Child’s Play: 10 and under tennis
Tennis pros and facilities — and the sport itself — stand to gain with the upcoming launch of the QuickStart Tennis format.
In March, QuickStart Tennis, a new play format designed to help get more children ages 10 and under into the game, will officially launch.
The key with QuickStart Tennis (referred to as Project 36-60 during development) is that it uses equipment, court dimensions and scoring all tailored to the age and size of the kids. QuickStart Tennis will be broken out into two age groups, 10-and-under and 8-and-under.
RSI spoke recently with Scott Schultz, the USTA’s managing director of Recreational Tennis, about QuickStart Tennis, and how tennis teaching pros and facilities can get involved in and benefit from this initiative.
What is QuickStart Tennis?
Schultz: It’s simply a format for 10-and-under tennis based on scaling down the equipment, size of the court, and length of matches. (See table below.) Right now, most kids in this age group try to play tennis on the same size court, using the same ball, oftentimes using the same size racquet, as is used in professional tennis. And most tournaments for kids this age use the same scoring as the pros but have the kids play twice as many matches.
Can you imagine kids at this age trying to play baseball with the same-size bats and field dimensions as is used in the Major Leagues? Or playing golf from the back tees? We’ve turned off millions of kids to tennis by forcing them to play the same game with the same equipment and same court dimensions as the pros. The QuickStart Tennis format will give us the opportunity to make that first experience for kids a great one and keep them in the game.
Is QuickStart Tennis a USTA program?
Schultz: No. Think of it as real tennis for 10-and-under players. We want the format to be used in team competition, individual competition, lessons, team practices and even casual play. The USTA will use the QuickStart Tennis format in USTA Jr. Team Tennis and many sanctioned tournaments in 2008.
And importantly, millions of kids will be exposed to QuickStart Tennis through USTA Schools Tennis. PE teachers love it because courts can be set up in the gym, cafeteria or playground.
What other organizations are behind this? Schultz: The TIA, USPTA, PTR, NRPA, tennis manufacturers — all have contributed to the development of QuickStart Tennis and are committed to making it successful. In fact, both teaching pro organizations are incorporating the format into their tennis programming for children: USPTA Little Tennis and PTR Kids Tennis.
What can teaching pros and facilities gain by using QuickStart Tennis?
Schultz: The response from professionals, club owners, parents and kids has been overwhelmingly positive. As we’ve already found out, you can get more kids on court at the same time and make more money per hour.
Professionals really love this format because kids start having fun right away and want to stay with the game. But also, QuickStart Tennis allows young players to better develop proper tactics, footwork and technique at a much younger age, because the ball is landing in the kids’ strike zones, rather than going over their heads.
Does it make sense for people older than 10, even adults, to start this way?
Schultz: Sure, many tennis teachers are using this as a progression for getting people of all ages to have success right away. Having beginners and advanced beginners play on smaller courts with slower moving balls makes a lot of sense. They have better first experiences and will pick up the game faster. However, we will focus our efforts initially on 10-and-under youth as this presents our greatest opportunity for impact on the growth and development of tennis.
How is QuickStart Tennis different from what people have been doing for years — using foam balls and smaller racquets?
Schultz: There are two key differences. Like a lot of professionals, I used foam balls and smaller racquets when I was teaching. But there were never standardized specifications for the ball, the racquet, the court, the net and scoring based on age. The QuickStart Tennis format uses all of these elements together, the same way, and that makes a huge difference.
The other key is that there were very few competitions using scaled-down equipment and courts. Therefore, it was used primarily as a teaching aid and was not considered “real tennis.” Since the QuickStart Tennis format will be used in competition, kids and parents both will consider it “real.”
Getting kids at this age to play on teams is critical to retention. In addition to USTA Jr. Team Tennis and many sanctioned tournaments using the format in 2008, we know that many professionals and clubs will be using the QuickStart Tennis format for their local team events and competitions as well.
How is QuickStart Tennis being promoted?
Schultz: Right now, we are working with our partners to promote this to tennis providers and help them with integrating the QuickStart Tennis format into their programming. When we launch a consumer campaign in March, we want there to be plenty of providers offering QuickStart Tennis for people to sign up for.
How will you measure success of QuickStart Tennis?
Schultz: We want a lot more kids that are under 10 to start playing tennis, we want them to stay in the game, we want them to develop as players, and ultimately have more American Grand Slam champions. The most important thing we can do for the health of our sport is to get hundreds of thousands of kids in this age group playing on teams. If we do, every entity in tennis wins big — clubs, pros, parks, manufacturers, tennis associations, even TV ratings for the US Open.
QuickStart Tennis Specifications
|Age||Court size||Racquet||Ball||Net height||Scoring|
|5 to 8||36’ × 18’||up to 23”||foam or very low compression ball||2’9”||best of 3 games —
1st to 7-point games
|9 to 10||60’ × 21’||up to 25”||low compression||same as tennis court||best of 3 sets —
1st to 4 games wins set —
3rd set: 1st to 7 points
How to Get Started Using QuickStart Tennis
To integrate the QuickStart Tennis format into your 10-and-under programming, go to www.partners.quickstart-tennis.com. You’ll find information about the QuickStart Tennis format specifications, training opportunities, equipment, and other resources.
When you start offering programs featuring the QuickStart Tennis format, be sure to register them for free at growingtennis.com/QuickStart. Registering will ensure that when parents or kids search on the web for tennis programs in your area, your programs will appear on consumer websites such as USTA.com, Tennis.com, TennisChannel.com, TennisWelcomeCenter.com and more.