This is a subject that tennis parents ask me sometimes: what type of tennis balls should their child play with and whether he/she should play on a full size court or smaller one.
I personally encourage the idea of children progression from slower to faster balls for the following reasons:
– slower balls let them swing harder without being afraid of missing deep (biggest fear)
– they have more time to prepare for the shot (good technique)
– promotes longer rallies.
1. Red Balls – these are the slowest and largest of the balls and are recommended for little children age 4-7. Along with the red balls, players can also use sponge balls which are both oversized, about 75% slower than a regular adult tennis ball, that give beginning players time to prepare for the shot and add a big swing without being afraid to missing deep.
The court size that the red balls should be used is a small one (36 feet long). Beginning palyers using red balls or playing red ball tournaments have the net placed along the center service line or between service line and baseline and the points are played between the doubles lines.
2. Orange Balls – are about 50% slower than a regular tennis ball and they are recommended for children between the age of 7-9. Used on 60x21 feet tennis court (show how the lines are positioned: baseline is 9 feet / 3 meters inside the regular baseline; singles side lines are 3 feet / 1 meter inside the regular side line)
3. Green Dot Balls – are about 25% slower than regular tennis balls and are recommended for kids who are 9 or 10 years old.
Those who play green ball tournaments use a full court, are fast enough to cover a larger ares and are almost ready to move up to a regular yellow tennis ball which bounces higher and moves faster.
They are also called transition tennis balls.
4. Yellow (Adult) Tennis Balls – should be used by children who are at least 11 years old and my recommandation is that the transition should be done gradually using practice balls that are slower and lower bounce than tournament balls.
It is important to not start the beginning players with balls that the child finds difficult to control in regard to speed and height because they can develop bad habits in order to adjust to the new ball, such as: western grip (to hit high bouncing balls), tight arm (being afraid to not lose control of the ball), poor footwork.
Transitioning from one ball type and court size should be done under careful supervision and the before mentioned technical aspects should be monitored so that the child’s technique and footwork is not affected.