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Wed, Jan. 29

Column: PATA presses on with kids tennis program

Do you happen to be between the ages of 5 and 10 years old and have tried different activities like youth soccer, T-ball, bitty basketball, flag football and other similar outlets that have created an outlet and smaller version of adult sports?

Tennis is now in that category with a program called "QuickStart Tennis."

In 2008 the United States Tennis Association (USTA), in conjunction with many other tennis associations, presented this idea of QuickStart Tennis for kids 10-and-under throughout the U.S. that consists of equipment and courts that are sized for youth - so they can enjoy the game right from the get-go.

There are two group breakdowns.

The first is for players 8-and-under.

The court size is 18 feet by 36 feet, the net height is 2 feet, 9 inches, racquets are 19 to 23 inches in length and the balls are low compression, lighter and slower.

Matches and scoring for this group are the best of 3 games. Each game played is the first to seven points.

In the 10-and-under group, the court size increases to 60 feet by 21 feet, the net height is normal at 3 feet, racquets are 23 to 25 inches long and the balls are still low compression, but a bit faster than for the younger group.

Matches consist of the best two of three sets to 4 games and the third set (if needed) is the first to seven points.

In the past, kids who played tennis were expected to be little adults, using their same court dimensions, balls, racquets and rules, thus it was tough to be younger than the age of 10 or so and really be able to learn the game and play to any decent extent.

Now within an hour, kids are rallying, having fun, hitting with sound strokes and fundamentals, and ready for more.

They're playing real tennis within their age groups and capabilities with courts and equipment that's been modified - like so many other successful youth sports.

The USTA has even made a rule change,

Starting in 2012, kids 10-and-under will be required to play tournaments on these smaller courts, with low compression balls and lighter racquets.

If you're 10 and under and want to play tournaments on a full court with regulation balls you still can, but you'll have to play in the 12-and-under division.

The Prescott Area Tennis Association (PATA) has been promoting this new tennis program for youth by helping to get instructors trained, equipment purchased and different groups willing to try and then hopefully incorporate QuickStart as one of their normal tennis outlets...such as Parks and Recreation in Prescott and Prescott Valley, the YMCA, Prescott Unified School District the Prescott Racquet Club and other youth organizations.

One special and hard-working tennis instructor, Zac Murray, has been teaching QuickStart Tennis the past 18 plus months, much of it through the PUSD with Kids and Company, the Prescott Valley Parks and Recreation, and also at Yavapai College on Saturday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m.

He has been to training through the USTA and worked hand in hand with the PATA in bringing a top-notch, fun-filled tennis program for the younger kids to fruition and wants every parent with younger kids to know he's available to get their kids started in this life-time sport.

Zac said, "The QuickStart program is a great way for kids to have fun while they learn the basics of tennis.

"Kids learning at their own pace, with positive feedback, lots of movement, friends, laughter and play.

"As adults we sometimes get too concerned with performance, winning and losing, but ultimately we do it for fun, and the kids have reinforced that to me."

If you're interested in getting your child or children involved, either in the Saturday QuickStart program, or your own neighborhood group of 2, 3 or more, feel free to call Zac at 928-273-3405. Or go to the PATA website and see what else is available at wwwPrescottTennis.com

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at choward4541@q.com or 928-642-6775.

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