Tennis Lesson Formats: Which one is best for my child?

Tennis Camp PhotoAs a parent of a young tennis player, you might be wondering why there are so many types of lessons offered at your tennis club. Most tennis clubs offer private or semi-private lessons, group lessons, junior programs, and match play. Many parents are unsure how these options are different and which route is best for their child. Let’s take a look at each type of lesson and the benefits they provide:

Private or Semi-Private Lessons:

These types of lessons include 1-2 tennis players and 1 certified tennis teaching professional. Private lessons are the most effective format for learning and improving specific skills or techniques. The tennis professional can take the time to teach the student a new skill or identify problem areas of the student’s game. The advantage to this type of lesson is the one-on-one communication between the player and the professional.  The tennis pro can dictate the format of the lesson to offer tailored instruction that specifically addresses the needs of the student. 

Parents often schedule a 30-60 minute private lesson if their child has a specific technique that needs to be addressed. While private lesson rates vary from club to club and pro to pro, they are usually the costliest lesson format due to the 1:1 ratio. Once the child understands the change that has been made or the new stroke that has been introduced, they need repetition to practice that change which can be achieved in group lessons. 

Group Lessons: Group lessons are a combination of instruction, drills, fitness, and strategy. These types of lessons may include 4-6 players and one tennis teaching professional per court. Group lessons will have a specific theme determined by the pro, based on the skill level of the students attending. The pro is trained to address the group as a whole and to reinforce specific skills pertaining to the theme for the day. By participating in a group lesson, players have the opportunity to receive instruction and also engage in repetition to improve their skills.

Junior Tennis Programs: Junior Tennis Programs are structured similarly to group lessons; however, the main difference is that there are multiple courts of players and teaching professionals.

In junior tennis programs, each court has a theme and players rotate to different courts so they have the opportunity to work on a variety of skills and receive instruction from various teaching professionals. Junior tennis programs are highly recommended for all levels of tennis players due to the interaction of the students. The number one reason children continue to play tennis is because it is fun! By meeting children their own age, children are developing social skills and gaining confidence in their ability to compete against other tennis players their own age. 

Junior Programs and group lessons are the most cost effective for families, so players can practice multiple times per week.

Match Play: All tennis players should engage in competition regardless of their skill level. Match play is critical for learning score keeping, strategy, persistence, and prepares players for high school tennis or competitive tournament play.

For younger players, competition usually takes place during junior program times and is not a separate program. Introducing competition in a non-threatening environment is important to our young players. It is highly recommended to introduce tennis as a “team sport” at this age.

As players start to advance in skill levels, they should participate in match play by participating in a league. A league consists of singles and/or doubles match play supervised by a tennis professional who is available to assist with scoring, strategy and tennis etiquette.

The next step in competitive match play is participation in a USTA Showdown. This is a one day tournament that takes place at a tennis club in your district. Players are expected to know how to play a match prior to registering for a Showdown. Once your child has reached this level and would like to participate in tournaments, your tennis professional should help develop a plan that fits the player’s needs.

Now that you have a better sense of how these types of lessons differ in structure and format, you can see that each has a unique benefit for tennis player development. For that reason, most coaches recommend that players participate in all lesson types. Once you have established a coach for your child, talk to them about your child’s tennis goals. Your child’s coach can help you decide how often each type of lesson is needed in order to help your child reach their goals!