We are pleased to announce the commencement of our Red Ball class. We held our first session on Saturday at 9:00 am, and it will be a regular part of our program going forward. The Red Ball class is a fantastic way to introduce young kids to the sport. The skills taught during this development stage are often overlooked, and it's a shame. Building a player's hand-eye coordination, developing spacial awareness, and working on reactions and timing are just some of the areas of focus for our Red Ballers. And be warned, our Red Ball class will look very unorthodox! There will be hula hoops, and balloons, and obstacles! This is entirely by design,..and entirely fun for the kids.
Over the winter break, Kel and I had the opportunity to work with many of the top ranked juniors in America during the USTA Winter Nationals Tournament hosted in Arizona in late December. After working with and watching many of these top players, I realized that while they certainly can hit with power, most had some fundamental issues--issues that should have been addressed when they were younger. As I transitioned back to the young players in our development program, I have become more excited and more dedicate to building fundamentally sound players from the start.
Kel and I continuously stress the importance of timing the split step for quick reactions. We also focus on teaching the kids to create space between themselves and the ball. This allows the correct swing path of the racquet. Many players get too close, which affects the swing shape, forces grip changes, and ruins the timing. There is no better time to instill these fundamentals than in Red Ball. Children aged 4-7, using properly-sized racquets, on a court that suits their size and speed, and with a ball that's bigger and softer and slower, is the perfect setting to learn tennis the right way. Red Ball is all about the fundamentals, the presence or absence of which become more and more obvious as the children progress.
Finally, we are so proud of all of our kids who played in the Grand Canyon State Winter Games tennis tournament this past weekend. We had 10 kids at the event at Scottsdale Ranch Park. We had boys and girls. from the 10s to the 14s. One of our players was the number 1 seed, while several of our Orange Ballers (and their parents!) were experiencing their first tournament. Of course everyone wants to take home the trophy, but just participating in tournament play is a vital part of development. Some players expect to go deep into the draw. Others are learning the environment or working on specific aspects of their game (including mental strength and attitude) in a match setting. It's all about development--building on those fundamentals learned in Red Ball.
As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me.
Matt's Point (get it? Match Point!) is Matt's blog covering all the goings-on at IJP Tennis.