Most kids are ready to swing a tennis racket when they are 4-5 years old. At this age, they have developed the physical strength and coordination necessary to play tennis.
But they should play strictly for fun. There should be no pressure for them to play better or play in a certain style; just good fun with their friends and family.
Why starting early is better
4 years may seem too young but it’s a great age to get kids started, not just on tennis, but also several other sports.
It gives them time to enjoy different types of games and discover which one they love and play best. They may just discover they really love tennis to the point where they could play it professionally.
It’s important that you don’t have a specific goal in mind at this age. Just let them play for fun.
With time, depending on how well they are playing, you can decide to support them in pursuing a professional career. But even then, make sure it’s something they actually want to do.
Buying the right equipment
It’s important to buy the right sized racket. Using one that is to big will cause discomfort and injuries.
There are two main types of measurements to consider when buying a junior racket: grip size and racket length.
Grip size refers to the diameter of the handle. UK grip sizes range between 0 and 5. Sizes 0 (3.9” – 4”) and 1 (4 1/8”) are the best for kids.
To determine the ideal grip size, measure the distance between the second line on their palm and the tip of their ring finger. This is their grip size. Choose a racket with a similar grip size.
But don’t worry if the grip size is a smidge too big. They won’t be playing frequently or aggressively enough for it to be a problem. They’ll also grow into it in no time.
Make sure you also select the best racket length. Junior rackets are shorter to make it easier for kids to swing it with ease.
The reduced length also makes the racket lighter, which is important for comfort.
For a 4 or 5 year old just starting out, the ideal racket length is around 46cm. For 5-6 year olds, it’s around 49 cm.
To determine if it is the right length, have them stand straight while holding the racket on their side. It should reach their ankle but not touch the ground.
As for things like the size of the tennis court and the height of the net, you just need to find a tennis centre that caters to junior players. They’ll have everything set up just right.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) provides playing courts and coaching for both adults and kids as young as 4 years.
When starting out, tennis should be just like any other fun game they play around the house. Don’t focus so much on training or getting them to play the right way.
Give them time to get a feel of tennis before attempting any sort of coaching.
To make it more fun, consider playing often with them. This gives you an opportunity to discover their capabilities and determine whether this is something they want to do.
Be on the lookout for injuries or discomfort in their arm. If they are feeling any pain or strain, they might be playing with the wrong sized racket or the court might not be set up the right way.
Also watch out for burn-out. Keep the playing sessions short and manageable. Even if they love playing tennis, they shouldn’t play for hours on end or every day. This could kill their passion for the game.
Benefits of tennis for kids
- Develops physical strength and improves overall fitness.
- Improves coordination and motor control.
- Develops important qualities such as sportsmanship, teamwork and persistence.
- Develops social skills.
- Improves bone strength and density.
- Develops self-confidence.