Tennis Industry Unveils New Fully-Integrated Play Format for Children Ages 10 and Under at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios
QuickStart Tennis to Enable Children to “Play to Learn” Rather than “Learn to Play”
The USTA has announced the official launch of QuickStart Tennis, an innovative new play format that will help to get more children 10 years of age and under into the game. The QuickStart Tennis format, one of the most significant moves ever to introduce tennis to youth, provides a way to bring kids 10 and under into the game by utilizing equipment, court dimensions, and scoring that is tailored to their age and size.
Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Mary Joe Fernandez were on hand to help demonstrate the effectiveness of the QuickStart Tennis play format. They were able to give a “kids-eye view” of what a child experiences when they use adult-sized equipment and play on a regulation court. Navratilova and Fernandez utilized “giant-sized” racquets and balls and played on an “oversized” court – 50’ x 110’ (as opposed to 36’ x 78’ for a regulation court). This helped to demonstrate the frustration and difficulties that children experience while trying to play tennis when it is “designed for an adult.”
The QuickStart Tennis play format is designed to help children find success from the very first swing. QuickStart Tennis appropriately scales down all aspects of regulation tennis—including equipment, court dimensions, and scoring—so that the game becomes specifically tailored to their age and size. The format is broken out into two age groupings, for children ages 10-under and for those who are 8-under, similar to models used successfully in other youth sports (such as youth baseball).
The play format addresses one of the most intimidating scenarios for young children learning to play tennis; playing on adult-sized courts with the same oversized and unwieldy equipment that their parents use, as well as using the same complicated scoring system. This combination can cause children to lose interest without ever really playing and experiencing the game, not to mention actually learning the skills necessary to succeed.
“The QuickStart Tennis play format is tennis scaled to the size of the child, utilizing age appropriate equipment, including smaller racquets, lower bouncing balls, and smaller courts,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “By enabling kids to start playing right away, we are allowing them to learn as they play.”
“This format will make a significant impact on the skill development of tennis players in the United States,” said Paul Roetert, Managing Director, Player Development, USTA. “By bringing more kids into the game at a young age, and by providing them with a format that helps them to utilize proper stroke technique and overall skill development, we will increase the pool of high level players throughout the country.”
Children eight and under will play on a 36’ x 18’ court, with the length of the court equaling the width of a regulation tennis court. The set-up utilizes doubles sidelines as the baselines and from the baseline to the service line as the new sidelines. Racquets will be up to 23” in size, making them easier to control than larger-sized racquets. The balls, either a foam ball or a very low compression ball, will also match the abilities of the child, bouncing lower and traveling less distance. This will enable the child to have proper swing technique, with the ball bouncing into their “comfort zones.” The net height will be 2’ 9” (three inches lower than regulation), making it easier for the child to continue the rally. Finally, scoring is brought down to a much simpler and manageable level – best of three games, with the first player to win seven points winning the game – creating a much shorter match time for still-developing attention spans.
For those children 10 and under, the size of the court will be 60’ x 21’ (60’ x 27’ for doubles), with the length of the court extending just beyond the ends of each service area. The racquet will be up to 25” in size—still manageable, but increasing with the child’s body-size and age. The ball, a low-compression ball, travels a little faster and farther than the ball utilized by the 8 and under group, but will still have a lower bounce than the standard tennis ball. Scoring becomes best of three sets, with 4 games winning a set, and the third set being first to 7 points (if necessary).
The QuickStart Tennis play format will roll-out this spring in over 1,000 facilities across the country, which are each expected to incorporate it within their existing 10 and under programming. The USTA will also organize and implement training sessions, both to coaches and volunteers including parents, to help early adoption of the format. In addition, the USTA has begun incorporating the play format into its coed recreational tennis league, USTA Jr. Team Tennis, and its tournament offerings. In succeeding years, it will continue to be implemented into programming with the goal of reaching all aspects of 10 and under youth tennis, including tournament, lesson based, recreational and team play.