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USTA Addresses High School Tennis

As I wrote in my last post, I had the opportunity to attend a couple of sessions of USTA’s Tennis Development Workshop this past weekend. The first had to do with junior tournaments, and the second had to do with high school tennis. It was led by Glenn Arrington, USTA’s national manager of the Tennis On Campus program.

Glenn started the session by having everyone in the room take a pop quiz (which I failed miserably!). It included questions about how many high school tennis players there are in the US (the answer for 2012-13 is 338,363 in case you’re interested), the number of state high school associations that sponsor individual and team state championships (15 is the correct answer), and the percentage of high school tennis players who go on to play varsity tennis in college (6% – not too many!). For the record, the state with the highest number of high school tennis players, not surprisingly, is California. What is surprising is that Florida ranks 11th on that list.

Glenn then asked the room to offer reasons why high school tennis is important. Among the answers were because tennis is a life-long activity, high school tennis provides an opportunity for those kids who started playing at a young age to continue playing competitively, and that it’s a way to transition the individual nature of tennis into a team sport. All great answers.

We learned that the USTA is looking to increase the awareness and visibility of high school tennis, to connect with and reward high school tennis coaches, and to improve the quality of high school coaching by providing useful resources. Our governing body is working to develop year-round, off-season playing opportunities for high school players to keep them engaged in tennis and then to provide the linkage to college tennis opportunities.

Workshop participants worked in small groups to come up with a list of who benefits when high school tennis participation increases and how. Players benefit through more competitive opportunities, more year-round play, having an identity on campus, and gaining leadership opportunities. Schools benefit when their program is successful through recognition in their community and from younger students aspiring to play at that high school. They can also benefit when their recruiting reputation is positively impacted by the tennis team. Other beneficiaries include public facilities, coaches, parents, teaching pros, and manufacturers.

The next challenge was coming up with a list of how to grow off-season opportunities for high school players. There are so many obstacles to growing the game, especially for high schoolers, that it becomes a big challenge to work beyond those road blocks. When asked to list some of the barriers to growing the game, here are a few things that came up: cost, competing with other sports/activities, making tennis more time-effective, keeping courts accessible in the off season, and restrictions on high school coaches. We need to look at creating regional and national championship tournaments for high school teams and making it easy for the players to register. We need to look beyond our traditional tournament structure and think outside the box to engage these kids – maybe have co-ed matches or other innovative formats like hiring a DJ to play music and create more of a party atmosphere.

Glenn concluded the session by challenging everyone to think about who they could partner with in their community – existing high school coaches, local retail representatives, a DJ whose child plays tennis, the state high school athletic association – to build more opportunities to keep our high school team players engaged once the season is over. USTA is looking at these 300,000+ high school players as a great resource to grow the game outside the traditional junior competition structure.

So, does your child play for his or her high school? Do teammates play junior tournaments or do they hang up their racquets once the season is finished? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments below!


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