Florida on July 1, 2015 will usher in a new era of tennis development for tournament players age 10 and under with the introduction of the USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway, a graduated development path with established benchmarks at each level to guide parents and coaches through junior tennis.
From beginning “red ball” play on 36-foot courts, youth progress through “orange ball” and “green ball” at various tournament levels before graduating to full-court “yellow ball” tennis. Each level contains appropriate kids-sized racquets, balls and court sizes, along with participation or achievement benchmarks to progress between age groups or tournament levels.
The Pathway contains a “Grandfather Clause” for players that turn age 11 during 2015 who currently have the skill set to play full-court yellow ball tournaments.See A Visual Illustration Of The Pathway See The Pathway Grandfather Clause
The USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway roll-out is in partnership with the USPTA-Florida Division (United States Professional Teaching Association) and PTR (Professional Tennis Registry), the two largest tennis teaching professional certifying organizations in the U.S.
“USPTA Florida leadership endorses the USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway,” says USPTA Florida President Trish Faulkner. “We are confident that the pathway will not only increase unique 10 and under players, but will also provide a system that ultimately looks after the technical, tactical, physical and mental well-being of the child.”
Steve Keller is director of education for PTR. “PTR highly recommends the USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway,” he says. “These young players will greatly benefit having a pathway that will teach them technique in a tactical environment. As they continue the journey, we look forward to seeing these young players become more confident and enjoy the education and competitive side of the sport for many years to come.”
The USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway was also developed with solicited input from coaches and parents throughout Florida.
Tim Pleasant, head coach of men’s and women’s tennis at Bethune-Cookman University and a USPTA Elite Professional in Daytona Beach, has two children age 10 and under who play tournament tennis. His daughter Lilly, who started the game and has been brought along strictly with USTA 10 and Under Tennis kid-sized equipment and at age-appropriate levels, in June won the Girls’ 10s division at the USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Singles Championships.
“We attribute Lilly’s success to the progression of USTA 10 and Under Tennis,” Pleasant said. “I believe that kids who are using the modified equipment feel more comfortable as the equipment is lighter and smaller, and fits their ability level. The equipment looks like it was made for them, which leads to instant success and wanting more, keeping them interested in the game.
“Lilly does not hit any harder than most girls, but can simply out-rally her opponents and also change the spin and pace of the ball at anytime. The rally part of each level is the most important. I tell parents all the time that if your child can not keep the ball in play, they do not need to move up [a level].”
The red, orange and green ball levels correspond on the USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway with tournaments beginning at Level 9 (beginner) up to the start of advanced tournaments at Level 6 and higher.
“The USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway will at the beginner’s level give children a fun introduction to tennis, and keep them coming back for more,” says USTA Florida Director of Competitive Tennis Jason Gilbert. “As they advance, the Pathway will develop more well-rounded players having fun and staying in the game at each level. This will in turn increase our numbers of young players, developing more middle, high school and college players, and possibly the next American Grand Slam champions.”
The USTA Florida 10 and Under Tennis Youth Tournament Pathway will be implemented in Florida tournaments beginning July 1, 2015. For more information on the Pathway go to www.USTAFlorida.com/10UPathway.