June 6, 2010 12:21:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- In an effort to spark youth interest in tennis, Starkville Tennis Association is beginning a program that''s been in the works for the past three years.
Quick Start, a United States Tennis Association program, is aimed at giving children 10-years old and younger the chance to learn the sport using modified scoring, special equipment and smaller court dimensions.
With solid tennis infrastructure in Starkville, Quick Start will help strengthen area tennis by making the game more appealing for youth.
Vanessa Shaffer, who heads the program, said the less-technical style of practices is a better way to introduce children to the sport.
"It''s like mini-tennis for 5-year olds," Shaffer said. "We use foam balls instead of real balls and cut the courts in half. With the way our system is set up, it makes it more fun. They''ve done studies with kids who''ve got lessons and Quick Start and they''ve found retention is better through Quick Start."
Shaffer, who gives traditional tennis lessons, admits she''s torn with the study because tennis is a technically difficult sport. However, the core elements of the program and the basic skills kids form make the Quick Start program a popular program around the country. Shaffer hopes what''s been accomplished with the program in Madison can be duplicated in Starkville.
"We''ve had a hard time getting it started in Starkville, but it''s proven to be successful in other areas," Shaffer said. "A lot of times, adults can focus on the wrong things when teaching tennis to young kids. This is great because we have training for the parents where we basically show them how to set up the court for matches and teach them warmups they would do and the activities for the match."
Currently, the Starkville Quick Start program has 14 children registered with June 15 scheduled as the start date. Quick Start will run from June 15 to July 17 and there will be eight to 10 organized practices and matches. Parent training begins on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at McKee Park.
Mondays will be reserved for practice with parents and other volunteers. Games will score up to even points. The registration fee is $55 and program participants receive a free racquet and Nike Dri-Fit uniform, a one-year membership to USTA and a one-year subscription to USTA''s magazine.
Teams will consist of six to eight players and Shaffer is hopeful of having more children registered before the June 15 start time.
"I''ve given tennis lessons in Starkville and I was unsure when they said they would start a league," Shaffer said, "But once I saw how kids were learning swings and hand-eye coordination I knew this was a good fit. The way we''re introducing tennis for a five-year-old is perfect for learning basics. When they get older, they can learn how to turn their shoulders and serve the right away, and the more technical aspects of the game. At the ages we''ll have, the Quick Start program is perfect."
For more information of Quick Start, call Shaffer at 773-884-8931 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.