Perhaps your child has developed a true passion for the game of tennis, and you want to do whatever you can to encourage them in that direction. You’ve noticed that their level of play continues to improve, and with the right training regimen, they could have a legitimate shot at becoming a great tennis player.
Playing matches and going to practice will give your child a degree of physical fitness, but if their coach thinks there’s room for improvement in terms of stamina and athleticism that will help them develop an edge in competition, he or she might recommend some off-court tennis conditioning. Below are some key ideas and suggestions to help you encourage off-court tennis conditioning for kids, so that they can continue to work toward fulfilling their dreams.
First Things First: Kids Are Different
Keep in mind that a kid’s body is quite different from an adult’s. Their bones are still growing, certain muscles are not yet fully developed, and their hormone levels and hydration requirements will be different as well. When you consider adding a training regimen on top of their current tournament schedule, school activities, and possibly other sports they’re involved in, it’s easy to see why you should proceed with caution.
The good news is that professional tennis organizations such as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) have poured hours of research into this issue, and the type of off-court conditioning they recommend is not complicated or overly demanding on young bodies.
The ideal conditioning exercises for kids focus on improving their ability to sprint, jump, and perform other “quick burst” movements that are so common to the game of tennis. Some of the most highly effective off-court conditioning exercises are listed below, but before we proceed, bear in mind that if you expect your child to buy into this newly minted training regimen, you’re going to have to remember one important thing:
It’s Gotta Be Fun
It’s a near-universal rule that kids are allergic to boredom. If you want a kid to lose interest quickly and develop a sudden case of lethargy, try getting them to do something that they really don’t perceive as fun or entertaining in any kind of way. On the other hand, if you can figure out a way to incorporate some fun and lightheartedness into the activity, your child will be much more motivated. With this point in mind, here are some fun and yet highly effective off-court conditioning exercises that kids can do to boost their coordination, body control, and athleticism:
Use any sturdy box or bench no higher than your child’s knees. For the basic box jump, your child will simply stand in front of the box with both feet close together (but not touching), and then jump straight up and land on top of the box with both feet. After landing, they’ll hop right back off the box and do it again, typically for 8 to 10 times per set (try 2 or 3 sets). For a variation, they can put only one foot on the box and then try to jump as high as they can off that one leg, then alternate. Another popular variation is using the box as a launching off point, where your child will start off on top of the box and then jump down to the floor. Once they hit the floor, they will then jump into the air in an explosive movement. The point of each of these exercises is to increase their muscular strength and sharpen their ability to “blast” out of stationary positions.
You’ll need a resistance band for this one. With your child standing upright, place the resistance band around their ankles. The band should have enough tension to where they’ll feel a definite pull when their feet are shoulder-width apart. Now all they have to do is crouch down slightly and begin walking forward with small steps, alternating their left and right legs and keeping their feet wide enough to keep the tension on. They can walk back and forth across a regular-sized room for about three or four intervals. This exercise will do wonders for improving their leg strength and body control.
To keep things interesting, you can come up with some rhymes or other fun things to recite while they’re jumping rope, so that it won’t feel so much like exercise, but rather just a fun activity. This classic exercise will also help them develop short-burst muscle power, and take their stamina to another level as well. Here is an awesome video by Leah Joy Fitness that incorporates beginner exercises with jumping rope for a quick but very effective 7-minute workout.
These simple but fun off-court exercises will help boost your junior’s strength, endurance, and athleticism. As your junior player consistently puts them into practice, it will definitely pay off in the long run.