[Sport is a vital part of childhood development, through sports, the child improves not only their fundamental motor skills but the ability to socialise with their peers. They learn about teamwork and of course, about individual roles. Additionally, through sports, children acquire values, these values can be helpful in a sporting environment but also transferable to day-to-day life. For this reason, it is important to enrol kids in sports practices whatever the sport may be. This will not only help the child develop as an athlete but as a person as well.
At Future Demand Tennis, we understand the importance of sport in a child’s life and that is why we focus on approaching the players with the best methodology in order to understand that every child is different and has unique, individual needs. For this reason, we as coaches pay special attention to our players to give them the best of us.
There are many methodologies to teach children how to play tennis however Future Demand Tennis is aligned with Tennis Australia and we have chosen the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots methodology which is well known around the world and have shown fantastic results in the learning process. Similar methodologies are applied in many countries but under a different name. The International Tennis Association has a similar methodology called “play and stay”, that’s the reason why they 100% support the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots.
ANZ Tennis Hot Shots
Tennis Australia defines the Hot Shots as a program designed to help every child, no matter their age or ability, jump in and start playing tennis. Tennis Hot Shots is played on smaller courts with modified equipment, including lighter racquets, lower nets, and low compression balls that don’t bounce too high. All those changes are designed to ease the child’s learning process. There are four stages in the Tennis Hot Shots Program and the kids are designated to each level, not because of their age but because of their motor skills and previous experience in the sport.
Below we will identify some characteristics and facts about every stage:
ANZ Hot Shots Blue Stage:
This stage is designed for children between 3 to 5 years but this may change depending on the individual skills of the child. In this stage, we focus on fundamental motor skill activities such as running, jumping, throwing, catching, push and pull and these are the pillars of our lessons. The objective is to build strength, balance and general coordination so do not worry if during the lessons you don’t see much interaction with the racquet as this is part of the normal learning process, and later in the preceding levels you will find more racquet interaction.
In this level, children are going to use Blue tennis balls, they are oversized, with 25% compression level. This makes the bounce lower and as a result, the children have more time to hit it, the court is small as well only 3 meters width and 8.23 meters length, the net is lower than normal to make it easy for them to pass it only 80 centimetres high and the racquet is smaller, between 17 to 19 inches.
In regards to technique, we keep the learning simple, working on groundstrokes, teaching the difference between forehand (one hand) and backhand (two hands). We start introducing the overarm serve but instead of hitting with the racquet, throwing to start the rally. In this level, we select cooperative activities over the competitive activities as the goal is everyone wins and has an unforgettable experience on the court.
ANZ Hot Shots Red Stage:
This stage is designed for children between 5 to 8 years. At this level, we focus more on tennis basics but through all levels we never stop working on the athletic skills which means we are going to continue to focus on coordination, and group interaction. At this level, we can find more racquet to child interaction.
The court dimension remains small but increases a little (10.97 meters length and 6 meters width), the net and balls remain the same as the Blue Stage, keeping it simple for them but the racquet may increase the size to 19 to 21 inches.
At Red Stage, we continue to develop the players technique focusing on the correct grips to perform the groundstrokes and introducing the backswing in the different shots. In Red Stage, the kids will start the rally by themselves hitting the ball from the first shot and aiming to their partner, the objective in this level is to execute cooperative rallies with their partner at the end of this level the child would hope to achieve greater accuracy and consistency. We can’t ignore the service motion at Red Stage, we keep it simple without a backswing but emphasising the contact point overhead. This level is full of new knowledge as kids will also learn volleys (forehand and backhand volley). Our principal goal when teaching the volleys are to perform the stroke with the proper grip (continental) and no swing.
As you can see, Red Stage is a stage full of new knowledge and full of nice challenges, but we will continue emphasising in learning through the game, therefore, the cooperative work is going to prevail. We will teach them how to score but not in the tennis official way, we introduce the scoring but one by one getting a big point or a bonus when someone achieves 4 points in that way they will associate easily in the future that 4 points equals a game.
ANZ Hot Shots Orange Stage:
At orange level, the average age is between 8 to 10 and to reach this level the children must have on court experience as a minimum. Ideally, we would love it if they have moved through the previous Hot Shot stages as previous experience is important but is not a determining factor to begin at this stage.
At Orange level, children are stronger and are capable to do more things on court as they have developed accuracy and consistency on the previous levels, the court dimensions are going to increase to ¾ court and the net is full size at this level, the tennis ball pressure increases to 50% to the normal balls and the racquet size change once again to 23 to 25 inches, all these changes will depend on the children’s development understanding that everyone is different.
In this age group, children are ready to go further in technical aspects that is why we are going to focus on the backswing and the follow-through as a swing improvement, these additions to their swings are going to give them the ability to start hitting adding spin to their shots such as topspin. By executing their shots with spin, we expect that they can get more consistency and their shots become more accurate.
Once they are capable of controlling their shots, we move to the next level which provides them tactical skills and introduce the defence and attack concept. The net play will take an important role at this stage as well. The serve is going to play an important role in this stage as the swing is going to be full and the majority of the points are going to start with a normal serve focusing not only on the swing but as well in the grip (continental).
This stage is fundamental in the technical improvement period because the children will perform an important amount of repetition to refine their strokes. In terms of playing the game, this is the stage when the majority of the children would begin competition, as a result, it is vital for them to score properly as they will be required to perform this skill not only in a lesson but also during match play and tournaments.
ANZ Hot Shots Green Stage:
Green level is designed for children aged 9 and older but not only is the age important here the tennis and a players coordination skills are fundamental to belong to this level. Players are going to play on a full-size court, with a full-size net and the balls will be at 75% compression than the normal ones, the racquet would be between 25 to 27 inches.
In this level, the concepts and knowledge previously acquired are going to be deeper and the emphasis is going to be placed on resolving questions or problems as to why should I hit to a determined area or what spin to use. In this level, children are going to put the previously learned skills to create game patterns, they are going to be capable of following strategies and we expect them to create their own tactics when they play a match. During this learning process, we will continue to develop the child’s technical skills as they are always important to keep improving.
The players ability to control their shots with spin are going to be pillars at this level. We expect that a child can hit confident groundstrokes, have the ability to change spins whether it be topspin or slice, and in regards to the Serve, we would look for the child to begin to develop a flat and slice serve as a minimum. The net game in this stage would play an important role as the child has now grown and this will help give them the confidence to go to the net. Children also begin to identify the correct moment to attack and this will be a progressional skill that we begin to focus on.
In terms of competition at this level, the majority of children should be competing in their club, region or statewide competition as they have acquired the skill to score and at Green Stage, this would be second nature.
Whatever level that your child currently is, we would like to remind you that this is a long process that we love to be part of, giving our best and giving the Future Demand Tennis player the tools not only to be a tennis player but a great person. Our end goal is that the children reach their best level of play while enjoying every session they are a part of.