Time for another blog update and this time the focus is on our youngest (and therefore most awesomest) students. And yes, “most awesomest” is totally a thing!
Two terms ago we started two new programs called “Hot Shots Minis” and “KickStart” with the goal of providing a solution for young children who probably can’t get the most benefit from our Hot Shots program. We were getting huge numbers of enquiries from parents asking if their 3 – 5 year olds were ready to play. The honest answer is that they were definitely ready to play…but they didn’t always fit perfectly into Hot Shots classes.
The other issue that we would talk about was the fact that there is a huge difference in levels of abilities of children even at early ages and for some classes it was becoming a little hard to use certain activities because not all of the children in the class could achieve success. And our goal has always been to let our students experience success as well as challenge.
So to understand the mentality of why we made these classes (rather than just letting 3 & 4 year olds into the existing program) one needs to understand exactly what it is that we do in the Hot Shots program.
We begin each week with a strategy or goal that must be achieved. For Red ball students this goal is almost always some variation of consistency and control. From there we decide on a series of drills that will help encourage the main strategy of the session. We compliment this with targeted technique critique which is both general for the class and then specific for the student. For example the whole class might be learning to swing low to high, but two individual students might be learning shoulder alignment and ready position respectively. We try not to load up each student with too many things to learn each week and that has paid off. (Next week I will be uploading a video of what can be achieved if this formula is followed)
The drills we make need to be specific for the tactic we are learning but at the same time flexible enough that we can increase or decrease the skill required so that all students can experience success and challenge. However for most 3 & 4 year olds (even some that can already hit tennis balls) they simply don’t have the required fundamental perception, movement and striking (FPMS) skills to achieve success even when we scale the drills back to their most basic. Those kids eventually learn these skills and their tennis improves, but there is a better way.
Hot Shots Minis and KickStart are targeted FPMS classes that focus on the basic skills required to develop tactics down the road. And we are finding them to be a massive success in terms of the skills the children are picking up. By taking away the stuff that they can easily learn later and instead lasering in on the skills required, we can improve the students at a much faster rate. This allows us to let them shoot through Minis or KickStart (for most children in less than a year) and move on to the Hot Shots program with much more confidence and skill than they would have otherwise.
We already have a few Minis and KickStart graduates who have moved on to Hot Shots and you can really tell that their FMPS skills are well developed. Before launching the program I spent quite a bit of time finding out what works for this age group (3-5) and the results are clear in the students I have had that are now in Hot Shots Select and doing very well in our Hot Shots Series. Some have already won multiple times.
Our goal was to create a complete pathway for children from the earliest age possible all the way through to the elite level. Kim had done this individually with students such as Alexei who is now number one in the world for 12’s as well as many others that have achieved ATP and WTA rankings. And now with Hot Shots Minis and KickStart we feel like we can do that on a larger scale. Tomas and I are very confident that some of those currently enrolled in the programs will go on to play at the Nationals level as we can already see the progress they are making.
Our next challenge will be finding the time to add extra classes to cover demand. But we will do what is necessary because I think I can speak for Tomas when I say that even though these can be the most challenging lessons we do each week, they are the most fun and rewarding.