Fast Forward to the year 2016: Imagine 13-year-old girls Landis Mangum, Clair Lusk, Skylar Charlesworth and Carlysle Devane-Schneider playing doubles; an ALTA junior match on a full-sized court. They’re confident with their serves and even their backhands. They’re
having tons of fun, they all have well-honed mechanics and each of them launched their games through 10 and Under Quick Start tennis programs. Back to the present—these same four girls are nine years old. They’re filled with high hopes for improving their games. I have the
privilege of showing them, along with other boys and girls, how to learn to enjoy tennis. Thanks to outlets like Kidz Tennis, Pure Tennis and the Sandy Springs Tennis Center, we can foster an appreciation for tennis at an early age. ALTA 10U has a new and unique look for junior players. There’s a fuzzy ball in the air, but the color is different.It’s yellow, but with swirls of orange, and it’s bigger
than what the adults play with. The low-compression ball floats over the net. The net is smaller, the court is kid-sized and so is the racquet in
Charlesworth’s hand. She watches and thinks, “I don’t fear the ball coming at me.” Devane-Schneider likes to rush the net because she feasts
on volleys, her favorite shot. “I’ve just got to hit the ball,” she explains. Lusk is glad the court’s dimensions are smaller than the ones in her neighborhood. “I think about where I should hit the ball,” she explains. She’s also excited when it’s time for tennis. “We play games that make practice fun,” she says. Mangum actually looks forward to the exercise she gets. “I like challenging people and myself,” she says. This spring will be her first season with ALTA’s 10U downsized courts. “I do think it will be easier to get a serve in and that should lead to longer rallies, which will be more fun. I can’t wait to be part of a team.”Parents see the 10U approach as win win, with benefits for them as well as their children.Charlesworth’s dad, Ben Charlesworth, is happy they’ll be getting some use out of the neighborhood tennis courts they’re already paying for. “Maybe one day she and I will be able to have some real competitive matches. I need to get in shape
first; it’s not easy because I feel like a hamster in the gym,” he says. Lusk’s mom, Joy Lusk, sees how all of her daughter’s skills have improved greatly. Joanna Mangum, Landis’ mom, says, “The kids have so much fun; they don’t even realize that they’re learning at the same
time.” Her daughter’s favorite player is Maria Sharapova because of her intensity. Kerry Devane, Devane-Schneider’smom, says the programs are so much better than when she got her start. “When I was first getting into the sport, I was one of 30 children, all different ages thrown
together. Some felt embarrassed,” she says. She also appreciates incentives like a ladder of color-coded wristbands that her daughter and the other children strive to achieve. “This program has been a huge help as she and Ihaven’t had the patience with each other that the coaches have.” And just in case you were wondering, some kids start even younger than these four girls. Lizzy Wickland is mom to Mack, who is only
four, and he’s been learning tennis since he was three. “I think of that ball like a bomb I get to explode when I hit it,” Mack whispers. Wickland couldn’t be happier with Mack’s progress not only athletically, with running and hand-eye coordination, but also in terms of how the
program bolsters key character-building traits like sharing, patience and teamwork. “I also love how he comes home exhausted from the tennis classes,” she admits. Kidz Tennis, Pure Tennis and the Sandy Springs TC programs are important outlets for teaching our youth. Mike Gunsallus of Kidz Tennis says, “We design games and exercises that are fun for all. We pair the scaled-down equipment with motivation for them to succeed without pressure. Our hope is that they will turn it into a lifelong passion for the sport.” All these youngsters are 10U pioneers and we coaches look forward to guiding them as they cross into a new ALTA frontier. They are the future of tennis.
For more information, check out Kidz Tennis (kidztennis.com), Pure Tennis (www.puretennis.net) and Sandy Springs TC
J.D. Moor is a freelance writer and tennis\instructor who has played ALTA since 1990. As a TV news
producer and public relations specialist, he won numerous awards, including the Emmy
and the International Association of Business Communicators’ Golden Flame.
By J.D. Moor