Your Serve: Using All the Tools
A veteran pro uses ROG balls with players of all ages to keep them active, in the game and improving.
By Lou Marino
I recently had a new participant in my weekly clinics who was coming back to tennis after five years away. She had broken her ankle, and during her long recovery had lost interest in playing, although it was probably more a loss of confidence, thinking that she may re-injure herself. When she saw my hoppers filled with red, orange and green balls, she asked, with visible concern, “Why the kiddie balls? I thought this was an adult clinic.”
I’ve heard this frequently from adults I teach, ever since red, orange and green balls (ROG) were heavily promoted for Youth Tennis. The different color balls provide a more positive overall experience for players of all skill levels. With lower pressures, they move a bit slower and bounce a bit lower than traditional yellow tennis balls.
Red (Stage 1) balls are slightly larger and 50 percent slower than yellow balls, and are great for beginners of all ages. I use them as a short-court warm up, to challenge players’ footwork and racquet control and help develop consistency.
Orange (Stage 2) balls are regulation size, but weigh slightly less and travel 25 percent slower. I use these with a 60-foot court and for rallying while playing “Triples” in our Cardio Tennis and other programs. In addition, we allow two bounces.
Green (Stage 3) balls are regulation size and weight, but travel 10 percent slower. We use these on a full-size court with adult beginners, players coming back to tennis, and even with some intermediate hitters. They allow players to enjoy getting and keeping more balls in play.
For the first five minutes of our clinic, six players lined up side by side on the service line, at which point I fed them red balls from my service T. They hit back to me so I could hit the ball to the next person in line and keep the rally going. Then for the next five minutes, they lined up single file at the T, hit a red ball, side-stepped across the service line, down the singles line, across the baseline and got back in line to hit again. It was constant action.
Later, we worked on groundstrokes, controlling the center of the court and moving in to volley, all with yellow balls. For the last half hour, they played points with me feeding the ball in. We started with Triples (one up and two back) with orange balls. After 15 minutes we split into pairs and played doubles points with green balls.
By the end of our clinic, our new player was pleasantly surprised — and convinced “ROG” isn’t just for kids!
Lou Marino is a USPTA pro who runs Cardio Tennis and Youth Tennis programs. He lives, teaches, and provides racquet service in the greater Bluffton/Hilton Head Island, S.C., area.
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