The United States Tennis Association is promoting two big changes to junior instruction and competition. Both are being met with varying degrees of acceptance and resistance from players, parents, and coaches. The USTA's proposed change to the structure of junior competition (tournaments) is the more recent and most hotly contested. Because it is more relevant to older players, I will direct you to the Parenting Aces blog for further information. The second change regards teaching methods geared toward players ages 10 and under. Hey - that's the title of this blog! So let's discuss.
|Who knew a little different|
colored felt would cause
such a kerfuffle?
The stink that has resulted is in the form of some resistance from certain sectors of teaching professionals, and a few parents as well. They don't believe the lower compression balls, smaller courts, and smaller racquets provide any benefit. Their kid/student learns just fine on full size courts with yellow balls, thank you very much. The implication is that if your kid isn't thriving with regular equipment, either your kid or your instructor (or both) leave something to be desired in the tennis department. We've seen these fads come and go, they say. It's a marketing gimmick by the equipment manufacturers. Don't waste your money! Just be patient and this too, shall pass.
Since this is an editorial, and this is MY blog, here's my 2 cents. Your comments are welcome below BTW. I am fairly new to tennis instruction. I did not come up through the junior development ranks. My highest rating when I was still playing league tennis was 4.0. I became interested in tennis instruction as a volunteer Jr. Team Tennis coordinator. I discovered I much preferred spending my tennis volunteer time on the court introducing beginners of all ages to tennis than sitting in cramped committee meetings watching uninspiring Power Point presentations. So I took it to the next level, attended lots of on-court workshops, got certified, and here I am, living the life. Those of you who teach tennis part time will recognize a teensy bit of sarcasm there.
Setting all sarcasm aside - in my experience the last several years, having seen literally hundreds of kids float through my court in Jr. Team Tennis, summer camps, group clinics, private instruction, Play Days, etc. etc., I can think of exactly 1.5 kids (one definitely, one maybe) who I thought, with minimal instruction, would be playing better than me very quickly. With yellow balls on a full size court. In my somewhat math-challenged mind I estimate about one percent of the kids I have seen could go straight to yellow ball, do not pass go, do not collect $200. That means 99% of the kids I have seen have benefited from a kinder, gentler introduction to tennis, earlier sense of mastery, and frankly just plain fun, because spending an hour swinging and whiffing at yellow balls flying past is no fun.
There is an ongoing debate about restricting tournament play to particular color balls, court sizes, etc. The parents whose kids are doing well with yellow balls (the 1 percent) chafe at the idea of going backward, of having to play with red or orange balls when that stage is clearly behind (or beneath) them. I also suspect the instructors feel somehow diminished by being asked to lower themselves to admit tennis is difficult and some of their students are not up to the task and could use a little help getting started. But I am not particularly proud. If using modified equipment is going to help my students 'get it' quicker, I am all for it. I have seen it over and over again. It takes time (but less time than if we were using yellow balls!), but progress is made at every lesson. When I imagine any of my red ball students trying to do what they do now (rally, serve, play) on a full size court with yellow balls, frankly it just would not be possible, and after our last lesson, they would be off to the soccer field before I got all the balls picked up.
I am not particularly interested in foisting 10 and Under Tennis onto other teaching pros, just as I am not interested in them foisting their allegiance to the yellow ball onto me. But if you are coming to my club for junior instruction, unless you are Andre Freaking Agassi, you are gonna get 10 and Under Tennis until you show me you are ready for the next level. After all, like the woman said, change will do you good.