Top 5 Things Parents Can Do to Help 8u Players Practice
#1 - Teach them to throw and catch
Tennis is a sport that requires starting each point with a toss, then a throw motion (serve toss, serve swing). After that, it requires constant movement to a moving ball. Once to the ball, sometimes it's a catching motion (volleys), and sometimes a slinging motion (groundstrokes; slinging a racquet through a bouncing ball). With a simple game of throwing and catching, parents can help 8u players work on the throwing, catching, and moving parts of this equation. I think mini-footballs work best for the throwing motion because the player can easily tell if they've thrown the ball with correct shoulder rotation by seeing the spiral. As the player gets better with the throw, the game can be more advanced by adding in throwing to a moving target and also catching on the run.
Parents can also help the player with the serve toss motion by having the player underhand toss a tennis ball up,above, and to a parent standing right in front of them. That is, the ball should rise above the parent's head. The parent should also be able to catch that tossed ball without taking more than one step.
#2 - Buy your own 36' court net and Foam Tennis Balls and hit with them/toss balls to them
The 36' court is a critical playing environment. It accomplishes two major goals:
- The 36'x21' court encourages the player to hit with both topspin and underspin from the baseline, and use either deep or short angled volleys (the very same most ATP & WTA Pros use to win points).
- It helps the player develop timing between footwork and the various shots. In a larger space, this size of player too easily gets overwhelmed with the footwork needed just to come close to the ball and stroke technique breaks down
Given these benefits, it is the wise parent who buys their own 18 foot mini net and sets it up horizontally between a 78 foot court baseline and service line when they practice with their 8u player. My personal favorite is the Dunlop Mini Tennis Net. Most major tennis brands have their own version of the mini tennis net. Just do a Google search for your preferred brand name and the phrase “mini tennis net,” and you'll see where you can buy it.
Once you've got the net, now you need the balls. In USTA 8u Sanctioned tournament play, 75% low compression Red/Yellow Felt balls are used. Some local tennis retailers carry these balls, however the best prices I've seen are via http://www.amazon.com/. Here's what they look like: Penn QS36 Red Felt Ball 12 Pack.
While your 8u player's tennis instructor should be using the felt balls in any lessons, that's not what I advise parents to use during practice. I advise parents who want to practice with their 8u players to use the Foam Ball. The bounce of each ball is similar in height, but the foam ball is clearly a slower bounce. The end result is parents and their 8u players will spend more time hitting and less time picking up balls. This is a very important result since 99% of all parents are going to have far fewer balls at their disposal then their 8u player's teaching pro in any given practice session. These balls are also available via Amazon Prime .
Posted by Mandy Shephard on March 02, 2016 in Tennis Tips.