| By Whitney Kraft

What is fun, fresh, fast-paced and fantastic for your tennis game?

POP Tennis! This is a standalone activity/program used as an engaging teaching tool that not only helps students with their tennis, but makes it enjoyable, too.

The sport of POP Tennis isn’t new. In fact, it was founded more than 100 years ago, in 1898 and was originally called “Paddle Tennis.” The first Paddle Tennis tournament was held in New York City in 1922. The popularity of the sport quickly spread during the late 1920s and early 1930s to other cities such as Los Angeles. During the 1950s, the Brighton Beach Baths in Brooklyn, N.Y. converted their handball courts into 20 smaller-sized Paddle Tennis courts. The “BBB” soon became the hub for Paddle Tennis.

The game continued to grow in popularity over many years, so much so that with state-of the-art rackets, colorful clothes that catch the eye and fast exchanges and poaches, Paddle Tennis was re-branded in 2015 as POP tennis—because “everything about the sport POPS!”

POP remains as viable as ever in a marketplace in which tennis professionals around the world are finding more and more ways to enhance the experiences they can provide to students.

I knew that this sport was something interesting when I tried it out myself with some of our on-staff teaching professionals and campers at Flushing Meadows over the summer and got rave reviews. They all look forward to future POP play.

We noticed that players and fans who competed or watched our USTA National Open Indoor Championships in December spent some time with POP paddles on the court and then, a totally different demographic, members of senior leagues, tested the sport and everyone enjoyed it. Underhanded serves, transitional balls, shorter racquets and reduced court sizes have been effective mitigators with aging up from traditional tennis.

Tennis is the sport of a lifetime, after all, and I believe that it will not only bolster interest in programs, but aid in developing all players. As much as people can enjoy a fun game of POP Tennis without thinking about the ways in which it is helping their tennis technique and thought processes, the sport can do a lot to make everyone better tennis players.

A common mistake many players make is failing to keep their wrist firm on the volley. If you play POP, which uses a paddle that has a smaller face/lever than a tennis racket, you’ll be aided in keeping your wrist firm. Otherwise, it’ll be extremely difficult to make square contact with the ball, which is the only way to get it over the net. Even using POP as a replacement for the typical tennis racquet volley warm-up, can prepare students for a more intense and successful volley practice.

The benefits are great for doubles players as well. Ever get pulled really wide and wonder what to do with the ball? The shorter court with most play happening closer to the net helps with a player’s spatial awareness and movement during “cat and mouse” points. It even helps with one of tennis’ toughest shots—the half volley. Players of the highest level sometimes struggle keeping their racquet behind the ball on the short hop but POP forces you to do just that, so when you switch to your tennis racquet, you’ll see the results.

There is a reason that the Today Show, Good Day LA and other shows have covered POP Tennis. We’ve grown to love it here at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and I think you will too.

Feel free to join us over the weekend, between April 28-30 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., when we will be holding a USTA National Category III Innovations Challenges Tournament in both singles and One-on-One Doubles (ID#: 100018817)—another fun, innovative form of cross-training.

We’ll be holding a demonstration/Open House of POP on Saturday evening, April 29 from 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., whereby you can enjoy a sport that so many people already are. An additional Open House is being offered Sunday, March 12 from 6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Both events are complimentary with equipment provided. Please RSVP by e-mailing NTCTournaments@USTA.com.

Whitney Kraft

<p>Since 2007, Whitney Kraft has been the director of tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. and director of player operations for the U.S. Open. Previously, he was director of tennis for the City of Fort Lauderdale Park &amp; Recreation Department (1998-2007).</p>