According to the United States Tennis Association (USTA), increasing numbers of children are playing tennis at an earlier age. Here in Bluffton and Hilton Head, children as young as five years old are getting into the game, practicing and even competing year ’round.

There are a number of USTA programs available for children under 10 years of age. They include Little Tennis, Quick-Start Tennis and 10 & Under Tennis.

These programs feature smaller racquets, smaller courts, shorter nets and slower moving balls. Learning to play tennis is now more kid-friendly than ever before, making it easier for young children to hit the ball and have more fun.

While the early days of tennis have been referred to as “the sport of kings,” that is not the case anymore. For many years, tennis has been and remains “the sport for a lifetime.”

Very few sports activities provide an overall physical, mental, social and emotional experience that can continue throughout a person’s lifetime.

Some physical benefits of learning to play tennis early in life include:

  • agility
  • strength
  • balance
  • flexibility
  • cardio-vascular fitness
  • eye-hand coordination

Mental, emotional and social benefits include:

  • learning problem solving
  • positive interaction with opponents, teammates, teachers-coaches
  • sportsmanship and sense of fair play
  • value and reward of hard work
  • improving skills by practicing

Tennis is a very healthy physical and mental activity. It gets the heart pumping, the body moving and the mind thinking. Playing tennis fosters feelings of achievement, competitiveness, fair play and enjoyment for players of all ages.

I have seen how happy children are when they are hitting the ball back and forth over the net. I have also noticed that happy children make happy parents, and being happy is healthy – a very good thing for all of us.

Learning to play tennis early in life has many valuable benefits. The life lessons that can be gained are so much more far-reaching than simply learning to hit the ball.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com