Petr Kuznetsov transformed his career in tennis for a university education while remaining a passionate student of the game. He has been a sports journalist and an active coach in Russia, Portugal and here in the Czech Republic. He moved to Prague, last year to continue his coaching work, this time working almost exclusively with kids. He had a chance to sit down with Little Panda and tell us why tennis is a great sport for kids and how it helps in a child’s mental and physical development.
Why did you decide to move to Prague?
I lived in Russia and in Portugal before Prague. My wife and I have been looking for a place to settle down and we decided to settle down here because of the level of tennis here. The Czech Republic has a fantastic tennis culture and I felt it was a great opportunity for me to grow as a coach.
How do learning and playing tennis help a child?
I think tennis is one of the best sports for the physical and mental development of a child. Tennis helps children to become responsible and make their own decisions. Many players who have retired, have credited tennis with helping them to learn to fight through personal struggles and overcome adversity because of the personal nature of tennis. Tennis players tend to be personally very well organized. Many talented tennis students combined tennis with academics while playing so they are good at managing their time.
The physical movement of the game is focused on grace and athleticism. For instance, in football (soccer) a player is in one space on the field, like a defender, and has a task inside of a greater scheme. But in tennis, you move all over, you attack and defend as an individual, responsible for the entire game. Players must play with total concentration. If you lose focus, there is no one to cover for you.
What are the specific benefits that a child gains from playing tennis?
Of course, there is the joy of the game because kids enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s the muscles – core muscles get stronger, leg muscles develop and they get good foot strength balance and coordination. They also learn decision making and anticipation
What are some things you do specifically to accomplish coordination, cooperation etc?
-Every coach has a different method. I try to create a friendly environment where the kids are not intimidated. I don’t point out individual mistakes. I always ask them to try again, to take a new approach, to enjoy making a mistake and correct it.
-It’s important to be active in training, especially for kids. So I want them to be on the run, always doing something! I like to gamify my lessons so that kids keep moving!
-Kids love challenges so I tell them that if they hit the ball three times in the right way, I will do a push-up. Otherwise, they will do it. Suddenly kids want to try much harder to make the coach do pushups!.
How much tennis should a child play each day?
It depends on the kids’ interest and the parent’s time schedule.
In the Czech Republic, people are crazy about tennis. It’s one of the main sports in the country, and they have a very rich history. They have a true champion pedigree, so the question is tough to answer. It depends on the parents’ and the kids’ comfort level. Most kids I train, especially the younger ones will play as much as their parents let them. Kids in my classes usually have 2-3 lessons per week, and some have 4-5 times a week. If it was up to me, I’d say play every day!
What skills or things does a child need, for playing tennis?
I usually look at their movement. In my first complimentary course, I give the child some specific games to play and it helps me take note of how they move. Movement and coordination are where you start, so understanding this is my first goal.
At what age would you say a child should start playing tennis?
Around five or six years, but it really depends. I have a student who is 3.5 years old and he plays tennis all day and night. He plays one hour with his mom, then an hour with his sister, then an hour of class and still wants more! For me, 4 to 6 years is the ideal age where their physical and mental abilities are in a great position to get the most out of lessons.
What can you tell parents who are looking at a chess club, or swimming or football, how do you tell them about tennis?
Just try it! A lot of parents and kids come for a free lesson. I often hear back from parents that their kids are asking for more! So it’s just a matter of coming out to try it.
What can a parent do at home to prepare for a free lesson?
Well, frankly we should see how the student acts with the ball. For example, you can toss a softball back and forth to see how they interact with throwing and catching. This is a good indicator of hand-eye coordination.
The best way is to attend one of my free lessons. I offer a 1-hour lesson so you and your kid can see what it’s all about.
What should a parent and kid prepare for the lesson, what should they bring to an open intro lesson?
Tennis shoes, dress for the weather, a bottle of water, a positive attitude. It’s not like hockey where you need to buy a lot of equipment. The first lesson should be about having fun and enjoying time on the court. The greater learning will happen later and will continue to be fun and positive, that’s the hope for all my students.
Want to get an open intro lesson with Petr? Contact him directly!
+420 739 148 883
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