After last month’s article about ROG tennis balls was published in this newspaper, I was contacted by Brian O’Donnell of Tennis Industry Association. Brian extended an invitation to participate in a demonstration to help promote awareness and growth of POP Tennis.

We did this during the Pro-League tennis competition held May 13 at The Tennis Club of the Lowcountry (special thanks to Gavin Cox and his staff for accommodating us).

As you can imagine, having never heard of this type of tennis, I was a bit skeptical but curious to find out more.

Well, it turns out that POP Tennis is actually a re-branding of paddle tennis, invented in 1898 by the Rev. Frank Peter Beal. His vision for paddle tennis was to provide an activity for kids as a stepping stone for them to learn to play tennis.

The original paddle tennis court was 18 feet by 39 feet, which is exactly half the size of a regulation tennis court.

The ball was sponge rubber, and the wooden paddle resembled a ping-pong paddle on steroids.

Because of the smaller court, the short-handled paddle with no strings for more control, and a slower ball, kids could pick up the game pretty quickly – a perfect combination of fun while developing skills to move on to tennis.

So, there’s a brief history of yet another racquet sport that’s easy to play and great fun for any age. Actually, the new name, POP Tennis, is short for popular tennis, and at the same time, the ball makes a distinctive “pop” sound similar to what you would hear while watching tennis on TV.

Although the scoring is the same as tennis, a few things have been updated that make POP Tennis more accessible:

  • It is now played on a regulation size tennis court with only the length shortened to either 36 feet or 60 feet. The net height and sidelines stay the same as tennis for singles or doubles.
  • Serve: underhand, one only (no overhand serves or second chances except for “let”)
  • Use the “red” or “orange” ball for the 36-foot court and “green” ball for the 60-foot court (progressively slower than regulation yellow tennis balls). All are readily available at most sporting goods stores.
  • The paddle is made of composite material and has a rough, flat surface (no strings, of course) to better grip the ball for control and spin.

When it came time for us to do the demonstration, I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never held one of these paddles – let alone hit a ball with one. So, as Brian spoke to the crowd, I had the pleasure of hitting doubles with three very capable junior players who were new to this, too.

We had a blast! So much fun to laugh with them and see their faces light up as we rallied and discovered we hit the ball just like tennis.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton/Hilton Head Island area.