There are many misconceptions regarding mini tennis balls or low compression balls as they are also known as. This blog will aim to clarify common misconceptions related to mini tennis balls and offer sound advice as to why we should use them and also who should use them.
Low compression balls come in three types; red, orange, green.
Red balls contain 25% compression compared with the standard yellow tennis balls. They are also lighter and bigger, their characteristics make them slower in speed through the air, a lower bounce making them easier to hit and contact. Red balls are the slowest and easiest to use out of all the mini tennis balls.
Orange Balls contain 50% compression of a regular yellow tennis ball, they are slightly faster than the red balls with a slightly higher bounce and are comparable in size to the regular yellow tennis ball.
Green balls have 75% compression of a regular yellow ball. They are certainly faster than the orange balls with a higher bounce and are the closest balls to the standard yellow ones in terms of playing characteristics. They’re slightly slower than yellow balls and with a slightly lower bounce making them a great option for adult beginners with no or little experience in racket sports.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) offers the following guidelines of which age groups should play with certain balls.
Red Balls: 4-8 year olds
Orange Balls: 8-9 year olds
Green balls: 9-10 year olds
Yellow balls: 10 and above.
Whilst it is good to have guidelines these should be treated as purely guidelines and it’s important to note that there needs to be flexibility in this as players all individuals and their suitability to a particular ball type will depend on the following factors. Players previous sport involvement and experience, their coordination level, concentration, frequency of playing and rate of improvement. Ultimately, trust needs to be placed in the coach to determine the most appropriate ball the player should be playing with to facilitate maximum improvement and enjoyment.
Mini tennis balls are now being used in all the best clubs and academies around the world and are endorsed by all the major tennis national governing bodies such as the LTA, Tennis Australia, USTA (United States Tennis Association) DTB (German Tennis Federation).
They’re a whole range of benefits of using mini tennis balls for juniors and adult beginners. They’re slower, have a lower bounce, require less reaction time, easier to read, easier to control, much easier to move and hit and rally, easier for find a good contact point because they do not bounce so high. Another reason they’re great is because they’re slower by nature, they really teach players and force players to accelerate their racket when hitting them, particularly with red and orange balls. This in itself promotes more sound technique because with only using the yellow balls you can stab at those and they will still travel far through the air. The red and orange balls certainly won’t so by using these good racket head speed is developed and installed in the player by virtue of using these balls.
It is also very advantageous to use these balls from a tactical perspective because as stated, they’re slower through the air with a lower bounce, which means they’re easier to hit. Consequently players hit more balls, can rally for longer and are able to work on tactical players like keeping the ball in the court and also moving the player around the court.
Here at Tennis Central SG we fully advocate and endorse the use of using mini tennis balls with juniors. Failure to use mini tennis balls with young juniors and using yellow balls instead all too often results in the player simply striking the ball from a static position without being able to move and hit, without being able to hit consistently and learn any basic tennis tactics it looks like something that more closely resembles cricket rather than tennis.
In slightly more rare cases, talented and coordinated juniors can appear to be good enough to not need to use mini tennis balls and move straight onto the standard yellow balls. I would advise against this, as I believe it is a crucial stage of tennis not to be missed out by a junior. However what I would advise would be to possibly spend less time at each ball stage or leapfrog a certain ball type but this is all very subjective and dependent on the individual player and such a decision would be taken solely on a case-by-case scenario. That said, for a talented 7,8 or 9 year old to completely miss out the entire mini tennis program would most certainly be against my advice.