Youth Tennis (ROGY) Progression with Michelle Brown


To listen to this week’s podcast episode, click the white arrow below:


A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a ParentingAces Parent asking if I could do a podcast about the USTA’s Red Orange Green Yellow (ROGY) ball progression. I posted my query on the various Facebook groups I belong to and got a great response! One coach in particular seemed to be the right one to help explain the progression, so I hope y’all enjoy hearing from Coach Michelle Brown!

Michelle runs the Longfellow Red Ball Tennis & Youth Sports Zone (contact info below). As a USPTA Elite Professional, she has been working with beginning players for over a decade now to help foster a love of tennis in them as they learn to play the game properly.

In this week’s episode, Michelle explains the equipment needs and skill requirements to move through the progression to playing on a full court with yellow balls. For more information on the USTA’s rules around ROGY, click here. And here are some additional resources from USTA:

Junior Player Progression

Player Development for the Beginner Player

Early Development Camps

NOTE: I just received the following information from one of our listeners and wanted to share it with you . . .

The USTA provides sections two options to choose from. Additionally in option 1, a section may also choose to have 1 or 2 orange levels to emphasis level based play. Southern is supposed to use the 2 level system, but in most cases only one level of orange is played (Georgia only uses 1 level of orange). Most sections have adopted the option 1 to use with only one level of orange ball. 

In my opinion, Nationally there are two groups of thought on this 10 & U youth progression pathway. For one group the bar is higher than the other. Michelle appears to be in the group that accelerates the pathway without taking into account that players are not advanced unless they meet the correct on- court criteria to advance. With 200 kids in her programming each week, I can understand how she would get pressure from parents  probably demanding their player be advanced asap to the next ball color. The other group, player development advocates such as Craig Jones and Martin Blackman, support that players do not advance until on- court assessments are met. It has been said that the longer a player is on the red ball the stronger the foundation will be in later years. I don’t remember hearing Michelle mention in the assessments at the red ball level, players are to serve using the continental grip, and should be able to hit top spin and slice on both sides. How many red ball players do you see learning those skills before advancing? 

As far as Green Ball vs Yellow ball, a couple of things. Nationally the USTA allows sections to choose to play with the yellow ball after a player ages to 11 years old. I believe Southwest requires all 12 & under events, including their Section Championships, use the green ball for 12 & U events.

Note: A study in the UK a couple of years ago, according to Mike Barrell comparing green ball rallies vs yellow ball rallies, stated the points for younger players last much longer with a yellow ball than a green ball. What this meant was rallies with the yellow ball were more likely moon balls(bouncing higher, slower out of their natural striking zone with more lobbing) whereas the green ball rallies were shorter which meant strokes were more aggressive plus more likelihood of volleying and more of all court tactics. Again this creates the correct foundation for our young players, which is a very high priority for USTA Player Development. 

I understand the USTA, via Net Generation, is working on several innovative types of play not only for the 10& under groups, but for all ages 5-18 to include Red, Green and Yellow balls that are being piloted across the country now. The focus is more on player assessment plus level base play. 

Lastly, Net Generation is starting the groundwork to introduce many more events for Entry level tournaments which currently are weak or non- existent in many of the sections.

If, after listening to this episode, you decide the ROGY progression isn’t what’s best for your child, there are alternatives. Be sure to check out UTR Events and the Little Mo series of tournaments.

You can reach Michelle at:

The Longfellow Club – Wayland

Thank you to STØNE for our music! You can find more of his music at

If you’re so inclined, please share this – and all our episodes! – with your tennis community. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or via the ParentingAces website.

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One Comment on “Youth Tennis (ROGY) Progression with Michelle Brown”

  1. Great to hear there are programs that focus specifically on the low compression tennis (ROGY). I suspect that these programs could be more cost effective than a traditional club? I’d like to learn more about the economics and how programs could support Pickleball and 36 RED on the same court. While it wouldn’t be sanctioned, it seems logical to use the Pickleball standards (net and court size) for new facilities. This way the smaller courts could be used during school hours and at night for Pickleball and RED clinics in the afternoons.

    I am concerned that the prescribed teaching approaches to ROG is flawed. For kids that I’ve worked with for Red ball, I spend more time working on footwork and how to move into and out of shots and a bit less on stroke mechanics. Having a son go through the “normal” approach proved to be of little value. The levers are very different at younger ages and almost everything they learn from a stroke mechanic perspective will be very different as they age and grow. However, footwork patterns can be more prescriptive. Teaching footwork at the younger ages seems to make more sense to me if the goal is to develop advanced players.
    I get that kids want to play and I’m all for that, and ROG definitely serves the purpose here. The stars, and trophy system doesn’t contribute to success though IMO. We also need to fix Middle school tennis. Many schools do not support tennis and it would be great to incorporate Green DOT into a Junior Varsity programs for 6th-7th graders that enjoy and want to compete in tennis but can’t handle yellow ball yet. There are also many kids that do play MS tennis that should still be in Green DOT. For programs that could only support one team, you could have the top 6 starters play yellow ball and have exhibition matches with Green DOT. A few scenarios may evolve from this issue…kids that are playing ROG move into middle school and have to compete with bigger kids and balls they are not ready for and they either don’t make the team or do not get to play. This can push them to other sports during MS and for those schools that don’t offer tennis, they may drop tennis for another sport that the school offers.

    Thanks for continuing to produce content Lisa.

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