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Georgia Tennis Clubs Attract Juniors With New Format

December 5, 2006 04:12 PM

The face of junior tennis is preparing for a makeover as a new method of teaching junior tennis called 36-60 is beginning to take root across the country. Petersburg Racquet Club in Martinez, Ga and Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga were two of the facilities that jumped on board with the ground breaking idea. The idea behind the new format is to adopt principles that other sports such as soccer, basketball, and t-ball have implemented for youth participants. By adjusting the court dimensions to a less intimidating 36 and 60 feet, juniors can enjoy the satisfaction of rallying the ball and focus on skill development.

Thirty-five facilities across the country were selected to participate in the USTA pilot program that could change junior tennis as we know it today. With more youngsters filling up the courts, tennis pros are excited about the potential impact the program could have for the game.

"We like the format so much that it is part of our program now," said Petersburg Racquet Club Director of Tennis Craig Jones. "It is unbelievable how 6 and 7 year olds can do the same type of drills as the older kids."

"There hasn't been a unified system of teaching juniors" Jones added. "If everyone could get on the same page using the progressive court system it could revolutionize teaching in America."

The USTA developed this initiative to provide young players with a skill base for further development. It is also believed that this the new format will create a better experience for children and that it will increase participation. Team formats, parental involvement and modified courts and equipment shall be the foundation for 36-60’ tennis. There are 6 million new players to tennis each year, and about 80% give up the game after the first year. Playing on a smaller court would alleviate beginner frustration and create a positive experience.

"The new format of tennis will give tennis a venue to gain the participation of millions of youngsters that the popular team sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball and football have enjoyed for many years," said Bill Ozaki, Senior Director of Junior and Collegiate Competition for the USTA.

"All aspects of junior tennis will increase significantly in popularity," Ozaki continued. "The long term effect will impact entry level youth tennis, high performance tennis and eventually adult tennis. "

Tennis has always been taught on a full-size court with full-size equipment in the United States. The new program, which was developed in Europe, would be a progressive model that would prepare children to play on a full-size court by the age of 12. Beginning players start on a 36-foot-long court and use smaller racquets and balls. They advance to a larger court with a low-compression ball as their skill set increases.

Tennis pros representing the pilot initiative travel to Chicago next week for a meeting to discuss the future of the program.

"The one thing we're waiting on is to make sure the dimensions are exactly right and finalize specs of the balls," Jones said. "Other than that, we are sold on the program."




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