When teaching tennis to a new and beginning student I have always tried to provide them a mix of fun and technique activities in the first lessons.
The very first lesson is especially important because that’s when the connection between the coach and player is made and that can be crucial for the tennis future of this particular student.
Paying attention to what you say, how you say it, and the way you present yourself in front of the new student is something that every coach should be well prepared when meeting a new tennis player.
When a new student books me for a lesson, in the first 5 – 10 minutes I try to get some information about him/her:
- why do they want to learn tennis?
- what do they know about tennis?
- have they ever tried playing tennis?
- have they watched tennis on TV and do they have a favourite pro player?
For example someone might want to learn so that they can play with their family.
Or they consider tennis a good way to stay in shape.
Or they are just being brought in by their parents.
Whatever the reason, it is good to ask them – you’ll find some interesting answers for why people pick up a sport like tennis.
The answers to the questions (above) will help you understand how to construct your lessons, the intensity of them, and how much passion your student will put into their practice.
After you familiarise yourself with your new student, it is important to let them know a little bit about yourself as well.
Keep it simply letting them know your name, how long you’ve enjoyed playing and teaching tennis and enthusiastically tell them how glad you are to have the opportunity to introduce them to this sport.
Following, I would like to give you a few ideas of how your first lesson should be structured in order to make a good connection with the new student and introduce them to some of the basic tennis elements:
- Court dimensions and name of the lines – it is important for new players to learn the names of the lines (e.g. baseline, singles side lines, service line etc.) so that when you ask them to practice a certain stroke from, let’s say, service line, he/she should know their way about the court.
- Racquet – explain your student the different parts of the racquet: head, neck and handle. If you want, you can show him/her the basic grips without getting into much detail.
- Introduce a few hand-eye coordination drills to test his/her physical skills.
- Demonstrate and teach the basic forehand ground-stroke technique followed by drills and fun games that puts in practice the skills they learn.
These are the main pieces of information that a student should learn during the first lesson.
Make sure to keep it fun and try as much as possible to connect with the student by listening to him/her and allowing them to ask you questions.
If your student is a child, encourage them all the time and praise his/her effort.
At the end of the class you should have a little “gift” for them (small candy, stickers etc.). Kids love that and they will continue coming to your lessons when you show that you care.
If your student is an adult, again, listening to their needs and allowing them to ask questions is important.
Adults, more than kids, are interested into detailed technique and… a good workout.
Do drills that make them “break a sweat” from time to time.
They should leave your class smiling, and… sweaty.