I gave a clinic recently and had a new participant just coming back to the game after a five-year layoff. She broke her ankle, had a long road to recovery and had lost interest in playing.
I think it was probably more a loss of confidence, thinking she might risk injuring the ankle again.
Well, I had four hoppers of different colored balls (red, orange, green, yellow) of varied sizes on the court, using all of them during the course of a session.
The new participant asked with visible concern, “Why the kiddie balls? I thought this was to be an adult clinic.”
This is a very common reaction I’ve experienced to these balls since they were originally designed for the USTA 10 & Under Youth Tennis programs.
The idea behind them is to provide a more positive overall experience to succeed at hitting the ball and keep it in play.
This is achieved by lowering the ball’s compression, which slows it down and makes it bounce a bit lower than the regulation yellow balls.
The red (R) or Stage 1 balls are slightly larger and 50 percent slower than regulation yellow balls. These are great for beginners of all ages, and I use them on a regular basis as a short court warm-up for the first few minutes of the clinic.
They really challenge the players’ footwork and racquet control. The idea here is not to win the warm-up, but to see how many times you can get the ball over the net and develop consistency.
We stay within the service boxes because these were also designed with a 36-foot-size court in mind.
The orange (O) or Stage 2 balls are regulation size but slightly lighter weight and 25 percent slower than yellow balls. I use these with a 60-foot court in mind and for rallying points while playing “triples” in our Cardio Tennis program. In addition, we allow two bounces for this ball, giving more chances to get to it.
The green (G) or Stage 3 balls are regulation size and weight, but 10 percent slower than yellow balls. We use these on the 78-foot (regulation size) court, especially for adult beginners, those coming back to the game due to injury or age, and even some intermediate players.
The fact is they simply allow players to enjoy getting and keeping more balls in play.
During the course of the session, we worked on forehand and backhand ground strokes and controlling the center of the court with regulation yellow balls.
Then, for the last half hour the participants worked on what they learned by playing out points in real time with the green balls.
By the end of our clinic, our new player was convinced “R.O.G.” isn’t just for kids.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.