If you are a player, parent, coach or tennis enthusiast that has an influence on a young tennis player it is important to realize a few things. Having good tennis results in the short term does not equal long-term tennis success. If you are aiming for long-term tennis success and you should be, then following these simple points will help get you there.
1. Losing should be a good lesson - To lose is to learn, or it should be. A young player should be learning more from losing than they do from winning. Everyone loses at some point in tennis. But if you keep losing because of the same reasons and you are not improving, then this is not good. After a loss, it is important to evaluate what happened, what could have done better and what will be changed for the next time. Then move on and focus on the things that can be controlled. Don’t focus on loses, focus on what changes can be made to improve. Losing is part of the game, try to avoid it, learn from it and get over it when it happens.
2. Don’t focus on ranking - Ranking systems have their place, they can give an indication of certain development standards etc, but trust me they really don’t count for much! The tennis ranking system, in my opinion, is good as a guide, but should not be a focal point. I have seen lots of junior tennis players be in the top 10 for their age in their country even the world junior ITF and by the age of 21 have not gone on to achieve much at all on the world stage.
3. Focus on improvement and enjoyment - Keeping players focused on improving and enjoying should be the aim. It is a no-brainer really. If a young player enjoys what they are doing and they see the improvement, do you think they will be inclined to keep doing it? Setting attainable goals is crucial to keep their motivation up. Adding in fun components for players is important, 10-15min of related fun/challenging tennis drills is a good idea.
4. Keep players committed - If a young player wants to succeed, in all reality there is nothing anyone can do to stop them, they will find a way. Support and encourage as much as you can and reinforce that tennis is a game of great complexity and it takes years of commitment and discipline to get really good. The more committed they are the sooner they will reach their best. Keeping players committed involves keeping them motivated (watching professional matches, watching and reading motivational stories, putting positive people around them, rewarding for improvement)
5. Think long-term - Thinking about the big picture is important. It is great to get tennis results for junior tennis players, but staying focused on the big picture and long-term growth is more important. If you are seeing positive improvements and the good attitude then keep doing what you are doing. Keep adding to things by setting new goals and looking to grow what you do (Hit more, get around better players, do more off-court training for tennis, improve recovery plan etc) Technique, a positive attitude, commitment, and a solid hard work ethic is what it takes for long-term growth