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If you are a tennis parent, then you have likely seen or heard about different colored tennis balls for kids. In fact, if your child is younger than 10, they should be developing their skills with a variety of tennis ball colors, not just the traditional yellow.
Why Are Kids Tennis Balls Different Colors?
Kids tennis balls are different colors to indicate associated pressure levels, with each level optimized for particular age groups and skill levels.
The variety of children’s tennis ball colors exist for developmental purposes; it’s not just intended for the sake of having pretty colored tennis balls.
In 2008, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) launched the QuickStart Tennis program. The concept’s objective was to increase accessibility to tennis for young kids under 10 years old. The QuickStart program brought about new equipment designed specifically for young children including deflated, colored tennis balls, lower nets, and guidance for age-appropriate court boundaries. We’re happy to report that the program exceeded all expectations!
If Your Child is Under 10, Colored Tennis Balls Are ESSENTIAL
If your child was trying out baseball for the first time, would you pitch them hardballs at 90mph? No, you would start with softballs and a tee, then move to slow underhand pitches, and so on. Using the right tennis equipment at appropriate stages speeds up development, and makes the sport more fun for your child.
As a tennis coach, I have been using colored tennis balls to help revamp the developmental cycle of junior tennis since the beginning of QuickStart. I have noticed that young juniors are developing much faster than when the only tennis ball color in existence was yellow. Here are a few of the benefits of using colored tennis balls to teach children tennis:
- More fun for kids – longer rallies and easier to hit full strokes
- Improved development – fluid transitions as age and skill level progresses
- Less potential consequences – deflated balls reduce possible pain from ball-contact
There are 5 primary types of colored tennis balls to go over. This guide will help you pick out which balls are best suited for your child based on age and skill level.
Large Foam Tennis Balls For Kids Age 4-6
These tennis balls are the largest, yet lightest out of the bunch. Rather than the fuzzy felt balls we are used to, these are made out of foam. They are not hollow like traditional balls, so there is no air pressure inside. The low pressure causes the ball to move slower, so kids can react and make adjustments faster.
Because of the way they are built, these tennis balls can be hit incredibly hard without going out of bounds. At the same time, the super lightweight nature of the ball makes it easy for even a 4-year-old to hit over the net. Hence, if you don’t have regular access to a lower kid-friendly net, foam balls can be used on a standard-sized net. If your child (or yourself) is hit with a foam ball, at high speed, don’t fret. The soft material doesn’t hurt at all! (unless it contacts the eye-I’ve experienced this more than I’d like to admit) Red foam tennis balls are best suited for kids age 4-6.
Red Tennis Balls For Kids Age 6-8
The majority of kids don’t begin playing tennis until age 6, so red colored balls are typically the first ball used. Red tennis balls are not built with foam like the prior type. They are made of felt, and are about 20% larger. Unlike the foam balls, red tennis balls are hollow inside.
The difference between these and standard yellow balls, is the interior air pressure. Red kids tennis balls are deflated to the extent that they bounce 75% lower, so kids age 8 and under can practice full strokes without having to reach their arms way up (which develops bad tennis habits).
Traditional yellow balls can bring about vibrations to kids with undeveloped muscles, deterring them from wanting to play. Fortunately, red colored tennis balls cause fewer vibrations when making contact. We recommend these balls for developing strokes and technique of kids age 6-8.
Orange Tennis Balls For Kids Age 7-10
Orange kids tennis balls have half the air pressure of standard yellow balls. They bounce about 50% lower as well. Unlike foam and red balls, the orange model is approximately the same size as traditional tennis balls. It’s important that kids age 7-10 get used to hitting a smaller ball in order to improve eye-hand coordination early on.
Orange tennis balls can be used on either a compact junior net, or a full-size net, depending on your child’s skill and experience. Age really isn’t a determining factor for recommended net type. Consult an in-person coach to find out which net type is best for your child.
Don’t skip from red balls to green or yellow. The orange stage is crucial for your child’s game from a developmental standpoint.
Green Dot Tennis Balls For Kids Age 10-11
Green dot balls are the final specially-colored ball before transitioning to the standard yellow. Speed is reduced by about 25% with the semi-low air pressure of green dot tennis balls. It’s actually quite difficult to tell the difference between green dot balls and normal yellow balls. However, this makes the transition even smoother for your child!
These colored tennis balls should not be used on a small-scale net; standard nets are recommended for kids age 10 and up, especially when using a ball that bounces as high as the green dot.
Some coaches don’t bother to use green dot, opting to jump straight from orange to yellow. If you’re on a tight budget, then this is fine, but I highly recommend using green dot for at least 6 months for the smoothest developmental transition possible.
Yellow Tennis Balls For Kids Age 11+
Once your child turns 11, it’s highly likely they are ready for standard yellow tennis balls. The same balls that the pros use! Yellow balls are pumped up with pressure, so they bounce high and travel fast, especially if they are fresh out of a brand new can.
Normal tennis balls bring about faster paced play, harder-hit shots, and a quicker reaction-time required. If your child has hit with every ball stage-by-stage at the appropriate age-intervals, then yellow tennis balls should be a piece of cake for them.
If you are considering ordering some standard tennis balls, then look into buying in bulk to save money. Your children will be hitting with yellow balls for the rest of their life; unfortunately, there is no hyper-inflated purple ball to graduate to. (I wish)
QuickStart Tennis Balls Give Your Child An Advantage
Children are typically more likely to stick with tennis when they are having fun. Specialized, colored tennis balls enable longer rallies, easier strokes, and more time to react; these are the basic ingredients of fun tennis play.
If you want to implement the entire QuickStart process with your child, you should consider getting a small-scale net if you’re not part of a club that offers them for rent. QuickStart nets can be used in the driveway, or on an actual tennis court (perpendicular to the bigger net–then you can use the existing lines as boundaries). Use a net like this if your child is in the age range for red or orange colored tennis balls. There are numerous variations of beginner nets, but here’s the one I’ve used for years if you are interested.
Interested in learning more about our top recommendations for junior tennis gear including rackets, bags, and court shoes? Head on over to our list of the best kids tennis equipment to browse Kid Tennis Hub’s favorites.