How Many Hours Should My Child Practice Per Week?
Here at HAT, we love questions – it is our job to draw on our extensive experience and expertise to help provide the best guidance and recommendations we can. One of the questions frequently asked by junior tennis parents is “how many hours per week should my son/daughter be practicing?” Great question! While there is no one right or wrong answer, too much weekly practice could lead to overuse injuries and burnout, while not enough practice could lead to a lacking skill set and disappointment. Therefore, there are several factors to take into account, such as a player’s age, goals, and level of commitment. A great starting point for any ambitious junior player who strives to play at the collegiate level and beyond is to practice a player’s “age +2” hours per week. For example, a 12-year old competitive intermediate player should strive to train 14 hours per week. Just as important as the quantity of weekly practice hours, is the quality of those practice hours. It is the responsibility of a particular player to give 100% of what they have physically and mentally (even when they aren’t feeling 100%) during any given practice session or match. It won’t always be easy, and there will be ups and downs every week, but that isn’t just tennis, that is life - enjoy the journey!
Based on my personal experience, as well as drawing on recommendations from the ITF and the USTA, here are some general guidelines regarding typical junior tennis weekly practice regimens.
*Please note that these numbers are designed for committed players who aim to train and perform year-round to eventually compete at the collegiate and professional levels. The numbers for seasonal and recreational players will naturally be much lower.
*Also please note that all boys and girls don’t all develop at the same rates/times; therefore, the age ranges below may need to be slightly tailored on an individual basis when necessary.
For most players, the recommendations above will prove to be all they can handle, and will get them where they want to go. However, players are always welcome to put in even more independent practice time than the table above indicates in areas where they feel appropriate. For example, perhaps they could spend another 1-2 hours hitting against a backboard (in my opinion this is something players don’t normally do enough of or at all). Fifteen minutes of hitting against a backboard is typically the equivalent of an hour of hitting with someone else. Players could also spend extra time in the gym working on any specific areas where they may need to get stronger, doing yoga to improve flexibility, or off the court working on their mental skills, such as concentration.
The bottom line is that a junior player’s weekly training schedule should primarily be based on their age, goals, and level of commitment. The player, coach, and parents must all be on the same page in these areas. It is very common for a player to say and/or want to be a nationally ranked junior, but their weekly habits and practice schedule are that of a lesser level of player. If a player’s training schedule is not in line with their goals, they will eventually end up changing their goals. But, just because a player practices a certain number of hours each week doesn’t guarantee that they will achieve their goals either. That player is giving themselves a lot better chance to do so, though. You cannot control results, but you can control the process!
I hope this post provides clarity to anyone who has questions regarding this topic. Please leave your comments and questions below.. let's start a conversation! As I mentioned earlier, we like questions and we’re here to help!