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Spice up your program by using levels

One of the nine gaming mechanics that can be easily applied in kids tennis is the concept of ‘levels’. By creating the possibility to achieve different levels in a game you will increase the motivation of players. But is this always the case? And how do you apply ‘levels’ in the right way? Here are five ways to use levels appropriately in your program:

  1. Not only when winning or losing

In many games, if you win a certain task or number of games you level up. Of course that is one way to add levels to your program. However, winning is not something we can always control. Sometimes you try and play your best and you lose the game. So another way to add levels is to award the children with levels for the exercises that they practice on the court. If you keep play the ball for 10 times, you go up one level and the exercise becomes levelsharder. If you succeed at this level within 5 tries, you will proceed to an even higher level. If you don’t succeed, you may go down one level. But have you ever thought to reward determination, fighting spirit or cooperation with levels? It would be nice to give the children feedback on how well they cooperate with each other by rewarding wanted behavior with the “levels” gaming mechanic.

  1. Applying levels to your lessons

In blog 2 I already indicated that gaming actually is based on a lot of practicing. Children, however, do not experience this as practice, but simply as play, and they think the gaming element is amazing. By utilizing the possibility of gaining “a life”, that you could also lose again, practicing suddenly becomes a lot of fun.

  1. Levels as part of your program

Levels can also become part of your overall program. During a season it is possible to achieve certain levels. Actions that can be rewarded with gaining additional levels could include attendance, participation in competitions and assisting with other classes for example. For instance, you can ‘level up’ this way from bronze to gold during a season.

  1. Make levels visible

Tennis is a sport which is difficult to measure.By using levels you can visualize how ‘good’ a child is at something. By applying this in a friendly and responsible way and based on something a child can actually control, you can help children to create self-esteem, self-confidence and you can also make it clear that some tasks still need improvement.

  1. Levels as a mechanic to improve team spirit

Here at evolve9 we have become more and more excited about approaching the class as a team. How nice would it be if you can achieve a team score by earning points for all components within the youth program? For example combine points for attendance at classes, attendance at the games and scores that could be achieved by cooperating with each other. This way, the training group as a whole can reach a certain level.


Levels form a strong mechanism that can help you accomplish engagement and progress in your program, as long as you apply it correctly. Of course this must be done with care. When a child reaches a level, this must be of a certain value to them. And not accidentally just part of a fun game on the court.

Within ‘Evolution’, our new program that we will present in July 2016, gaming mechanisms play an important role. Are you Junior Tennis Director and would you like to create a program that will contains some of the elements we mentioned before? In July a unique conference will be held in Washington during which we will expand all of these matters and more. Register now and benefit from the early bird discount (it’s kind of like a level!).

ronald head shot 2
Ronald Pothuizen – Director evolve9, Netherlands

Ronald was the program manager for the U12 program in The Netherlands for 16 years. He is manager the Tenniskids Program with extensive coach education courses (over 1500 coaches), a competition program for 35,000 kids and the support program for Dutch clubs (1400). Along working for the Dutch Federation, Ronald was very active internationally as a member of the ITF Play and Stay Taskforce.

He has been to more than 15 countries to run workshops and/or to present for the ITF in U10. In 2011, Ronald started the evolve9 Serious Kids Stuff foundation. This foundation built the first Slum Red courts in the World. Prior to working for the Dutch Federation (KNLTB), Ronald was a Tennis director for 11 years in The Netherlands.



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