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League News: Growing The Junior Game

ALTA Junior Leagues player

By Tammi Copelli, Junior Leagues Vice President

It’s so hard to believe the spring season is upon us. Registration for Juniors started on January 1 and will close on January 28. I was thrilled our numbers for Fall of 2021 were up 20 percent, and we are hoping to top that this spring. It’s easy to create and enter a junior roster by going to the ALTA website. If you have any questions, you can access the exact steps in FAQs on our ALTA homepage.

I thought this would be a great time to share a few things you might not know about the ALTA Junior program. ALTA started league play for juniors in 1971. We just celebrated our 50th year last year. Presently, we have close to 5,400 juniors playing tennis. Last fall, we had 207 Boys’ teams and 180 Girls’ teams. The league is broken up into 10U, 12U, 15U and 18U, and within each age bracket, we have between two and four different skill levels, so we have a variety of teams where kids of various skill levels can play. All levels play eight-game pro-sets with the exception of our 18U who play best out of two sets with a 10-point tie breaker to decide the match if they split sets. Our goal is to afford an opportunity for kids of all ages to find a team to learn, grow, and play tennis.

Some years back, our 10U teams started playing with lower compression orange-dot balls and shorter courts, and our 12U teams started playing with green-dot balls. I get many questions from parents if these balls and smaller courts are beneficial. I had the opportunity recently to ask two coaches their opinions on just that.

Stuart Marcus, St Ives Country Club
The success of the Orange Dot program is due to the shorter rackets and smaller court. The Orange Dot tennis ball is a lower-compression ball that doesn’t bounce as high, which makes it easier to keep the ball in the child’s strike zone. This gives the player a greater chance to make contact with the ball, rally, and it helps coaches develop correct technique.

The success of the Green Dot program is due to the progression through Orange Dot, however juniors who are just picking up a racket for the first time at 10 or 11 years of age can have immediate success from controlling and rallying with their coaches. Juniors who have trained through the Orange Dot program will now have the correct fundamental technique to see the success of the spins and more velocity with their shots. Both progression phases truly do offer an easier/more successful way for younger junior players to be introduced to the game, yet still helps players to advance into competitive matches.

Grayson Blanchette, Seven Hills Tennis Director
My rallies extend by double when we use them versus full-pressure balls. Honestly, I think kids and parents have been conditioned to not like them or to fuss sometimes, but the results are clear. They definitely work.

As you can see, we have taken every opportunity to find a place for all ages and skill levels in our Junior program. Your child may need shorter courts, and we have them. They may benefit from lower-compression balls, and we use them. They may be too old for eight-game pro-sets and should play full sets, so we offer that. If you need a beginner or more advanced team, we have both.

In our last City Finals matches at the end of the fall season, it was such a pleasure to experience the excitement and joy from the players and their family members who came to cheer them on. For such a simple game, hitting a ball back and forth across a net, it brings so much joy and awesome opportunities for all levels and all skill sets. So, we are proud to be here and are looking so forward to our upcoming spring season and seeing you and your kids on the courts.

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