Our Serve: Take A Second Look at 10U Tennis
I recently was talking with a very highly regarded teaching pro in the USTA Southern Section who was telling me about his first encounters with the 10 and Under Tennis initiative. In short, he was not a fan.
He was skeptical of the rule change that mandated the use of lower compression balls and shorter racquets on shorter courts. He was getting complaints from parents of some of his talented 9- and 10-year-olds, upset that they would be forced to either play events with lower compression balls, or play up to stay with the yellow ball.
The pro had other reservations, too. The initial cost of having to buy baskets of red and orange balls, having to put down taped lines to create 36- and 60-foot courts — it all was a hassle. Then when the time came to put permanent lines on 78-foot courts, how would adult club members react?
But then, it all just clicked. Suddenly, his junior programs were booming. And importantly, his 10 and under players were playing amazing tennis, hitting strokes properly because the ball was no longer bouncing over their heads — and having more fun than ever. Within a couple of weeks, adult players didn’t even notice the lined courts. This pro did a complete 180 — he’s now a huge proponent of 10U tennis because he can see the positive results.
He admits that for some young players, and their parents, there was a rough transition, as they fell in that range where they either had to play with a ball they weren’t used to, or play with older kids to stay with the yellow ball. But he says it was something that had to happen, there had to be one group that would end up being more affected during the transition, in order to reach the point where now, all the kids are playing with the racquets and balls that truly help them develop proper strokes and technique.
What’s important is that this pro says “mandating” these changes, and working through the rough patch to get to the other side, was the right thing to do — if it hadn’t been required, then pros wouldn’t do it.
From my perspective, anything we can do to get more people playing this game is a good thing, and 10U tennis gets more people into the game. Kids have a lot of options when it comes to sports, and getting them involved in tennis earlier, and actually playing the game and enjoying it, is a huge key in keeping them playing throughout their lives. It creates players, frequent players, and tennis consumers.
The bottom line about 10U tennis is the bottom line … it simply makes good business sense. If you’re a tennis provider and you haven’t yet gotten involved in 10 and Under Tennis, you need to take a second look at how it can help your business.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.