January 22nd, 2015

GAME CHANGER BLOG: Your Feedback on the Youth Tennis Pathway Pilot

Game Changer Blogs

What if…there were a clear path to guide parents and coaches through junior tennis — from the beginning red ball and 36-foot court all the way to the full 78-foot court for advanced kids?

Is your child ready for Florida “L8” beginner tournaments, or are Play Days and Play Events the place to start? How about ROGY events, or Team Tennis Challenges? Junior Team Tennis?

USTA Florida is looking for parent and coach feedback on a pilot program we’re calling the Youth Tennis Pathway for the whole of Florida junior tennis:

Age Play:

Age 5-8 — Low compression Red Ball on a 36-foot court, using a racquet no longer than 23 inches.
Age 7-10 — Reduced-bounce Orange Ball on a 60-foot court, using a racquet no longer than 25 inches.
Age 7+ — Slightly-reduced-bounce Green Ball on a regulation 78-foot court
Age 11+ — Yellow Ball on a regulation 78-foot court (open to ages 7+ by advancement)

Of course every child is unique, and advances at his/her own rate — some faster, some slower. The objective is for all youth to have the opportunity to develop their skills and demonstrate mastery before advancing.

The following would be the Youth Tennis Pathway tournament progression that only applies to players age 10 and under.

4-Stage Tournament Progression:

ROGYLevel 9 ROGY “Tourn-events” For all beginning players age 5-18+ who can successfully serve into the service box and keep score. Played on 36-, 60-, and 78-foot courts.
Players can advance to the next level by:
* Endorsement of coach or parent

10U Orange Ball For ages 7-10, played on 60-foot courts.
Players can advance to the next level by:
* Playing in 12 10UOrange Ball events, or Level 9/ROGY Tourn-events, or Level 7-8, or at Team Tennis Challenges; or
* Winning 12 matches at 10U Orange Level  7 tournaments

10U Green Ball Level 6 — For ages 7-10 who have cleared 10U Orange Ball. Played on 78-foot courts.
Players can advance to the next level by:
* Playing in 12 10U Green Ball Level 6 tournaments or Advanced Division at Team Tennis Challenges; or
* Winning 12 matches  at 10U Green Level 6 tournaments
* Players must advance on the first day of the month of their 11th birthday to 12U tournaments

12U Yellow Ball Level 7 — Players aged 10 and under who have cleared 10U Green Ball Level 6, or players ages 11 and 12. Played on regulation 78-foot adult court with yellow ball.

This progression allows players to develop competitive skills through match play, with an emphasis on solidifying players’ technique at each stage. Balls bounce in kids’ hitting zones at each stage. Kids learn to volley, slice, lob, and improve their arsenal of shots and court sense at each stage.

The introduction of the Youth Tennis Pathway would also include Grandfathering Rules for current players ages 7 and older who may already be playing full-court tennis with yellow balls. To read the Grandfathering Rules click here.

This youth tennis competitive progression introduces children to tennis in a fun environment at the lowest level. The progression then keeps tennis sized right based on age, physical size and ability. Modified court dimensions and equipment help children develop better technical and point-playing skills, leading to superior development by the age 10-12 range.

Player development is a long-term process that requires players to develop mastery before progressing to each level. Remember…it’s not a race to the yellow ball!

Parents and coaches — please use the comment section below to give us your thoughts on the Youth Tennis Pathway — and thank you in advance for sharing your feedback.