What better way to rally the family to the local tennis courts than with an event everyone can play?
Orlando and Port Orange, Fla., (just outside Daytona Beach) kicked off the first week of February with new Family Red Ball Tournaments. Picture players age 5 to 55+ all rallying together with the slightly larger and lower-bouncing “red ball” on 36-foot courts.
“The Red Ball Tournament provided us with a great afternoon for family fun and bonding time, as well as an opportunity for us to meet and make new friends,” said a parent from the Port Orange event at Airport Park, which features permanent 36-foot courts. “We’re looking forward to the next family event!”
USTA National Trainer and local Spruce Creek High School girls’ tennis head coach Rita Gladstone directed the Port Orange event.
“The courts were filled to capacity with children, parents and grandparents playing together in doubles red-court action,” she said of the event which benefited the Spruce Creek High School tennis program. The afternoon also included face painting, a spirited dance contest and a raffle for tennis prizes.
The Orlando event was hosted by the Lake Cane Tennis Center, offering players age 8-and-under and their families a chance to take the court together.
Coach Hoku Purcell directed the action at the USTA Florida-certified L9 series beginner’s tournament. The unique parent/child doubles format on 36-foot courts featured kid-friendly smaller racquets and the red ball.
“These L9s, formerly called ROGY events, are great because they provide the opportunity for tournament directors to be creative with their formats, like this event,” said USTA Florida Entry-Level Tournament Coordinator Thad Hawkes. “Utilizing modified courts and equipment, events like these provide the opportunity for players to have fun whether it’s with kids their own age or with their parents.
Also, once parents see how easy it is to set up these nets and play with the lower-compression balls themselves, you could certainly see them playing in their driveways, neighborhood cul-de-sacs and more.”
The theme for the Family Red Ball Tournament was “Prior Experience Not Required,” as the kid-sized racquets and red balls had parents and grandparents who had rarely picked up a racquet before rallying with their children and grandchildren. With modified scoring the teams played first to seven points, using clothes pins on the side of the mini-nets to keep score.
“Big smiles and gracious, fun play made this an event to remember,” said Hawkes of the tournament where no win-loss results were tallied.
“The USTA is focusing on family tennis opportunities, and Rita, Hoku and Lake Cane Director of Junior Programs Susie Rahimitabar have taken that concept and run with it. From their great successes, this is only the beginning of creating more opportunities for families to play together.”
Courtesy of USTA Florida
USTA Florida Marketing & Communications Coordinator Rick Vach is the former publications editor for the ATP World Tour, editor of International Tennis magazine, editor/publisher of Play Tennis Florida magazine, and award-winning contributor to Tennis Week magazine. Follow Rick on Twitter @RickVach. Also sign-up for the latest tennis news each Friday in your in-box at www.ustaflorida.com -> News -> E-news sign up.