Slower balls are not just for children; starter players of all ages, including adults, can benefit from playing with slower Orange and Green balls on appropriate sized courts.
The use of the balls is fundamental to this course, and to helping starter adults to learn to play tennis quickly. However, it is also recognised that adults learn at different speeds and have different experiences and transferrable skills. For this reason, while the use of slower balls is mandatory for this course, coaches should be flexible in their approach concerning:
... which ball to use
- which ball (either Orange or Green) is used at given points in the course, based on the ability and progress of the participants. The recommendation is that the course is centred around the use of Orange or Green balls. However, it is recognised that the red ball will be used when necessary as a teaching aid or to make the session more active.
... when players can progress
- at which point players are ready to progress from one ball to another. It is important to remember that players progress at different rates, and coaches should therefore be prepared to choose either Orange or Green balls for different players within the same lesson if necessary
... when players should regress
- the need at times to regress to a slower ball. In some tasks, it may be necessary for players to regress temporarily from one ball to another. For example, to develop confidence in a task, it may be suitable for players using an Orange ball to develop new skills by first starting with the Red ball for part of the lesson before going back to the Orange ball.
... how far players can progress
- how far players progress within the course. Whilst the stated aim is for participants to play fun competition with a Green ball by the end of the course, some players will achieve this more quickly than others. Some players may feel more confident using an Orange ball at the end of the course but the vast majority will be able to progress more using the Green ball by the end of the course.
In all cases, it is the responsibility of the coach, using the guidance notes for the course, to decide which slower ball should be used, and at what point players should progress to another ball.
Guidelines on Slower Balls
The Tennis Xpress course is centred around the Orange and Green slowere balls and the aim of the course is for participants to play fun competition with an Orange or Green ball on a full court by the end of the course.
The Red ball can be used in conjunction with smaller court areas as teaching aids to help the players develop their technique, tactics and to learn the rules / scoring necessary to play the game.
The optimal striking zone for groundstrokes is between waist and shoulder height. The diagram below shows that even at the age of 10-and-under, the regular Yellow ball will rebound above the head of an average 10-year-old player. This means that playing with efficient, realistic technique and tactics is very difficult, as players either have to:
- regularly take the ball early and play most groundstrokes above the optimal striking zone (in line with, and above the head), and / or
- play far behind the baseline and take the ball late, waiting for the ball to drop
The diagram above highlights the average heights (UNESCO, 2002) and the rebound height of the different balls (ITF, 2012). The rebound heights, as shown in the diagram, are official rebound heights as tested by the ITF:
- Red ball (Felt or Foam) - 85-105cm
- Orange ball -105-120cm
- Green - 120-135cm
- Yellow - 135-147cm
The slower Red, Orange and Green balls however are designed to bounce lower (and move through the air slower) to suit the height and motor skills of the player. This of course applies to wheelchair players of this age too. The video from Tennis Australia (above right) shows the varying ball rebound heights as the balls cross the net, compared to the regular Yellow ball.
For more details regarding the rebound heights of the slower Red, Orange and Green balls, please click here to access Appendix VI ITF Rules of Tennis or to view the full ITF Approved Tennis Balls, Classified Surfaces & Recognised Courts 2012 - a guide to products and test methods, click here.