Anyone for tennis? Six reasons children should take up a racket this summer
As summer approaches, now is a great time to get kids moving. Lisa Salmon finds out why picking up a racket is a great idea
EVERY summer, millions of people love to watch the world's top tennis players thwack it out for success at Wimbledon and the televised tournament is a great motivator for kids to get involved in the sport.
But what are the benefits for children – or adults, for that matter? Alfie Hewett, World no. 1 wheelchair tennis player and 2017 Wimbledon Men's Doubles Wheelchair Tennis champion, adds: "I fell in love with the sport at a young age and I'm fortunate that it's led to my career and the friendships I've made along the way. Tennis has given me so much, both on and off the court."
Joss Rae, a former British tennis doubles player, who now coaches tennis, says: "My parents introduced me to tennis when I was young, and I soon became hooked. Now as a coach myself, I'm passionate about getting more children excited and hopefully continuing to play for the rest of their lives."
If you're unsure about whether to get your kids playing tennis properly, leading Lawn Tennis Association coach Sam Richardson, who has been coaching tennis for more than 20 years, explains some of the benefits:
1. Physical health benefits
Tennis is the perfect way to encourage children to be active outside and have fun.
"This sport includes a lot of running around and the use of the entire body, and therefore is a great way to tire out energetic kids – it's a great source of exercise for little ones," says Richardson.
Tennis is hugely beneficial for cardio health – the constant movement, quick changes in pace and direction (combining anaerobic and aerobic fitness), makes it one of the best workouts for the heart.
The sport increases strength in growing bones and improves reaction times as you dart to hit the incoming ball – this also increases flexibility, since you need to adjust quickly to reach different shots.
It also improves hand-eye co-ordination.
2. Anyone can learn
Children can start learning to play tennis without ever having tried it before.
"You don't need to be Johanna Konta or Andy Murray to want to pick up a racket – or even need to know who Johanna Konta and Andy Murray are," says Richardson.
3. It's relatively injury-free
Tennis is a safe sport for children as it's contact-free, and with coaches on-hand during lessons to teach beginners proper technique and form, there's less chance of injury.
4. Tennis improves the mind as well as the body
Tennis helps players with problem solving and discipline, and teaches them how to work best in a team, listen to directions and play fairly.
"I've also noted that kids are more confident after playing tennis, and that shy kids often come out of their shell after a few lessons," says Richardson.
"Tennis sessions teach children how to not only work with a partner, but individually, which helps to encourage good sportsmanship and responsibility, which can sometimes be lost in larger team sports."
5. They'll make new friends
Children learning to play tennis are likely to play with or against children of a similar age, and having fun and playing games with others means many new friendships can be forged on the courts. Parents are also likely to benefit from meeting other parents at the tennis club.
6. It's great for all the family
Tennis is a sport that both adults and children can get involved with, and it can help the whole family come together.
Richardson says: "I love nothing more than seeing families coming out to play tennis, as it's a great game for all generations – it can be rigorous and intense, but also allows you to play at your own pace and ability."