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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Coaches Q and A: What's Your View of the USTA's 10-and-Under Tennis Program?



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.

19 comments:

Too Much Ego said...

It is quite certain that Harold has NO IDEA what the usta philosophy is or has not taken the time to fully understand their philosophy. Maybe his ego is getting in the way. The usta is not developing one style of player. There are many different styles based on the different types of players that have not only in Boca but across the country. It is a shame he is trying to put down the usta to make himself look better.

Clearly, if a 10 and under player is good enough, he/she can play 12 and under events. It's actually quite simple.

The European Way said...

Hey Harold

How many Europeans and Spanish are in the Top 10 in the World on the ATP Tour? The answer is 9.

So maybe it is a good idea to start training like the Europeans.

When was the last time a non-European won a Grand Slam on the Men's side?

The Americans need a wake up call, so seeing that there are 14 Spanards in the Top 100 and 34 of the Top 50 players are Europeans, I think they are doing something right. It's time to start thinking what they are doing and add some of that into our American style tennis.

Quickstart said...

"In effect, they are forcing kids to play tennis a certain way from a young age"

Harold is implying that just because the equipment and court is smaller that you cannot teach different game styles.

Absolutely you can teach proper footwork, fundamentals, technique, and attacking game styles on a quickstart court. You can teach it on a driveway, a wall, or any small space if you have the desire.

Doing something different in the States does not mean worse and can not happen. The best adapt and strengthen.

The best thing about Quickstart tennis is that it will introduce, attract and benefit so many younger players.

been-there said...

Well, one good thing that I have seen in my 2 kids. If you start them in tennis at a young age (mine did not have the advantage of the new Quickstart program but did regular tennis), the other sports will be far easier to pick up. Believe me, you can move in volleyball or basketball way better when you have tennis as an initial background. How hard is it to kick a ball (e.g. soccer) after you have had to learn a drop shot at 10 years old,and make your own line calls and play for 3 hours in the hot sun with no referees?

I have seen this in other kids too. Kids who have never played volleyball make their hs volleyball team b/c tennis has taught them to move, and to serve.

However you do it, tennis is a great starter sport.

Kenneth from AtlGA. said...

I have noticed that if anyone dares even question the USTA/Quickstart, they are barraged with nasty comments. Mr. Solomon has coached many players including Capriati, Fernandez, Courier, Seles, and numerous Division 1 players.

The USTA has run several reinventions of their high performance program with a stated goal of producing American champions. They started in Key Biscayne 15 years ago and now in Boca and other locales. In that time after spending countless millions, they have no results.

Yet if anyone even dares question Quickstart or the USTA player development, they are shouted down. That is not right.

The old school method produced Fed, Nadal, Sampras, Agassi, Williams sisters, Roddick, Graf, Seles, Capriati, Borg, Lendl, Connors, McEnroe, Becker, Wilander, Evert.

If you like Quickstart fine, but you should not blast anyone who also defends the other methods that produced the all time greats.

Perhaps one day Quickstart might prove itself as a great way to develop top American players. Until it does, its advocates should take a much more humble approach in my opinion.

jobaholic said...

The Quickstart tennis seems to be a good idea. It will surely benefit a lot of young players and make the game more enjoyable for the kids. www.tennisround.com

"C'Mon Man" said...

Kenneth

I understand what you are saying about Quickstart, but lets be quite clear...

Harold did not develop most if not all of those players you have mentioned: Seles, Courier? C'mon, know your facts before you send them out.

Kenneth from AtlGA. said...

C'mon man, you missed my point entirely. Rarely does a coach develop a player from day 1.

My point is that Mr. Soloman has credentials and does not deserve to have his opinions blasted by Quickstart advocates or USTA advocates. The results of either have not been proven yet.

The all time greats were not developed using Quickstart. Like I said, one day Quickstart may prove itself but until it does its proponents should not be so arrogant.

The original post of this thread said Mr. Soloman has "NO IDEA" of the USTA philosophy and his ego is in the way. That is out of line.

Last time I checked the USTA did not have much return on its multimillion investment in high performance training.

Yet Mr. Soloman should not dare even question the USTA's ideas?

Federer's way said...

Federer started playing the European version of QuickStart.

"C'Mon Man" said...

Kenneth--

The usta's multimillion dollar investment is spread well over 100 top players in player development and about several million kids in community tennis.

Since you are referring to player development, I'm sure you are aware that the usta was only in supplemental coaching for junior development until about 3 years ago, so it was impossible for the usta to personally develop players. Also, we both agree that development takes time, so lets wait 3-4 more years before talking about what the usta develops or doesn't.

I think we both agree on the issue, however we disagree on how Harold answered the question in the manner he did.

Finally said...

Just read Tennis Magazine.

Having Nick Bollettieri, Dick Gould, and Rick Macci----3 coaches who have severly impacted and developed Grand Slam Champions---all have endorsed the 10-and-Under tennis.

That says alot to the importance of getting kids playing tennis at an earlier age, teaching these kids proper fundamentals and having fun while doing it which is what they do in every other sport in America.

In basketball, they shrink the court and the goal....golf--shrink the clubs and length of holes...baseball--teeball, underhand pitching, etc etc etc. It is amazing why it has taken America so long to implement this.

Kenneth from AtlGA. said...

Federer's way, not true. That is a myth from the Quickstart advocates. Federer said in an interview that at age 6 he played with softer foam balls for a very short time, a matter of months, then moved on to regulation balls.

The ITF and Prince did pay him to make a PSA about it. But in no way did he do what Quickstart is saying, long term orange, then green balls all the way until age 10-11. And long term soft ball tournaments on a smaller court.

That is NOT how Fed grew up. Federer and his best friend played their first tournament at age 7 with regulation balls on a regulation court.

Quickstart is being pushed by equipment manufacturers to sell equipment. They are taking what Federer and Henin are saying out of context. Fed and Henin said that little kid beginners should use slower balls at first....just like almost every coach has done for 30 years. They both used softer balls for a short time, just like most coaches do anyway.

They are not advocating long term Quickstart until age 10.

gsm said...

I was physically able to play competitive tennis in the 10 and unders. However, there is typically a big difference between a 12 year old & a 10 year old. It certainly helped my development to be playing kids my own age. It would have been frustrating to have to "play up" in order to get matches on a regulation court.

Kenneth from AtlGA. said...

It has not taken America long to implement miniaturized tennis. I have been teaching tennis for almost 35 years and the entire time kids have been taught on smaller areas of the court and with foam balls or soft balls and with tiny racquets.

I don't know any coaches for 3-10 year olds who would hand a beginning child a 27 inch racquet and start blasting hard balls at them!

The only 'new' thing here is now these little kids with their little equipment can have their parents take them to tournaments.

Frankly, most of the parents I know are both working, the kids are also in ballet, soccer, piano, heavy academics even by age 7 to compete in today's world.

Will parents bring them to the local park to hit some soft balls like they have for all the years I have taught, yes. Whether we call it little tennis like we used to or Quickstart now, it is the same thing.

Will those busy parents drive their little kids to the other side of Atlanta for a Quickstart tournament? From my informal polling, no.

I fail to see what is really changing here for the majority of busy parents and how calling mini tennis something else matters? I don't think any of the parents I have worked with would know who those three people you mentioned even are! These parents are in their 20s or early 30s, and didn't grow up following tennis. It is tough enough telling them who Agassi is, let alone who his coach was 20 years ago!

Coach said...

As a coach who has just started using the QuickStart format and did the workshop, i must say it has alot of benefits, i have 4-5 tr. olds who can hit a ball over the net a few times in a row. to see the faces and smiles they have it is giving them an opportunity to want to continue playing tennis. with that said, i disagree 100% with solomon in the fact that it is teaching kids to play a certain style of tennis, i have kids who just want to keep the ball in play and then i have kids who just want to hit hard. if solomon knew anything about the quickstart format and the way the usta is have the instructors teach it, NEVER has the usta said to teach them to be hitters or ball retrievers, the concept is to let the kids have FUN and to give them the fundamentals of strokes, scoring and more fun. i would highly recommend that before someone speaks about a certain topic, become educated in that topic. who is to say what kinda of a player will come out of quickstart, maybe a hitter or ball retriever? any experienced coach in dealing with young players, know that it comes down also to personality and the traits they already have.

CA. Coach said...

Coach, how were you teaching 4-5 year olds before? Every coach I know at those ages have always used suitably sized racquets and slower balls. Nothing new here, Oncourt has been selling small kids nets and equipment for at least 15 years that I know of. To me this all sounds like the USTA taking credit for a very old idea.

coach said...

CA Coach, unfortunitly it takes a very old idea to be brought to light and i am neither a for or against the usta, but they are endorsing Quickstart and making an old idea new and exciting,(especially for parents). I live in South Florida and have never seen any pro using smaller net, (yes racquets) or specialized balls. To alot of people when the usta is publizing something it gives it more creadibility, especially to the new tennis parents. sounds like you have been on top of this for awhile congradulations

chalkflewup said...

Sorry folks, this isn't McTennis. The masses of QuickStart naysayers want a fast American fix to the current tennis crisis. Unfortunately, you can't cruise to the drive-thru and order a couple of Grand Slams -- it ain't on the menu. Over the long haul, I believe QS will have a tremendous impact in growing the game of tennis, however; it's important that coaches and parents buy into the philosophy. And 10 and under is a great place to begin. Kudos to the USTA for making a radical decision.

Give it a rest Harold -- your characterization of the USTA developing only one style of play is inaccurate. And if you truly believe that to be true, a man of your credentials didn't need to go there.

OC tennis said...

Kenneth said
"Quickstart is being pushed by equipment manufacturers to sell equipment. They are taking what Federer and Henin are saying out of context. Fed and Henin said that little kid beginners should use slower balls at first....just like almost every coach has done for 30 years. They both used softer balls for a short time, just like most coaches do anyway."


I totally agree with this!
What drives changes in tennis is $$$$.

Look, the game has changed because of technology to racquets(money for Wilson,Babolat etc.), Strings and court surface (tv revenue for more balanced matches, more perceived viewers).

I think Harold has some good points about quickstart.

As far as developing player to play the spanish method/european way take a look at the tennis court surfaces on the ATP and WTA. that is the main issue period.

If you want more dynamic differences between players, make significant changes in the court speed.

the clay courts will always be slow...but now every court is slower.

the typical clay court specialists would never go anywhere on Grass, indoor carpet or fast slick hard courts.

Look at the schedule, look at the surface changes, that has made changes to the game worldwide.

See what would happen if the US open was on Grass courts like forest hills...major changes would happen, because all of the tournaments leading up to the event would be on grass.

Just my 2 cents....