By E.J. Crawford
With spring and summer just around the corner, March is the month to get your kids into tennis. There will be more than 600 events held nationwide in March alone to register youth players in local offerings ranging from programs to clinics to camps as well as USTA programming such as Jr. Team Tennis and a variety of events associated with the 10 and Under Tennis initiative.
The 2011 youth registration effort began with the Tennis Night in America celebration in February and will continues throughout the year at local parks and tennis facilities throughout the country, the aim being to get more kids in more places playing tennis.
“Tennis was a great sport for me when I was young, and having tennis facilities around the country come together to promote the game and the BNP Paribas Showdown makes for a great celebration for tennis,” says Sampras, the 14-time Grand Slam tournament champion and six-time year-end No. 1.
The driving force behind this ongoing celebration is the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis initiative. Having picked up momentum throughout 2010 and into this year, 10 and Under Tennis is changing the way tennis is taught, learned and loved across the country by incorporating the basics of the QuickStart Tennis play format and scaling the game to size for its youngest players. That means smaller courts, slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, and lighter and shorter racquets, all designed to allow kids 10 and under to play and enjoy tennis the first time out—and all building toward a lasting love of the sport.
“Scaling tennis to the size of children promotes greater participation and ensures that young kids will be able to play tennis much more quickly,” says Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “The development and continued success of 10 and Under Tennis is critical to the long-term growth of our sport and ultimately will help develop new generations of players and champions.”
In addition to registering young players in a program, camp or clinic, there are many options for parents, kids and providers who want to incorporate 10 and Under Tennis into their community. The tools of 10 and Under Tennis—equipment such as the foam balls, shorter racquets and pop-up nets—as well as technical assistance and teaching guides, are available through the USTA, with grants and a variety of offerings available to defer expenses. The USTA will cover 50 percent of costs in many cases, and many sections will cover an additional 25 percent, making 10 and Under Tennis a wise investment for any facility—not to mention an investment in the future of tennis.
The simplest way to incorporate 10 and Under Tennis into an existing facility is by adding the lines for 60-foot courts (designed for kids ages 9-10) and 36-foot courts (for kids ages 5-8) to the traditional 78-foot court. Known as blended lines, the look is similar to laying volleyball lines on top of a basketball court and gives tennis providers (be they a private tennis club or a public park facility) added flexibility—a USTA League match can be held immediately after a 10 and Under Tennis tournament, with no additional work or set-up required.
Moreover, the cost of incorporating blended lines into a traditional court is minimal—the average cost is $300—and it adds an extra dimension to any facility, opening up new opportunities to expand programming and, with it, to add new clients and increase revenue.
“10 and Under Tennis has made a significant impact on our community,” says Mike Woody, the executive director of the Midland (Mich.) Community Tennis Center, who incorporated 10 and Under Tennis into the $1.2 million expansion of his facility. “It has increased our programming and the number of new people coming to our facility. In turn, that has meant more money and better business. I would recommend it to any provider out there who’s interested.”
If your local club is still hesitant to embrace 10 and Under Tennis, let them know that the USTA will not only help set up a court and provide equipment, it will help with design, fundraising and marketing as well. In fact, the USTA’s Facility Assistance Program is available to anyone interested in adding 10 and Under Tennis programming, providing everything from access to USTA partners to personalized concept plans and advocacy advice. (To get started, go to usta.com/facilities.) And those who offer 10 and Under Tennis can register their program on 10andundertennis.com, with the USTA promoting and marketing the website to highlight individual programs.
“Tapping into the youth market will be an important part of driving participation in tennis for decades to come,” says Scott Schultz, Managing Director, Recreational Tennis, USTA. “And incorporating 10 and Under Tennis has the added bonus of improving the bottom line of providers as well as building a larger base of players who can contribute to our great game in the future. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.”
From recreational tennis facilities throughout the country to its incorporation as a staple of USTA Player Development’s teaching programs, 10 and Under Tennis continues to grow and expand, gaining greater acceptance among the tennis community and eliciting cheers from kids and providers alike. The result? More kids playing tennis in more places—starting with youth registration in March and extending through 2011 and beyond.
“10 and Under Tennis has already had a great impact on the sport of tennis in the U.S.,” says Kirk Anderson, Director, Recreational Coaches & Programs, USTA, “and it has so much potential for growth. It gets kids actively involved in the game, and there is no question that the more kids play, the more they learn about the game. And that keeps them coming back for more—now and in the years to come.”
For more information on youth registration and local 10 and Under Tennis programs, go to 10andUnderTennis.com.