|ITF School Tennis Initiative|
Mini-tennis is a scaled down version of tennis, which uses smaller bats, a smaller court, softer tennis balls and a games based approach to introduce young children to tennis. The ITF feels strongly that mini-tennis is the most cost efficient and effective method of spreading the game worldwide at the grass roots level. Mini-tennis also provides an excellent method of talent identification for follow-up junior Development Programmes. A great advantage of mini-tennis is that it is ideally suited to introducing the game in primary schools. Any flat surface can be used, equipment can be obtained at a low cost and can even be made locally or in the schools themselves.
|STI programme in Oruro, Bolivia|
|Haiti STI Programme|
|ITF School Tennis Initiative|
|STI Launch in Albania |
|Children learning mini-tennis|
|ITF School Tennis Initiative: Teachers Manual|
With this in mind, the ITF School Tennis Initiative (STI) was launched in January 1996. The target of the initial programme was to bring tennis to over 350,000 youngsters worldwide each year and since the inception of the programme, over 3 million children from over 80 developing tennis nations have been introduced to the game of tennis.
The aim of the STI is to introduce mini-tennis to as many primary school children (6 – 11 years) as possible per year worldwide, by working together with the National Association to ensure the inclusion of mini-tennis in the school curriculum. Through mini-tennis, the ITF hopes to create more awareness and interest in tennis among its member nations. Whilst the programme ensures that more young people have the chance to try tennis and have fun, it is expected that by broadening the base of tennis in a particular country, the overall standard of play is also likely to improve.
What is Mini-Tennis?
Mini-Tennis involves introducing tennis to young children in a fun and active way. By utilising scaled-down equipment and playing surfaces, the children learn to enjoy the game quickly. Any flat surface from a school patio to a playground can be used.
Little if any tennis technique is taught in the STI programme. Instead the programme is activity based and utilises a game based approach to learning tennis (learning by doing!).
The teachers in schools do not have to teach specific tennis techniques such as grips, stance or swing, but instead are expected to organise exercises or tasks for the players to perform which will be fun and help develop co-ordination.
Other Benefits of the STI
To contribute to the educational development of children at school by building motor skills and self-confidence.
To develop the schoolteachers’ education in tennis in order to encourage more varied and fun physical education lessons.
To identify talented youngsters for follow-up programmes.
Using Games – A Key Element of the Programme
Playing games is very natural for the child. It is an activity which has no purpose to the child - it simply generates pleasure, is spontaneous, and is done unconsciously. Its main goal is having fun. By using games, the schoolteacher or the tennis coach can help the children to learn to play tennis whilst having fun. The main characteristics of games for beginners should be the following:
Games should be fun.
They have to be adapted to the players, the available means and the goals set.
Games should be varied and each game should have different variations and combinations.
They need easy rules, with a clear scoring system.
Group or team games are the best ones. All students should participate. Try to avoid games which eliminate children.
If an elimination system is used, it is important to introduce a “last hope” or consolation opportunity.
Games should not involve physical risk or punishment for children.
The ITF and the National Associations – A Joint Venture
The STI is a joint venture between the ITF and the National Associations. The basic concept of the programme is that schoolteachers will be trained to conduct mini-tennis classes in primary schools. The ITF can support the National Associations’ programmes in the following ways:
Provision of mini-tennis equipment (mini-bats, soft balls)
Provision of subsidies for National Co-ordinators
Assistance with teachers’ training (including teachers’ manuals)
Advice, expertise and feedback on the programme and regular visits by an ITF Development Officer.
The National Association is expected to give full support to the programme. Experience has shown that the backing of the local Ministries of Education & Sport is also important to the success of the programme. However, the STI programme is flexible and may be adapted as necessary to the needs of a particular National Association – this is another reason for the success of the programme worldwide.
Once the programme is running successfully, a meaningful follow-up programme for talented players is essential. Follow-up programmes could include:
Building inexpensive “conversion courts” at schools.
Securing agreements from local clubs to allow identified youngsters to participate in their programmes.
Developing public tennis facilities with junior activities.
Establishing new junior competitions, especially at the 14 & Under, 12 & Under and 10 & Under age groups.
For further information on follow-up programmes, please go to the PTI section of the weblet.
National Associations may participate in this initiative on a pilot project basis involving a few schools, or nationwide involving all the primary schools in the country as part of the Junior Tennis Initiative (please refer to Overview page). National Associations are expected to give their programme their full backing and to complement the ITF’s contribution. If your National Association wishes to become part of this important programme, please contact the ITF Development Officer for the region for the application procedures.
To view the JTI End of Year Participation Reports between 2004 and 2007, please refer to the PDF documents below.
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