Changes in tennis since we were little…
So you may or may not be aware, there have been some fairly major changes to how kids tennis is taught and played, both here in New Zealand, and around the world. Like other sports, where courts and equipment is modified to a smaller, lighter size for the size of kids, tennis has finally caught up, and changes are firmly in place.
Tennis Is finally getting it right… Gone are the days of kids playing with massive rackets, and on courts the same size as adults. Just as there are progressions in pretty much every other sport, tennis has changed. And I am in agreeance, that it has changed for the better, and for the better enjoyment from the kids.
There are downfalls. The cost of the different balls is not cheap. Where before old balls would do ( and generally be ok for the kids due to a lower bounce than new balls), coaches would need to purchase baskets of color specific balls for their coaching clinics. But, in my opinion, its well worth the cost, especially when they are rallying. When you see the littlies out on “their sized” court, playing “their real tennis” match, it all makes sense. Its the speed of these balls through the air, combined with the height of the bounce, that provides the difference.
1. THE BALLS
The very first stage of the ball progression is the foam ball. Totally ideal for 3-4 yr olds. The balls are very light, so their arms can cope with the impact of the racket hitting the ball, yet don’t go too far, and are the slowest moving ball.
The next progressions are as follows. The main concept is the speed of the ball starts alot slower than a normal tennis ball, but progresses as a child gets older, as their perception and reaction time gets quicker. A big factor is also in the bounce of the ball… the height of a child is alot different to an adult. The balls are designed so the bounce is more proportionate to the contact zone (easiest place to hit ball, i.e between shoulders and hips) of the child, mainly in terms of height
RED balls – are bigger, go slower and bounce lower than the orange balls. (8 and under)
ORANGE – moves slower and bounces lower than the green ball. (8 -10)
GREEN – the last stage before normal tennis ball. (9+yrs)
Using the right level balls for your childs progression certainly makes it easier for them to learn and keep good technique as they progress. It also makes it easier for you as a parent to have rallies with them. If you are spending time at the courts with the kids, it is well worth investing in a few of these low compression balls.