By Billy Wilton
When Tanner Stewart grabbed around a child-sized tennis racket, he began to smile.
“The big rackets are really heavy,” said Tanner, who is in the 4 to 7 age group session of the Quick Start Tennis Program. “I like swinging the smaller rackets, I can hit the ball and it’s more fun.”
Tanner was among the 16 children in the 4 to 7 year olds who participated in the Los Alamos County tennis program that ran from July 9 to July 19 at the Canyon Tennis Courts.
Following the younger group is an 8-11 year old session which had 14 participants. All equipment was granted to the county from the United States Tennis Association or USTA.
The program is put on by the Los Alamos County and the purpose is to introduce Quick Start to children 11 and younger.
Quick Start tennis players will compete and play with smaller rackets, lower nets, smaller courts, slower moving and lower bouncing balls.
For example, an adult tennis racket is 27-inches long but in Quick Start, the children’s racket is 2 to 6 inches shorter depending on the age of the child.
And a regulation tennis court is 78-feet long. In Quick Start tennis, the courts are 36 feet for players 8 and younger, and 60 feet for players 10 and younger.
The nets also are several inches lower.
The USTA approved these changes this past fall and all 10 and under tournaments will be played with the new criteria.
The Quick Start Tennis Instructors consist of the Los Alamos Boys tennis coaching staff, Billy and Lloyd Wilton with help from Lloyd’s wife Stephanie.
They were on hand to instruct the children in the new Quick Start format.
“Quick Start is an awesome tool and program to introduce tennis to children who have never played before,” said Lloyd Wilton, a Los Alamos High School Alumni and current varsity tennis coach. “With Quick Start, children can start playing right away.”
Stephanie Wilton was a volunteer as well as a former Division II college tennis player for Western New Mexico University in Silver City.
“I grew up with a hard tennis ball coming at me real fast and it would scare me,” she said. “And I saw many of my friends lose interest and quit playing.”
Billy and Lloyd Wilton, double team the Los Alamos Boy’s High School Tennis program and were members of the Western New Mexico Men’s Tennis Team.
“Children need to be involved in this manner, by modifying things, making playing tennis easier,” Billy said.
Tennis is now following other sports such as basketball, baseball and soccer, which have modified gear, courts and fields to help children enjoy the sport more while developing their skills.
The next Quick Start summer session will be from July 30 through Aug. 9 at Canyon Tennis Courts and will also continue in the fall with help by several members from the Los Alamos High School Boy’s team.
The boy’s team will volunteer their time to improve their game by instructing the younger kids. This will get the high school kids involved with the community as well as with future tennis players.
With the Quick Start program, now children can be instantly successful when they play tennis and this may encourage them to keep playing.
For more information please contact the Los Alamos County Recreation Division at (505) 662-8173 or their website at: http://www.losalamosnm.us/rec/Programs/Pages/QuickstartTennis.aspx