This series profiles the Kids Who Play tennis. They’re not famous and they’re probably not future world champion players – they are part of the legion of kids for whom tennis is a sport that they enjoy and it’s an important part of their lives. Their stories show how tennis has benefited them and we believe they are all role models and ambassadors for the life-long game of tennis. Through the Kids Who Play we aim to demonstrate how you can play tennis and achieve personal milestones and goals at any and all levels of play.
This week we interviewed Joel who is 14 years old. In addition to his coaching lessons he has completed a Tennis Leaders course and volunteers at his local club. He doesn’t play in tournaments, but he plays a lot of social tennis at his local club and in his local area’s junior league.
How old are you Joel; when did you start playing tennis?
I’m 14. I started playing 11 years ago; that was when I was three. I remember picking up a racket and having a go with my good friend who still goes there [the club] and who’s also a young leader.
Do your school friends play Tennis?
Some of them do. On a weekly lunchtime, I play doubles with them. We play pretty much every week.
How often do you play?
I play around six hours a week, quite often at lunchtime at school and then occasionally in evenings down at the club with family. Then every Friday evening and Saturday morning. Sometimes in the holidays I go on the camps and I play extra with friends and family. I play quite a lot of social Tennis at the club.
You’re also a Tennis Leader – what can you tell us about that?
I became a Tennis Leader two years ago, when I was 12. I did the course at Alcester [a local club].
I coach for around four hours a week and I’m also a volunteer. I help coach two brothers on a Friday evening, that’s a mini orange group, and then a mini green and a mini red group on a Saturday morning.
[Editorial note: The Tennis Leaders course is for anyone 13+ years to learn the basics of tennis and how to introduce all ages and abilities to the sport. Leaders learn communication and organisational skills and some key on-court drills.]
What does your lesson schedule look like?
I do one hour of groups and then I do around four hours of match play a week and occasional individuals.
When do you do your coaching and individual lessons?
I tend to just have individuals at weekends or in the holidays and I do some coaching in the evening.
Do you play in tournaments?
No, but I play league and social matches. I play in the West Midlands League; it’s a junior league. I also play doubles with three of my friends at school and occasionally in the school Tennis team. Occasionally, I also play social matches with some of the adults and some other teenagers.
What advice would you give to other kids who want to play Tennis?
Have fun, don’t let the weather put you off and listen to the coaches when they’re trying to give you advice to improve on different techniques and that kind of stuff.
What do you think you’ve gained or achieved from playing Tennis?
I’ve met new friends, I’ve definitely exercised a lot more and I’ve learned a load of new skills whether that’s as a player or as a coach. The skills I’ve learned include all the different shots in tennis; forehand, backhand, volley and smash – and how to communicate with team members. A lot of teamwork skills and then just in general, how to keep fit and healthy.
What have you learned as a Tennis leader?
I’ve learned communication skills with other coaches and more importantly the kids and organizational skills. Organizing a wall map or a game for the kids to play. Also, I’ve learned a lot of new games and new drills.
What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had as a player?
Improving in general and probably coming back from injuries. I’ve had loads of hamstring injuries.
How did you overcome those challenges?
For learning new skills, I just listened. I’ve gained better listening skills so I listen to advice from the coaches and other players and just generally staying more fit.
What’s the best thing about playing Tennis?
Meeting new friends, having fun and the drills that I have with the other coaches.
Who’s your favorite Tennis player and why?
I’ll say Alex de Minaur and Ashleigh Barty. Ashleigh Barty because she came back into the world of Tennis from playing Cricket for a few years and then just go winning the French Open this year and Alex de Minaur because of his variety of skills.
What about your tennis are you most proud of?
How much I’ve improved especially over the last two years. When I moved on to the yellow ball, playing with adults and occasionally beating them and seeing how much my backhand, in particular, has improved over the last year.
As a Tennis leader, I’m most proud that the kids like having me there, like having my help and just generally doing what I can to help the club.
You’ve done your tennis leaders, what’s next?
Level 1. I’m 16 in two years. Hopefully, a level 2 after that.
[Editorial note: The Level 1 tennis coaching course is for people 16+ and is the starting point for anyone who wants to get into tennis coaching and become a coaching assistant. The Level 2 course builds on the Level 1 certificate to teach the skills needed to lead the delivery of group coaching and tennis activity sessions.]
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