As I write this, the sun is streaming through the window on a lovely late September morning. I have played 2 matches this weekend (winning both) with the second being played through drizzle for about half of it. Did we stop? No. We just kept playing, got on with it and had a lot of fun sliding around the court whilst working out how to use the conditions to our advantage. Great fun!
Tennis is often perceived as a summer or seasonal sport however, there has been a marked change in both the way the sport is now taught and delivered through competition that should help debunk this myth.
There can be a perception that tennis is a strawberries and cream affair, meaning that learning opportunities are often overlooked during the winter months. Winter activities such as rugby and hockey take over and tennis gets cast aside in the shadows.
Tennis isn’t any more weather dependent, than these winter sports and there a number of reasons why tennis needs to be played through the winter in order for any child or adult to have a chance of realizing any potential in the game. Fulfilling potential does not necessarily mean being the next superstar, Wimbledon winning, world number 1; it may just mean producing a competent club player, a county champion, a future coach.
Tennis is a game for life and brings many benefits both socially and physically so why only play it for half of the year?
Children especially, need repetition and consistency to acquire new skills and hone existing ones. Even a break of a few weeks can mean they may forget much of what they have already learned. Young players need to have their new skills reinforced through practice and repetition just like learning to read and write.
The introduction and continued success of Mini Tennis means less space is needed to teach young children. This enables coaches and clubs to utilize school halls, gyms, even club house space to deliver their sessions when it gets colder and sometimes wetter. In fact with the way the game is now being taught, developing athletes is of greater consideration than pretty looking strokes at this age and the winter months should be used to hone these skills. An hour of running, jumping, skipping, throwing, catching, sprinting, footwork drills are just as beneficial to the young tennis player as hitting the ball is.
What about rules? Tennis can be a complicated game to understand. What better time to learn about scoring, fair play, rules when it is raining outside through a quiz. This is all part of the learning process and gives the player the tools he or she needs to play the complete game.
Then of course there is competition. Players do not improve through lessons alone. Yes they are given information but it is the application of this information in a competitive situation which improves the player. There is now as much competition available through the winter season as in the summer and in some ages groups, more so. If players don’t compete and learn through the winter they are going to be left behind the following summer. This is when many parents then decide that their child has not improved enough or the child gets frustrated that their friends are now better than them and they leave the game. The tennis pros don’t stop for winter so why should you?
Through my time in the game I have consistently seen quicker rates of improvement from players who trained and competed through the winter. I have many fond memories of playing in the rain and clearing snow off the courts for our warm up before playing. Sometimes we just had snowball fights on the rare occasions we could - a great way of developing our serves. As a coach, rain did sometimes stop play but we could always find constructive ways to improve the players and keep them busy.
Just look at the professionals, Murray and Nadal didn’t get where they are only playing three months a year once a week!
By Ash Taylor
Member since: 9th July 2012
Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.