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The World Spins at Different Speeds

5 hrHave you ever consider the part that time plays in learning?

When my now 14 year old daughter was 5 she begged me for Rosie, a pretty ugly doll with plastic face and nylon hair. Being weak, I succumbed to her please and responded with the word. “Yes we will get it at the weekend!” What followed was what can only be described as a 5 year old’s version of world war three.  I was left puzzled. In my world I was convinced that I had said yes! In her world the yes was expected but the timeline was not something that she wanted. Tomorrow was a long time away and the weekend seemed like forever!

Fast forward 9 years and she now studies, does her homework and has some defined aims and goals. In fact I have been stunned by the progress and application to learning in the last 2 years and how it has radically changed but that is not the purpose of this blog. The aim to make you think about the way in which duration and structure of a lesson might change based on the way each age category sees and understands time.


For a child to learn three factors must be in place. They are called the readiness factors. The first is the child must be motivated, the second they must have the developmental capacity, and the third they must have the opportunity. Capacity is the combination of mental and physical development, plus pre-requisite skills. Opportunity is largely driven by being in the right environment and having access to the right equipment. Of course we will argue that this means the right sized courts, racquets and balls. But it’s the concept of motivation and how this might be challenged or influenced by time is what could create the key.

Playing Points

Traditionally points get left to the end of the lesson, but I want to suggest that this might be a big mistake with younger children. In fact the closer the points are to the actual practice of the skill the more then child may understand why they are practicing. And WHY is a huge part of motivation. Context is massively important in learning for kids. So taking your lesson and splitting it into 15 or 20 minute blocks each with a cooperative and competitive segment might be a much more effective way to approach learning. A child will more naturally understand why they need to practice the skill as they associate the points with the practice.

I Hate Learning

On another occasion, in her third year of elementary school, she returned from her day to be asked if she had a good day. “No she responded we had to do learning!” The disdain was evident in the her voice. Learning was a new disease that had swept through school killing all play and replacing it with something more boring. Of course she had been learning all the time but mostly through play and activities. The reason that she referred to learning in this way was simply that she now knew that there was now expectation, probably through a test some days or weeks in the future. The learning that she was referring to was simply a concept of training for a goal. At this stage her timeline was changing and while she wanted to play “in the now” she was starting to understand that there were goals ahead. Take this back to the court and you will see when you can start talking more about goals for your players at the end of the month or ten week session.

Motivation is Influenced by Time

There are lots more examples that we could draw upon but the main point I wanted to make is that learning increases greatly when a child is motivated and that the motivation and reward will have a changing time frame the older a player gets. At the start the reward must be pretty instant, but also any practice should be very quickly followed by the game, later on this might change as players are more engaged and more focused.

The world spins at different speeds for us all. When you are 46 you are trying to slow it down to make sure you have time for everything. At 5 you want everything now!

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