In today's edition of Coaches Q and A, Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute , addresses the USTA's controversial decision to have all 10-and-under sanctioned competition take place within the QuickStart format.
Q. What is your view of the USTA's QuickStart initiative?
A. I think from talking to a lot of knowledgeable coaches and players that there can be many advantages gained from adapting and using the system that has been in place in Belgium and France for teaching young kids and beginners. The use of the small court, smaller rackets, and softer balls makes it much easier for young kids to learn proper technique, since the racket is much more maneuverable. That makes it much easier to learn and understand the court using drills that most of them simply could not do on a real court, with real equipment, because of strength issues. Using this system may help all young players end up being much more advanced from a tennis knowledge perspective, simply because they can so much more with the ball at a younger age.
It remains to be seen if this increased knowledge carries over to producing better players down the road, but the one thing that seems to take place is the kids having more fun because they are much more successful. Tennis is a hard sport and we lose a lot of kids because many of them they are not physically or mentally able to participate successfully on a full court with adult equipment at a young age. I would not discount the importance of having fun.
On the other hand I think it's ridiculous for the USTA to keep a ten-and-under player who is physically and mentally able from competing at a high level using standard equipment and courts. In effect, they are forcing kids to play tennis a certain way from a young age. They are, in effect, saying this is the only path to success. This is not so surprising since the current philosophy at the junior development level in the USTA is to try to teach a certain way or style for our players based on the European or Spanish method of developing players instead of nurturing and encouraging all styles, but instituting and reinforcing certain foundational markers that have to be met.
Do you have a question for Harold Solomon? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line. Take advantage of the opportunity to have one of the best American players of his generation and one of the nation's most respected coaches answer your questions about junior tennis and player development.
Saturday, February 5, 2011