What can I expect my child to learn during the summer tennis camp season?
Our goal at SASTC is to foster a happy, nurturing, learning environment in which kids can create positive memories of learning tennis and to instill tennis fundamentals that will form the building blocks of a complete game later on. Each individual player will likely have different expectations of how they will improve over the summer. Likewise, the abilities and personalities of each player will factor into how quickly they learn and implement what they are being taught. Parents will receive a summer schedule of the topics focused on each week.
Our coaching philosophy includes a significant emphasis on form and fundamentals of tennis strokes. We would rather a child learn the correct techniques through repetition and reinforcement drills over the course of the summer than allow them to prioritize rallies or “winning points” in play regardless of strokes. The latter results in bad habits that will have to be broken for them to improve down the road.
Realistic expectations for each level would include (but is not limited to):
Beginner – ground strokes with a low-to-high motion making contact with an ability-appropriate ball that is hand-fed at a low pace; introduction to volleys (at the net, making contact with the ball before it hits the ground; general knowledge of the court and positioning; basic court awareness **It is NOT realistic that after the six weeks of camp, a beginner will be able to serve, or consistently rally (keep the ball going) over the net with a hitting partner using a regulation ball. We are building fundamentals that they can use to improve with additional instruction over years.
Intermediate (player makes regular contact with a regulation ball, hitting it over the net and in the court) – improvements in form for individual strokes; increased consistency and power; better footwork; beginning to build a service motion; understanding the scoring and positioning of tennis.
Competition-ready (can rally consistently from the baseline keeping the ball in play; has control over serve; beginning to learn pace variation and spin; keeps score easily) – improvement in strokes to add power and spin; doubles and singles strategy; developing a second serve; more advanced footwork and court positioning.
My child loves tennis camp and I would love for them to learn additional skills. How can we encourage tennis development over the summer and throughout the year?
The tennis staff loves teaching your kids at camp! But there is only so much we can teach with the high number of campers and limited time. The best way to see improvement is a combination of camp, clinics (generally held a couple times a week throughout the summer), and private lessons. Clinics allow for live hitting and drills with peers of a similar level and a much smaller instructor-to-athlete ratio. Private lessons are perfect for one-on-one attention and will result in the fastest athletic improvement, which can then be implemented in the group settings and in outside playing time. Finally, encourage your kids to go out and play with their friends as much as possible!
We have four courts at SASTC. Why are you only using two (or three, one, etc.) during that activity?
Sometimes it’s as simple as a couple of courts being dry & safe while the other courts are still in the process of drying. Other times we need more players for a certain game that we are playing. More often, though, it’s a matter of the coaches “shrinking” the courts to allow the children increased opportunities to feel successful. A full court from the baseline can seem awfully big and overwhelming for an 8-year-old beginner! For several years, the United States Tennis Association has been encouraging modifications to the game in order to make it easier for young children to learn. One way of implementing this is to have children play on half the court. So it’s possible that we’re still playing “four courts” it’s just that we are using two halves on each court as their on separate spaces. It allows instructors to hand-feed the balls to a specific place, improving the players’ chances of success. One of the biggest challenges in teaching young kids is keeping up morale while picking up all the balls. Keeping the kids (and the balls!) contained to a smaller area means for faster and quicker clean-up so we can move on to the next drill. When they are capable of hitting from the baseline and moving to the ball, we assure you they will move up to using the full court.
My child is over 11 years old and on the “competition” blue team. Why is he/she not playing in the Thursday league matches?
In order to play in the summer league matches, players must demonstrate the ability to serve and rally consistently, keep score, and show a general knowledge of match strategy. Starting at the beginning of the camp season, the coaches evaluate players on the blue team and classify them according to a 5-star rating system based on ability. We will pull our starting lineup from the 4 and 5-star ratings. A player may challenge up a star level at any point in the summer based on the challenge rules (posted in the pavilion). If your child is rated at 3-star or below, they are still learning skills that they need to be eligible to play on the competition team.
Why are you doing camp activities without tennis racquets?
Tennis is a game of fine and gross motor skills that requires quick reactions, athleticism, and control. Most of the strokes in tennis are complex and require a combination of techniques and movement. Often when we take racquets away, we are trying to isolate a particular piece of a stroke. For example: throwing a ball over the net helps simulate the arm movement needed to learn a serve; or “playing out a point” by tossing a large ball back and forth over the net teaches court positioning and the “turn-and-step” motion needed for ground strokes without complicating it by also requiring them to make contact with a ball.
Why is my child hitting something other than a “real” tennis ball?
Just like we make the court more manageable by playing on a smaller surface area, we will also use different size and weight balls to make contact easier for younger or weaker players. The balls we use are all recommended by USTA as appropriate training tools. They include foam, low-compression, and various sizes. Your child will move up to a regulation ball as appropriate.
It’s a beautiful day. I know it rained last night, but why is camp canceled this morning?
Hard courts are slippery and dangerous when wet. An overnight rain will leave puddles and damp areas on the courts. While we do have towels and squeegees, it still takes an average of 2-3 hours to get a court from wet to safe (completely dry). Sometimes we can get one or two courts dry in time for camp. Moisture will also ruin tennis balls so we want the courts to be completely dry before allowing contact with them.
I don’t think my child is getting to hit enough balls and he/she seems to be waiting in lines a lot.
We love that so many of our families take advantage of the wonderful summer programming available at St. Andrews. In an average summer, our tennis program registers around 120 children participating in the morning camps. Because the time rotation is set by age, tennis needs to follow the schedule set by the swim & dive programs, leaving our numbers very uneven throughout the morning. By far, our largest hour is the Green Team (ages 11+) where most days will see 60+ campers for that time slot. Our court space and budget for instructors result in a high ratio of campers to instructors. We do our best to teach every child as an individual, but camp shouldn’t be considered an equivalent replacement to a clinic or private lesson. It is our goal to keep our campers moving, smiling, and having fun!