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The Importance of Structure With Junior Group Lessons By John Curtis s it pertains to running a good clean group lesson—with juniors in particular—being organized with your time allocation is extremely important. Let’s be honest: If you allow them, kids can and will completely derail your lesson plan within the first minutes of the class. We have all likely received crazy requests from our students such as a request to play King and Queen of the Court for the whole hour or even a request to engage in a “Belting the Pro With the Ball” contest. If you teach tennis to juniors, you have most certainly been on the receiving end of such requests. In all fairness, kids are going to be kids. They more than likely come to you immediately after school, after a full day of listening and paying attention. The last thing

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a child wants to do upon arrival at their tennis lesson is once again sit and listen intently to their pro waxing profoundly about the difference between a Semi-Western Forehand Grip vs. a Continental Forehand Grip. It goes without saying that such lessons should be saved for later, when the pro has the child’s full attention. At my club, our teaching pros follow a general rule of breaking each one hour class into a 10/40/10 structure. The first 10 minutes of the class (give or take a couple of minutes) is devoted to a dynamic warmup. “Dynamic” is the key word here. Allow the kids time to run and hit and make mistakes and blow off the steam that has built up during their school day. Pros should refrain from offering corrective techniques during this time, and instead focus on warming up and gradually raising heart rates. In my experience, kids are just not ready to listen in the first 10 minutes of a lesson. Instead, they are

New York Tennis Magazine • March/April 2017 • NYTennisMag.com

reconnecting with their group, getting a sense of freedom (from school and adults), and recalibrating their brains to a different activity. This is a really important time to back off a bit from preaching and reminding them that it is time to listen to yet another adult! If you play this right, this is your time to be the “cool” pro, simply by allowing them to have a little space. That said, you certainly don’t want chaos, just a spirited warmup. The dynamic warmup should be relevant to what the day’s lesson is going to be. Don’t do a double-feed warmup to the backhand side if the day’s lesson is focused on forehands, etc. Once everyone is through the first 10minute phase and balls are picked up, it is time to actively take on the role of a teaching pro. Assuming the first 10 minutes were handled appropriately, you will hopefully have the attention and respect of your students. In this 30-40 minute period of time,

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New York Tennis Magazine March / April 2017  

New York Tennis Magazine March / April 2017  

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