The Neighborhood Junior Tennis Program uses the 10-and-Under Tennis format (also known as red/orange/green ball) in our beginner- and intermediate-level junior classes. We strongly believe that the 10-and-Under format is the best way to develop junior players and teach them the most solid fundamentals of the game.
For an introduction to the red/orange/green ball progression, watch this video from USTA demonstrating how it works:
When very young kids begin to learn tennis, they typically encounter several problems:
- Standard tennis balls are too heavy, travel too fast and bounce too high for young kids to control
- Standard racquets are too large and heavy for young players to handle
- Standard courts are too big for smaller kids to cover
- Standard tennis scoring is confusing for very young kids
These problems combine to make tennis difficult and frustrating for young beginning players.
Additionally, when young players cannot control the racquet and ball properly, they don’t develop proper stroke techniques. Tennis turns into a game of “tapping” and lobbing the ball, instead of hitting through the ball to generate pace and spin.
The 10-and-Under Solution
10-and-Under tennis solves these problems by using these elements:
- Low-compression, lighter tennis balls
- Smaller, lighter racquets
- Smaller tennis courts
- Tiebreak or “no-ad” simplified scoring
The 10-and-Under format enables kids to learn proper stroke technique, keep the ball in play longer, build consistency, and most importantly—have more fun!
The transition from 10-and-Under to standard tennis occurs in steps as each student becomes ready to move up. The fundamentals they have built at each level let them easily transition to the next level ball, racquet size and court size.
10-and-Under Tennis Balls
10-and-Under tennis balls are “low-compression” balls—they are less pressurized and do not bounce as high as regular balls. They are also designed to travel more slowly through the air. This makes the balls much easier for young kids to hit and control.
|Red ball—slowest speed, slightly larger than standard tennis balls, lowest bounce|
|Orange ball—medium speed, same size as standard tennis balls, somewhat reduced bounce|
|Green ball—faster speed, same size as standard tennis balls, slightly reduced bounce|
|Yellow (standard) ball—regular speed and bounce|
10-and-Under tennis uses modified tennis racquets, available in several sizes:
These racquets offer several advantages:
- They are smaller and lighter than standard racquets, and have appropriate-sized grips, making them easier for younger players to handle
- Students develop proper stroke technique using racquets they can swing and control effectively
The 10-and-Under format uses several sizes of modified tennis courts:
These smaller courts offer several benefits:
- It is easier for smaller kids to cover the whole court
- Players can rally and keep the ball in play longer
- Students can play real tennis games and learn the fundamentals of game strategy
Standard tennis scoring can be confusing for younger kids (and even for adults!) The 10-and-Under format uses several forms of tennis scoring that students can progress through:
- The youngest students use 7-point tiebreak scoring–the score is counted as 1, 2, 3, etc… up to 7
- Older students use “no-ad” scoring, where points are counted as 15, 30, 40, game—with no deuce or advantage points
- Finally, students learn standard scoring with deuce and advantage (ad-in / ad-out) points
Advantages of 10-and-Under Tennis
The 10-and-Under format gives kids a number of advantages:
- Instead of struggling with oversized equipment, kids start playing and enjoying tennis right away
- Rallies and points last longer, making tennis a lot more interesting and fun
- Students learn proper stroke techniques with less effort
- Students learn to use racquet speed and spin much sooner
Drawbacks to 10-and-Under Tennis?
Parents are sometimes concerned that the 10-and-Under format will hinder their child’s ability to use standard tennis equipment when they are ready for it.
However, the opposite is true—kids who start out using 10-and-Under equipment easily make the transition to standard tennis.
The transition from 10-and-Under to standard tennis does not occur all at once—kids progress through the various stages as their skills improve. Each new stage introduces slightly larger courts, slightly faster tennis balls, and students can use a larger racquet size as they become ready for it. At each ball level (red, orange or green), the next ball level is used some of the time, so that students have time to get used to the next ball type.
As they progress through the stages of 10-and-Under tennis, students learn the fundamentals of proper footwork, tennis strokes and game strategy, so that by the time they are ready for standard tennis, they are well-prepared to take on the challenges of the standard game, and they have the best foundation on which to continue building their skills.
You can read more about 10-and-Under tennis at USTA’s site below: