In the middle of a Memphis Tennis couch potato weekend in February, I got pretty excited watching a Tennis Channel advert for the 1-2-3 Tennis Tee, so I had one delivered. I could improve my swing. I could finally get the backhand right!
The tee arrived in a 6-foot long box, and when I took it out to assemble it, I realized that it is a Do-It-Yourselfer’s dream. Almost every part of the device’s simple yet clever construction is composed of things you could buy in a hardware or fishing tackle store. For the price, about $100 shipped, you’d drive yourself crazy trying to build your own version.
Six PVC tubes and a swing-pivot arm is what you get. You also get 3 balls with velcro tabs already stuck on and about 30 velcro tabs that you can attach to (almost) any tennis ball. The whole apparatus seemed flimsy and shaky when I put it together. In fact, I thought the written assembly instructions were so minimal that I was worried that I would build it backwards. Yet, after about 60 seconds, it was built. The color-coded (by hand) pieces snap together so quickly and easily that you thank god that IKEA never got ahold of this project. I felt like I knew what I was doing. It’s good practice to assemble the tee, because if you plan to trot it out to a local court, it is awfully cumbersome. You will need to assemble/dissemble it each time you use it if you’re taking it with you. That might be the biggest downside of all for the tee. After testing it on the court, you learn how to field-strip it in less than 30 seconds. That still leaves the problem of carrying the dissembled tee to your car.
If you live in a dry climate where you can permanently leave it assembled outdoors, or if you have a big basement rec room, those would be ideal situations. If you live in a narrow, urban setting, it’s just too big for permanent interior setup, especially with the ‘swingspan’ of a child or adult.
On the court, it is not flimsy at all. It can take a hard ball hit without swaying. When I first took it to the court in the video, you might be able to notice that it is missing a piece which I left at home. I was so mad and I didn’t feel like loading my daughter, the tennis tee and our bag of balls and sticks back into the station wagon. So, I decided to just give it a try. As you can see in the video, the missing base support didn’t seem to make a bit of difference for Annabel.
While I didn’t fall in love with it for my game, this thing is a kid’s best friend. I tired of retrieving and setting balls to hit for myself, but I found that it was not a bother to continually set it up for my very eager three-year old daughter. The tee has three retractable fishing lines with velcro ends which attach to three velcro-enabled tennis balls. The retractable lines are weighted to a standard tennis ball. You pull the ball (with the line now attached by the velcro straps to the ball) down to your desired strike height, and then begin your battery of shots. As an adult, the ball will tear off the velcro and the line with even a weak shot. That is not the case for kids. You really have to work with this product to find the sweet spot of pulling the velcro partially off the ball for kids to be able to hit the ball cleanly off the line every time. Otherwise, a hanging ball will inevitably tangle with another ball on the line and hilarity ensues.
The caveat for kids use is that the lines are weighted to a standard tennis ball, as mentioned above. That means that the use of Quikstart balls on the tee require an abundance of trial and error with smaller bits of velcro attached to the upper level QS balls (Red/Yellow, Orange/Yellow) and no ability to use the QS foam balls for the youngest players. The foams balls are simply too lightweight to be able to be pulled down to the wheelhouse of the youngest players due to string tension.
As I already mentioned, as an adult, I didn’t like having to retrieve and line-set the balls for my own use after a few hits. I derive nearly the same pleasure hitting against a wall. But it was a completely different story for my daughter.
For once, she got to do tennis on her own terms. Being able to swat the ball in her 3-year-old wheel house when she was ready seemed to make tennis alot more fun for her. By the time she hit her tenth sortie of balls from the tee, her form looked much improved from ten minutes before. I’m referring to the last balls she hits in the above video.
The most impressive thing about the product is that my daughter asks to play more tennis now. She likens the entire game to hitting from the tee and likes helping me put the tee together, too (“The blue dot goes with the blue dot.”). Anything that keeps kids on the court longer is worth its weight in something immensely more expensive than PVC pipe. For kids alone, this product is gold.