Don’t turn my Ferrari into an ice cream truck!
The concept is simple, if 91% (2013 statistic) of all kids in the US play games then maybe we should learn the formula and see what we can take. Kids after all spend way more time off the court than they do on it and so understanding their world is something we should all be spending time on.
But before we create a game and start putting on uniforms and wearing silly hats we must not forget one key mission that we have to achieve. We need kids to fall in love with tennis! Underneath the whole process we want them to picture themselves as Andy Murray winning the Davis Cup or Serena lifting yet another Slam Trophy. You can bet your life that no kid will walk into the street this week and put a soccer ball on the ground and say “Let’s pretend it’s a space ship!”
In exactly the same way we must be careful that we understand that the average 7 year old has at least 5 adult role models. People that they want to be when they grow up! They want to be like these people and we must foster this dream and bring the stars of tennis onto their court so they can play with them.
Years ago we helped to design a facility at the Longfellow club in Wayland, Mass, USA. In the excitement the staff started discussing putting cartoons on the wall. My response was “Hell No!” We made the courts look professional, just smaller. There was a US Open logo on the wall and a net line to facilitate wall based practice. It was cool because it was a little field of dreams, and looked just like the Open!
If a child is much younger then of course we might start the process by engaging them with characters and imagination, www.tenniswhizz.com is a whole pre-school tennis program where each lesson is delivered through a story, but this is for the under 5s.
In the coming months we will start to explain each of the principles of gamification very carefully so that you can integrate them gradually and systematically into your program. You will learn about the nine gaming mechanics and understand how to use these to engage kids in the tennis environment. But before you play Clash of Clans or Minecraft on the tennis court try a word of caution. We wanted to use these principles so that we can make tennis more exciting and not to dress it up as something it isn’t.
Tennis is an amazing game, a Ferrari amongst other sports, let’s not pretend it’s an ice cream truck!