or a life-long recreational player. If you start as an adult, don’t focus too much on technique. Instead, think more about strategy, anticipation and positioning and this will help you level up. Either way, all players need to focus on relaxation and having a positive mental and emotional approach to the game to achieve peak performance.
The same principles and analytics apply to Pickleball which is the fastest growing sport in the nation. The court is smaller but the same tactics and approach are similar. It’s not always about being the best athlete or having the best strokes or technique — it’s more about being in the right position and having the right shot selection and attitude that will allow you to have fun and be more competitive.
In closing, whether you start the game of tennis as a junior or an adult, we can help you develop and fine tune your skills.
See you on the courts.
Joe De Luna is the Director of Tennis at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210.363.9004.