While team sports can be a bit overwhelming, many parents have found that individual sports like tennis can provide their children the physical, social and mental development they need.
An Individual Sport
The first thing to understand is that tennis is an INDIVIDUAL sport, which means your child will be responsible for every move they make. Since there is no team to depend on, their success is their own. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with being solely responsible for progress in sports can quickly build confidence and self-esteem.
Tennis is 90% mental. Think of a tennis court like a big chess board (that can be scaled to a smaller chess board as needed). Again there’s no team to lean on, so your child gets the opportunity to work independently to figure everything out.
The opportunities to build these basic independent strategic-thinking skills on the tennis court can often accelerate a child’s ability to problem solve. As a result, many children that play tennis, even in its most rudimentary form, show accelerated growth in the frontal lobe of their brain – the section of the brain associated with reasoning, planning and problem solving. In other words, tennis is good for your child’s mental development both on and off the tennis court.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of tennis is physical development, but this isn’t exclusive to the physical shape of one’s body. Tennis is one of the few sports that involves a lot of “moving parts,” allowing a child to fine tune their basic motor skills.
One of the most important basic motor skills is hand-eye coordination, which is the way one’s eyes process information to direct movement of the hands. Hand-eye coordination starts developing in infancy, and is needed for everyday tasks like getting dressed, eating, handwriting and tying shoes.
In tennis, players must keep their eye on the ball at all times so their hands can quickly react. This type of focus can aid in the development and progression of a child’s hand-eye coordination that can translate outside of tennis.
The spectrum is broad. Each situation is unique and one of the biggest benefits of tennis is that one-on-one instruction is common and can be easily tailored to meet a child’s specific needs.
It goes without saying that not every child is ready to hop out on the tennis court and rally with a buddy. Private or semi-private instruction can be customized and still provide all the developmental benefits tennis has to offer.
How Do I Get Started?
For parents looking to get their child started with tennis, lessons are the logical first step. When searching for an instructor, a child on the spectrum will need someone who is not only great with kids, but extremely patient. Services such as PlayYourCourt.com, connect individuals with the best, vetted instructors nationwide.
There are also a few wonderful organizations out there, like ACEing Autism, that offer group clinics for children on the autism spectrum. The two organizations understand how hard it is to find recreational opportunities for children on the spectrum and know full well the benefits of making the sport available to them.
About The Author
Scott Baxter is an Elite Certified USPTA Tennis Professional and founder of PlayYourCourt.com, a nationwide mobile tennis company with the mission of making tennis more accessible across the nation. Through PlayYourCourt, Scott has revolutionized the way tennis instruction is distributed by introducing club-level lessons and programming to underutilized courts and facilities throughout the country.