Advice

Below represents the most common questions asked by parents of British girls in the last 12 months and the answers provided in response.

The purpose of this area is to provide impartial, expert advice on any topic that is relevant to Britain’s tennis players and parents. If there are questions and concerns that are not addressed here please email info@gbtennisgirls.com and we will endeavour to update this page as necessary.

How do I get my daughter into tennis?

The best and most cost effective way of trying out tennis is to go along to a park with a couple of cheap rackets and some balls and just give it a go. The LTA has spent millions of pounds updating park tennis courts, so wherever you are there should be some decent facilities nearby that will cost you nothing or next to nothing to play on.

If your daughter enjoys it and wants to take her tennis to the next level a good idea is to join a local club. Most junior memberships can be bought for under £50 per year depending on the age of your child, and going to the club is a great way to meet other children who enjoy playing tennis. Follow this link to find a club or park near you.

To really begin to improve, it’s a good idea to get your daughter some coaching. This can be expensive, but most clubs offer group coaching as well as individual, and groups can usually be booked for as little as £6 or £7 per hour, depending on the club and coach. Coaching groups are a great way of making new friends and giving your child a taste of coaching to see how she responds.

If she begins to have aspirations of playing tournaments or being a county or higher standard player, you’ll need to get your daughter regular individual coaching. Finding the right coach is not always easy, but ask around to see who is doing a good job in your area.

The LTA web site is also a good place to search. Follow this link.

My daughter seems to play mostly boys in tournaments, how long will this continue and is there any advice that will help her?

Girls competing against boys begins with red tournaments and now continues all the way to the lower end yellow ball ratings. Whilst it’s not ideal for girls, the reason is cited as not having enough girls playing to fill tournaments on their own, and so playing boys is preferable to not playing at all. This system was adopted in other countries, but is starting to be discontinued in some, for example in France, based on research about the negative effects on girls.

GBTG encourages tournament organisers to make girls-only draws where possible, and is lobbying the LTA to tackle problem of low numbers of young girls taking up tennis. It’s always worth calling organisers and requesting to just play against girls, especially in matchplay events.

My daughter’s club seems very male-dominated and she spends most of her time on court with boys.

This is unfortunately very common in British tennis at the moment, and GBTG have highlighted this as one of the main contributors to female dropout in tennis. Girls and boys are very different, and as such their behaviour and their needs vary greatly when it comes to tennis sessions. Of course there will always be many exceptions, but generally boys are competitive and combative and thrive on these components in sessions. Girls, on the other hand, are generally more collaborative, and they derive more enjoyment from teamwork and working through problems together. A good coach will create and run sessions that cater for the specific needs, both developmentally and in terms of enjoyment, of all the players involved.

If your daughter’s tennis enjoyment is diminishing from constantly being on court with boys, a good idea would be to introduce one ‘fun’ girls squad into her week where the emphasis is on catching up with friends rather than purely tennis development.

Is it important that my daughter has a female coach?

Selecting the right coach involves many variables, not simply the sex of the person. Look at which coaches are operating in your area and what their qualifications and experience are. Ask around for recommendations and speak to the coaches to find out if their philosophies are what you’re looking for to guide your child. Many male coaches make excellent choices for coaching girls, equally many female coaches are great at working with boys.

What can I do as a parent to best support my child in tennis?

GBTG team member Jo Ward has done a lot of research in this area, and for a fuller guide to this check out her article by following this link. (ADD Link to blog)

In summary, however, the best way to support your child in tennis is to allow them ownership of it. Obviously this will be quite with really young children, but you can start the process by not sitting on the side of the court for each session. Get them to carry their own tennis bag, and where possible they should be responsible for its contents. Avoid playing a coach’s role at tournaments by offering feedback (the coach may get you to chart matches, but let the coach interpret the data and do the post match reviews), and, most importantly, when rewarding or punishing your child for tennis-related issues ensure that you’re doing so based on elements that she can control. For example, giving ice creams after match wins and nothing after losses sends the subliminal message that winning is good and losing bad, which is counter-productive in the developmental years of tennis.

Reward for performances that are based on 100% effort and having a fighting spirit, which are in your daughter’s control. Equally, punishments should only be doled out for aspects like poor effort levels, bad sportsmanship, impolite behaviour, and negative body language and conduct.

I’ve heard other parents discussing sending their kids ‘full-time’. What is this and is it important?

Going full-time means leaving main-stream education in order to give your child more time to dedicate to her tennis. It doesn’t have to mean opting out of schooling, rather changing the nature of your daughter’s education to fit in with her tennis aspirations.

To get good at tennis requires many hours of practice, which is often difficult in combination with main-stream education. Players are often exhausted in practice after a full day in school, and tennis time is often further limited by the school’s recommendation to play in school sports teams and take 10+ GCSEs. Also, time off school for tournaments gets increasingly difficult to arrange and catch up the better your daughter gets at tennis.

Many top British players go full-time to alleviate these obstacles.

 

What is a good age to go ‘full-time’?

Going full-time is a big decision, but if done in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reasons the transition can be fairly smooth.

If possible, avoid choosing a new academy at which to go full-time, as if it proves to not suit your daughter you risk upheaval in the tennis and education departments. For this reason it is best to be already accessing the academy that you are considering going fulltime at.

Make sure that the schooling aspect of the full-time provision is what you were expecting. Many places use a distance learning provider and a generic tutor to oversee the education time, which involves a lot of discipline on the part of the student. Ideally, the full-time environment would still have access to classroom based lessons where students are studying specific subjects with their peers that are taught by a teacher. It’s a good idea to ask what the format of the education will be before making your decision.

In terms of age, GBTG would recommend year 9, which is the year before students choose their GCSE subjects, as the ideal year to make the transition. This way GCSE subjects can be spread over three years and exams can be taken early if the children are ready in given subjects.

How much training should my daughter be doing?

Whilst GBTG would definitely recommend a quality over quantity approach to tennis training, there is no escaping the fact that tennis development is reliant on purposeful hours of practice. The amount of practice depends on the age and stage of development of your child, so please follow this link to the LTA Long term Player Development guidelines.

How do I know if my daughter is ‘on track’?

This is a difficult questions to answer as there are so many variables to consider. For example, she may be way behind her peers but have only just started playing tennis or have lost time due to injury.

One way of judging whether or not your daughter is ‘on track’ is to use the LTA Matrix as a guide. This has been formulated on research undertaken on the top 100 women in the world, and as such has set the bar very high in terms of accomplishments at given ages.

However, if your daughter is not on the Matrix that does not mean that she has no chance of becoming a professional player. many of GB’s top-ranked women players would have fallen short of the Matrix benchmarks, like Anne Keothavong & Elena Baltacha, and they have gone on to achieve top 50 world rankings.

If you daughter works hard, plays enough tennis, and has a good coach who has a clear and achievable development plan for her and she perseveres, she has every chance of reaching her potential.

What other options are there in tennis if my daughter doesn’t ‘make it’?

There are so many viable options and career paths open to tennis players. Decent standard players have opportunities to get good scholarships at universities in the USA and here in the UK to study for a degree whilst still developing their tennis and competing for the university team. The obvious benefit of going the American route being that if your daughter is rated and ranked highly she will most likely get a free university education, which is a great benefit with the UK’s increasing costs.

Tennis coaching offers a well-paid and enjoyable career, and there are many different types of coaching so there’s something for everyone. Other former tennis players have used gone on to work in the following fields:
Sports development
Sports management
Sports merchandising
Sport and leisure management
Officiating
for sports management companies, sports merchandising brands, many have followed the route of umpiring and refereeing tournaments and plenty of more have used their tennis knowledge to

How early do we have to start planning for American University tennis scholarships, and where can we find more information?

The first time you need to consider whether America is a possibility for your daughter is in year 9 at school when she takes her options. To be eligible for America she will need to pass her SAT and have GCSEs in English, maths, a science and a social science.

Many students don’t elect a social science, and as a consequence they have to go back and take a further GCSE before being eligible. These GCSEs must represent a grade of “C” average and the higher the average GCSE grade, the lower the SAT requirement.

GBTG recommend that the SAT is taken in the first year after GCSEs while maths and english are still fresh in their minds and then given that it can be taken multiple times this provides the best chance of getting the highest possible score.

Another eligibility criteria is that if your daughter wants to compete in NCAA college tennis, she will only have a six month window from when she ceases to be in full-time education before beginning in America. She cannot, say, leave school after her GCSEs, play for a couple of years, and then decide to go to university in the States. Also, by full-time, it is usually considered that she needs to be doing a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent qualifications. There is more than one USA college pathway and please look out for our guide to college tennis which is coming soon.

The Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence is not needed for America, however it can count as an A-level equivalent when taken alongside others.

There are several companies offering university scholarship placement services, and prices range from £750 to £1200. Although GBTG have no direct recommendations, a simple Google search will bring up the names of the many companies who provide this service.

©2017 GB Tennis Girls