Decades ago the game of tennis went through a revolution with racket technology. Rackets became incredibly powerful and with that change in power players adapted by inventing new techniques of hitting the ball with a combination of spin and power. More recently string technology has evolved to aide players in generating more extreme power and spin. According to Vic Braden we are at the point right now at a point in competitive tennis where on average the ball travels at 60 mph and takes 2.2 seconds to go from baseline to baseline as compared to 4 seconds in 1975. The game truly has changed which is why developing agility, raw athletic ability, and shot selection at competitive levels is just as important as the technical ball striking skills. The game of tennis was forever changed with advancements in racket technology.
Now we have a new and very controversial technological revolution going on with changing the tennis ball itself. I remember playing college tennis many years ago where they experimented with a new larger ball that would slow the game down but all it did was hurt player’s arms because it was so massive. Now we have an assortment of foam, red, orange, and green low compression balls made for 10 and under tennis or quick-start tennis. I do not agree with everything surrounding the use of low compression balls in 10 and under tennis balls but I believe people are missing out on utilizing these balls for what they are, a fantastic teaching tool for everyone from college players down to young children.
I use the green 78 low compression balls a ton with my advanced players. I utilize green balls because they slow everything down and return symmetry to the game that was disrupted with the advancements in racket technology. The green balls on a full size tennis court allow players to have longer rallies, learn how to construct longer points, and develop symmetry between strokes and movement. Once enhanced by training with the green ball these skills can be easily transferred to use with faster regulation tennis balls. When I have a new student come to train with us and I pull out the green balls they look at me with disgust like why is coach making me use some “little kids ball” but within 30 minutes they are sold on them because they feel how their ball striking improves and how much more tactical point construction becomes.
I recently read an article in a professional tennis magazine about why American tennis players are not dominating the ranks like they used too. One of the reasons presented was American youth do not play as much on clay courts like they do in Europe and other parts of the world. The rational being that clay courts slow the rallies down and allow players to learn how to construct longer points, as opposed to just powering opponents off the court. It is true that hard courts are much more accessible to train on in America than clay and hard courts do play faster. The author suggested we start to build more clay courts to train on. I saw an obvious and cost effective solution which would be to utilize the green balls in our training more often and with players older than age 10. We have these great tools in the green balls to better develop players all we need to do is utilize them. It is like a caveman having the wheel right in front of him and simply not knowing how to use it. Lets start employing these green balls in our training with ALL players and instead of looking at them as “little kid balls” lets look at them for what they really are which is a tool designed to slow the game down so juniors can learn to rally, move and construct points better. In the long-term we will have better developed competitive players.