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All beginnings are difficult, as the saying goes, and tennis certainly is not an exemption to that rule. To make life on the court easier for kids and beginners, the International Tennis Federation ITF developed its Play & Stay concept in 2007. Since then, various national tennis associations around the globe adopted it. The concept aims at facilitating the first steps into tennis to keep kids and beginners motivated and dedicated to our sport.
The development of the programme is based on practical, systematic, and scientific findings. The idea behind Play & Stay is that court, racket, and tennis balls shall grow with the kids – not just in height but also in their game. To achieve that, bigger tennis balls with reduced bounce and speed are used in the numerous Play & Stay exercises so that the kids can enjoy exciting rallies and clean strokes more or less from the start. Different colours mark the different levels beginners are playing at.
Play & Stay tennis balls come in three different variants: stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3. The latter are very soft and noticeably bigger than regular balls, providing them with relatively slow-flying properties, so the kids have plenty of time to hit them cleanly back across the net. Stage-1 balls, on the other hand, almost have the same playing characteristics as regular tennis balls. By this, kids and beginners get carefully introduced to our sport.
At the turn of the century, the ITF was concerned with getting more kids and adults excited about tennis and keeping them interested. Inspired by other sports' success, the idea was to gently introduce beginners to tennis with a step-by-step programme. In football, for example, kids don't start on the large pitch either, and in field hockey, the juniors begin with smaller sticks.
For tennis, this approach was realised with the Play & Stay concept. It takes the kids by the hand and lets them start at a suitable level for their ability, letting them grow into the sport at their own pace. The concept is divided into stages 1, 2, and 3. Absolute beginners start with stage 3, while the kids at the stage-1 level already play under nearly the same conditions as the big ones.
In stage 3, or the Red Stage, five to eight-year-old kids start their tennis journey on the smallest court where the net is put up across the half-court and hangs lower than usual, at 80 centimetres. They use shorter rackets that are easier to handle for the little ones. By the way, you will find lots of junior rackets in our online shop.
In stage 3 of the Play & Stay concept, the juniors play with a soft, 75-percent slower foam ball, which is usually red (hence “Stage Red”). With a diameter of eight to nine centimetres, these balls are significantly larger than regular tennis balls. Stage 3 balls have less speed and bounce, enabling the kids to have great rallies from the get-go.
At the next level, stage 2, the now more experienced kids play on the mid-court, which is about double the size of the stage-3 court. The net hangs at a height between 80 and 91 centimetres, and the rackets are also a bit bigger now.
The tennis balls used in stage 2 are already a bit smaller – seven to eight centimetres in diameter – than in stage 3 and only fifty percent slower than regular balls. Due to their orange colour, this stage is also called “Stage Orange”.
Welcome to the big court! In stage one, also known as “Stage Green”, our juniors finally play on a regular court. Yet, smaller rackets are recommended, and the green stage-1 tennis balls at a diameter of seven to eight centimetres are still 25 percent slower than regular ones, making it a little easier to control them. However, they closely resemble “proper” tennis balls in regards to their bouncing and flying properties, as well as their speed.
At Tennis-Point, your trusted tennis online shop, you will find a huge range of stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 tennis balls. You can buy Play & Stay balls as a single can or in bulk – be it a bag, a bucket or a box of tennis balls. Play & Stay tennis balls guarantee a lot more fun for your kids while taking their first steps on the court.
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