Junior Coaching & Development

Energize Your Child’s Tennis Game

Today, I welcome Coach Frank Giampaolo as our guest blogger.  If you like what Frank has to say, please consider purchasing his new book, The Tennis Parent’s Bible.

Educated tennis parents are the most crucial factor in the development of a tennis champion.

Do you know your child’s learning preference?  Teaching within the guidelines of the specific characteristics of each person’s preferred intelligence has been proven to accelerate learning.  By identifying your child’s preference, a whole new whole of excitement and success will open up on and off the court.

As children of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, we were taught to accomplish tasks the exact way that our parents accomplished those very same tasks. So as parents we expect our children to follow that same exact protocol.  Luckily, today’s parents have the opportunity to improve their guidance skills by understanding that each child has his/her individual learning style.

The old school methodology tennis coaching  required that every player enter into the coach’s world. However, I have found that it is much more successful to get into the player’s world. The “one style fits all” approach is obsolete in developing successful children and champions.

So why are players re-energized and performances accelerated at my Mental Emotional Tennis Workshops? As a coach, I first identify the player’s personality profile and learning preferences. I then customize their lesson accordingly. Tennis parents can ease the difficulties of their child’s tennis development with the same principles. Energized learning occurs when the player is coached in their preferred style of learning. This accelerates their progression and generates more smiles.

The following is a list of some of the more common learning preferences. Can you spot your child’s ?

  • The Linguistic
  • The Logical-Mathematical
  • The Elegant -Kinesthetic
  • The Musical-Rhythmic
  • The Spatial Brainiac
  • The Interpersonal
  • The Intrapersonal

Let’s review the characteristics of each style:

Linguistic oriented players have a preference for verbal and written directions. These children use an expanded vocabulary and usually prefer detailed explanations for tasks at hand.

Positive ways to engage language-oriented players on court include:

  • Have them repeat lesson plans back, such as strategies and patterns. Ask them to reverse the roll and to explain the reasoning for the drill.
  • Ask them to write down their lesson review in the last 5 minutes of every training session.
  • Ask them to complete match logs after each match as well as daily focus journals.

Logic Minded players prefer structure, order and closure for each drill set. They want to successfully complete an exercise before moving on. These learners demand knowing not only how to hit a specific shot, but where and why. They enjoy working with numbers and facts. They are no-nonsense players who prefer quality over quantity when it comes to training.

Great ways to engage a logical minded player on the court include:

  • During training sessions, require them to close out drills while employing negative scoring. This keeps them accountable for unforced errors.
  • At each tournament, ask them to classify other competitors into their preferred playing styles and list the patterns used to beat that style.
  • Teach them how to chart the top seeds at tournament sites and then compare those charts to their own.

The kinesthetic player gives meaning to the word graceful. These players possess excellent core balance and can easily master elegant looking strokes. Give a gross motor skilled kinesthetic player a ball into their strike zone and “lights out.”

Profound ways to assist an elegant player on the court include:

  • New developmental programs such as strokes or patterns should be slowly started by asking the player to shadow an instructor. Also, ask them to stand behind a graceful player with smooth strokes and mimic and shadow their movement.
  • They prefer dress rehearsal repetition so they can simply recreate those patterns during match play. Pattern repetition is crucial.
  • Flexible skills training is mandatory for the kinesthetic player. Take them outside their predictable comfort zones to simulate actual match play conditions.

Musically in tune players thrive with rhythm. They enjoy playing opponents who hit the same ball speed, spins and trajectory. These players find the zone when they sing their favorite song during play. Training with an I-pod or music on the court is like heaven to this type of intelligence.

Perfect ways to engage a rhythmic player on court include:

  • Employ cadences and dance steps. For instance, to them, learning a serve motion may have a 5 count rhythm. An approach shot volley pattern may have a 3 step, split step cadence.
  • The best way to engage this type of player is through a consistent rhythm of a clean rally. Grooving is what they love to do best.
  • Train this type of player to handle players who have mastered the art of mixing the spin, speed and trajectory of their shots. Junk ball artists frustrate rhythmic players to death.

Spatial players are often not the most naturally gifted athletes. They have to work extra hard and are usually prepared to do so. Brainiacs are great tacticians. They have an uncanny ability to dissect opponents accurately and create a detailed game plan. They enjoy spotting strengths and weaknesses. They easily master the anticipatory skills found in the use of broad vision.

Positive ways to assist a spatial intelligence on court include:

  • Purchase a weekly planner. Structuring all the mandatory components into a detailed, organized plan rationalizes the lesson/instruction for this type of intelligence. Follow the plan day by day.
  • In practice ask them “What was the cause of that error” versus telling them what they did wrong.
  • Video analysis of tournament match play is right up their alley. Developing the art of winning versus simply “how to stroke a ball” truly fits into their frame of mind.

The Interpersonal ( Myers-Briggs) personality profiling calls this intelligence “Extrovert- feelers.” These children have an emotional connection to almost everything and everyone. If there are 50 players in a group and 48 love them only 2 don’t like them, their day is ruined. They enjoy harmony and are highly sensitive to people and relationships.

Great tips to engage the interpersonal player on court include:

  • These types enjoy group clinics with plenty of interaction with their peers. Gentle reminder: Group workouts don’t always offer accelerated learning, just social interaction.
  • Problems commonly arise in tennis match play due to their short attention span. They often have an inability to focus over the long haul and of course, they get bored with a commanding lead. Closing out practice sets is tenfold more important than rallying back and forth in a group.
  • These sensitive people need to design a protocol for handling cheaters as well as opponents who apply gamesmanship.

Intrapersonal (Myers-Briggs) personality profiling calls this intelligence “Introvert-Thinkers.” This preferred intelligence is remarkable at controlling their own feelings, emotions and attention span on the tennis court. Since tennis is an individual sport by nature, these players have a genetic advantage when it comes to distraction control.

Profound ways to assist the Intrapersonal players on the court include:

  • Since they prefer to reflect and think things through before making rash decisions, they need detailed explanations as to why? “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it for this type.
  • They enjoy working alone in private lessons versus stressful group settings.
  • Attacking the net isn’t in their genetic design. They have to buy into the rational and be nurtured to spot a vulnerable opponent. They have to truly understand that rushing the net at the opportune time is in their best interest.

In Conclusion

Identifying and embracing your child’s personality profile will energize his/her tennis game as well as improve family dynamics. Encourage your child to embrace his/her preferred learning style and to approach the game (and the world) on his/her own terms.

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