From young beginner to player: Finding the best development path

It’s a common and often contentious debate among tennis instructors: should we train young players with the standard yellow tennis ball or use the progressive red-to-orange-to-green approach? The latter—which relies on slower, less compressed tennis balls–is gaining momentum worldwide. In fact, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) recommends this approach because it better hones players’ developing skills and makes the game more fun.

Still wondering whether this is the more effective method? According to a recent study, the answer is “yes.”

A proven approach for young players

A team of instructors from Tennis Australia had some of the best players in the country alternate matches playing with a green ball (75 percent compression) and a standard yellow ball (100 percent compression). Nineteen matches were recorded from 7 different angles to analyze shots and results.

Here’s what happened:

  • Rallies lasted the same number of shots, but were played at a higher tempo using the green ball (5.25 shots) vs. yellow ball (5.35 shots).
  • Contact was made above the shoulder twice as often with the yellow ball than with the green ball. Striking the ball at repeated high contact points can lead to improper form and technique.
  • More errors characterized as 1.5 meters or more out were made using the yellow balls (27 percent) than green balls (20 percent).
  • More green balls were struck in front of the baseline (39 percent) – which allows for more attacking and point control –than yellow balls (27 percent)
  • The benefits of learning with a larger and lighter green ball go on and on – including an increased positive attitude among players.

Evidence versus opinion

Many instructors who prefer the standard yellow tennis ball for young players argue that choice of ball is just personal preference. The Tennis Australia study proves them wrong. Players using the green ball made fewer errors, had longer rallies, were better able to implement proper form and technique and developed it faster than with the yellow ball.

So for instructors trying to decide on green versus yellow, there’s no debate. Opt for green and give your young players the go-ahead for better development from the start…and for beginning a lifelong love of the game!