When parents think about a sport to sign their children up to play, they probably think of Little League, soccer or T-ball, but few may consider tennis.

However, experts say the earlier a child is exposed to the game, the greater success they might have in the long run. Now days, players are turning pro before they can legally vote. New American tennis sensation Melanie Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open at the age of 17.

“The earlier they start the better,” said Tennis Head Coach John Peterson. “The kids who start playing later in life are at a handicap compared to the kids who have been playing for a longer time.”

It is not a coincidence that every single player on the men’s ATP tour started playing before the age of 6. If someone started playing when they were 10, they would be considered a latecomer to the game.

In football, a player who has never played the game before high school could still have a good chance of making it to the professional level. The casual tennis player starts playing tennis their first years of high school, but the likelihood of them achieving professional status is slim to none.

“Starting early is important. It takes about five years to make a player and takes about 10 years to make a champion,” Peterson said.

“I have been playing since I was 4, and playing experience will separate you from someone with the same skill level,” sophomore tennis player Jon Devouse said.

Starting tennis at a young age has its risk along with rewards. There can be serious pressure put on young tennis players that could cause the player to burnout. Burnout can happen when they suffer physical, mental and emotional strain, and could cause a player to never touch a racket again.

“In tennis, you only rely on you. If you make a mistake in tennis, you are the only person responsible. To prevent a player from burning out, you can enroll them into team sports.In team sports, the responsibilty is on the group, and not all on the individual,” Peterson said.

Tennis on the outside looks like a simple enough sport, but there is a lot of work put in to becoming a good player. With players trading traditional public and private school for home school, home schooling seems like a trend that will only continue to grow along with the competition.

Most of the men on the Apache Tennis Team have been playing since a young age. Many of the well-known names in tennis today began playing at a young age as well.

Star player Andy Roddick began playing when he was seven years old and became pro at 17. He is now known for his blazing serves and his countless championship wins. Six-time Wimbledon winner, Roger Federer started playing when he was six and like Andy turned pro when he was 17.

Getting an early start in this sport has helped them, as well as many others, become the title winning, serve crushing players that they are today.

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