Recently my 5 year old son showed some interest in wanting to play tennis. As a tennis coach and a tutor I have a few balls and rackets around the house. We are also fortunate in having a bit of space in our kitchen and after setting ourselves up a couple of metres apart, I threw him some balls to hit. Following 3 consecutive misses however, he started to become a bit agitated and there was also a look of resignation on his face as if to say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore daddy!’
As a coach, I knew that 1. his lack of success was possibly because he wasn’t familiar with reading an incoming ball and, 2. that if he had some input into the process, and without delay, there was a chance that he might stay engaged with learning to hit a tennis ball.
So, in order to help him, I asked him if he could show me where he would like the ball to land that I was going to throw for him to hit – my intention was for him to feel involved and responsible for what was about to happen. He then showed me a spot on the floor, a little to the side and in front of him. Just before each throw I asked him if he would be able tell me where each ball landed. My intention here was to increase his awareness of the flight of the ball. Almost instantly, he started to make contact with all the balls that I threw to him, as well as point to a spot on the floor where each ball had landed.
I observed a naturally free flowing swing. His swing path went from low to high, finishing around his body with his racket closing over the ball to keep it down. These are changes which it could be argued would take quite some time to learn if I had decided to tell him a few things such as, ‘watch the ball’, ‘move back a bit when the ball comes to you’, ‘come on – swing now’, ‘remember to follow through over your shoulder’………….etc etc !!
Increasing awareness and self-responsibility not only help young children to learn effectively, but are also the building blocks for developing Self-belief.