A parent crystalized a thought in my mind yesterday.
She said that tennis coaches put too much emphasis on fun and not enough on learning in lessons. In my later more mature years I have learned to pay attention to the wisdom of parents – they do after all have the greatest investment in their child’s development [not just because they pay the fees.]
Upon reflection her point gained credibility. Consider a primary school teacher explaining that while the child had yet to learn how to read after 4 -5 years of schooling, but they had fun in class you could visualize the horrified reaction of the parent. Well parents have the same expectations of us as tennis coaches to make learning happen.
If we still don’t get it, then consider the following equation:
No learning [eventually] = no fun
Kids will become more self aware and their lack of skill and competence as a result of no learning will erode their self confidence and enjoyment of the sport. They will become another drop out, another one lost to our programs which we will have to work hard to replace.
Here is a tip to start understanding how to create a fun learning environment. At the end of each session set aside a few minutes to ask:-
“what was your number 1 learning from today’s lesson?”
Ask your youngest red kids to your pre teen green ball players and really listen to the answers. It can be scary trying to listen to kids articulate their thoughts, it takes a while and it can be a little hard to comprehend at times, but it is real and honest and gives your true insight into what learning is resulting from your teaching.
Later other questions might evolve… “What did you love about today’s lesson?”; “Which part of today’s training did you find hardest?”; “What would you like to improve on from today’s tennis?” This is the type of teaching style that kids receive in school, so while it may take them time to start coming up with answers, they are already used to being asked questions and reflecting on their learnings.
You might start getting answers that relate to the direct technical instruction you have given, like “I have to hold the racquet like this to spin the ball.” Or answers that relate to direct tactical training you have done, like “You should hit the ball to where they’re not.” Or maybe even you’ll get a thinker who says “I should only drop shot if they are way back” even though drop shot’s weren’t part of the lesson.
You may have guessed these are real life answers and they give a real insight into how kids learn. Do they always give a technical answer or show you a swing or grip; memorize something you have told them; sometimes higher order thinking and problem solving might emerge. Some kids are just puzzled that they should be learning anything…and it is important you know this also. They are probably just good kinesthetic learners and find it hard to verbalise what they have learned.
Make a questioning session at the end of your class an important part of your program. And take the kids over towards the parents to do it…mum and dad would love to know some fun learning is taking place.