I recently gave a group lesson to four kids.
There was a five-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy, and a couple of two-year-old boys. The lesson was an hour long. I was a little skeptical about whether I could make the situation work, especially since I was unaware that I would be teaching four kids at these ages before I stepped on the court. The lesson actually went very well-the four and five year old did a great job and I kept them engaged and interested the entire time. The two-year-olds had their moments (both good and not so good) and wandered a bit around the court and to the sidelines to visit with their moms.
The biggest obstacle for the young kids (and the pro) on the tennis court is attention span. I like to do some hand eye drills and some fun games to get them started. The games do not have to involve hitting the ball, although some hitting is helpful. Talking to the kids a lot and keeping them "entertained" is as important as the tennis aspects of their time on the court. I try to focus on the basics, helping the kids learn how to hold the racquet, where to stand, how to swing and how to get ready.
Parents can help with the basic skills before the kids try the sport. Playing catch with a tennis ball, rolling the ball back and forth to each other, and just letting them walk around with their racquet, holding it with a good forehand grip, can help prepare the kids for some of their on-court activities. The emphasis should be on fun. If the kids have fun on the court, they will want to do it again.
Focus on the fun and put them in a position to succeed and you will likely see them on the court again very soon.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) and MyHamptonsPro based in Sag Harbor, NY (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Tennis Professional at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club in Tucson, AZ. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-300-7323