| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

QuickStart Tennis is the newest teaching method developed by the USTA and is progressively becoming one of their most important initiatives and for good reason. Since the days of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, there has been one American male to win a Grand Slam event, Andy Roddick’s finals win at the 2003 U.S. Open. The American women have faired considerably better with 12 Grand Slam titles since 2003, but with the Williams Sisters heading into the latter stages of their career, there seems to be a steep drop-off coming. It has become apparent that the United States domination on the court has come to a close for the time being. People involved with USA tennis noticed this and took action. One of the results was the start of QuickStart Tennis.

QuickStart is not a specific program, but rather, a teaching format. It breaks the game down into increments and proportions, making tennis easier to learn and more fun to play. To get a better understanding of what exactly QuickStart is, we sat down with three local tennis pros, Solomon Levy Bromet (pro at Sportime Syosset), Karl Sommer (director of tennis at Sportime Syosset) and Jason Wass (general manager at Sportime Kings Park),
all who are very experienced with QuickStart. When asked about the benefits of the QuickStart method, Sommer said, “QuickStart Tennis has kids enjoying tennis right from the beginning, and is the perfect stepping stone to competitive play.”

Using the QuickStart Tennis method, the USTA has developed a sub-program called 10-and-Under Tennis that uses the QuickStart method as a stepping stone for competitive play. All three experts agree that by using QuickStart in 10-and-Under Tennis Tournaments, the kids are able to rally much easier using a smaller court, smaller rackets and bigger foam balls. Simplifying the game through QuickStart hopefully means that kids will continue to play as they get older, which is the ultimate goal.

“Progression is gradual, but positive results are yielded quicker,” said Bromet.

Before QuickStart was developed, younger tennis students had to play on a full-sized court, with bigger rackets and use normal tennis balls. For youth players in other sports, the rules and regulations are often modified to make the sport easier and more enjoyable for the young athlete. Could you picture a four-year-old shooting a free throw on a 10-ft. rim or a six-year-old throwing a pitch 60 ft. from the mound to home plate?

“The USTA provides us with a great overall outline of the method, but it is important to make it your own and be personal with the students,” said Wass. “It is important to develop your own system of teaching QuickStart. The more personal you make it, the more the kids get out of it and in turn, have more fun.”

While having fun is the key to the QuickStart program, progressing and advancing in the sport of tennis is another big factor to the success of the program.

“The first time you do anything, it should be easy,” said Bromet. “This is especially true with tennis.”

Some strategies that Bromet and Sommer use in order to make the game more fun and easy, are to break the game down into its most simplest form. If a student is having trouble with the foam ball, they might use a beach ball or even a bean bag to ease the student into hitting the foam ball. If a child is too small to see over a net, they may not even put a net there and just use a line on the ground. There are countless ways to teach the program, but Bromet, Sommer and Wass keep the game personal for their students and adaptive considering each student will have their own method of learning the game.

“The thing to remember is, the guidelines provided are simply a guide,” said Bromet. “QuickStart drills and games are limitless and can even be tailored for specific students,” said Sommer. “If you are able to do that, then you are able to engrain into the student’s mind that tennis is fun.”

QuickStart Tennis differs from 10-and-Under Tennis in the respect that 10-and-Under promotes competitive play, while using the QuickStart method. The tournaments for 10-and- Under are specifically for children under the age of 10 who play on a QuickStart court and use QuickStart equipment. In the last 10-and-Under tournament that Sommer witnessed, he observed: “I thought I was watching a real professional match, just with smaller players.” While watching the matches, he noticed how the kids were developing tactics, working on how to win the points, and even planning ahead.

“It was extremely exciting for me to see how fast these kids were progressing, it actually gave me goosebumps,” said Sommer. “The competitive nature of the matches will lead the kids to be better-prepared and more complete players in the future.”

While QuickStart is meant to be fun and ease students into the game, the addition of 10-and-Under Tennis definitely adds a competitive aspect to the game for young players.

“As long as young tennis players are eased into competition and are taught how to win and how to lose respectively, the competition is good,” said Wass.

American tennis at the professional level is not where it was in years past, but positive strides are being made. QuickStart was the first step to gaining the interest of young players and it seems to be doing just that according to the experiences of our expert panel. If all goes according to plan, the USTA’s youth development programs through QuickStart and 10-and- Under, the next Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras could be having an epic match on a QuickStart court as we speak.