Growing the Game: ALTA’s New Junior Program is a Big Hit!
By Emmy Powell, Net News Editor
If you’re new to Atlanta or just picking up the game of tennis, it doesn’t take long for one of your friends, co-workers, or even a parent to mention how great it can be to play ALTA. We offer something for everyone. From beginner to advanced, you can find a team that fits your skill level. This includes our juniors, who can play on a team when they turn 7 years old and remain in the league until they reach age 18.
As our 2022 President Lamar Scott mentioned in his letter (see page 4), we are expanding our horizons. We are now allowing ALTA members who are 16 or 17 years old to play with adults at the AA level. This program is available in the Thursday Women, Sunday Women, Men’s, and Mixed Doubles Leagues. Scott says attracting young players to ALTA is essential. This pilot program was launched in the fall 2021 season and has been very successful. “We’ve heard so much positive feedback from parents, coaches, and the players. Not only does this allow them to compete at a high level, but it also exposes them to doubles and helps these players understand strategy, movement, and what is takes to win at this level,” says Scott.
At age 17, Claire Giddings first participated in the program when she joined a Sunday Women’s team. When she turned 18, she continued to play at the AA level by joining a Mixed Doubles team. “Playing in this league has been one of the best experiences I have had in ALTA,” she said. “You can practice your doubles game at a high level and have fun with it, without having the stress that comes in a junior tournament where if you win or lose determines if you have another match.” Giddings adds that this type of play has helped her become more aggressive on the court and strengthened her serve and net game. “To any junior who is thinking about playing AA, I highly suggest you do it! It will be the most fun you can have; you’re on a team with high-level players, and you get to improve your doubles’ skills,” she said.
Improving their doubles skills is just one of the benefits for these juniors. For 16-year-old Elle Sceney, she gets the added bonus of playing with her dad, Brad Sceney, who is one of the most well-respected and talented players in the Atlanta area. Elle says she loves to play on a team with her dad and says this experience is much different than playing with juniors. “I realized in the first match how much faster the points were. Sometimes it was just a serve and return, or the point was over in the next shot or just a few shots. In juniors, the points last much longer,” she says.
This type of play has helped her be more active at the net. She also says any junior looking to improve his or her doubles skills and who wants to learn how to think more on the court while focusing on what to do on each point would enjoy this level of play. Brad, too, is enjoying the opportunity to play with his daughter. Through the years, they have watched each other play a lot of matches but have not played together as a team. “So, to play and just have fun on the court is a great experience for me,” he said. “I try to just play the role of her doubles partner and remove the coach or father role. So far, so good.”
These juniors get to experience playing a different style of doubles than that to which they are accustomed. “Many of these players are hoping to play college tennis, and the experience they are getting as they head into college is extremely beneficial,” says Brad. He also believes this is increasing the pool of AA players, and that can only strengthen the competition. “If we want to make AA ALTA the highest-level competition in Atlanta, bringing top-level juniors into this league certainly helps achieve that,” he said. “Knowing we are helping them with their tennis, regardless of what end of the court you are on, is very satisfying.”
ALTA has officially made this pilot initiative a permanent league program and will continue to look for ways to strengthen and develop junior and adult leagues to benefit our ALTA members.