Working with junior players differs from working with adults. At a young age, children are learning all kinds of new things while looking for their boundaries.
The biggest difference is that you have to guide junior players in their tennis journey. You want to guide juniors, but you must give them the freedom to discover new things on the tennis court. Give them the freedom to make mistakes in order to learn effectively.
Here are nine ways to work effectively with junior players:
1. Treat every player the same
For junior players, it's important to see that their coach is fair to every player. Rules are for everyone, even when that means you have to correct your best player.
This also means that you want to divide your attention equally between the players. You want to avoid favoring one player over another.
2. Be a role model for your players
In everything you do, you as a coach are an example for the junior players. This means you have to be careful with your behavior on and off the court. Players of this age are likely to copy your behavior because they look up to you.
When you throw your racket, your players will assume it is ok to throw their racket. When you show up late for practice, you can’t hold your players accountable for showing up late.
3. Educate your players on more than just tennis
It is important to teach them also other things that come to play as a tennis athlete. Teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle is a great start. Make them aware of their eating habits, getting enough sleep, getting in the right mindset, etc.
Teach your players mental skills, like handling bad line calls from their opponent or how to fight back when they're losing. These are skills they need on the court, but also off the court in actual life.
4. Build a relationship with your junior players
Be genuinely interested in your players. First, you must know all their names and try to register their birthdays. Regularly ask how they are performing in school as well.
When you have a connection with your players, they will work harder and enjoy tennis even more.
5. Get your players familiar with the pro circuit
Try to challenge them to be a little familiar with the professional tennis players. They must also know the best male and female players in their own country. Tell them about big tennis tournaments like Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Cup, and Grand Slams. Every junior needs a tennis hero. This will motivate them even more to raise their own tennis level.
6. Keep track of their tournament results even if that’s not your responsibility
Stay informed about their tennis results and sometimes try to watch one of their tennis matches. When seeing your player "live" in action, you can see what they are doing well and what things need improvement. The player feels appreciated and shall work even harder, especially on the things he has to improve.
7. Create a safe environment for your players
Create a safe environment within your tennis lesson, in which the children tell you anything. In such a safe environment the atmosphere will be better and the tennis level will go up.
Also, the players won't be afraid to make mistakes, because they know the coach won't be angry at them.
8. Keep great communication with your players' parents
Regularly inform parents about the progress of their kids. Parents will appreciate it, and the confidence in you as a coach will be higher. Don't underestimate parents, they see the progress of their child in matches or when they play with their child themselves. For example, explain that there are a lot of mistakes with the serve because you've changed the serve grip.
9. Allow your players to make mistakes
When you learn new things, you shall make a lot of mistakes. With trial and error, the players are experimenting to achieve new goals. This is the best way to develop. Understanding the game is far more important than hitting the ball over the net and between the lines. When the player always makes the right decision on the court, the results will go up soon.
When you follow these 9 guidelines, you will be a successful coach for junior players. Challenge them and they will be your biggest fan the rest of their tennis life.
Good luck on the court!