QuickStart tennis, a program instituted by the United States Tennis Association to introduce youngsters to the sport, will offer programs at Claudius Crozet Park this spring. QuickStart is “kid-sized,” said Lynda Harrill of Ivy, the vice president of QuickStart of Central Virginia, a nonprofit company she formed three years ago. QuickStart uses smaller rackets, bigger foam balls and lower nets to get children engaged with the sport.
“It gives kids a shot at hitting the ball and develops motor skills,” said Harrill. “It let’s them be successful and have fun. Kids drop sports they are not having fun at. So the environment is no-pressure.” Harrill wants the kids to carry off extended rallies and enjoy themselves. “If kids get the fundamentals right, fewer injuries develop.”
A regulation tennis court is 78 feet long. A QuickStart court is about half that, 36 feet. “You can get six courts for 8-year-olds on a regulation court,” said Harrill. “From the get-go you can get kids to cooperate with each other and you can teach civility.” QuickStart is already used in P.E. classes at Henley Middle School (one of the program’s two original schools) and the western Albemarle elementary schools.
Indeed, it is used by 121 schools in a 19-county region of Central Virginia. QuickStart sets up schools with grants of equipment and training. Harrill’s rapid success got her region named one of USTA’s three national pilot programs. The others are in San Diego and New Orleans. Crozet Park will be a “flagship location” for QuickStart and tournaments will be played there.
The park will have three permanent QuickStart courts and two regulation courts that will also be marked for intermediate-sized 60-foot courts. “On the 60-foot court you get a bigger ball that moves at half the speed of a regular ball,” explained Harrill. Generally, the 60-foot court is for nine- and ten-year-olds. “Once a kid is on a 60-foot court they progress quickly to full-size.” Parents can learn alongside their kids and they are encouraged to play each other.
The problem in expanding the sport previously has been “too heavy a racket,” said Harrill. “There’s a big fitness component in tennis now that didn’t used to be there.” QuickStart also promotes gardening and offers kids what Harrill called “nutritional coaching.”
The QuickStart courts at the park are paid for, but the full-size courts will cost $122,000 to renovate. Nonetheless, Harrill, a woman confident in her mission, predicted that they will be done in 2013. The USTA will put up 20 percent.
“We can grow a tradition of public tennis here,” said Harrill. “Tennis is a lifetime sport. You can play from three to 93.”