INTRODUCTION TO THE RED BALLERS PROGRAM
RED BALL tennis is the first step in progressive tennis. The transition to successful ORANGE BALL tennis will require a period of skill development where basic co-ordination and cooperative activities will lead to the development of the basic strokes and fundamentals.
RED BALL Tennis is played on a 36′ court turned sideways across the court from doubles sideline to doubles sideline (36 foot length). An oversize, high-density foam ball is used which is easier to visually track, receive, and control, since it flies slower and bounces lower. Players use 19-21 inch rackets (depending on player size) which gives better racket control. This modified equipment will help develop good biomechanics. Regular rules apply with the exception that the server can serve anywhere in the opponent‟s court (in front of the singles sideline), and the scoring is simplified.
Demands of the Game Red Tennis
Court and ball demands
The Red ball is bigger and flies slower than other balls. It has a consistent bounce which places it between the knee and the bottom of the rib cage on the majority of shots when players rally baseline to baseline. Most balls are hit around this area and it is very difficult for a player to make the ball bounce much higher for their opponent.
The court is relatively narrow in length, so players need to move a little sideways and forwards but backward movement is a limited requirement. Players can usually move, stop and balance in preparation for each shot. Most points will be played from the back of the court using ground strokes, although some players will progress to approaching and volleying.
The focus in training in the red ballers program should be simple early reaction and movement, good balance and rotation, and consistent contact points. Red ballers will learn a number of technical skills with the red balls and smaller courts.
Consistent bounce of the red ball and smaller court size means:
- Most balls will be hit mid chest to knee high
- Some open racket face skills are required on lower balls
- Only volleys and serve are hit above shoulder height
- Serve contact point height depends on age and capacity
- Smooth transition from back to forward swing on forehand and backhand
- Shoulder rotation supports stroke production. By creating a simple foundation of move, stop, hit and recover and by focussing on a consistent contact point on the forehand and backhand, players will have great foundations to move on to the dynamic demands of the next court.Tactical Awareness Player’s tactical intention is limited, more by their developmental age than court, and will be very different for a 6 year old Red player just starting and an 8 year old Red player who has a lot of experience; however neither is likely to have full awareness of their opponent unless they are at an advanced level. This means that although they may be able to hit the ball away from their opponent, they are unlikely to be able to fully understand how to make it difficult for their opponent in other ways as their focus is on themselves and the ball, and they may not link shots together consciously.In order to develop the limited tactical intention that they do have, practices should be based upon:
- Directing the ball down the line
- Directing the ball cross court
- Re-directing the ball in order to hit away from the opponent