Pushing Her a Bit (Playfulness, Persistence, Balance in teaching)


We played tennis this morning. Since I coach tennis, it’s a bit tricky as I know what her strokes could be, especially since she’s athletically inclined. The risk is that I’ll make it serious. But it’s a worth risk taking.

I recently purchased some softer, larger balls that makes it easier for her to connect with the ball and thus develop racket sense and ball control. As we headed out, she was looking to have fun, and I was looking to help her get better. My job was to find a way to meet in the middle without her realizing it.

It didn’t start out well. She was hitting big looping balls and not really moving her feet. She seemed a bit resistant to my coaching. I wasn’t all friendly about it, either.

Me – “Look, if you’re not going to listen to anything I have to say to help you, then I’m going to lose interest in this real fast.”

She perked up and decided to follow my suggestions. Seeing that, I loosened up and focused on cheering her on while keeping my instruction to a bare minimum. In fact, to make it easy, I got her going on two-handed backhands with only a focus on getting under the ball and popping it up over the net. No mention of grip, racket path, let alone the other ten things I could have mentioned.

Soon, she was going from misses to rallies. Her goal became to get seven hits in a grow, but she got stuck at five for a while and started to tire-

Her – “Daddy, can we take a break. I’m hot and sweaty.”

But I happen to think it’s good for her to push a little bit through discomfort. Better to set that tone in her character now than to try to get her to learn that later in life when she’s used to being pampered.

Me – “No. Let’s do a little more. Let’s get to seven. You can do it.”

She is used to me challenging her to try a little bit more, and it’s her nature to be determined, so she did not put up a fuss. It took us about ten more minutes.

Me – “Seven! That’s awesome. Soon, you’ll be amazing at your backhand! And, you kept trying for a bit even though it was hot and you were sweating.”

I was most proud of her persistence. She was pleased and complete.

Her – “Daddy, can we go in the pool now?”

Me – “Of course.”

She left the court feeling good, I should add that, while we played, she delighted at the sight of a plane, butterflies and a bird, which she thought was an eagle. I left feeling like I’d done a good job of balancing making it fun while challenging her.

As we walked the driveway to our house-

Me – “I don’t care if you grow up wanting to play tennis like I do, but I think it will be a lot of fun for you to be able to play well. That way we can play together.”

She just took it in. I have a feeling she’s going to improve a lot this summer. And, it might help her in life, too.

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