Developing Junior Players Ages 10-12 (12u): Court Positioning
This is part 2 of a 3-part series on developing junior players in the 12u age group. As discussed in part 1, here's the playing environment or 12u players in USTA District Levels 4 and 5 (District Level 3, 2,1, Sectional, and National 12u players play on 78 ft. courts with full compression Yellow Balls):
- Court length – 78 feet
- Racquet length – 26 inches (players 5 foot tall or more could use a 27” racquet)
- Ball Compression – 25% Low Compression Green/Yellow Ball (a.k.a. The Green Dot Ball)
Mastering the Dip Drive Return Of Serve will go a long way to helping the 12u player win, but that's not nearly enough. Even the most aggressive 12u players will still spend a significant amount of time starting both serve and return points behind the baseline. Players who are just moving up from the 60 ft. court in 10u have the habit of recovering to the 60 ft. court baseline after serve and return. On a 78 ft. court that spells disaster! The next big goal in developing the 12u player's game is recovery footwork. Without this skill, the player will be stuck in what's commonly referred to as “no man's land” (the space halfway between baseline & service line; which also happens to be the 60 ft. court baseline), and will lose a ton of points on bad position alone.
Few players on the ATP Tour rely on their footwork for wins as much as Spain's David Ferrer. Here's a clip of him playing 2 points against Ukrainian Pro Alexandr Dogopolov:
Ferrer is the one in the foreground and most easily visible. He's providing a perfect demonstration of the three types of recovery moves that 12u players will need for success on a 78 ft. court. They are:
- Recovering forwards after moving back for incoming deep shots
- Recovering backwards after moving forward for incoming short shots
- Recovering laterally after moving laterally to chase after angled shots
The three main recovery points for baseline play are:
- dead center when the ball has been hit down-the-middle
- about two feet to either side of the hash mark, when the ball has been hit to one side of the court or the other.
Ferrer again provides a perfect demonstration of these recovery points. When he hits the ball to the Ad (Right side from his viewpoint) side, he recovers a couple of feet to the left of his hash mark. When he hits the ball to the Deuce (left) side, he recovers to the right of his hash mark. Juniors competing in 12u know these same points, but they are used to the points being 9 feet in front of the baseline. It's mission critical that training take place to get used to the new recovery points.
Just like an army needs to be in the right position to launch an attack, so do tennis players. If 12u players can be in the best possible baseline position before each shot, they'll have space and time to play both offense and defense at the right times. With great position will come great results!