MOUNT VERNON — Imagine the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets in a struggle with New Albany, Thomas Worthington or Dublin Coffman for dominance in the Ohio Capital Conference in tennis.
A graduated system of introducing young people to tennis, called QuickStart, could make that dream a reality.
Steve Tier, who is the Mount Vernon City Recreation Board Tennis Director as well as the President of the Kokosing Valley Community Tennis Association, has been giving kids from as young as 5 and 6 the chance to play and learn the sport of tennis using the QuickStart method.
“It is a technique where the racquet size, the type of ball, the net and the size of the court are made to fit the younger players,” said Tier. “The United States Tennis Association started this about five years ago. I’ve done it on my own for three years, and now I’m doing it with the city.”
Adapting tennis to younger people is beginning to attract more people to the sport. QuickStart was adopted by the USTA to add new blood to the American game, which has slipped behind the rest of the world in recent years.
“We used to have lots of players in the Top 10 and then, lately, we don’t have as many,” said Tier. “(The USTA was) looking at what other countries were doing — especially the smaller ones like Belgium and the Czech Republic, and others which were producing a lot of tennis champions. What they found was that they used equipment that had been modified to the level of the kids.”
The tennis balls, at the lower levels, have less compression and are marked with a certain color dot in accordance with their level. Balls can bounce lower for five- to six-year-olds; another color for ages seven through nine; and another for ages nine through 11.
“This works better than the old fashioned way,” said Tier. “(That was) where you take the kid out on the court and they play on the same size court and use the same size equipment at the Wimbeldon champion did. That didn’t make any sense.”
Tier looked at other school systems — especially ones with similar economics to Mount Vernon — and saw that they were introducing five- and six-year-olds to the game. Tier introduced the modified tennis program in Mount Vernon and, in four years, it has grown to more than 50 kids. It is developing into what Tier hopes will become a feeder program for the high school.