How to nurture a child’s passion and motivation for tennis

Dr. Shawn Foltz-Emmons, Ph.D. | October 28, 2022

A recent USTA competitive pathway webinar, which can be watched in full below, discussed nurturing a child’s passion and motivation for tennis.


Tennis is such a wonderful sport, with many mental health and physical health benefits for players of all ages.


For children, tennis can provide opportunities to make lifelong friends, but most important in nurturing their passion and motivation for tennis is creating a sense of fun.


Here are four key learnings on the topic:

  1. Children continue in an activity because it’s fun and enjoyable. Many children lose their passion and motivation for tennis, or any activity, when their enjoyment goes away. Creating and fostering an environment of play, fun, a love of learning, and positivity will help a child to want to play tennis and nurture their passion and motivation.
  2. Negativity is poison. What we know from extensive research is that the short-term and long-term effects of negativity damage a child’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and ability to maximize their potential. Negativity puts a child at greater risk of mental health issues and physical problems. In addition, it is important to pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal communications you are relaying to your child.
  3. Positive reinforcement is essential in order for a child or an adult to feel good about themselves and what they are doing. Positive reinforcement involves adding a positive behavior after a specific behavior that you are wanting to increase. For example, saying, “I’m proud of your effort,” to your child after every match regardless of their win or loss may help to increase their motivation. Other examples of positive reinforcement are clapping, getting ice cream after a match regardless of the result, high-fiving and/or giving a pat on the back.
  4. Mental health is important to keep in mind as a necessary prerequisite to passion and motivation. Mental health and physical health are components of overall well-being and cannot be separated. Focus on supporting your child in activities they enjoy while providing positive reinforcement for their efforts allows a child’s self esteem and self-confidence to develop. As a result, your relationship with your child will likely grow.
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