This week I summarise the physiological challenges that a we need to consider for players when they move from red to orange!
As a coach, you know that the move from red to orange is a big deal. It isn’t not only the children themselves that are keen to move along; parents love to see their children making progress! But the issue is, are we rushing to move players from red to orange before they are ready?
Below is a high-level overview of what the change means to children. This post is an update of a longer article that we wrote in 2015.
Depending on which manual or guidelines you read, the red court is about 93% of the size of the red court That’s a lot more court for the child to cover, particularly if the child hasn’t grown very much during the season.
The small increase in court width from the red court to the orange court should not present many challenges for young players. However, movement requires coordination and therefore has to be taught and learnt. Young players need to learn to move laterally to arrive near the ball in a balanced set up. As coaches, we should spend a lot of time teaching players to receive the oncoming ball, move and prepare, strike and recover.
This is a big jump; the orange court is 3 – 3.5m longer at each end. This means that an awful lot suddenly changes in the way that a young child needs to play the game. Players will be facing:
- A longer court – The court is longer, so the player (helped by moving to a 25 inch racket) needs a longer and faster swing to propel the ball the additional distance to keep the opponent at the back of the court.
- Higher contact points – higher trajectories and greater racket speed (used to achieve the greater distance required) will mean higher bounces, which, coupled with the slight increase in compression of many orange balls, results in higher average contact points.
- More top-spin –the extra length of the orange court and greater racket head acceleration means that players will need to start developing topspin on groundstrokes.
- Greater distance to the net – the distance is significantly more than on the red court, so young children are unlikely to find it easy to get close to the net.
- Orange balls are smaller so they travel faster. They have slightly greater compression than the red ball, so they fly and bounce a little faster too.
- At orange, as the players face more offensive opponents, the range of contact points widens, as players look at attack more and are required to defend more.
- Players will have to play from well behind the baseline when the opponent plays high and deep. Remember the easiest way to get the ball to travel the extra distance of the longer orange court is still to hit the ball higher!
Height of the net
A red net should be 80 cms high. Given that the orange game is played on regular courts with lines added, many coaches forget to lower the net to the same 80 cms (or can’t due to an absence of net winders!). This affects the offensive possibilities with the serve and therefore the tactical intentions:
- Greater serving distance to the opponents’ service box – the new orange player probably hasn’t grown proportionally as much as the increase in the distance to the opponents’ service box and the height of the contact point on the serve.
- Opportunity for offensive serves – a net height of 80 cms allows players ready for the challenge, to create angles on wide serves, even when the extra distance of the orange baseline is taken into account. Children who aren’t technically proficient on the serve will struggle to build or attack with the serve. Worse still, if the net is too high, the player may try to find a false solution by turning back to a forehand grip on the serve.