By: Jeremy Carl
What is the easiest way to get any player new to tennis to keep playing? Whether it’s beginner adults or 10 and under junior players, the ROGY Progression is without a doubt the best way.
For those unfamiliar, ROGY stands for Red, Orange, Green, Yellow – the color of the balls that can be used to teach kids and adult beginners in a more effective way. Red balls are the lowest compression and larger than the traditional yellow ball, meaning they don’t bounce as high and are easier to control. Orange balls have slightly higher compression than red balls and are the same size as yellow balls. The last step before traditional yellow balls is the green ball, which is similar to playing with a yellow ball but slows down the game and helps lengthen rallies through its lower compression.
I have really seen and experienced the benefits of using this progression in two ways:
- My own seven-year-old daughter grew up using red balls since age three and half and is now loving playing orange ball level USTA tournaments
- Adults in beginner group classes learn how to
rally from their first-ever tennis class by using red or orange balls from the get go
Here are the top reasons I’ve seen that make the USTA’s ROGY progression is so effective:
- Helps Incorporate Fun Right Away – More than anything, my daughter loves playing the sport. A big reason for that is by using the ROGY progression throughout her learning process, she learned the sport through a game-based approach. She is not a fan of “drills.” (What kid is?) The only time she does like them is if she comes up with one herself. Using red and orange balls have allowed her to rally and play games from an early age.
- Helps Players Learn Situations in Tennis – Tennis is an open sport, and points develop in unexpected ways. However, sometimes lessons are too dependent on hitting in a closed environment, repeatedly hitting a forehand down the line for example. Every world-class tennis player has learned how to play tennis as a game of situations, not as a game of perfection. Repetition is important but learning how to navigate points is also an extremely important skill to nurture. For example, you can coach players on ball recognition and making contact in the strike zone.
One game to develop these skills can be done by having an orange ball player at one baseline and a partner standing at the other baseline with a ball. The player with the ball tosses it to the other side of the court. Once the ball crosses the net, the player receiving the ball immediately calls out either “Defend,” “Hold,” or “Attack” and catches the ball between their waist and shoulder, slightly out in front of their body. If a player calls out the correct ball recognition and catches it in the strike zone, they get two points. If a player just does one of the two, they get one point. You can do this yourself when you go on court with a friend or if you are a coach, have teams compete against each other in class. Once they understand those two principles, you have the basis for learning about offensive, defensive and neutral court positioning.
- Allows them to Practice Playing Front Court at an Early Age – One of the biggest coaching benefits of using the ROGY progression is that kids feel confident playing in the front court from an early age. They know the ball doesn’t hurt them even if it hits them, and it’s much easier to learn the correct footwork and volley form with the appropriate ball and court size. In the first TennisBASH my daughter played in, one of the first winning shots she hit in her doubles match was a volley winner at the net as the server’s partner. She did it with all the confidence in the world and with a split step before hitting the volley.
- Helps Adults Enjoy Rallying Right Away – One of biggest themes I learned from completing the Adult Development PTR certification was that using orange or red balls are critical for early success of adults who are learning the game. It allows them to play a variety of rally games, learn footwork, contact point, ball recognition and other items through playing the game from the beginning, which they actually enjoy!
If you’re just starting out, ask about learning on red or orange balls. You won’t be disappointed.
- Allows players to practice hitting shots with a purpose – Whether it be live ball drill, racket fed or hand toss drill, the balls allow kids to hit to a certain part of the court. Since the ball bounces at the appropriate height for their age, the ball can come to their optimal strike zone more easily, and therefore they can practice hitting down the line or crosscourt with correct swing path. This was one of the key principles I learned from being involved in the USTA Player Development National Early Development Camps.
- Makes it Easier to Develop Proper Service Motion Early – One of the most important fundamentals on serve is swinging the racquet up toward the ball with full extension and rotating, regardless of a flat serve or spin serve. When juniors use the appropriate color ball for their age, it gives them the confidence to hit through the ball since the balls actually weigh less. This has made huge difference in my daughter learning the building blocks of the serve that allow her to play in USTA tournaments with confidence on her serve motion.
- Helps Players Learn Proper Footwork – Studies have shown that players learning with this ball progression develop similar court footwork fundamentals to the pros. The appropriate size court helps build a foundation of footwork movement that they can develop as they grow bigger and taller. It also helps them enjoy the movement of tennis because they’ll be able to reach more balls during a rally.
You want to get more people in the game of tennis? The answer is start off juniors or adults in the ROGY ball progression. Whether you’re a longtime coach or introducing the game to friends, or even getting yourself or your child in the game, using the proper ball can make a big difference in how much others enjoy playing tennis.
Look for red, orange and green balls in most places that sell tennis equipment. For more information on court sizes and ROGY progression in youth players, click here.
Jeremy Carl is a USPTA Elite Professional, PTR Professional and Safe Play-certified USTA High Performance Coach with Net Generation. He was named the 2016 USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year and is currently coaching at Belle Haven Country Club after coaching at Mount Vernon Athletic Club in recent years.