Tiny Tot Tennis

A new tennis program for kids uses smaller racquets and courts, and it’s obvious the youngsters are having a ball. Local kids are learning to play tennis the same way pro Roger Federer did - and having fun at the same time, thanks to the newly launched Quickstart Tennis program, started in 2008 by the United States Tennis Association.

Friday - January 30, 2009
By Kerry Miller
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Katelyn Kam comes to the net

Local kids are learning to play tennis the same way pro Roger Federer did - and having fun at the same time, thanks to the newly launched Quickstart Tennis program, started in 2008 by the United States Tennis Association.

On Oahu, the USTA Hawaii Pacific Section started its Quickstart program last May and completed its second season in December (2008). The program is specifically designed for kids age 10 and under to develop tennis skills at a “kid-friendly” level.

“The main thing is to have fun while playing,” says Mimi Kennell, director of junior tennis for the USTA Hawaii Pacific Section.

During play, Kennell explains, kids use smaller racquets and a lower-compression ball, which bounces less so it doesn’t bounce over their heads. They also use a smaller-size court and develop a short-court style instead of just standing on the baseline.

Shelbi Nakano follows her return shot

“If you look at all the pros - Roger Federer, he grew up playing in a similar format - that’s how they develop more well-rounded tennis skills. That’s the whole reason they started this program. We knew this was going to be a great thing for the young kids,” says Kennell.“People are seeing how effective this format is and how fun it is for their kids.”

With the completion of the second season, the initial 12 teams grew to 17, with an average of six players on each, making the total number of students around 100. Kennell expects the program to expand, especially considering the positive results so far.

Kassidy Matsuda keeps her eyes on the ball

“We’re expecting it to continue to grow,” she says. “I had a team in the summer season when I personally saw that one kid who had trouble making contact with the ball improved in the course of the season, from not being able to hit a ball to being able to start a rally.

“They have so much fun. They all say, ‘When is the next season, I want to come back?’ The response from the parents was overwhemingly positive. In the middle of the season, some of my parents were already asking when is the next season. Just seeing them (the kids) on the court, they like being able to keep their own score, knowing that they can actually play the points out and win the match even.”

Ethan Colte, Caleb Palompo, Jayson Chow, Travis Afuso, Jonathan Shima, Caden Morishige and Tyler Stiles at the Quickstart season finals in December at Central Oahu Regional Park

Besides being physically active, making friends and learning tennis, a plus of the Quickstart program is that once kids turn 11 and are too old to play in the league, they can easily move up to junior team tennis to play in the 12-and-under division. Another advantage is that parents can get involved, too.

“Parents are really involved in this. Whenever we get a beginner player, usually I provide

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