Yesterday I was reading a USTA publication on Quickstart Tennis (now 10 and Under Tennis). I was brushing up on working with kids 10 and under for our upcoming Westlake High School Tennis Camp next week. While reading I came across a section entitled “Video Games & Skate Parks.” This is what it says:
“Several years ago if you were to ask kids, ‘If you weren’t playing tennis, what would you be doing,’ they would have said playing. Now they say playing video games.”
This statement is so true! Kids today don’t go out and play like they did when I was a kid (you know those days when dinosaurs roamed the earth according to my kids). They play video games or they are involved with organized activities—youth sports, dance, etc. Kids today just don’t get enough “free play” time running, throwing, catching, hopping, and skipping or whatever. They don’t get enough time to be creative and learn on their own.
This USTA publication goes on to say:
“Have you been to a skate park lately? They’re packed. Why? Why are skate parks so crowed and, for the most part, baseball and soccer fields are empty, except for organized activities? The difference is adults. (Ouch!—my comment) There aren’t too many adults hanging out at skate parks, while they line the sidelines of other venues for games and practices. The United States Olympic Committee Athlete Development Department believes the best athletes in the country are at skate parks. Why? There are no coaches. Skate parks are filled with self-motivated athletes. There is no one telling the kids how to do certain tricks. Just kids teaching kids. They will work on something for hours, or even days. They’ll figure it out by trial and error. And then they’ll get it. They flip the board over once in the air. They will celebrate their achievement briefly, and then some other kid will show them how to flip it twice. Then they’ll work on that. All without an adult guiding them, telling them what to do, showing them how they are doing it wrong, or getting in their face about not trying hard enough. The kids will even say it’s fun. It’s fun because they are learning at their own pace, moving, risking, hanging out with friends, challenging one another, laughing and, at the deepest level, playing.”
Wow, as an adult, parent, and coach this kind of hurts. You mean they don’t want us around? Then I think back to my days of “free play” and realize how true this is. When I was young, I would play for hours without any adult involvement. This is how I learned to play baseball, football, basketball, and even tennis—yes tennis. You see I didn’t have the luxury of a country club pro to teach me; my family just couldn’t afford to be a member of the country club. Instead my friends and I would venture to the court and through trial and error we learned how to play. I was very self-motivated like our skating friends above and did everything I could to learn about the game and get better. Even though I didn’t have the internet (kids are so lucky these days, you can learn anything online), I watched endless hours of tennis on TV (now there’s YouTube, and even sites devoted to tennis—who’d of though it back then!).
Unfortunately, we live in a different world then in the world I grew up in. Parents don’t let their kids venture off to the tennis courts for a full day of “exploratory” play. That is why I’ve started “Open Court” for the kids in Saratoga Springs. It may only be 2 hours, three times a week, but it’s something. This is a time for the kids to come out and play; basically do whatever they want. I’m there if they want help with anything (a luxury I didn’t have as a kid) and I’m also there to provide parents with some peace of mind.
So, kids, come out and play! Parents, encourage your kids to play tennis! Tennis is the greatest game in the world (at least according to me). And, tennis produces the greatest athletes in the world (not just according to me—subject of a future post).
See you on the courts.
This article was written by admin