Kids Tennis Evolution

Smaller Courts – Slower Balls – Shorter Rackets

A look at children’s tennis these days shows significant changes in terms of the equipment used and the playing conditions. Training and playing takes place on smaller courts whose size is adapted to the different age groups with the help of children’s nets and mobile line systems. The children’s rackets are colourful, available in different lengths and much lighter than before. The balls are lighter, slower and bounce less high than the normal ball. In combination with the lighter children’s rackets, they therefore offer the ideal conditions for children to practise the techniques they have learnt and to play with and against each other.

ITF – Tennis Play+Stay

In 2007, the International Tennis Federation launched the “Tennis Play and Stay” campaign. The slogan “Serve, Rally and Score” clearly expresses what it is all about. Tennis experiences must be positive, enjoyable and game-centred right from the start. This applies equally to children, teenagers and adults. The use of slower balls, playing on smaller courts and the use of shorter rackets are an integral part of this concept. This not only makes it easier to get started, but also ensures that it is possible to play with and against each other at an early stage and that players can really experience tennis.

ITF – Tennis 10s

In 2008, the ITF focused on the development of an international “10-and-under” programme. The use of slower Red-Orange-Green balls, playing on smaller, adapted courts and the use of shorter and lighter children’s rackets should become “standard” for children in tennis. The playing conditions should finally be adapted to the needs of children, as has long been the case in other sports. However, Tennis 10s does not represent an ITF training concept for children, but rather provides a formal guideline for national associations with regard to the implementation of the Red-Orange-Green playing conditions for children in the “10 & under” age groups in training and competitions.

ITF – 10&under Competition Rule Change

The “10-and-under Competition Rule Change“, which was adopted by the ITF General Assembly in 2010 and came into force worldwide on 1 January 2012, set the course for further development. Five years after the launch of the ITF Play+Stay campaign, one of the very rare ITF rule changes came into force. As a result, since 1 January 2012, competitions for the “10-and-under” age groups may NO longer be played on the normal court with the normal tennis ball. The use of the slower Red-Orange-Green balls on appropriately adapted courts has been mandatory for 10-and-under competitions internationally since this date. This ITF rule change has fundamentally changed the playing conditions for children.

Note: Under my responsibility as National Director Kids Tennis Development (2007 to 2013) of the Austrian Tennis Federation, the changed playing conditions for kids tennis were already made mandatory in Austria on 1 December 2008.

Smaller Courts

When we talk about smaller and adapted pitches for children, we need to understand why the courts (have to) be reduced in length and width. A larger court forces children to run longer distances and makes it much more difficult to cover the court. Smaller courts allow realistic running routes to the ball and therefore increase the possibilities of achieving a favourable striking position. The execution of the shot can be of a higher quality and the techniques learnt can be implemented much better in the game.

Slower Balls

The ball plays a central role in the development of the game and is virtually the key to success. It should form a sensible unit with a smaller playing field and a racket length that is optimally adapted to the individual body size. Red-orange-green balls are used. Due to their reduced bounce, the correct balls enable a favourable impact point between hip and shoulder height and thus support the consolidation of the desired grip positions and the learned stroke techniques. Unnecessarily high impact points and thus the development of extreme grip positions and overloading in the shoulder area can thus be avoided. It also makes it much easier to defend the baseline.

Shorter Rackets

An important prerequisite for technical development and having fun playing is a racket length that is optimally adapted to the individual’s height, in conjunction with slower red-orange-green balls and smaller playing fields. Techniques can not only be learnt more easily, but can also be better implemented when playing with and against each other. Unfortunately, we observe in practice that many children are often on the court with a racket that is far too long and too heavy. When choosing the right length of racket, it is not only the muscular condition and the technical level of play that play a decisive role, but above all the individual height.

TIP: “KIDS TENNIS EVOLUTION” e-learning course