The First Serve: December 2020
I would like to wish everyone a happy new year as we welcome the end of 2020 at USTA Central Indiana. We faced big challenges in 2020 and happily, we were able to rise above them. Now we are looking forward to 2021 with hopes that as we roll into Spring we can start to get ahead of the virus and get back to a full schedule of tennis in the district.
We are welcoming several new Board Members and a new lineup of officers this year. . Please join me in welcoming long time Central Indiana volunteer, Mark Branaman to the Board of Directors. We also welcome David Slade to our Board. David has worked for USTA National and for the USTA Foundation. We are very fortunate that he has chosen to bring his experience to the Central Indiana team. In addition, we are saying goodbye to outgoing President, Todd Hacker. Todd leaves us having served 8 years on the Central Indiana Board. We are sure that he will continue to be active within the District but we will miss his presence on the Board. He leaves the Board in good hands with Tiffany Squires as the new President. Tiffany also brings a great deal of experience to her role and we look forward to working with her at the lead.
To meet the rest of the Central Indiana Board, please watch for their introduction on our Facebook page.
2020 was not a total loss and there were some significant district wins. This summer, USTA offered grants to help our facilities reopen. Together with our facilities owners and managers, USTA Central Indiana secured more than $80,000 in grants for our district facilities. Every indoor facility in our district was offered help to prepare to reopen safely in a COVID environment. Our facilities helped us to promote the safety of playing tennis. They worked together on a video that was promoted district wide welcoming back our players to the sport. Watch the video here.
We also welcomed the opening of a new eight court facility in Pendleton in December. We are very pleased to announce the opening of the Community Sports and Wellness Center, and I would encourage you to stop by and take a tour. We already are taking advantage of their new courts for league matches, junior tournaments and as a playoff venue. I hope you will join us in congratulating them and wishing them much success in their endevours.
2021 will bring the launch of the new USTA provider platform housed directly within usta.com. It will be phased in over the next few years to replace an aging Tennislink platform. In January, Junior Tournaments and programming will be moved over to this platform. Junior Team Tennis and Adult League will follow in the coming years as enhancements are added to the system. Congratulations to all of our Tournament Directors for their dedication to learning the new system and enabling our players to keep a seamless transition to the new tournament season. For the players, 2021 tournaments will now be found on usta.com at playtennis.usta.com/tournaments.
While we are greatly encouraged by the talk of the vaccine and getting back to a more relaxed environment in 2021, we are still experiencing some of the implications of COVID. USTA National is still unable to project a full attendance model at the US Open for 2021. This has led them to anticipate some cancellations for the 2021 calendar year already. We understand that for 2021 there will be no JTT National Championships, no Zonal Competitions and no National Team Competitions for the Juniors. We also anticipate a scaled back version of Adult League National Championships. There is hope that we can revise offerings as we see how developments change in the early months of 2021.
We were fortunate to be able to get back on track this summer with tournaments for our Junior Players. Illinois and Michigan districts were not so lucky and are still awaiting the start of play.
We managed to hold our District Closed Championships and award winners in all of the divisions of that event. Look for all of the winners on the high-performance page of our website.
In 2021, we will again hold two events for the Championships. One for the Girls prior to their high school season and one for other age divisions the first weekend of June.
In 2021, changes abound for the Junior players. The USTA tournament structure will change making tournament level and points values uniformly across the country. To help answer all of your tournament questions, USTA Midwest has created a help page at https://www.usta.com/midwest/tournamenthelp.
The USTA Youth Progression system and 10 & U tournaments will also undergo an overhaul at the start of 2021. Orange and green ball players will not be able to register for the new Junior Circuit events until January 15, 2021. These tournaments will provide the means to earn points to advance your ball color. All players in the Youth Progression system have had their stars and trophies converted to the new point system and should be able to see that reflected in the Net Generation Playtracker that can be accessed from their profile on USTA.com. We will be distributing more information about Youth Progression and the new Net Generation PlayTracker early in January.
USTA Central Indiana rebounded nicely in the fourth quarter. Evansville and Indianapolis ran their traditional fall programming with Indianapolis experiencing an increase of 22 teams over 2019. These leagues are slated to advance to championships in the coming year.
Indiana was blessed to be operational most of the year. The USTA grants helped supplement district clubs during the two-month lockdown and expedited their reopening when we were cleared to play by both USTA and the state. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois have experienced lingering shutdowns and restrictions crippling their ability to do business.
2021 will see efforts put toward increasing new offerings. A focus on 50 & Over opportunities will be made in Indianapolis. Data shows over 50% of our league players fall in this age group. Mixed 55 & Over and World Team Tennis 50 & Over will bring increased avenues for this demographic to engage in everybody’s favorite sport for a lifetime.
Limited run events will also be held. Summer Tri-Level play along NTRP & World Team Tennis tournaments are on the calendar. A bounty of opportunities awaits players in the new year which should allow Central Indiana to thrive.
When all league play was cancelled, players took to the parks, schools and HOA courts to play. It was apparent that players felt that they were safe playing tennis and really wanted to continue to play. So, we looked for some alternative formats that would offer competition but still keep players safe and healthy. National was piloting the Round Robin format on their new search platform and app, so we decided to give that a try. We started with 3.5 Men: 4 courts of singles play, one set to 6, then a rotation to another opponent. Three rounds completed the competition. The guys really enjoyed the simple format with lots of play and friendly rivalry.
The format does not affect any ratings or count to any standings so it gave players a chance to try their skills without any pressure. We followed this with 3.0 Women, 3.5 Women and 4.0 Men. Look out for more of these in 2021!
When play was resumed and clubs were opened, it was closing in on Thanksgiving so we planned our first social tournament of 2020. It sold out in record time! Format was mixed intermediate (7.0 – 8.0) compass draw. The Make Room for Turkey tournament took place on November 21 at IRC Dean Road. What an evening of fun and great tennis! Dax Lowery and his partner Emily Wandel were victorious taking home the Turkey Bundt Cake and the IRC gift cards.
USTA Central Indiana also ran their first Singles Ladder this summer for both Men and Women, 3.0 – 4.5 levels. We ran two sessions in the summer and fall and had registrations well in excess of 100 players. We will definitely be offering this again in early 2021.
We look forward to 2021 and being able to offer more Round Robins, more fun tournaments, and lots of social play. If you would like more information or have an idea for a social tennis event, please contact Karen@centralindianatennis.com.
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