Kid's Team Tennis: Play to Learn

May 15, 2007 11:08 AM

Remember the first time you walked on a tennis court as a small child? The racquet was as big as your body. The ball bounced over your head and out of reach. To see the other side of the court, you had to peer through the holes in the net. Tennis was overwhelming.

The trend in teaching youth tennis in America is on the verge of a transformation. The traditional methods used in introducing young children to the game of tennis are being scaled to accommodate the needs of children ages 5-10 in hopes of creating a positive experience and increasing retention. This scaled-down model of playing implements what other sports, such as t-ball and youth soccer, have done for years. Smaller racquets, foam balls and modified court sizes create the perfect opportunity for a successful experience when introducing the game. The initiative is designed so that children can "Play to Learn" the game rather than "Learn to Play."

The Jr. Team Tennis League in Charlotte, NC hit the ground running with a program it feels is going to revolutionize the way children are introduced to tennis. The key to this modified format, which is known as Kid's Team Tennis, is that the children are getting on the court and learning while they are playing.

"They were in constant motion, rallying back and forth. The kids were having a good time because they were being successful," said Charlotte Local League Coordinator Carla O'Connor.

The Jr. Team Tennis League in Charlotte, NC was chosen as one of the eight prototypes in the nation to be evaluated before the program launches in late summer. The scrimmage match hosted at the Jeff Adams Tennis Center included juniors from six area facilities that currently are involved in the Jr. Team Tennis League. Children in the 8 and under division played on 36'x18' courts with mini nets and foam balls, while the 10 and under division progressed to 60'x20' courts using roll down lines and Penn low compression balls. The match format was best of three 7 point games with no-ad scoring and no tiebreakers. The server rotates every two points allowing all team members the opportunity to serve the ball with less down time between points.

In an effort to evaluate the delivery method of the new Jr. Team Tennis program known as Kid’s Team Tennis, host sites went through a rigorous selection process and came highly recommended from Section Coordinators.

“Carla O’Connor and the Charlotte Tennis Association were selected based on their history and performance of delivering quality Jr. Team Tennis programming,” said National Managing Director of Jr. Team Tennis Marikate Murren. “I was extremely impressed with the prototype and the level of parent involvement. Parents were excited that their kids were out on the court playing and having success.”

Forty kids and forty parents attended the event that kicked off the summer season for Jr. Team Tennis in Charlotte. The event was not merely a tennis-oriented event, but focused on creating an environment tailored toward the enjoyment of youth sport. Players received stickers for games won, practice balls to take home, and a Kid’s Team Tennis t-shirt.

The Atlanta Team Tennis for Kid’s Association will host the second prototype in the Southern Section Harrison Tennis Center in Marietta, GA next week.