Sunday, June 3, 2012
Is Quickstart Tennis The Answer?
The USTA has formatted tennis for kids 10 and under to play on smaller courts with smaller tennis racquets and lower compression(slower) tennis balls. It's called quickstart tennis. It seems like fantastic idea to keep kids engaged, having fun, enjoying more success, and possibly making them want to stay involved in playing tennis longer. I for one think it's a great idea because from what I have seen, the kids seem to love it! The format has been going on in Belgium and France for many years and they have had great results with their version of Quickstart.
We are in the early transition stages and this year any junior playing in a 10 and under USTA tournament now has to play under those guidelines, so basically, we are all teaching them this format. It is new and a few things need to be worked out, but overall it's a good start. But is quickstart tennis alone going to keep kids in the game longer? I think one of the biggest problems holding kids back from getting involved with, staying with tennis, and ultimately getting the USA back on the top of professional tennis is the perception that tennis is unaffordable.
Tennis seems expensive, but really, you get a couple racquets, a few balls, and head out to a free public court and your playing tennis. So what's the problem? To really get good at tennis you have to play and practice all the time. That means hitting thousands of tennis balls with some quality instruction mixed in. Then there's the need for playing lots of practice sets and competing in tournaments while paying for gas, equipment, tournament fees, and even indoor court time in regions where it's not warm all year round. It adds up but it's worth every penny. Most of these kids end up in the top of their class, get into the best colleges, and go on to have very successful lives because of that early investment. Many families find it difficult to have their kids choosing tennis as there focus sport. Compare the costs of signing up for town recreational sports leagues with the cost of tennis. It is more expensive, but it could also be a better investment with bigger returns.
If the USTA wants to get U.S. tennis back on top, they have to figure out what happens after quickstart, the transition period, and the image of tennis. Of course I know they are doing a lot of wonderful things and the USTA is a great organization, but maybe along with quickstart tennis they could put on some free tournaments in every USTA junior section without requiring membership right away. Running a campaign that changes the image of tennis so that tennis is viewed as more of a mainstream less elite sport might do wonders! If more of our kids were given chances, it would create a tennis landscape with a higher level of competition. Ultimately more of our kids could rise up, and maybe if the stars were in alignment, more U.S. players might achieve that elite pro level.
Quickstart will surely make a difference, but I think coaches, instructors, the USTA, and anyone who loves tennis should reach out more to help kids and show families that it is not cost prohibitive to travel down the tennis pathway to success.
All the best,