10 and Under tennis program uses smaller gear

Holy Trinity School students Jeanie Mooser, left, and Claire Russell, near left, and St. Albert the Great students Molly McElroy, near right, and Ava Fears, right, listen to professional instructor Joan Fielding at a 10 and Under tennis practice March 18 at the Tennis Club at Springhurst. The 10 and Under pilot program uses lower-bouncing balls, lighter rackets and smaller courts to allow younger athletes to develop skills and play from the start. (Record Photos by Jessica Able)

Record Staff Writer

A pilot program started at St. Margaret Mary, Holy Trinity and St. Albert the Great schools aims to change the way children 10 years old and younger learn and play tennis.

The program — called “10 and Under Tennis” — is supported by both the Interna-tional Tennis Federation (ITF) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), said Karen Draper, the USTA 10 and Under coordinator for the southern region, which includes Louisville.

The goal of the program, Draper said, is to introduce youngsters to age-appropriate play by using lower-bouncing balls and smaller, lighter rackets. Additionally, depending upon the age of the athlete, a smaller court is also used.

“With smaller courts, more kids can play at once, avoiding long lines,” Draper, a member of Holy Trinity Church, said.

The 10 and Under program is divided into two age groups: one for kindergarten and first-grade students and a second group for those in the second through fourthgrades.

The pilot program is sponsored by a three-year grant from the USTA. The grant covers the cost of equipment, marketing materials, instructor training, adding blended lines to existing courts and the coordinator position, Draper said. The Louisville market is only one of 30 regions in the country to have the pilot 10 and Under program.

“We are very lucky to be one of the target markets,” Draper said. “This program lets kids play right from the beginning, while teaching them the proper skills.”

For parent Christy Cole, the 10 and Under program has proven beneficial for her six-year-old daughter Cate, who is a kindergartner at Holy Trinity School.

“She’s learning the fundamentals, which is what you need to learn first in tennis,” Cole said. “It (10 and Under) has been a good fit. She’s tried some other sports and not cared for them. But she’s really liked this so far.”

Karen Draper, USTA 10 and Under coordinator for the southern region, assists Holy Trinity School student Jeannie Mooser at a recent 10 and Under practice.

Cole, a member of Holy Trinity parish, attributes the success of the program to Draper and her organizers.

“The facilities, instructors and volunteers have been great,” she said.

With a turnout so large, Draper has recruited and relied heavily on volunteers and professional tennis players to help her coordinate the details. One of the tennis professionals, D.J. McClure, said the 10 and Under program is a great way to introduce kids to tennis.

“I’m a huge fan of the program. I’ve been working with the 10 and Under and QuickStart (the precursor to 10 and Under) for about four years and think it’s been a huge success, especially in a group like this that has huge numbers,” said McClure, who is also the director of the Tennis Club at Springhurst.

In addition to St. Margaret Mary, Holy Trinity and St. Albert the Great schools, the 10 and Under pilot program is also gaining traction in a few Jefferson County public schools as well, Draper said.

She hopes to be able to expand but needs additional volunteers in order to do so.

“For it (10 and Under) to be successful, it will take parent involvement. They can become league coordinators. Some are intimidated, but it’s not coaching on the court; it’s really communicating and scheduling and taking care of details,” said Draper, whose position covers Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt counties.

For more information, contact Karen Draper by email at draper@sta.usta.com.

Claire Russell, a student at Holy Trinity School, returns a serve at a recent 10 and Under practice.
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