With so many other choices available, attracting talented young athletes to tennis has become a challenge in recent years. To combat this challenge the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and United States Tennis Association (USTA) enacted rule changes that mandate smaller courts, racquets, and slower balls. Junior tennis training aids like low-compression balls and shorter racquets have been on the market for several years, and are essential to making the game fun for kids. If you have a child interested in tennis, consider the following tips for keeping it fun:
The racquet may be the most important piece of equipment any tennis player owns and it’s no different when you’re equipping your kids. For kids just starting out, there’s no need to break the bank buying a racquet, but it is important that you get an appropriately sized junior racquet. Adult racquets are sized and weighted for adults and are usually way too heavy for kids under ten years old.
A general age-range guideline is available to determine the size of the racquet your child needs. For a more accurate selection, many racquets also offer height and skill level information on their placard or online description. All notations are generalizations and you should take your child’s individual development into account when selecting their racquet.
|5 – 8 Years||19” – 23”|
|9 – 10 Years||23” – 25”|
|11 & Up||25” – 27” (full-size racquet)|
Standard tennis balls are great for adults, but may not be ideal for keeping kids interested in the game because they bounce too high and move too fast for most kids. Using a regular tennis ball often just leads to frustration and loss of interest.
Fortunately, there are loads of alternatives to traditional tennis balls including foam tennis balls and low compression balls. Generally these alternatives are slightly larger than a regular tennis ball which translates to a ball that moves slower and bounces lower. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the rallies improve when you send your child out to hit with a ball geared more towards their skill set. Picking the right ball depends on the child’s age, but also on their skill level. Try asking your tennis pro what they think or experimenting until you find a ball that works. If you’re totally unsure, consider these guidelines:
|5 – 8 Years||Foam or Red ITF Stage 3
(75% slower than a standard yellow ball)
|9 – 10 Years||Orange ITF Stage 2
(50% slower than a standard yellow ball)
|11 & Up||Standard tennis ball or Green ITF Stage 1
(25% slower than a standard yellow ball)
Courts & Nets
Just like racquets and balls, standard tennis courts are designed for adults and can make the game more frustrating for kids. A full-sized court creates a lot of ground to cover for a small child and can really make it frustrating.
To make things simple, there are various kits are available from Gamma, but they aren’t necessary to set up smaller courts. In fact, you can set up a smaller court using sidewalk chalk, temporary tape, or rubber throw down lines. Nets can be as simple as string tied to two chairs with a blanket draped over top or caution tape tied off on the fence. The size of the court and height of the net once again depends on the height and skill of the child, but if you’re not sure where to start, try these guidelines:
|Age||Court Dimensions||Net Height|
|5 – 8 Years||36’ x 18’||31.5”|
|9 – 10 Years||60’ x 21’ (singles)
60’ x 27’ (doubles)
|11 & Up||Full-size Court||Standard Net|
Keep in mind that all of these are not hard rules. Every player develops differently and at different rates. Some players may be ready to move to the next stage before the recommended age while others may not be ready to move as quickly. Stay in touch with your child’s tennis instructors to ensure that they are getting the best possible experience. When in doubt, remember to keep it fun and relaxed, and your child is sure to stay interested in tennis.