As a tennis teaching professional, my job is more than just aimlessly slinging balls in hopes of improving forehands and backhands of a student. I also have the moral, ethical and capitalistic responsibility to attract people to this glorious sport who may not have given it much thought. Instead of me repeating my past literary tones and getting into some in-depth article about racquet technology and specifications (Federer’s New Racquet) or wax poetic about the best slice backhand and set of legs tennis has ever seen (Steffi Graf Birthday Tribute) I’ve decided to make a house call for very personal reasons regarding your family.
Let me set the scene…
I’ve had to dust off, iron out and put on my nicest Brooks Brothers suit. Enter into your home, stopping in the middle of your perfectly lighted foyer to nervously meet and exchange pleasantries with your beautiful family. Much to your chagrin, I’ve made my tall frame dig comfortably into your spotless and ornate couch in your formal living room. Y’know, that room in your house that no one dares visit unless it’s for one of those “really important” family gatherings. Well, this is one of those moments. As your family and I get settled into our seating arrangements I lean forward, hovering over your coffee table that holds that embarrassingly oversized and blatently underused architecture book with a picture perfect Mansard roof on the front cover.
I’m here to talk to you about your kids. For their benefit. For their enjoyment. For their future.
Are you comfortable? Ok, good.
The scientific community has confirmed what many of us lifelong tennis lovers and coaches have believed for years — that tennis is not only the best sport to play for a lifetime, but that it is also the best first sport for children to learn as well.
It’s an important and logical consideration. After all, it makes a great deal of sense for parents to encourage their children to select a first sport to learn which will develop the greatest number of skills required by the greatest number of other sports and activities. The chart on this page presents a very convincing argument.
Here are the tennis-specific notes to help you better understand the chart.
Throwing — We all know that the service and overhead motion in tennis is identical to baseball and football. It shouldn’t be surprising to note that when baseball players or quarterbacks take up tennis, they serve like Pete Sampras or Roger Federer.
Catching — It has long been understood that the soft-hand skills required for volleying, as well as drop shots, lobs, and other touch shots in tennis are terrific catching skill-builders for other sports.
Striking — Anyone who has played tennis knows how much easier tennis makes learning all other racquet sports. In fact, studies have proven significant carry-over from one racquet sport to others, as well as to other striking activities like baseball and hockey.
Running & Striking — This very specific skill is one of the most challenging features of tennis, and one of the most valuable skill-builders a developing athlete can master. In this area, most other sports don’t compare at all.
Movement Rhythm — Sports educators are now broadly beginning to emphasize the importance of rhythm in sports, although dance teachers have long expounded it’s benefits. Because tennis is a continuous rhythm activity, it offers many timing and rhythm benefits not available from many other sports. It may be interesting to compare soccer and tennis in this regard. In tennis, players are constantly involved with the ball; however in soccer, a center halfback, for example, will only be in contact with the soccer ball about two minutes in a full court 90-minute soccer game.
3-Step Movement Patterns — At a recent multiple sports conference, a featured speaker spoke about the 3-step movement principal for sports like kicking in soccer and football. In tennis as well, leading coaches are pointing out that almost all baseline movement can be covered in three steps.
Aerobic — Although tennis is accepted as more anaerobic than aerobic, the aerobic benefits of playing tennis are very high as compared to other sports such as baseball or golf.
Anaerobic — There was a recent comparison of calories burned by different activities over a 3-hour period. Competitive and moderate tennis scored near the top of the list. Why? The on-going high level of anaerobic activity in tennis compares quite favorably to all other sports. This makes tennis a wonderful first sport to build both stamina and strength in children.
Team-Building — Most junior tennis classes are organized in a group learning environment, encouraging a team atmosphere within an individual sport. And, what is perhaps the most competitive and exciting tennis event of the year? Davis Cup play — a total team experience.
The Sport for a Lifetime — The final point of interest on our comparison chart is to consider which of the sports listed can be played for a lifetime. After all, it makes sense to invest the most time and resources in an activity which pays the highest dividends. And tennis does just that.
Parents, those are the facts. Get your kids involved in tennis and you won’t be disappointed. Tennis is a sport that has made my life better and I’m confident it can do the same for your children. I hope this meeting helped you realize the potential that my beloved sport possesses. Thanks for listening.