When kids do not have a role model, they will make us (parents) a role model and that could be scary 😉 .
Though my son already knew most of Tennis greats [through his X Box games], I was intentionally making a case for Roger [Fed] the one to follow. It was easier for me to convince my son to follow Fed as Fed has been the most successful player of all time and that fact alone is good enough for kids to love him.
However my main reason to choose Fed as role model was his efficient style of playing the game. As a parent, I am always more concerned about my son’s health than his Tennis skills. My prime objective is to make sure he doesn’t injure himself while pushing himself harder and harder over time.
This is typically different than what coaches will tell us (parents) (and for good reasons). Coaches are generally against following any particular professional as they rather promote and develop individual playing styles. Secondly coaches (now a days) prefer coaching in a “gaming” way. What that means is they model and give kids a “game” with certain objectives and let kids figure out a way to win (or achieve that objective) in their own style. So instead of telling kids how to play a forehand in a certain way, they would ask kids to play a game, which would require forehand to complete the task. This way each kid will have their own way to develop the forehand, while coaches make sure they are not developing any bad habits.
While I did not mind the gaming way, I still also believed in old fashioned way practicing a shot in a certain style and in our case following Fed as much as we could understand at the moment [as over time, our understanding of Fed’s shots changed drastically]. Further I also favored building muscle memory by practicing one given shot again again over time.
However my son likes gaming and finds routine hitting balls very boring. So sometimes I try to make routine hitting a bit more interesting by giving targets and link them with incentives [capitalism works 😉 ]
Good thing about following Fed is that his shots are bio mechanically very sound. What that means is he employs his muscles in a very efficient way and draws power from his bigger muscles, like legs and shoulders. Off-course he also times the ball very well, which makes it easier for him. This efficiency apparently also helped him to remain injury free for a long time.
Another thing I like about Fed is his high risk and high reward kind of shots. This is another thing, coaches do not like as they prefer to install safety into shots and again for a good reason. Its extremely hard for kids to win any matches if they are not consistent in returning the balls. One could have a brilliant shot making but if he can’t do that consistently, he will always lose to other kid even that other kid may be far below his skills level.
My argument in favor of high risk and high reward shots has been that over time consistency improves and with higher consistency risks reduces, as it is with the case of Fed. Also if kids do not try higher quality shots early enough, they will be less likely to use those shots in matches and would rely on heavy defensive skills, which in turn puts lot of pressure on body and causes injury in long term.
But again, its extremely difficult and probably takes a lot longer to attain that consistency–[no wonder there are not many next generation and upcoming pros who have modeled their game on Fed; and those who have, are not necessarily doing better]
My son however has been following (or trying to) Fed (though not all of it as he has two hands-backhand) with little bit of variation.
For me, as parent, I need to make sure he doesn’t put unnecessary stress on his body while he is striving to raise his level and with my limited knowledge, my best bet is to stick with Fed and install some of his good habits and techniques into my son’s game.