Huntsville Juniors Excell in Rapid Rally

October 9, 2008 12:03 PM

Just in case you are wondering where the Rapid Rally capital of America is - the answer is Huntsville, Ala.

Based on the tried-and-true practice technique of banging a tennis ball against a wall, Rapid Rally challenges youngsters to groove their strokes in a timed test. Competitors stand 15 feet from the wall, hit a serve with a low-compression tennis ball and then return as many shots above a line on the wall as they can in 30 seconds.

Sound easy? Well, a brother and sister from Huntsville can hit between 28 and 30 shots in competition, thus earning them 2008 U.S. Jr. Olympic Skills Rapid Rally Tennis Competition national championships awarded in Chicago. Erin and Dylan Young got involved in a USTA program two years ago and, with national champion Vince Rettke from nearby Madison spurring them on, took on a practice schedule befitting a touring pro.

Ten-year-old Erin earned her second national crown, even though she was moving up to a higher age bracket. Her brother, who prevailed in the 8- and 9-year bracket, is entwined in a fierce competition with his sister, dutifully adhering to a daily practice schedule of almost three hours. They devised a practice game of hitting a smaller target and giving themselves point rewards as a training aid to improve their accuracy. They traveled to three walls made out of different materials because they didn’t know what type of wall they would be competing on in Chicago.

Erin has a rhyme she repeats silently to keep her focus. “I talk to myself in my head. … It’s just four lines over and over again,” she saidDylan states his goal is to move up to international competition.

How good are they? In practice, each sibling has hit more than 30 shots without missing. While the idea is to hit forehand after forehand, if an errant ball goes to the backhand, they will stay with that stroke. While both of them have been grooving their ground strokes, the next level is to hit volleys.