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10 and Under Tennis Rule Change takes effect January 1, 2012

December 2, 2011 03:28 PM
The rule change for USTA and ITF-sanctioned tournaments for kids 10 and Under takes effect January 1.
By EJ Crawford
The rules of tennis are officially changing on Jan. 1, 2012, with the implementation of 10 and Under Tennis as the official play format for all USTA and ITF-sanctioned tournaments for kids 10 and under. The rule change was adopted by the USTA and the ITF in the summer of 2010.
The largest youth initiative in USTA history, 10 and Under Tennis scales the game to size for its youngest players, with shorter courts, slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, and lighter and shorter racquets.
"Scaling tennis to the size of children will promote greater participation and ensure that young kids will be able to play tennis much more quickly," says Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "This rule change to the competition format for kids 10 and under is critical to the long-term growth of our sport, and ultimately will help us develop new generations of world-class players."
The specifications for the revised system hold that tournaments for those ages 9-10 be played on 60-foot courts using orange low-compression tennis balls and regulation nets (3 feet at the center) or, for those more experienced and more skilled players, on 78-foot courts with green lower-compression balls. Tournaments for those 8 and under are to be played on 36-foot courts using red foam balls and nets at a height of 2 feet, 9 inches.
"There have been hardly any changes to tennis in its history, and this one is major," says Dave Miley, Executive Director, Tennis Development, ITF. "People maybe don’t understand the significance of it, but you’re changing the court and you’re changing the ball that’s being used. It’s significant, and it will allow us to compete more easily with other sports and other activities for the time and attention of 10-and-under children."
In many ways, it already has. In 2011, the 10 and Under Tennis initiative was unveiled in full to tennis providers—clubs, parks and recreation agencies, etc.—and to consumers through a series of national and local programs, as well as through the revamped 10andUnderTennis.com website. 10 and Under Tennis also made headway with racquets and balls geared just for kids now available in stores throughout the country, and more and more parents and kids are playing tennis at home, be it on a driveways, playground or any improvised court.
"10 and Under Tennis has made a significant impact on our community," says Mike Woody, Executive Director of the Midland Community Tennis Center in Midland, Mich., one of the early proponents of 10 and Under Tennis. "It has increased our programming and the number of new people coming to our facility. That has meant more money, better business and more kids playing tennis. I would recommend it to anyone out there who’s interested."
Many providers, players and fans have already embraced the youth initiative. In fact, more than 3,000 courts for kids 10 and Under were constructed in 2011 alone, either through blended lines (lines for 36- and/or 60-foot courts laid down on top of a traditional 78-foot court) or stand-alone 36- or 60-foot courts; more than 20,000 of Play Days were held to introduce kids to tennis in a fun, engaging, low-pressure setting; more than 4,000 providers registered on 10andUnderTennis.com; and more than 7,000 participants registered to learn the best practices to teach kids the game through the USTA’s QuickStart Tennis Workshops.
Moreover, 10 and Under Tennis figures to only grow bigger and better in the coming year. The local investment markets, where the USTA is dedicating time and money to grow 10 and Under Tennis, will expand from 26 to 40-plus in 2012. And the roles of tournaments will grow and evolve with the implementation of rule change.
"We’re fundamentally changing the sport of tennis—the way it’s taught and the way it’s played," says Scott Schultz, Managing Director, Youth Tennis, USTA. "The USTA has worked diligently in conjunction with all its partners to make it easier than ever to play the game. So whether you’re just getting started, want to play for fun or have designs on playing collegiate or professional tennis, 10 and Under Tennis has a program for you."


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