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2012 USTA Starfish Award winner advises coaches

September 30, 2013 01:35 PM
Terry Valdez was honored with the 2012 USTA Starfish Award for implementing a "no-cut" policy at Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee, Wash.

Terry Valdez was the recipient of the 2012 USTA Starfish Award. The honor recognizes exceptional coaches who implement a “no-cut” policy, welcoming all interested students to join the team. Coach Valdez coached at Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee, Wash.

Please share some background on how you got into tennis. 

Coach Valdez: I grew up three blocks from public tennis courts at Pioneer Park in Wenatchee, Wash. My mother went and hit with me first at age nine, and then I became a Park Rat and took the summer tennis lessons there for several years. It was not all positive. I was sent home from my first tournament because I threw a tantrum after losing to a girl. The park director taught me a lifelong lesson about sportsmanship. "Terry, you need to go home, and don't come back until you can be a better sport." It worked! My favorite thing to do was hit the ball against a big green wall in the parking lot next to the park. I did it for hours on end, playing make-believe matches in my head.

What caused you to develop a passion for the No-Cut program? 

Coach Valdez: It actually grew out of my years playing baseball as a youth. My first mentor was my Little League coach, Frenchy Green. He believed in everyone playing an equal amount of time, having fun and being a class act. We never won a championship, but I loved playing for him. He was a role model of compassion and inclusion at all levels. The No-Cut program is a great recruitment tool with kids and also a wonderful PR tool in building advocacy with school administrators and community tennis supporters for your high school program.

How many players on average participate in the high school program? 

Coach Valdez: We have averaged 85 players total in the program, from freshman to senior boys and girls. Our high mark for participation was 110 to 120 players several years ago. All players, beginner to varsity, practice every day and also play matches against other schools in our area. We host an annual season-opening jamboree (Wildcat Invite) with three other schools invited. We use the USTA Junior Team Tennis format for the matches.

Practices: M to F, 3-5 p.m. (All levels) Run on two court sites of: six courts and one court site of: 4 courts

Rituals: Players developing positive team rituals is very important. It is the responsibility of the coaches at all levels to encourage the building of character, leadership and sportsmanship built on those traditions. Team captains give input, as well.

Conditioning: We partnered with a local Sports Therapy company (Bio Sports) to develop a tennis-specific conditioning program for our athletes to help with avoiding early season to mid-season overuse injuries. We have cut our injuries by 75 percent to 80 percent over the past three years. The timing of the training circuit is done to music at one-minute intervals. A professional trainer has donated his time to introduce the circuit at the beginning of the season. We have found that the circuit is a fun way to maximize our on-court time and be efficient about the flow of practice from conditioning, drilling, practice matches or specific strategy sessions.

Drills: We run group drills on several courts, ball machine on one court and several self-feeding drills, as well. Our veteran players are tutored on how to run a drill or help our newer varsity players feel included.

Coaches Training: It is required that all our coaches from C team through varsity be trained in USTA 10 and Under Tennis (TAUT). The entire staff has also partnered with our local tennis club to do a pre-season training with our local USPTA pro. We make it a priority focus for our C and JV coaches to also help coach the varsity players at Invites, District play or selected matches to help enhance their match/strategy experience.

Summer Tennis Camp: Wildcat Summer Tennis Camp is in its 15th year and is a cooperative venture between Eastmont Parks & Rec. and our USTA registered Wenatchee Valley CTA. The camp is staffed by some of our coaches and varsity players.

Do all kids have an opportunity to play?  

Coach Valdez: Yes, all kids at all levels from beginner to varsity have an opportunity to play matches. We also run some in-house mini-tourneys and challenge ladders at varsity level.

Would you share a story in which a player achieved success due to your philosophy?   

Coach Valdez: The opportunity to participate and witness the transformational aspect of tennis is at the core of why I coach. A former player joined us in her freshman year. Most tennis coaches might have said she was not very quick or athletic but had great desire. Over the next three years, she worked her way up from JV to varsity as a singles player in her junior year. She literally "melted down" mentally in the match at the end of that season that would have sent her to State. She was devastated! Part of me felt she had reached a plateau and, unless she worked on her conditioning both mentally and physically, she would not improve. Then the transformation began. In the off season, I started running into her at the local tennis club. She was often in the workout room or hitting balls. Our local club pro gave a presentation at the early part of the next season about how to establish your routine to play your opponent. She really took it to heart. I have often told the players that how we feel about ourselves or believe as we start a match is more about us and not them. She ended up playing the same girl who had denied her a trip to State the year before to once again decide who would qualify. The match lasted more than four hours and went to a tiebreaker in the third set. In all my years of coaching, this is one of the great heart-wrenching, transformational moments I will always carry with me. She won the match, and I learned the greatest lesson. Transformation is internal; it is heart and character. Adversity opens doors! She would go on to walk on at Washington State University and make the tennis team.



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