"10 and Under" Tennis Brings Kids to the Court -- And Keeps Them There

Health & Wellness on 09.13.11
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Photo: United States Tennis Association

Wow! All I can say is WOW! If you missed the U.S. Open Men's Championship tennis match last night, then you missed an epic show. The athleticism and stamina shown Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was unbelievable. It was a hard-fought match for both players, with some too-good-to-be-true shots and epic rallies. But in the end, Djokovic came out on top, winning his third grand slam title of the year. He was rewarded with a shiny silver trophy and a check for $1.8 million.

If you have been watching the Open, then you've no doubt seen the commercial featuring Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi reading a book to a group of school-aged children. They tell the tale of a young girl named Sophie, who wanted to play tennis. But when she got out on the court, she realized that it was too big, her racquet was too heavy, and the balls bounced too high and too fast. So, she simply quit playing.

Unfortunately, the commercial was based on reality. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) noticed that children were very much interested in the sport of tennis, but that very few stayed with it. Officials discovered that kids quickly grew frustrated with the game, the equipment, and the rules, because they were playing with adult-sized racquets on full-sized courts -- the same size that Djokovic and Nadal played on at the U.S. Open.

So, the powers that be at the USTA took a look at international tennis to see if they could learn a new way to bring tennis to kids. What they came up with is a new program called 10 and Under Tennis, which introduces kids to shorter courts, lighter racquets, and slower-moving balls. Their hope is that kids will have more fun, in turn encouraging them to stick with it. According to the 10 and Under Web site, "When kids are rewarded with a sense of success, they are far more likely to stick with the game." In this video, Mary Jo Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe explain a little bit more about the program.

Whole New Ballgame from 10 and Under Tennis on Vimeo.

As a tennis player myself, I think this is an awesome move to get kids involved with the sport. I saw some children, probably around 5 or 6, participating in 10 and Under Tennis in my neighborhood and they were having a ball (no pun intended). I only discovered the game myself about four years ago. Imagine if I began when I was 5. I might have room full of shiny trophies and a bank account full of prize money.

For more information on 10 and Under Tennis, including finding a program near you, visit their Web site here.

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