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Q. I am a Tennis Coach for both of my high school tennis programs. My Athletic Director wants to send me to a Clinic to learn more about how tennis and to help the program grow. Where would you recommend I go?

A. I would strongly urge you, and any high school coach, to attend a USTA-sponsored Recreation Coaches Workshop. They are absolutely terrific guides for those coaching HS teams, hired staff from Parks and Recreation centers, for parents who want to learn how to introduce tennis to their kids, or for anyone looking to begin a potential career of teaching tennis. These one-day workshops take place all over the country throughout the year.

Q. I work at the Boys and Girls Club up here, and this month and next I am teaching a day camp for beginning and intermediate tennis players. I am on my high school tennis team, and I know the game, but my problem is that I am not sure how to go about teaching 8-10 year olds how to play. They have the attention span of a goldfish!! How many things can I cover per day? At what pace do I introduce them to new things? Help!!!

A. My best advice when teaching 8-10 year old goldfish, errr, children is to make it fun. If they have fun, they will play more. If they play more, they will get better quickly. How do you know if they are having fun? Look for smiles and listen for laughter. That is even more important than specific drills, games or exercises.

Q. I'd liked to be certified to teach tennis. How can this be done and what do I need for Certification?

A. Please visit the web sites for either the United States Professional Tennis Association and/or the Professional Tennis Registry. These are the two primary teaching professional organizations in this country, and their web sites have a wealth of information about how to become certified.

To become a career tennis teaching professional, you need to gain on-court experience and a thorough background of knowledge, so read everything that you can get your hands on and pick the brains of the teaching professionals in your area with the finest reputations. If this career path is something that appeals to you, then get on the court to begin honing your teaching craft, even this means volunteering your time initially.

Q. I've written you a few times before. I have been a part-time teaching pro for over 30 years. Why can't the USTA fund and provide a web site with the best current thinking on stroke production. It could include a committee consisting of teaching pros like Oscar Wegner, Brett Hobden, Vic Braden, Dennis Van der Meer, you and others. There is too much misinformation out there.

Also, couldn't USTA make teaching accreditation similar to what is required by CPAs (I have a bachelor's degree in accounting). My guess is the level of current teaching matches a bell shaped curve. This is totally unacceptable and why most people leave the game. Great Teachers lead to Great Students, which leads them to REALLY grow the game.

A. Well, this is complicated- as many things are in our sport. The USTA is the governing body for tennis in this country, but that does not mean that the USTA should be the go-to source for teaching or coaching. The USTA, particularly with the Recreational Coaches Workshop initiative and the Player Development departments, IS eager to share information. By the way, this information is typically driven by the players themselves- who are evaluated by teaching professionals, the great majority of whom are certified by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and/or the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). The USPTA, based in Houston, TX, and the PTR, based in Hilton Head, SC, need to ultimately be “the source” for this accreditation.

Maybe your vision will eventually come to pass. It would be nice for new and experienced players alike to have full confidence in the capability and certification of their instructor. By the way, I am flattered that you included my name among those listed above. For the record, I do not believe that there is any One Correct Way to teach the game or to hit the ball. There are, however, many great web sites (including those listed earlier) that will help guide teaching professionals and coaches toward getting the information that they need for students.

Q. I'm a recent college graduate with a passion for tennis and not for my chosen degree. I haven't been playing tennis for very long but I would love to be an instructor one day. Can you offer a long term plan for getting to a level where I could teach professionally in the future?

A. Continuing education is important if you truly want to pursue a career in coaching or teaching tennis. You might approach an accomplished, certified professional in your area and ask this person if you can, in effect, intern with them.

When you gain a measure of confidence in your ability to coach/teach others, then you should become certified. Please visit the United States Professional Tennis Association or the Professional Tennis Registry for information on certification training and then testing. Good luck in your career path!

Q. Where in St. Louis can I go to get certified as an instructor, this month? I would like to do this on a full-time basis. I currently give private lessions to kids, and I enjoy it very much.

A. You have some options. You can become certified as a tennis professional through the United States Professional Tennis Association or the Professional Tennis Registry. Each organization has three levels of certification. Please visit their respective web sites for more information at www.uspta.com or www.ptrtennis.org.

You might opt to attend a USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop. These were developed in cooperation with the aforementioned teaching organizations, and are ideal for part-time instructors, high school coaches, camp counselors, anyone new to teaching, or anyone who wants to potentially break into the profession.

Q. Can you give me some techniques on how to coach left-handers?

A. Surprisingly, I have gotten several questions about this recently. Maybe it is the Rafael Nadal effect? Anyway, my advice would to coach lefties the same way that you coach right-handed players. Teach them to hit all the shots and how to effectively cover the court.

As they begin competing, help them to realize the advantages they have when serving to the ad court (in terms of opening the court up with a wide serve). Another potential edge the lefties have is that they become used to playing against right-handers, while the righties only compete against lefties a small percentage of the time. This forces players to play to different patterns.

Q. I am a tennis instructor and my upcoming group classes include "adult beginners" and "intermediate 11-15 yrs." Can you recommend 1-2 games for each of these groups that have proven to be both fun and beneficial to their skill development.

A. 1. Rotating Approach Drill.

2. Triples (also known as Monkey in the Middle).

3. The Pinwheel Drill.

4. Half-court King (or Queen).

5. Team Approach.

6. Team Overhead.

7. Serve and Return Rotations.

Each of these drills can be used for players at any level, from first-timers to national champions. You can do these with up to eight players a court. If you need descriptions for any or all of these games, please E-mail me (and include the drill in your subject line) and I will send a description of any or all of these drills.

Q. Does the USTA run an accreditation program for new teaching professionals? I have recently retired, I am in excellent shape and play a lot of USTA team tennis. Where in the Buffalo, NY area would I go for accreditation?

A. The USTA is not an organization for teaching professionals, the way the USPTA or the PTR are, but there is a program that might appeal to you. With the cooperation of the aforementioned teaching associations, the USTA is sponsoring Recreation Coaches Workshops all over the country. This ambitious program has unlimited potential in terms of creating a “ripple effect” in communities everywhere.

What is this program? It is a six-hour workshop designed for people who might be inclined to- for example- teach tennis part-time, in a summer program, as a volunteer, or for a local junior program in the park. It is not necessarily for the career-minded teaching professional.

Those tennis enthusiasts who, like yourself, might willingly teach new players in public facilities are our greatest resource, and traditionally they have been the least trained. Most times when a new player is introduced to our sport it is by an inexperienced volunteer with no “road map.” This Recreation Coaches Workshop program was designed expressly for the purpose of assuring that more instructors than ever before are trained to “capture” first-time players.

After you complete the six-hour course you have the option of pursuing a membership with the USPTA (likely as a “Developmental Coach”) or the PTR. I am confident that you will gain a tremendous knowledge of how to get players started properly in our sport by attending one of these workshops. If you get 25 or more people together, I will be glad to help facilitate this course in your area (or even teach it if my schedule permits).

Best of luck!

Q. What do I have to do to become a certified instructor?

A. Attend a Certification Training Course with the USPTA or a Teaching Essentials Workshop with the PTR. Visit their respective web sites to learn more about which organization you might want to join. (www.uspta.com and www.ptrtennis.org).

Q. I have been playing tennis for the last 7-8 years now. And I love the game. I would like to become a coach for the game and create interest in the game for the kids between 4-12 years. Can you please advise me how I can become one?

A. There are a few alternatives for you to consider. If you want to pursue teaching or coaching tennis as a full-time career, you should take the certification training course and competency exam offered by the United States Professional Tennis Association or the Professional Tennis Registry. Another option for you to consider is to enroll in the newly created USTA Recreation Coaches Training Workshop. There are already 180 of these workshops scheduled for 2005, and these will provide you with a solid foundation for establishing basic lesson plans for (primarily) new players.

Good luck as you embark upon this career choice.

Q. My wife, Joanna, is new to the game. I got her started with some basics, she did some group lessons and learned some basic development of her strokes from a teaching pro. We drill together to help reinforce what the pro has done. My question: She has another local pro for group lessons who wants her to eliminate the loop completely from her backswing on her forehand and instead use a straight take-back. We pulled him aside and explained the rationale for putting in the loop in the first place and asked his help in keeping a good loop in her swing. His response was to "do it his way", loudly, in front of the group. I think we're done with him, based on his lack of respect for another pro's opinion, Joanna's prior effort and generally not handling the situation with any tact whatsoever. This does not even consider his lack of acknowledgement that there is more than one way to hit a tennis ball. Do you think it's time to find another pro?

A. Immediate answer: Yes.

Consider that the teaching professional who was abrupt with you might have had “one of those days.” This does not excuse his rudeness or, frankly, his unwillingness to be flexible in his approach to teaching. But you might give him another try if your other experiences with him were positive. The picture that you have painted is pretty bad however, and if this guy acts that way ever again he SHOULD lose you as a customer.

Q. My current tennis instructor keeps canceling programs on me. I desperately need a new instructor. Can you send me a list of USTA instructors in my area?

A. Yup… sounds like you need a new instructor. The United States Professional Tennis Association has a “Find A Pro” link on their web site. Go to www.uspta.com.

Another option would be to visit www.TennisWelcomeCenters.com and type in your zip code. This site will list several clubs and facilities in your area and you can research the instructors who teach tennis at these places.

Definitely drop this tennis instructor. Behavior like that gives the tennis teaching profession a bad name. Good luck when you find a new, more committed, teaching pro. He/she ought to be better than this inconsistent one you are currently playing with.

Q. Where can I go to become a certified instructor?

A. There are two leading teaching organizations located in the United States. The United States Professional Tennis Association, established in 1927, has 13,000 members. The Professional Tennis Registry, which was founded by Dennis Van Der Meer in 1976, has 11,000 members. Both organizations offer many certification training courses and workshops in every region of the country throughout the year.

Please go to their respective web sites and to decide which organization might be a better fit for your needs and expectations.

Q. How does one technically qualify to become a teaching instructor?

A. The best method to become an officially certified teaching professional is take the training and certification courses of one (or both) of the leading teaching organizations. Consider either the Professional Tennis Registry (www.ptrtennis.org) or the United States Professional Tennis Association (www.uspta.com). Both of these web sites have thorough explanations on how to enroll in their respective courses.

Q. I have been playing tennis for about 4 or 5 years now. I am at the point where I am not improving. I don’t have a coach and I live in a very small town and there are all small towns around me and I need to have lessons or a lesson plan of my own. Also I am an intermediate player and so is this girl I play but I have never been able to beat her. Please help!

A. I admire your determination in trying to break out of your rut. Creating a lesson plan of your own is most effective. In fact, I’ve always encouraged my students that they should become their “own coach.” Learn to figure things out on your own. No parent or friend or coach has ever been able to hit a shot for you during a match. As soon as you learn to think for yourself out there, you will become a tougher competitor. So, in effect, becoming your “own coach” can be viewed as a positive.

Ask yourself a few questions as you are determining your plan of action:

1) What tactics do you most effectively use to win?

2) What areas of your game tend to falter under match pressure?

3) What are your strengths? (Continue to work on improving these).

4) What are your weaknesses? (Look to strengthen your weakest links).

Once you decide the areas of your game that you need to work on, begin devoting part of every practice session on these aspects. Also, closely watch the world’s top players when matches are televised. This is a fantastic, and underrated, way to really learn how to play the game. Good luck with your planning and progress. And good luck the next time that you play against the girl that you “have never been able to beat.”

Q. I am curious as to how to go about getting involved in teaching tennis as a profession. What steps do I need to follow? I would rank myself as a 4.0 player. I love the sport, am currently teaching my own kids to the point that they can now play competitively. At this time I would like to move on to teach others and perhaps make a little money at he same time. What do you suggest? Thanks for your input.

A. Sounds like you’re passionate about our sport. That’s a great start. I would highly recommend that you become certified with the USPTA and/or the PTR (www.uspta.com or www.ptrtennis.org). These are the two leading teaching organizations, and both offer excellent training and certification courses (as well as valuable benefits when you become a member). Good luck!

Q. I have been a USPTA pro for a number of years. Many of the local pros feel that a player should not volley until they are in their teens.

I am now in my early 50’s and have a daughter who just turned 11. She has been playing tennis at all levels (district, state, section and nationals in girls 12s). I played in the serve and volley generation. Then the groundstrokers came around. Now I am seeing more world-class players playing an all-court game. My feeling is that you should let a player find their natural playing patterns. Most pros that will talk about their methods disagree with me on a local level. How do teaching pros in your part of the country teach?

Bill you do a great job. I enjoy being able to read your point of view. Too many pros are not open to new ideas. They hold back their players, both juniors and adults, by trying to force their style of play on them. Again this is just a point of view from an Oklahoma pro.

A. I suppose that there are as many theories on this topic as there are qualified teaching professionals. In fact, I know of some top coaches who believe that students should be taught from the net first, and then only gradually move back toward the baseline. In other words, teach young players to volley first, because the volley is technically a simpler shot to learn.

I do completely agree that coaches should allow their charges to develop their own personal style(s). The biggest key to enabling young players is to teach them every stroke (including volleys) as they are starting out. If they eventually feel comfortable hitting any shot, then they will have options. This is essential as young players mature, because as they grow bigger and stronger their style of play will likely evolve too.

Good luck as you help your daughter in developing her game.

Q. I have been asked to teach tennis to a 10-year-old autistic boy. I have never worked with an autistic person before. Do you have any advice for me?

A. We run an ambitious program for Autistic Children at the USTA National Tennis Center. We integrate the autistic children with their ably developed brothers and sisters, and this creates a great family environment out on the courts. It has been a successful program.

The biggest keys to teaching tennis to an autistic child are:

1. To get eye contact. Maintaining focus will be the autistic player’s greatest challenge.

2. To ask a parent or an assistant to help. This constant, virtually one-on-one, attention makes a huge difference.

3. Make it fun. Lots of fun.

Good luck in this endeavor.

Q. My teacher asked me to teach her kids how to play tennis. I need help on what to teach them. I 'm not some person who thinks that I am "the best". (But I'm pretty good.)

I guess I'm asking for your advice on what to teach kids that have never ever picked up a tennis racket!

A. We need more people like you in our great sport. Make sure that the children that you are teaching enjoy themselves out there. Create all sorts of fun, weird, wild games. Make up the rules as you go along. This might sound crazy coming from someone who has spent much of his adult life coaching tennis, but teaching can be a little over-rated. (Maybe a lot over-rated, in fact). If you make sure that “your” children have fun out there, they will “learn” plenty.

My friend in Texas, Joe Dinoffer has some amazing books and videos that demonstrate how to teach tennis to young children so they don’t even know that they are learning. You might visit his website www.oncourtoffcourt.com for some great ideas.

But most importantly, make sure your students are smiling and having fun. Good luck… and thanks.

Q. When I shoot for power, my 1st serves almost always go fat into the net. Any ideas how to fix that?

A. Aim higher, Keane, aim higher!

I always remind my students that they should hit UP on their serves. I tell them to “hit up, but snap down.”

Q. I live in Houston and would like to pursue coaching certification. I’m a 5.0 player and started the PTR coaching program some time ago while I was overseas, but was transferred and did not complete it. I would like to get a formal coaching certificate. How can I proceed? Who do I contact? Many thanks!

A. Visit the following web sites for all the appropriate information.



Q. How does one technically qualify to become a teaching instructor?

A. The best method to become an officially certified teaching professional is take the training and certification courses of one (or both) of the leading teaching organizations. Consider either the Professional Tennis Registry (www.ptrtennis.org) or the United States Professional Tennis Association (www.uspta.com). Both of these web sites have thorough explanations on how to enroll in their respective courses.

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