When you learn a sport as a child you have to look at the factors that are going to gain improvement and they of course are, 'court time', 'field time', 'group size', 'coaching methods', to name a few.
If a kid is 'dinkum' about a sport then he or she will find ways to improve without it costing their parents an arm or a leg in fees.
When I was a kid I hit a tennis ball on a wall, some days up to four hours, it didn't make me a star however it taught me the basics of hand- eye coordination and it saved my parents money in coaching fees. Not that it was my soul concern at age 11 or 12 however if I wanted to hit a tennis ball I didn't have far to go to the garage wall.
The local tennis club where most of the coaching took place was around ten kilometres away so if I wanted to play tennis it wasn't as though I could be on a court within a couple of minutes, so I improvised. I drew a chalk line on the garage wall and I imagined I was hitting the ball into a tennis court every time I cleared the chalk line, pretty simple stuff.
Not everyone owns a wall to hit a tennis ball against unfortunately however 'totem tennis' ( a ball on a string ) exists as do drive ways where a ball can be thrown to a child to swing at with a racket. There is more than one way to skin a cat or in sporting terms, there is more than one way to develop ability, no matter what age the child may be.
It's all about 'court time' and what you do in that time that creates an ability to strike a ball with consistency.
In one of my last posts on this site I wrote about court time or rather lack of it and how it can be a total waste of time as far as learning is concerned. Of course tennis coaching lessons aren't all about just getting better at tennis as the social interaction amongst kids is priceless for their future growth as human beings.
It all depends however what you want from a tennis coaching session.
Last season I saw some reasonably comical attempts to 'coach' kids at tennis, I won't say where but there were several programs at various locations that failed miserably to give anything back to the consumer, the people who were paying the fees, the kids who were involved.
How can 10 to 15 kids on a tennis court really be coached with any type of structure that will benefit them as far as their ability to learn the game and the finer points that go with it ? Would a 15 minute hit on a garage wall be of more benefit do you think ?
As I say often, 'you do the sums' on how many balls a kid will hit in a 40-45 minute session in a large group as opposed to a 15 minute session on a wall or even a parent throwing a few buckets of tennis balls to a kid in a park to improve their hand-eye.
To reiterate on one of my last posts 'where is the value' ?
To say that many 'tennis coaches' are greedy and full of their own self importance is stating the obvious and I always place inverted commas either side of 'tennis coach' as many are in fact not what they state they actually are.
They are simply 'ball hitters', people who run kids around with gimmicks and games designed to make their programs look busy. They rake in a lot of cash per session but fail to develop a kid's ability due to their own inability to offer value and a structured lesson that actually works.
Let's look at the obvious here. A parent who goes to work at a 9-5 will probably earn $22 on an average, per hour, maybe $18 after Tax, it's not big dollars, it's hard earned dollars.
A 'tennis coach' who has never actually done a 9-5 will charge perhaps $15 - $20 for a 40-45 minute session of mayhem that will see a kid hit maybe three or four tennis balls then run around and pick those balls up, grab a sip of water, join the line, go again.
How many balls will be struck in a session that has 10 kids on a court ? Would it be 100 do you think ? Would it be that many ? How many kids do you really think can be coached properly in a session that lasts just over half an hour after warm ups, drink breaks, ball retrieving and a final game ?
If you took a bucket of 25 balls to a park and got a kid to hit four buckets worth would the child be better off ? Easy to answer, if a kid hits 25 balls in a row it will develop way more than what it would in a messy group session that has to have high turn over as far as kids hitting and moving in a short time frame.
Doing the sums on what a 'tennis coach' will make in that 40-45 minute time frame is rather embarrassing when you break it all down but as I have often stated, it has a lot to do with self importance and what this person believes they are worth per hour, or is that per 40-45 minutes ?
If you are going to charge per session what some hard working parents take a complete hour to earn then perhaps groups should be capped at 4-6 players only then I suppose the 'tennis coach' will only make the equivalent of say $150 per hour over the course of an afternoon's coaching as opposed to anything up to $250 per hour which is all too common now days.
If 4-6 kids were placed on a tennis court for 40-45 minutes then I believe there would be a hint of value in the session as there would be time to go through the intricacies of the swing and even have time to look in depth at how to actually hold a tennis racket.
Many moons ago in the age of the 'Dinosaurs' I recall a local tennis coach who's shortest session was in fact 75 minutes and that was for the youngest kids. Was it too long do you think ? Well I suppose it's how you look at it.
Yes there was a warm up game, yes there were drink breaks and yes there was a game to finish that possibly lasted around ten minutes however in between there was almost an hour of coaching.
From memory that particular 'Dinosaur Coach' charged around $8 to $10 per session, 6 students per coach.
That was the Beginners.
Intermediates played for 90 minutes ( from memory once again ) and the Advanced played for two hours.
Now pardon me for stating the obvious but that may just have been some good old fashioned value, in the good old days.
Those were the days before Facebook gave out high profiles to 'ball hitters' and asked parents to work an hour in a real job to pay for a social outing for their child who would have got more value going to the local park with Mum or Dad with a bucket of balls.
Bob Dylan once sang 'The Times, They Are A Changing'.
Oh yeah Bob, you got it..........