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USTA Florida Accelerates QuickStart Tennis 10-under Development in 2010

January 13, 2010 06:00 PM
By Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

How did Roger Federer and Justine Henin develop the fluid one-handed backhands that brought them to the top spots in men's and women's tennis respectively?

Both Federer and Henin took up the game as children playing a version of what the USTA first rolled out in 2008 as QuickStart Tennis -- tennis specifically designed for 10-and-under children, featuring a smaller court, shorter net, smaller racquets and foam or decompressed tennis balls.

The result?

Children experience tennis at their own size. Foam or decompressed balls bounce waist-high instead of over their heads, making for longer rallies with proper stroke technique. Children as young as five and six years old learn to stroke backhands and forehands like the pros rather than playing with too-large racquets or the normal, heavy balls that can literally knock the racquet from a child's hand.

QuickStart vs. Full Court
 


It's not surprising that European players have challenged, and of late overcome the former U.S. dominance in pro tennis when you consider their early start on the U.S. in developing a QuickStart-like program for small children. In addition to Federer and Henin both playing Quickstart-like programs as youngsters, most European youngsters over the last 20-30 years started the game using this format under names such as mini-tennis, little-tennis, etc.

France, as an example, has one-fifth the population of the U.S., but five times the number of French children play tennis as compared to American children. And they start in QuickStart-like programs, where the typical American youngster is introduced with adult-sized racquets and high-bouncing regular balls, resulting in children switching sports in frustration when tennis is 'too hard.' This goes a ways toward explaining why France currently outnumbers the U.S. in men and women in the Top 100 on the pro tours, from a country with an 80 percent smaller population.

The good news: 2010 will be the 'Year of QuickStart Tennis' in the U.S.

USTA national, and especially USTA Florida, will in the coming months be making available a large variety of grants for QuickStart Tennis equipment, for QuickStart-regulation court linings and stand-alone QuickStart Tennis mini-courts for children 10-and-under. In Florida the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation in Jacksonville and the Roger Scott Tennis Center in Pensacola are just two facilities that have built multiple permanent QuickStart Tennis courts for working with large groups of small children.

QuickStart Tennis promotes fun and play ahead of competition and winning. Studies have shown that small children choose to play in the order of importance: 1. To have fun; 2. To improve skills; 3. For thrills and excitement; 4. To be with friends or make new friends; 5. To succeed or win against teams of similar ability.

When children drop out of a sport they list: Too much emphasis on winning; Not being able to be with friends; Too much competition.

COACHES CORNER AND KIDS: Many tennis coaches are
surprised to learn that children are non-responders to
training. In other words, fitness and training result in NO
significant changes in aerobic capacity. When coaches/parents
see performance improvements in their children, studies
show it is due to growth, not training. As little as three
months difference in age can impact a child's skill and fitness
performance. Children also have no muscle fiber
differentiation yet, so the best sprinters are also the best
distance runners.

With 10-and-under children there are also no major
differences in physical performance between males and
females, and predicting a child's is next to impossible. In
fact, only 25% of expert coaches were able to predict/guess
a child's athletic success from fifth grade to sophomore year
in high school in one study.
USTA Florida plans in 2010 include:


* Using the QuickStart Tennis format to teach KIDS rather than TENNIS for the 10-and-under demographic. Winning and learning is not as important to this age group -- but fun is. If it's not fun, it's on to the next sport.

* Budgeting more money (the USTA Florida Board of Directors has approved an overall $500,000 in grant money for 2010) on resources (education, equipment, courts) including the QuickStart Tennis format of play and pushing the creative envelope to recruit parents as organizers and keep kids in the game.

* Providing more parent training/education via QuickStart Tennis Workshops, and Town Hall Meetings to announce area programs.

* Providing an accountability system to ensure that QuickStart Tennis providers across Florida are utilizing all six QuickStart Tennis variables and not just some of them (ex: only using a foam ball). 

If you're involved in tennis and not already signed up for the USTA Florida Weekly E-Newsletter, click here to sign up now. Throughout 2010, USTA Florida will be announcing via the Weekly E-Newsletter the availability of new QuickStart Tennis grants.

To see Quickstart Tennis in action and learn more about the format, go to http://consumers.quickstarttennis.com/

 

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