How should youngsters learn and play tennis? For a long time, most youngsters have been learning and playing tennis using adult balls, adult racquets and playing on the full tennis court. This is like kids learning to ride a bicycle on an adult size bicycle. Youngsters should learn and play tennis the kid's way.
The kids way is using low compression balls, smaller and lighter racquets and smaller courts. There are many disadvantages of kid's using adult equipment. When they are playing, the ball will bounce too high which make them use more extreme grips. The ball also travels much faster compared to low compression balls. Kids don't use the whole court enough because it is too big and they have little control of the ball.
The key attributes of a young tennis player is to be able rally and keep the ball in play, understand what strategies and tactics to use, movement around the court, development of athleticism, having the correct technique and love playing tennis.
From January 2012, the International Tennis Federation has changed a rule so that all 10 and under competitions must use either the red, orange or green ball. They are also required to use either the red, orange or green courts. The reason why the courts need to be smaller is because of the size of the player. If the court is smaller then the player will be able to develop correct footwork and advanced tactics. Since the rule change, many countries have started to use the red, orange and green ball. In Australia it is called MLC Tennis Hot Shots, it United States Of America it is called 10 and Under Tennis and in Great Britain it is called Mini Tennis.
The first stage is the red stage. This stage has been designed to suit kids under 8 years of age. They use the red ball which is 25% compression of the yellow ball. They play on either 3 metre or 6 metre wide courts. Children under the age of 8 are recommended to use 21" - 23" size racquets. Children under the age of 8 have a very short attention span so it is good to keep the lessons short. Their coordination and balance is also very limited. The way these children learn is by fun and games. By the end of the red stage children should be able to rally over the net, run well, hop and jump with balance, do a basic overarm throw or overarm serve and have a basic low to high swing on the forehand and backhand. Children should also be able to score and play fairly.
The second stage is the orange stage. This stage suits 8-9 year old players. They are required to use the orange ball which is 50% compression of the yellow ball. They play on an orange court which is three quarters of the whole court and use a 23 - 25 inch racquet. When the children are this age, their coordination and balance is much better. They listen more attentively and love to play. Their movement around the court has improved. When they complete the orange stage they should be able to move in different directions to hit the ball, have a small loop on their forehand and backhand, throw and hit the ball to different locations and also be able to react much faster and efficiently.
The final stage is the green stage. This stage is for children 9 years and older. They use the green ball which is 75% compression of the yellow ball. They play on the full size court with a 26" - 27" racquet. At 9 years old, children are able to make their own choices. Their coordination has developed and their technique is much like an adults. They are tactically able to change the direction of the ball. When they have completed to green stage they should have fundamentals that include, throwing a certain distance, complex movement patterns, efficient strokes and more complex coordination.
When children learn tennis the kid's way their are many benefits. The player will have full control over the ball and they will use the tennis court more fully. Their grips will be more functional and help develop better strokes. The balls will be slower which will allow more time to have the right stroke prepared. Their rallies are also much longer.