By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
In the last three years, the Frog Hollow Racquet Club has been making 10 and Under Tennis featuring the QuickStart play format a big priority in its programming, knowing that teaching kids a way to play tennis that suits their size and makes the game more fun for them is the first step towards keeping them as lifelong tennis players.
As part of its promotion, Frog Hollow, located in Lansdale, Pa., is one of over 700 facilities across the country that hosted a Youth Registration event in March as a way to sign up more kids for lessons.
Frog Hollow held its event on Tennis Night in America on February 28, the same evening that legends Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl competed in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.
Over 60 kids went to the club that evening for a free 10 and Under Tennis clinic, first from 6-7 p.m., and then kids and parents alike came off the court to watch the BNP Paribas Showdown together with pizza and other snacks. A few also took advantage of a special offer the club was giving out that if a player brought a friend with him or her to the event, the friend would then get a discount on 10 and Under Tennis lessons, and the current player would receive a discount, as well.
10 and Under Tennis scales the game down to the size of the child, utilizing smaller racquets, shorter courts as well as low-compression balls to make the game easier to learn and more fun for children.
In all, about 10 new players signed up for lessons at Frog Hollow that evening, a good turnout for the club that has been devoting so many resources to 10 and Under Tennis the last three years but is a full-fledged club, serving all kinds of ages and levels of players and tournaments, as well, from juniors to adults.
"About one-third of our program is 10 and Under Tennis," said Denard McLendon, the director of tennis at Frog Hollow. "We have made a huge push for the past three years, pushing 10 and Under, and that is a huge part of our program now, but we do offer anything from a beginner program and up. We also have a tournament-level program for our high-performance kids who travel around and play tournaments. We are trying to develop players in the 10 and Under format so we have players for the future.
"We wanted it to be a family atmosphere," he added of their Youth Registration event. "All of the pros at our club played tennis growing up as kids, and we thought that is what kept us in the game. If the kids have friends playing with them and don’t just come here and play tennis and leave, we are more likely to keep them in the game. We really pushed it (10 and Under Tennis) hard. We are one of the few clubs in the area that has totally adopted it as part of the program, and it has been very successful for us."
McLendon has done 10 and Under Tennis education programs with the professionals at his club, as well as the parents and kids. He has also gone through workshops and worked with some consultants regarding 10 and Under Tennis.
Frog Hollow is averaging about 60 kids per six-week session of 10 and Under Tennis and also offers team tennis using the QuickStart format as well as regular matches for young players. It also holds non-sanctioned 10 and Under co-ed tournaments each month on both 36-foot and 60-foot courts. The turnout has been solid, with about eight kids competing in each division per tournament.
McLendon and his professionals are trying to also encourage other clubs in their area to adopt more 10 and Under Tennis programs so that the kids at Frog Hollow have other players to compete against besides each other.
At Frog Hollow, McLendon and his team stress stroke production and footwork in their 10 and Under Tennis players, something they are able to do because of the child-sized equipment, and they have only seen tremendous results in their kids, who are having fun and learning how to play the game the right way.
"It (10 and Under Tennis) takes the basic fundamental aspect of keeping the ball in play. You can’t keep a ball in play unless you are a tennis prodigy on a full-size court as a kid," McLendon said. "With 10 and Under Tennis, you don’t have to be a prodigy to rally and keep balls in play. We have kids who are six years old who are actually competing. They are able to have clean, fluid strokes and good footwork, and they understand strategy because they are able to rally. We are teaching them spins, how to control the ball, placement. It is amazing what is going on with the 10 and Under. We are teaching them the modern game of tennis in the QuickStart format."