Getting My Kids Active (Adventure #4: Tennis)

By Andrew Kardon from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy

My kids have never liked sports. Over the years, we’ve tried a few like T-ball, basketball and soccer. The outcome is always the same: sooner or later, the boys want to give up. Which puts my wife and me in a difficult position. We want our kids to be active (playing Nintendo Wii doesn’t really count). But how can we convince our kids to stay in the game?

This year we decided to sign the boys up for weekly tennis lessons at a local club. It was actually just going to be the two of them, along with two of their friends. One instructor to four kids. It sounded like a great opportunity. Except nothing ever goes according to plan.

tennis_zamzee

The first few weeks, everything was going well. I’d come home from work and ask the kids how tennis was. I got the usual “Good” from Jason, and had to further prod him for more details. “What did you work on? Did you practice volleying? Do you know the rules?” That sort of thing.

Ryan, on the other hand, “hated it.” But I’ve since learned to take what my seven year old says with a few thousand grains of salt. If Ryan enjoys 99% of something but didn’t like 1% of it, he’ll harp on that 1% and say he hated every minute of it. So I asked him why he hated it.

“Because they made us run laps around the court,” he said.

Ah. The actual physical activity done while playing a sport. Clearly, our kids still need to learn how to make exercising fun! I talked a bit more with Ryan, and other than the lap running, he did seem to enjoy the lessons.

“This is great,” I thought. “So far, so good.” Maybe we just hadn’t found the right sport. Tennis could be the magic formula.

After the first week or so, a fifth child joined the group. I figured he’d probably upset the balance of the four friends a bit, but that’d be minor and they’d still enjoy the lessons. Boy was I ever wrong!

This new kid was a major problem. He hit. He screamed. He called everyone names. He even threw his racket! Yes, this kid most definitely had some anger issues, and even multiple “time outs” from the instructor didn’t seem to help.

After a few weeks of this behavior, Ryan absolutely hated tennis and never wanted to go back. And Jason, whose best friend was in the class with him, started to agree with Ryan. That other kid was just causing such a disruption, it was turning a weekly physical activity into a nightmare.

My wife and I talked about it a lot. Should we pull our kids out? Should we talk to the kid’s grandmother? Should we demand that the instructors pull that kid out of the class?

When we enrolled the kids in tennis class, we wanted them to be active. We didn’t want to just give up on that goal, so we kept the kids in class. At the same time, we thought we’d use this instance as a way to introduce another lesson to our kids. The lesson of acceptance.

We sat them down and explained that we understood this child’s inappropriate behavior. But throughout life, there are going to be people that you just don’t get along with. Whether it’s with friends, family, or even at work. You may not like someone, but you need to just accept them.

Some of our talk must’ve gotten through because, after a couple more lessons, my kids weren’t complaining so much. The other kid wasn’t bothering them as much as he used to. They learned to enjoy their tennis lessons despite this kid’s disruptive behavior.

Still, my kids didn’t fall in love with tennis. It’s not really a big surprise, all things considered. But as we continue to try new sports, the boys have learned lots of important and unexpected lessons along the way. In baseball they learned about perseverance. In tennis they learned about coexistence. And you know what? I think having all these experiences fosters resilience.

My kids still haven’t found their passion for sports. But we’re keeping them active and they’re getting exposed to new situations and experiences. That’s probably equally important.

Now, who has suggestions for which sports I should try next?

Pst…check out Andrew’s other blog posts on How (NOT) to Help Your Kid Train for a One-Mile Running Race and What to do When Your Son Doesn’t Love Baseball.

2 thoughts on “Getting My Kids Active (Adventure #4: Tennis)

  1. You have been trying a lot to get your kids into sports. I admire your efforts and sure they will start enjoying the game. The notorious boy in the class seems to be a big hindrance. Suggest you discussing it with the coach and probably a personal counseling session might also help them. Keep on trying, the kids will soon start playing and loving sports. Alternatively, you both can start playing with them initially just to warm them up and if made a regular habit, they will eventually get habitual to it. Hope it helps.

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