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Commitment to coaching highlighted by 100,000th workshop participant

May 9, 2016 10:00 AM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

The key to growth in any sport starts with young players, attracting them to the game and keeping them playing for life.

It was with that thought in mind that the USTA launched a series of active face-to-face workshops in 2000 to help coaches working with entry level players.

The hope was that offering easily accessible workshops would increase the number of quality coaches at the entry level with an eye toward attracting first-time players, who were more likely to play at their local parks, CTAs, and NJTLs. The pilot program was an unqualified success, with access to quality coaching continuing to grow at a rapid rate. This summer, it will reach a milestone with the USTA welcoming its 100,000th coach to a live coach workshop.

“It’s less about teaching tennis and more about teaching children,” said USTA Director of Coaching Education, Kirk Anderson. “When we started this program, we found that there were so many new players coming into the game. If their first experience is good, they stay. But if that first experience is bad, we’re not going to get them back.”

The on-court coaches workshops kicked off 16 years ago, when the USTA partnered with 28 of the best certified coaches and master professionals in America. The first training workshops were held in Hilton Head Island, S.C., the home of the United States Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and Houston, home to the U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA).

In its first year, 23 Developmental Coaches Workshops attracted 567 participants. The following year, the program expanded to 87 workshops and 3,028 coaches, and by the 10-year anniversary of the initiative, it had held as many 227 workshops in one year (2006) and attracted a record of 6,456 coaches (2008). The program has rebranded several times, from Developmental Coaches Workshops, to Recreational Coaches Workshops, to QuickStart Workshops, to its current name of 10-and-Under Workshops, but the feedback has remained the same.

“The reason we’ve had so much success is because we have such good people in conducting our workshops,” Anderson said. “We have average feedback rating of 4.77 out of 5.0."

To keep on top of current trends and best practices, workshop materials are updated every other year and some of top minds in sports education and childhood development are invited to attend and speak at faculty workshops.

Chris Snyder, the director of coaching education at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), said these workshops have raised the bar for tennis and for youth coaching in general.

The workshops, said Snyder, “have worked with the top experts in the game to be sure you receive great instructions, knowledge of how to apply the concepts and, best of all, drills and skill concepts that you can use on your court with your athletes. The USTA has moved the whole Coach Youth Tennis program to the next level with their top-of-the-line programming, and the USOC is proud of the great work that USTA, PTR and USPTA have done by working together for the benefit of the players and coaches everywhere."

In many ways, the workshops are keeping pace with a changing game. Tennis has embraced appropriately sized equipment for youth instruction, including red-, orange- and green-dot balls that bounce lower and travel slower than traditional balls; smaller, lighter racquets that are easier to handle; and smaller courts, at 36 feet or 60 feet instead of 78 feet long. Having the right instruction to guide kids through this new equipment was paramount – now it is prevalent.

Workshops are currently held across all 17 USTA sections. An average of 24 coaches attend each three-and-a-half-hour session, and the workshops have been so well received in the coaching community that since 2014, completion of one of these workshops is now a prerequisite of USPTA and PTR certification.

“The quality education will help new and existing coaches improve their teaching skills with developing players,” said PTR International Master Professional and past PTR President, Jorge Andrew.

In recent years, youth tennis instruction has taken its next step – dynamic online courses that can be as useful as the instruction delivered inside the lines. Developed in partnership with the PTR, USPTA and USOC, the classes help guide teaching pros and coaches in supervising and organizing play, managing groups and teams and much more. Between the online classes and on-court workshops, coaches can ensure their staff members have all the skills they need to run successful summer programs and events.

“I have completed the courses and I am very impressed,” added USPTA Master Professional and past USPTA President, Tom Daglis. “I found it to be a lucid, engaging presentation of material.”

In 16 years, youth tennis workshops have come a long way, helping coaches introduce children to tennis in a way that will keep them coming back time and time again.

“The general approach is that we want kids to play to learn,” Anderson said. “We’ve pioneered a new way to teach players. It’s not about putting kids in a line and having them work on a forehand and a backhand. We have them in small groups where they work on the tactics first and then we teach the technique. People don’t like to stand in line, pick up balls or be yelled at from across the net.”
With summer approaching and International Coaches Week upon us, there’s never been a better time to grow your business and bring tennis to a new generation of youngsters.

By participating in a youth tennis workshop, coaches learn how to teach tennis skills and fundamentals, organize age-appropriate games and activities and communicate more effectively with players.

And by hosting a 10-and-under workshop, coaches can start on their own pathway to certification with the USPTA and the PTR. To help your workshop become a reality, hosts will receive $300 – to offset some of the costs associated with organizing an event – as well as equipment, access to a nationally trained workshop leader, participant workshop manuals and certificates of completion.

Celebrate International Coaches Week, May 16-22, and join the thousands of other coaches and providers who have enhanced their skills and made a difference in their community.

Learn more at www.CoachYouthTennis.com