The USTA’s youth tennis initiative was born out of the desire to attract more young players to pick up the sport and to continue playing for life.
Leading the charge is the wildly successful 10 and Under Tennis
program that scales the game to the size of the participant—with smaller courts, shorter and lighter racquets, and slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls—along with a host of programs for kids of all ages such as USTA Jr. Team Tennis
. Additional offerings include Kids’ Tennis Clubs, Play Days and Tennis Festivals, all of which are seeing increased participation and involvement at all levels.
Excitement has been the general theme surrounding everything youth tennis—inside and outside sports. For the first time in 2012, youth tennis stepped out of the tennis realm, forming a partnership with Nickelodeon to promote 10 and Under Tennis in association with Cymphonique Miller and Max Schneider, co-stars of the Nickelodeon live-action series "How to Rock." The USTA’s youth tennis initiative was also a feature attraction at Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play in 2011 and 2012 and made a repeat appearance at the White House Easter Egg Roll, which comes on the heels of a partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.
The youth tennis initiative got a big boost in 2012 with the implementation of a rule change that applied the central elements of 10 and Under Tennis to all USTA-sanctioned tournaments for children 10 and below. (A similar rule change was enacted by the ITF.) The concurrent rule changes mean that all USTA and ITF-sanctioned youth events will now be played using some combination of the courts, racquets and balls utilized by 10 and Under Tennis.
The USTA has continued to work with local partners and grassroots organizers across the country to expand such fun, participatory events as Play Days, Tennis Festivals and Kids’ Tennis Clubs to attract more kids to the sport—and to keep them playing into middle school, high school and beyond.
The early results indicate that these initiatives are making an impact. More than 20,000 kids were introduced to tennis through Play Days in 2011, and there were 4,000 Play Days held in 2012, attracting thousands more. In addition, more than 1,500 Kids’ Tennis Clubs have been introduced since that program’s launch in late 2011, and there were more than 20,000 unique participants competing in USTA Jr. Team Tennis in 2012.
To ensure that this influx of newcomers has a place to play, nearly 4,000 courts for kids 10 and under were constructed last year, either through blended lines (the lines for a 10 and Under Tennis court painted on top of a 78-foot court) or stand-alone 36- or 60-foot courts. And to ensure that they are getting started the right way, nearly 12,000 participants were trained in the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis, Recreational Coach and Tennis Teachers Conference Workshops.
Through its youth tennis initiative, the USTA has a bold vision for that future—and never before has it looked so bright.