You’ve probably seen commercials from the USTA touting “tennis sized for kids,” “10 and Under Tennis,” and “Net Generation.” Multi-colored tennis balls and smaller racquets are the most visible changes, but the differences in the equipment can be a little confusing. Let’s knock out some the basics so you can be sure to set your child up for fun and improvement on the court.
Youth Tennis Progression: Red Ball
The first level of the Red, Orange, Green (ROG) progression is the 36-foot court. Take a normal-size (78 ft) tennis court and turn it on its side. See diagram at left.
Add a pop-up net (2 ft 9 in) and you have an official Red Court! The Red level is designed for players aged 4-8 and uses slightly larger and low-bouncing “red” balls to help keep the ball where young players can hit it. The focus is on skills and hand-eye-coordination development.
The maximum racquet length for the Red court is 23 inches and most of the racquets at this length are available at or under $30. Red balls are available in traditional felt or foam construction. The foam balls are great for indoor surfaces and really help keep the noise level down.
Most Red Ball competition is team-based, with best-of-three tiebreakers deciding matches.
Youth Tennis Progression: Orange Ball
The mid level of ROG uses the orange ball and it played on a 60-foot court. The ball is the same size as a yellow tennis ball, but features a lower compression, keeping it from bouncing over young players’ heads. See diagram at right.
The age range for Orange ball play is 8-10 year olds, and the maximum length for racquets is 25 inches. Several brands offer 100% graphite 25-inch racquets and they are substantially more stable than their aluminum counter parts.
Players competing often will benefit substantially by using a graphite racquet. The scoring format for competition is a little bit more like the traditional format: best of three four-game sets with a tiebreaker for the third set, no ad.
Youth Tennis Progression: Green Ball
The final stage of ROG uses green dot balls. A standard-length court is used, and players may use standard-length racquets. The green ball or green dot ball is compressed at 75% of a standard yellow ball. See diagram at left.
Players in this group are 10 and older, and even some 12-and-under players will benefit from starting with the green ball.
The scoring format remains the same as orange ball with four-game sets and no-ad scoring.
At Tennis Express, we carry racquets and equipment for red, orange, and green divisions. We offer value priced aluminum models which are suitable for occasional recreational play, and 100% graphite options that are better for competitive players. Tennis Express also has numerous training aids, ball baskets, and junior apparel.
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