This is a subject that tennis parents ask me sometimes: what type of tennis balls should their child play with and whether they should play on a full-size court or a smaller one.
I personally encourage the idea of children to progress 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 aged 4-7. Along with the red balls, players can also use sponge balls which are both oversized, and about 75% slower than a regular adult tennis ball, giving beginning players time to prepare for the shot and add a big swing without being afraid of missing deep.
The court size that the red balls should be used is a small one (36 feet long). Beginning players using red balls or playing red ball tournaments have the net placed along the center service line or between the service line and baseline and the points are played between the doubles lines.
2. Orange Balls – are about 50% slower than regular tennis balls and are recommended for children between the ages of 7-9. Used on 60×21 feet tennis court (show how the lines are positioned: baseline is 9 feet / 3 meters inside the regular baseline; singles sidelines are 3 feet / 1 meter inside the regular sideline)
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 larger areas 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 recommendation 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 a western grip (to hit high bouncing balls), tight arm (being afraid to not lose control of the ball), poor footwork, etc.
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 are not affected.