Whether you have never picked up a racket, or you are a casual player who wants to improve with the guidance of a professional, starting tennis lessons is a commitment. You are probably wondering how much time it will take up, whether lessons are really necessary to advance your skills, and what challenges you will face as you head out to the court for the first time.
Tennis is a difficult sport to learn and play. The wrong technique or equipment can lead to injury or hold you back from advancing your skills, and you need to take some time to research before you choose a tennis coach or lesson type to make sure your goals will be met.
What you need to know before taking tennis lessons is how to learn tennis efficiently, what to look for in hiring a coach, how much lessons you need to take, difference between Private and group lessons, and what gears you need. Understanding these factors will help you make better decisions on hiring the right coach and make you a better tennis player with the shortest amount of time.
Despite the hoops you will need to jump through, almost anyone can advance their tennis skills as long as you take the time to do things right.
The Challenges of Learning Tennis
Tennis is known to be one of the more difficult sports to learn and play. This is due to its cardio-intensive nature and the repetitive precision that is involved.
Anyone who has tried playing tennis has probably hit the ball over the court fence more than once. It may seem simple to hit a ball over a net, but tennis requires getting a lot of racket angles correct while you are running quickly side to side trying to meet all of your opponent’s returns. The ball is going to react differently depending on your racket angle and where it hits on the strings.
Tennis can also be difficult on your upper body, especially your shoulders and elbows, and you need a decent range of motion to get the right amount of force behind your shots.
However, knowing the work you have put into your swing and speed on the court makes it even more gratifying when you do finally get it right. This can make all of the time you spent running to get balls you hit into the parking lot seem worth it.
Learning Tennis Effectively
To learn tennis effectively, you should be willing to do a few things:
- Take tennis lessons from a qualified teacher
- Practice in between lessons
- Invest in the right equipment
Finding someone to show you the ropes of tennis is important when you first start.
According to Kevin C. Chung, M.D. in the study Upper Extremity Injuries in Tennis Players: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management, beginners tend to try to make up for lack of correct technique with a lot of force, resulting in an increased risk for injury due to overloading their joints. He continues, “[previous study] results imply that optimal technique can contribute immensely to maximizing injury prevention and minimizing loads placed on each joint.”
Lessons alone are not enough to efficiently learn tennis, though. You must practice in between lessons. If you do not have a partner, many tennis courts have a backboard. A tennis backboard is a large wooden wall along one side of a tennis court that has a line at net-height painted on it. You can use it to practice your swing and accuracy, as it bounces the ball back to you each time.
While a backboard is great, it can’t replace a tennis partner. Finding someone to practice with outside of lessons will help you to advance more quickly as well as give you practice with a live ball. It will be more of a challenge than the backboard, and the more you challenge yourself, the faster you will learn.
Lastly, investing in the right equipment is important to your tennis game. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive shoes and racket, but you do need shoes that are made specifically for tennis that will support you and a racket that will support your learning.
Qualities to Look for in a Tennis Coach
Depending on where you live, there is a good chance that you will have a lot of options when you are looking for a tennis coach. This can make it challenging to figure out who has the most to offer you. When looking for a tennis coach, check for:
- Their qualifications
- What experience they have both playing and teaching
- Online reviews
- Their comparability with you and your goals
Above all, you want to make sure that your teacher is qualified and experienced. They should be open about their certifications and should be qualified under certain organizations namely the Lawn Tennis Association, or the United States Professional Tennis Association. This means they were tested on their abilities and knowledge.
If they do not have a lot of experience teaching, they might not be a good fit for you. Teaching tennis is much different from playing tennis, and not everybody is a natural-born instructor. Check to see how long they have been playing, but put more weight in the length of time they have been teaching.
Online reviews are tricky, and you should always take them with a grain of salt. However, if an instructor has many rave reviews they are probably worth reaching out to. Knowing that many people have had positive learning experiences with a coach will make you feel more at ease putting your tennis game in their hands.
Lastly, you should speak directly with a tennis coach before you agree to start lessons. Make sure they are a good fit for your specific goals and any challenges you might be facing, but also make sure you like them. Finding a tennis coach who meshes well with you will make the learning process much easier and more enjoyable.
How Often you Should Take Tennis Lessons
With any workout, you need to give yourself some time to recover in between sessions. In Recovery in Training: The Essential Ingredient, Johnathan N. Mike, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. state that to improve you must give your body time to recover. The article recommends 1-2 days of recovery between exercise, depending on the intensity of your training days.
With that in mind, don’t go too hard when you are first getting started. Once you are in the swing of things, you can adjust your lessons, practice time, and recovery time to meet your goals. Below is a chart that recommends different numbers of lessons and practice sessions per week.
|Your Goal||Lessons per/week||Practice per/week|
|Progress as fast as possible||2||2-3|
|Progress moderately fast||1-2||2|
|Maintain your level||1||1-2|
What works for one person might not work for the next, so make sure to do what feels right for you. However, generally speaking, the more lessons and practice you get in each week (without overdoing it) the faster you will progress towards your goals.
Private Lessons vs Group Lessons
You will have the option to take either group or private lessons. Private lessons are generally more expensive, and group lessons can be more affordable, but there are pros and cons to both.
As you can see, there are benefits to both types of lessons. You probably know which type will work best for your goals and needs. If you are looking to advance more quickly and get the most bang for your buck, you probably want to go for private lessons. If you are interested in getting a feel for tennis and potentially meeting some tennis partners, group lessons are a great way to go.
Gear you Need to Play Tennis
When you are headed to your first tennis lesson, there are a few things you should have. While bringing water and a towel is a good idea, you might not realize how important the right gear is to get the most out of your experience.
All sports require a different kind of support from their shoes, and tennis is no exception. The right pair of tennis shoes can make or break your experience. Uncomfortable or unsupportive shoes will at the very least slow you down, and at most lead to otherwise avoidable injury.
A good pair of tennis shoes will have:
- Lateral (side-to-side) movement support
- Good traction
- Great shock absorption.
Related: Top 24 Best Tennis Shoes
Tennis is a sport that requires a lot of lateral movement. You will be running side-to-side, often at high speeds, to meet the ball. Wearing shoes that do not support lateral movement will increase your risk of injury.
Shoes with good traction are also important. You are going to be making sudden stop and start movements as you run, and you want to make sure your shoe is working to keep you steady and upright.
As you run for the ball on the hardcourt or land hard after a serve, you will greatly appreciate that your shoes are taking the brunt of the shock, not your joints. You are at a greater risk for overuse injuries in an unsupportive shoe without shock absorption.
Most tennis instructors will expect you to bring your own racquet to your lessons. Beginning tennis players should look for a racket that is light so as to not weigh them down, and has a large head that allows them more surface area to connect with the ball.
Appropriate Tennis Clothing
It is important to wear appropriate clothing to play tennis in. Look for clothing that is:
- Breathable and flexible
You will want clothing that is easy to run around in and allows you to sweat without bogging you down or creating issues. You also might want to invest in a pair of shorts with pockets that you can fit some tennis balls in so you don’t have to hold them in your hands and can concentrate on your swing.
If you live in a cold climate, or plan on playing in the cold, you will need to invest in a tennis wardrobe that will keep you comfortable and safe.
Tennis is a challenge to take on, but it is well worth the effort when you start seeing measurable progress in your game. Whether you have never played before or just want to advance, you will get a lot of satisfaction and a great workout from starting tennis lessons.