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Junior & Kids training is a very sensitive area of tennis training. Many coaches find it difficult to deal with kids or are overwhelmed in certain situations and quickly reach their limits. However, working with children is fun! There is no better acknowledgement for a coach than when a child that you have accompanied and trained for years wins tournaments, is high up in rankings, or simply becomes a good player.

In this article I would like to give you tips on what you should consider when training children, how you can deal with special situations and how you manage to motivate children and keep them playing tennis.

This is what you can expect from this blog post:

1. Prioritize learning through playing
2. Create training plans to teach the techniques
3. Try to compensate for differences in playing skills
4. Be friend and coach at the same time
5. Don’t demand too much or too little from the children
6. Be patient in developing juniors or kids
7. Don’t put up with everything – set clear rules
8. Stick to the Play & Stay concept
9. If you have problems, talk to the children first, then to the parents
10. Pay attention to safety in training
11. Find the talent in the child

Tip 1: Prioritize learning through playing

Especially if you haven’t had much experience with kids & juniors in training, you will notice that methods that are very promising in the adult area do not work in children’s training. In order for kids to understand and internalize movement sequences, techniques and tactics, you should teach them how to get there in a playful way.

An example:
You want the child to gain more coordination and feel for the ball.

Not good:
Coach’s instruction: “You take the racket with the forehand grip and try to bounce the ball up twice. After the second try, the ball should stay on your racket. Then play the ball to the other side and catch the ball with your left hand.”
Coach’s instruction: “Tim, let’s play catch fish now. You are the fisher and your task is to bounce the ball up twice with the forehand grip. You cast the line with that. After the second time, a fish is biting. Now try to stop the ball on your racket. Then you have to pull the fish (ball) out of the water. To do this, you try to catch the ball from your racket with your left hand.” Tim will now imagine he is a fisherman during the exercise and will try to do the task with much more concentration. He now has a visual idea and of course he will want to be the best fisherman on this planet. You could also do this exercise as a competition: 2 players “fish” against each other and whoever has caught the most fish without making any mistakes after 2 minutes is the best fisherman.

Another simpler example:
The trainer wants to practice movement and footwork.

Not good:
Trainer’s instructions: “Tim, in front of you I have set up 15 rings, some are black, some are green. You should now run from this side to the other side as quickly as possible and step into the green rings with your left foot.
Trainer’s instructions: “Tim, we’re going to play frog party now. In front of you there is a lake with green and black seaweeds (rings) floating on it. You are the frog and you have to push all green plants under water with your left foot.
Tennis Frog Party Drills
Tim is playing “Frog Party”

Tim would also like to be a great frog here again, who wants to make all the plants disappear as quickly as possible. And he already has a story about this exercise and will do it with more motivation.

By the way – if you are interested in the drill “Frog Party” you can watch it here.

Of course, you don’t have to start “Grimm’s fairy tale time” with every child, but I think you know what I mean. The older the kids get, the more “modern” you have to tell your stories or slowly and seriously explain the drills. But this method works very well, especially with young children of kindergarten age!

Tip 2: Create training plans to teach the techniques

In general, training plans are very important in tennis training. You should always have a plan of what you want to achieve with your training group. In children’s and junior training, and thus often in beginner training, these training plans are particularly important, because your students are usually not technically developed. You should set a goal, by which time the children can play shot X or Y technically correctly. Set yourself realistic goals here, which of course also depend on the physical and coordination skills of the child. You will always have kids in training who can catch balls with their left and right hands from the start. Others need weeks of practice. Always set goals that are realistically achievable.

Tennis Training Plan
A good coach makes training plans and has a clear goal of what he wants to achieve with his tennis groups and when.

Trainer: Children’s group 1 I want to teach forehand and backhand technique until the end of this season. At the end of the season, the children should be able to perform the strokes perfectly and also be able to use different stroke positions, such as open and lateral stances.

If a child is so talented that he or she could be considered for tournaments and professional level, the child should achieve the so-called “technical championship” by the age of 11. This means that by the age of 11 the child can play all the important shots in tennis with the correct technique. These include e.g.

Tip 3: Try to compensate for differences in playing skills

This is a very important point that is very close to my heart. Perhaps you have already experienced this. Some of the kids or juniors do not get along with a player. They make jokes about him, call him a loser, etc. They never want to team up with this student, either because he doesn’t fit socially or because the kid just isn’t playing as well as the others. Yes, a situation like that happens every day in physical education. Here you are particularly challenged as a coach! You should definitely try to stop this , because the consequence will be that this child loses interest in tennis and unsubscribes from training. But how can you do it?

3.1 Situation worse skill level

Often, the child that the others don’t want to play with is also the one who is the worst at play. In any case, try to integrate the potentially worse child. For example, let this player play with the strongest kid in the group so that he, too, can have a sense of achievement. Try to work with handicap forms.

Max is the weakest child in the group and plays alone against the better children Justus and Tom. The children play points against each other and Max can always score twice, the other team only once.

Variation: The other children can only score with their forehand.
Variation: Max gets a point advantage.

3.2 Situation social aspect

If the child is not accepted by the other training participants because of its nature, the trainer is also challenged here. Talk with the children – initially in one-to-one conversations. Try to find out the reasons why player A is not accepted by the group. Then look for the group discussion and try to convey to the group that you are a team that wants to make progress in tennis together. Explain, that this is only possible if the group tolerates and accepts each other. I’m not a fan of punishment drills, but sometimes there’s no other way: It would also be possible that a child has to do a punishment drill (e.g. running around, push-ups) if they don’t behave well against another child.

Tennis Kids Crying
It is essential for the coach to prevent frustration from children.

Another possibility would be to temporarily exclude the child – e.g. exclude them from training for a few minutes and have them sit on the bench. Only if all these attempts fail, you should talk to the parents. Success is often found through parents. Personally, I think it’s always better to solve the problem in the group first. Only as a last way out and in really difficult cases do I recommend separating the groups.

Tip 4: Be friend and coach at the same time

Children need an emotional connection to the tennis coach. This works best in such a way that the child perceives you as a coach and friend at the same time. A coach you can talk to about anything. Yes, if the child even asks you for advice on issues outside of tennis, then you have really managed to build a good bond with the child. Try to establish yourself as a person of respect in children’s training, but also as a person with whom you can talk about everything. Here are some suggestions to help you bond well with your child:

  • Ask the children how they are doing and whether they are enjoying the training.
  • Motivate the children – e.g. shake hands after winning a game.
  • Join in the fun with the kids, don’t be too serious.
  • Invite the children to an activity outside of training – e.g. BBQ at the coach’s.
  • Organise other activities outside of tennis practice (e.g. travel to a pro tournament or host a tennis camp)
Tennis Kid Handshake with the coach
A handshake strengthens the bond with the coach and gives the student familiarity

You will see – the more of these tips you implement, the more you will become the most popular coach in your city. And if you are popular and the children like to come to your training, the most important thing for you as a trainer will happen: you will have fewer children who will unsubscribe from the training, which means that you can of course have more lessons and earn more money.

Tip 5: Don’t demand too much or too little from the children

In juniors and kids training, you should always know the exact level of performance of your students. You should definitely coordinate your drills in such a way that you neither demand too much nor too little from the kids.

Here are some examples:
Tim is 5 years old and has his first tennis lesson today.

Not good: The trainer puts a racket in his hand and throws balls at him from the other side of the net. Tim has to hit the balls over the net.
Better: The trainer starts with balloons, which Tim should hold in the air with his flat hand. If Tim is good at this, the coach increases the difficulty and lets Tim hit the ball up with the palm of his hand. If Tim can do that too, the coach lets Tim bounce the first balls up with the racket. This is where Tim has his first difficulties, so this drill is repeated longer.
Pro tip: Always build your drill from easy to difficult! Never start with the most difficult, but always with the easiest. If you think that the child is not challenged enough, increase the difficulty to the point where things aren’t consistently working out.

But there is also the possibility of constant lack of challenge for children.

An example:
Matti is 14 years old and has been playing in midfield for 3 years. He can already play all shots here without any problems, but the other group members are not that good yet.

Here the coach should either create drills that are more demanding for Matti (e.g. Matti plays from baseline, the others in the midfield), or take Matti out of the group and integrate him in a stronger group that may already be playing from the baseline. Matti will not develop further in the group that is too easy for him. If the other players in the group are not yet ready to play from the baseline, you should not simply put the other players to the baseline because of Matti. The Play & Stay concept with its levels makes sense and you should not let the kids skip levels because the training constellation does not allow it otherwise.

Watch over 2000 tennis drills onliney on

Tip 6: Be patient in developing juniors or kids

In juniors and kids training you may notice a rather slow development process. This is often due to the different skills of the kids. Every child is different, sometimes they develop faster sometimes slower, grow faster or slower, are stronger or weaker. Each child also has different coordination skills. It is important for you as a coach to have patience. If you organize your practice sessions well, don’t challenge too much or too little and give technically correct instructions, the child will improve sooner or later. I have often seen a junior become very good relatively quickly, but then remain the same in terms of development before making a leap forward again.

So don’t doubt yourselves if a kid doesn’t reach the goal even after practicing a certain shot several times. Then try to design the exercise in such a way that the child reaches the goal in stages. Step by step, one after another.

Tip 7: Don’t put up with everything – set clear rules

Training juniors and kids can sometimes be quite exhausting. This is especially the case when all the instructions no longer work. In short: if the kids do not perceive you as a role model or a person of respect. So that it doesn’t get that far, it’s important to set clear rules from the start. What is allowed, what is not allowed?

Here’s an example:

  • Not allowed: Playing balls when the trainer is explaining the exercise
  • Throwing balls at or shooting at other children
  • Swearing and swear words
  • etc. etc.

You should also set clear rules for taking breaks and collecting balls.


  • When the coach says “collect balls,” the balls must be back in the basket in one minute.
  • First the balls are collected, then we drink.
  • Toilet breaks only take place after the completion of an exercise.
  • etc. etc.
Coach collecting balls
The coach should ensure that the balls are always collected quickly.

Also make sure that the kids come to training on time. Ask the kid if this is not the case. If in doubt, contact the parents and ask why the child is late (often it is also the parents who drive the child to training late)

Tip 8: Stick to the Play & Stay concept

One of the most important points is compliance with the Play & Stay concept. The ITF has developed the Play & Stay concept system that makes it as easy as possible for players of all ages to learn the sport of tennis. There are 3 levels in the Play & Stay concept

ennis Play & Stay Balls
Using the right balls is an important key to success for both the coach and the child.

It does not necessarily have to be the case that small children and beginners start in the Red Stage or that the Red Stage is only for children. I definitely started with adults in the Orange Stage as well. Here it again depends heavily on what physical and mental skills the player has. Basically, you should also stick to the individual stages in terms of age. Here are some positive and negative examples of using the Play & Stay concept:


5-year-old Tim has his first training session.

Not good: The trainer stands in the service court and tries to play the ball back and forth with Tim with standard tennis balls.
Good: The coach sets up a mini-court and plays with Tim in mini court (across the service court) with the red Stage 3 balls.

Simone is 40 years old. She has her first tennis lesson today.

Not good: The coach plays in the large court with Simone with the standard tennis balls.

Good: The coach first determines Simone’s physical and mental abilities through coordination drills with racket and Stage 1 balls. Based on this, the coach decides on the size of the field and which balls to play with.

Tip 9: If you have problems, talk to children first, then to the parents

I have already mentioned it in point 3.2: sometimes it is unavoidable to involve the parents in conflict situations. But only take this step if there is no other way. Younger children often (of course not always) see their parents as a person of great respect. This can of course change with increasing age, especially when the children are in puberty. Getting your parents involved can become a problem for you at this age. Because the children are often angry with you because of the “snitch”. You can often achieve a lot more with a correct, personal approach to the child at the right time. “Threatening to talk to the parents” can also help, but you really have to weigh up whether that will help or not.

Therefore, it is also important that you get to know the parents. There’s the kind of parent who just drives their child to practice, but there’s also the kind of parent who just wants to sit on the bench of the court and watch. I would try to get to know each parent personally.

Here are some examples and different ways the situation could turn out:

Situation: Markus behaves very badly on the tennis court. He throws the racket, distracts the other training participants, doesn’t listen to the coach’s instructions.

Possibility A:
You take Markus aside after the training and explain the problem of his behavior to him. You make it clear to him that you will not tolerate this behavior and that if you have any doubts, you will exclude him from training.

Possible outcome 1: In the best case, this bears fruit and Markus, who actually likes to play tennis, comes to his senses, thinks about his behavior and improves.

Assessment: Admittedly, depending on the child’s age, this will only work to a limited extent, but if your “standing” with the child is high, it can work. The following could also happen:

Possible outcome 2: tennis is not very important to Markus anyway. He doesn’t mind what the coach says. In the next training session, Markus behaves badly again.

Possibility B: You take Markus aside after the training session and explain to him that if he continues to behave like this you will have a conversation with his parents.

Possible outcome 1: Markus has a lot of respect for his parents and knows that he will face consequences from his parents.

Possible outcome 2: Markus doesn’t respect his parents, he’s always teasing them at home. As a result, he doesn’t care about the threat to talk to the parents and in the next training session he behaves badly again.

Evaluation: The method can help, but it may or may not make sense depending on the relationship between the parents and the child. Here it is good if the coach can assess the parents and has gotten to know them personally.

Possibility C: The trainer does not have a personal conversation, but reports his misconduct directly to the parents.

Possible outcome 1: Markus will come to training next week. He sees the parents as someone he respects and has understood what the parents said. He behaves better in training.

Possible outcome 2: Markus comes to training without motivation. The telling off by his parents took away any motivation for him to progress in this sport. He’s mad at you for “snitching” without speaking to him first. Markus will no longer sign up for tennis training in the coming season.

Possible outcome 3: Talking to parents doesn’t help either. Markus is mad at his parents and you and continues to behave badly.

Assessment: As you can see, certainly the worst of the three possibilities. In scenario 2 and 3, it is very likely that the kid will be deregistered or kicked out of tennis training. Scenario 1 can work – when the child is older but he will always have it in his mind that you “told him off” and did not have a personal conversation.

Final assessment: There is no universal way! It always depends on the circumstances, on the relationships between trainer – child – parents. In any case, I advise you to try everything in your power to solve the problem with the kid or junior yourself.

Tip 10: Pay attention to safety in training

Children often do not yet have the sensitivity for safety-critical situations in tennis training. The ball is often shot from a short distance in the direction of the training partner. And the ball flies past the child’s eye at high speed – or right into it. And that can really hurt.

The coach must ensure the best possible safety in tennis training under all circumstances. He has to set clear rules about what children are allowed and not allowed to do. He must ensure the correct distance between the kids (e.g. when serving) so that the children cannot hit each other with the racket. However, he must also clearly define the running pathes, waiting positions and playing positions in a drill.

Tennis Serve Accident
A classic of accidents: The trainer doesn’t pay attention to the distances when serving.

An example:

The players should hit two balls, one after the other. To do this, the players line up one behind the other. Tim is at the front, Louisa right behind him. The coach feeds a ball to Tim and Tim swings his racket back and hits Louisa at the head.

How could this situation have been prevented?

The coach could have laid out colored hoops. Tim stands in the green hoop. This signals “playing position” due to the color. Behind it, the coach has placed black hoops at a sufficient distance. These signal “waiting position”. After Tim has executed the two strokes, Louisa jumps into the green hoop and all the kids behind them move up a hoop. The kids now had a clear idea of where to stay. In this way you avoid tricky situations and ensure increased attention.

Tip 11: Find the talent in the child

Take a moment and go through every junior and kid that you train in your training step by step. Rate each child as “not talented, talented, and very talented.” Maybe there is also a child who is “above average talented”. I have exactly such a child in training when I write this blog post here. The child has all the skills, all the prerequisites to become a very, very good tennis player with proper and tailored training.

It’s your job as a coach to see these talents and nurture them early!

No, I don’t mean that you should give this child “special” attention in group training, that wouldn’t be fair to the other children. But it is your job to discover these talents. The first step would be via the parents. I was just talking about two different types of parents: those who are interested in the child’s tennis development and watch every training session, and those who don’t even know what their child is doing on the tennis court. Don’t worry about the first type of parents: it will be very easy to tell the parents that their child has talent. In the second case, you should approach the parents.

What actions should the coach take now?

  1. Offer the parents an additional training session, in a smaller group or individually, to further develop the child.
  2. Suggest to the parents to take part in a squad training. We have a district squad and state squad for particularly talented children.
  3. Encourage parents to have their kid take part in club championships, district championships, tournaments, competitions. Because the practice is only an addition to what really makes the kids & juniors better: the competition. I know so many talented kids who just train, never compete – oh how much better they could be if they played more at a competitive level.
  4. Encourage parents to do an extra unit in the conditioning area.

Granted, of course this only works if three components fit. time, money and ambition.

If the parents don’t have time to take the children to training more often for professional reasons, or if the child doesn’t have time because they also have piano lessons, handball, tutoring and other things on the schedule during the week, it will be difficult.

Possible solutions:
Form carpools
Reduce the child’s multiple burdens in favor of tennis – in consultation with the child. The child must want it!

If the parents have no money to finance further training or tournaments, it will be difficult.

Possible solutions:
Talk to the club, they may support talented children and subsidize the training or the entry fee in tournaments.

Coaches and parents see that the kid is talented and want to encourage them. But the child no longer wants to play tennis.

Possible solutions:
NOTHING! The initiative and ambition must always come from the child itself. I know of NO case where it made sense to force a child to do something they didn’t want to do. Give the child the freedom to make their own decisions. Pave the way for the child, make offers, but don’t push it! Sooner or later it will automatically want more or not.

Those were my tips for you as a coach when dealing with kids and juniors in training. I hope that my tips will help you and that you can now carry out better and more targeted children’s training. And above all, I hope that you now have solutions to get out of difficult situations. I wish you every success on your way. And if you have any questions, just use the comment function.

All the best!