The questions above are the most common I’ve received over my years as a tennis facility director or tournament director. Hope this helps you get your child started with the best experiences possible!
Q: When is my child ready for match play (yellow ball or green dot ball)?
A: When your child can get in roughly 5 out of 10 overhand serves and has some rallying ability. The serves don’t need to be overpowering but they need to be in occasionally to enjoy the experience. The child should know how to do standard tennis scoring (15-30-40-game) if playing in orange or above levels. Red Ball uses very basic, first to win 7 individual points wins the set. Scoring for orange and green ball see page 3 and 4 in this link
Q: How about my child, who is in Red Ball or Orange Ball levels?
A: The good news about Red and Orange tennis is students don’t need to take lessons for a long period of time before they are ready for introductory, organized play at these levels. The child should have some ability to rally from both ground stroke sides. Red Ball does not require overhand serving, although it is allowed. The “friendly feed” (drop hit) serves are allowed in introductory league and tournament red ball formats. For orange ball, for USTA Jr Team Tennis (JTT), “friendly feed” is also allowed locally, but for USTA tournaments only overhand serves are allowed.
Q: What is USTA Youth Progression? Why is it important to know about?
A: All players desiring to play in USTA leagues and tournaments need to know about “Youth Progression”. It is a required progression system for youth ages 7-10 to progress through appropriate amounts of orange and green dot ball experiences before moving to the next level/ball and then eventually to yellow ball. Check out the PNW Youth Progression page
Q: What should be my child’s first organized match experience?
A: I was the Washington and Oregon USTA Jr Team Tennis (JTT) Coordinator for 8 years in total, so I’m a little biased but I do believe JTT is the best first match experience on whatever ball they are on. JTT has a less pressure feel than a tournament and teammates are there to support and create a more social feel. My club, Woodinville Sports Club is planning on forming teams for the next upcoming season in all levels, so email our tennis staff if you are looking for to join one of our teams. There are several other locations that do a great job with JTT as well. USTA JTT PNW page. Note JTT in the PNW is also one of the most affordable indoor per match options around ? (summer season has outdoor locations as well).
Q: First Tournament?
A: Youth Progression rules apply. I suggest you look for Beginner (Entry) level non-elimination formats. These can be harder to find in Tennislink than the Advanced and Intermediate tournaments because there are not as many of them but recommend doing these first.