Junior Tennis Pathway

This article will expand on a few key areas of focus when you are building your blueprint forward. These principles should make you and your child's journey far more enjoyable and successful.

Junior Tennis Pathway

Player pathway or player roadmap is a common topic among parents. Where should my child be and by what age? We are behind the other players and need to start getting wins on the board no!

In other situations, parents are oblivious to the tournaments around them, how their national federation works and what it means to become a professional tennis player. Wherever you fall on this spectrum as a parent, it’s ok - what I would like to do in this article is explain the key areas of a player pathway and how to navigate it a little better. The goal is to lead you in the direction of higher performance and more enjoyment in the process. Our chapter within our Ultimate Tennis Parent course delves a little deeper into the topic with some great resources that you can readily use.

What is a player pathway? Is there a set path?

The player pathway is what it sounds like. The journey or pathway a player follows from when they start, through to when they finish playing or reach the pinnacle of their career. There is definitely no, ONE PATHWAY that fits all. If you focus on some key areas, it should become completely customized to you and your child. That’s my goal here. To shape the discussion to you so you can shape a custom approach for your child.

Focus Areas

  • Passion (Internally driven)
  • Enjoy training
  • Want to compete (if they are competing)
  • If competing, have some success
  • Desire to be a professional tennis player (internal motivation)
  • Clearly knowing (and sticking to) the growth and development phases

Passion

Passion is an obvious one, well at least it should be. We can offer the fanciest training, best advice and world-class training facilities and if the player (your child) is not passionate about tennis, passionate about playing and getting better, we are barking up the wrong tree. Nothing else to add other than you need to drastically reassess every aspect of why and how your child is continuing to play the sport. Take time, as much as needed to bring that passion back and also be ok to hang up the racquets, if it doesn’t return. Doing things well in life is built on passion.

Enjoy Training

90% of the tennis journey is training. If you don’t enjoy the process of refining your skills, learning new techniques and enjoying the people who are within your training environment, it can be brutally tough. Your environment and how you engage with it is crucial for enjoying the process. Your child must be excited to train, be a little annoyed if it rains and training gets cancelled. Are they? If not, why not? The road is long and winding - find enjoyment in crafting your skills.

Want to compete (if they are competing)

Want To Compete If and that is a BIG IF; If your child wants to compete, go for it. If they don’t (it doesn’t matter the reason), don’t. Too many people are caught up with ranking points, playing because other parents think you should etc, etc. This circle of keeping up with the system and players around you is futile.
If your child is unsure about competing, then you should definitely test it out. Explore tournaments and match play. If your child is hungry to compete (and doesn’t explode in despair after a defeat) enjoy playing more tournaments.
In our Module 2 podcast - Training Load, I discuss how toxic the tournament environment can become. Not with the negativity of on-court playing, but in boredom and repetition of the ‘tournament weekend’. Spending every weekend at an event. Playing all day, parents running around like a taxi and everyone becoming a little frazzled by the time they get home. Waiting half the day for 1 or 2 matches, rain delays and so on. Finding a balance between competing enough because your child is hungry to play, but not too much that it becomes the scene of every weekend and slowly eats away at the family dynamic and can create a very demanding and toxic home life built around tennis.

If competing, have some success

No one enjoys losing, well, if they do I haven’t met them yet. Learning from a loss is one thing but actually enjoying a defeat is another. A loss can feel like a sword slash to the heart of an invested player. Child or adult. The child though has fewer coping mechanisms and takes each loss much harder. Be sure to select matches, tournaments and competitions with purpose. Not too easy, not too difficult but a nice mix. We need to have some wins and some losses. A wide variety of players can help shape your child’s tennis but also not leave them lost, upset and feeling destroyed after every match they play. Finding a balance and getting some wins on the board is very important.
Desire to be a professional tennis player

Desire to be a professional tennis player and be internally motivated to become one.

It is very difficult for an 8-year-old to know what they want. Generally, they say what they think the coach or parent wants to hear. At around 10-11, children start to form more personalised ideas for themselves and begin shaping their internal worlds in a much more complex way. At 14-16, this is accelerated and also a little bit messy. If their desire to become a professional tennis player is strong - Appreciate that. Don’t push it back and avoid nurturing it. Create an environment that allows that dream to grow and become something more realistic on a daily and weekly basis.

The crucial thing; It must be internally motivated. There are many reasons for this at a chemical level within the brain - For parents and our purposes here, the reason is simple enough. It must come from them and it must be internally driven. If it isn’t, it is your responsibility as a parent to pull back the reins and reassess.

Clearly knowing (and sticking to) the growth and development phases

There is no rushing development. You can speed up learning, develop more efficient strategies but, you can’t fast track growth and bring the future to the present. Your child is not an adult yet and not a professional tennis player yet. They don’t need to be training like one either. Training exists across a huge spectrum and knowing where your child is on that spectrum will shape what they should and shouldn't be doing. Module 2, on training load, expands on physical components like drill selection, frequency of training and where your child falls in their physical growth and development. The pathway model combines these elements but also adds the areas of; Mental, match play, skill acquisition and more.

Finding a balance within the framework and forming a unique pathway for your child is an art form. Piecing the puzzle together is not easy but, our framework will identify the tools that will make your job significantly easier. Becoming an Ultimate Tennis Parent is an art form and it takes time. Be patient and keep up the good fight.


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If you would like coach Brett to customize your CHILD’S PATHWAY and create a unique roadmap for your team, please get in touch.