What Is The Best Age To Start Tennis?

What Is The Best Age To Start Tennis

Like most sports, tennis is an opportunity for kids to have fun, get some exercise, and even foster community with their fellow players. As a highly competitive international sport, it is also a chance for the best of the best to find new financial opportunities and possibly even lifelong professional careers. Listed below are a series of tips to help you decide when and how to start your kid as a tennis player.

Defining Goals

Before you do anything else, it is paramount to define what specific goals you have regarding your child’s journey as a tennis player. If you simply want them to add an extra activity, meet other kids, and get some exercise, prioritizing maximum fun and kid-to-kid interaction is key from the start. On the other hand, if you want your child to potentially have a future shaped by playing tennis, training consistently and early is essential to their future success.

Ages 3-5

Though they are too young to play the game of tennis properly, the 3-5 age range is perfect for getting children acquainted with tennis equipment and building endurance. Because they lack the mental ability to process the various rules of tennis, children this young should best use this time to enjoy the basic physical activity. Once they are confident at a baseline level of exercise, you can then begin working on their hand-eye coordination by letting them handle a racket and maybe even try to hit actual tennis balls.

Ages 6-11

The best time to actually start training your child in tennis is around six years old. This is because this is an age at which a child can physically handle the coordination it takes to keep an eye on everything and everyone moving around the court while also moving one’s body in accordance with all that visual information. This age range is also typically the perfect time for a child to begin practicing tactical thinking, a central part of successful gameplay. During these years, you can focus on building a core set of skills and teamwork before competition becomes significantly more intense.

Ages 12 and Up

The age of 12 is a milestone in which playing tennis takes a serious competitive turn. At this age, children are first able to participate in junior tournaments thrown by the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Like many sports, this age range is also important because it is the stage in which tennis players begin to be considered for advancement into collegiate or even professional careers. From age 12 onwards, tennis players can win prize money, be assigned national standings, and be considered for recruitment by certain coaches or university teams. If they want any of these awards or futures, this age range is the best time to begin standing out.

College Tennis

Tennis is one of the most popular ways to gain a sports scholarship and play for a college in America, with more than 950 men’s tennis programs and more than 1100 women’s tennis programs across five distinct divisions. The recruitment process, especially for the highest division, can begin as early as the summer of a player’s sophomore or junior year. These players have typically all started extremely young in order to have achieved such a high skill level in the game at only fifteen or sixteen years of age.

Professional Tennis

With most sports, the highest level of competition begins for participants after high school and often after some or all of college has been completed. Tennis is different in that respect, and some of the best players have begun professional play even as teenagers. You must be at least 14 years of age to compete in a USTA professional circuit game, and there have been multiple winners of Grand Slam tournaments as early as the age of fifteen. As with collegiate tennis players, those who make it to these high professional circuits start young and train consistently in order to optimize their chances since professional tennis careers rarely last more than two decades. 

Safety Concerns

As a sport centered around running and other high-speed movements, there is a natural risk for injury. Muscles and tendons, especially in the legs, can be respectively pulled or torn at any point during the stop-and-go aspects of a tennis game. There are also additional health risks, specifically for younger children who wish to train in tennis. Intensive, repetitive exercise like that featured in tennis has been shown to increase the chances of injury, burnout, and asymmetrical bone and muscle development.


How do I get my kid started with tennis?

The first thing to do to start your kid with tennis is to get them active. Tennis takes a lot of endurance, especially in terms of running around the court. After that, you can focus on hand-eye coordination. Once those two things feel relatively handled, a child can learn the rules and continue developing the first two skills as part of various tennis camps or one-on-one coaching.

How old should my child be to play tennis?

The optimal time to begin training your child in tennis is around six years old. It is the perfect time period in which a child is first ready to handle the level of hand-eye coordination required to successfully play the game, as well as a development stage at which a child can think about the game in terms of the specific strategy. Training a child earlier than this can lead to an increased risk of emotional and physical burnout.

Can I teach my child tennis?

If you are a current tennis player or have played in the past, you can absolutely teach your child tennis on your own. Unlike team sports, tennis can be fully taught one-on-one. However, if you want your child to reach their highest potential as a player, training against other kids and with a coach is the best way to ensure that outcome. Naturally, introducing other people beyond yourself will open up the possibility of your child engaging in doubles tennis.

How do I pick a tennis coach for my child?

Picking a tennis coach is best done when you base your selection on your child’s individual needs. If you are looking for a way for your kid to meet other children or simply have a joyful and active time, then it’s important to find a coach or camp that focuses more on fun and less on competition. If your aim is to maximize your child’s tennis playing abilities, look for a well-respected coach who is a fit for where your kid wants to go as a player.