Every child goes through periods where they don’t seem to be getting better. They work hard and put their all into it, and yet they keep losing to the same people in the first round or two of tournaments. This stagnation can be an incredibly frustrating time both for your child and for you as a parent. Through these difficult times it’s important for your child to keep pushing themselves to improve because if they do, they will reach that next level. The real question is how do you get them past this stagnation as fast as possible. To answer this question, you first have to look at where your child is playing their best.
If your child plays better in clinics and lessons, than they do in matches, this is because it can sometimes take a while for kids to feel comfortable taking what they have learned in their lessons and clinics and bring them into matches. When a child learns something new, it is always uncomfortable at first. This becomes blatantly apparent when they try to use it in a tournament. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do in this scenario other than wait it out until they settle into what they have learned. However, you can help them get more comfortable with what they are learning faster by trying to take away some of the pressure of winning. This means if they are working on a particular technique or strategy have them only focus on doing that technique or strategy right every time instead of worrying about winning. Doing this will not only get them to improve what they are working on faster, but it will also allow them to relax a bit during their matches often resulting in better play. It will still take time for them to get out of their stagnation but doing this will allow you to speed up the process.
If your child is playing about the same in their matches as they do in their lessons and/or clinics, then it’s time to change up what they are working on. I would start by looking at what stroke causes the most problems for your child. If they make a lot more errors off their backhand, then it’s time to work on it. If they double fault a lot or they are broken more often than not then, it’s time to work on their serve. If everything looks to be around the same level, then it’s time to try to turn something into a weapon. This often means a bigger forehand or serve, but it can be applied to anything including their net game. This type of stagnation can take a while to break because it can take a little while for kids to learn something new and bring it into matches.
If your child is playing better in matches, then they do in their lessons and/or clinics and are stagnating then the problem lies in how they treat practice. This kind of stagnation is usually created because a child is putting a lot more effort and concentration into matches and not enough into practice and getting better. To improve this, you must explain just how important practice is to their tennis game. If you can’t seem to get them to change then try to find a hitting partner that takes practice more seriously. A serious training partner will often bring up your child’s intensity in practice because kids who stagnate like this are usually very competitive. This increased intensity will allow them to get more out of lessons and clinics, improving them faster.
Unfortunately, your child is not going to get better overnight. But if they can push through the stagnation they will improve and get much better at tennis. This being said if none of this works and it’s been a few months then you might want to consider looking at another coach. However, I would save this course of action as a last resort. It can be hard to find a coach that resonates well with your child, and you can lose a lot of time doing this.
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