The right ball at the right time
My experience as a tennis coach in Europe is that all tennis players starting at a young age between 6-12 years old uses the right ball at the right time. In my development of several national champions in my club in Denmark I found that the work with the low compression balls when the players were at a young age developed them into more complete tennis players. A big advantage they took with them in the age of 13-18 years old when the competed on a national and international level.
One of the most important things in developing tennis players is that the players hit the ball at the most optimal striking zone. The best zone for groundstrokes is between the waist and shoulder. The video below shows that even at the age of 10-and-under, the regular Yellow ball will rebound above the head of an average 10-year-old player. This means that playing with efficient, realistic technique and tactics is very difficult, as players either have to:
- regularly take the ball early and play most ground strokes above the optimal striking zone (in line with, and above the head), and / or
- play far behind the baseline and take the ball late, waiting for the ball to drop
The video also shows the average rebound height of the different balls. The rebound heights, as shown in the diagram, are official rebound heights as tested by the ITF
- Red ball – Felt or Foam – 85-105cm
- Orange ball -105-120cm
- Green – 120-135cm
- Yellow – 135-147cm
The slower Red, Orange and Green balls however are designed to bounce lower and move through the air slower to suit the height and motor skills of the player. The video underneath shows the varying ball rebound heights as the balls cross the net, compared to the regular Yellow ball.
The right court size at the right time
The next important thing is to use the right ball on the right size of court. The court size for should be the relevant and realistic size of the player. Most children aged 10 and under will struggle a lot to cover a full tennis court, meaning rallies are shorter, and the use of advanced tactics is unrealistic. Realistic footwork patterns are difficult to develop, as children have to use more steps to cover the court, affecting movement styles to the ball and in recovery, this is also affected by a fast and high bouncing ball. Approach and volley becomes an almost impossible tactic for small players on big courts, because they are easy to pass or lob, and take longer to reach an optimal net position, because of their size and speed.
I strongly recommend the use of the smaller court and right compressed ball to get the most optimal development of the tennis players and give everyone in tennis a good experience with tennis.