As the summer approaches, kids are being relinquished from their baseball, lacrosse, and soccer seasons. Tennis now is becoming an option for the summertime. For 5 & 6 year olds, tennis may even become an option to start with. I am finding more and more kids of that age group are finding their way to the tennis courts.
A group that has continued to challenge me is the 10 & under group. As a teaching pro, I am put in a tough position through the different formats played in the area. In Greensboro, all USTA sanctioned events including Junior Team Tennis, QuickStart tournaments, etc. are played on a 60 ft court with the orange and yellow low compression ball. The beginner kids that I have in clinic love this format, and it gives them a chance to get points starts and have rallies. The crux of the matter is that Junior Interclub play is played on a full court with a different ball. Moving to a new club where interclub is looked at as an enormously inexpensive option for summer tennis, these kids all sign up. I love the fact that all these kids come out of the wood works to play for the summer. However, many of them struggle to play the matches on the big court. As a pro, do I teach them on the big court, so they can somewhat compete over the summer, or do I teach them in QuickStart that will allow them to have more success and play all the other year round programs? I have to believe that the goal is to keep these kids in tennis year round, but the transition to the 10 & under court size has not been an easy one for people to agree on.
In QuickStart Junior Team Tennis, Precision has a 10 & under team that I am responsible for. We play on a 60 ft court at Bur-Mil Park. Each of these players are beginners who have not played tennis in a competitive format before. My team struggles to hit serves in and keep rallies, while the other teams have kids that have been playing for years already. In 8 & unders, the learn to play concept for a league is brilliant. It brought kids into the sport that were not there before. In 10 & unders, this idea has taken our beginner players and discouraged them to not want to come back even for the full 6 week league. The question still remains, how do you get kids involved at age 9 & 10 with something that they can be successful at? Of course, we all want these kids in our clinics, but that is not always an option for parents.
I had great success last week with the 8 & under and 10 & under classes. We played in which a playground ball was thrown back and forth over the net in a point scenario. Kids saw the court and started using different spins and angles to open up the court. They were seeing the court just as you would play a point with rackets, and the best part was they could ALL do it! Each player had a chance to win their point and be successful. This is a game that can be played with the older kids with a medicine ball. Every step of the way, it is a useful game.