2019 Year in Review
Staying ahead of the game
With the goal of being a go-to resource for all interested in the game of tennis, from club owners to veteran players and from elite juniors to the player picking up a racquet for the first time in 2019, the Chicago District Tennis Association (CDTA) shined a light on some key issues affecting tennis in Chicago and convened stakeholders to consider opportunities.
Universal Tennis Rating (UTR)
In September, CDTA hosted Dave Fish, UTR’s Head of Development (and former Men’s Coach at Harvard University), to share his philosophy of how level-based play can be used as a tool to grow the game. UTR’s mission is to make tennis more affordable, accessible and fun for everyone, everywhere. UTR maintains that the best way to attract new players to the game is to make sure that the players who are already in the game are having a better experience. ADVERTISEMENT Learn more about UTR here.
UTR is definitely on the mind of any junior player looking to continue their tennis career in college. There is some evidence that UTR is influencing play patterns in unintended ways (e.g., defaults of consolation matches to avoid a negative impact on one’s UTR). To help educate parents and players, CDTA hosted a robust Q & A forum with Dave Fish to help “myth-bust” common misperceptions about UTR.
Can UTR really grow the game? Certainly, their online platform is growing more robust with new and improved event planning capacities. To explore that potential, CDTA hosted a second gathering with Dave Fish and club/pro leaders from throughout the community. The consensus seemed to be that level-based play is a good thing and that opportunities to promote it lie not just with elite juniors, but with players at the lower end of UTR’s 16-point range and with high school and middle school players who may not yet be USTA tournament players.
CDTA and the Wilmette Tennis Club hosted a pilot level-based play tournament in November that was open to players with UTRs in the 3 to 6 range regardless of age or gender. The format attempted to make matches as even and competitive as possible. Results counted toward a player’s UTR but not their USTA ranking. As an initial pilot, the results do not paint a clear picture of the effectiveness of this format as it was offered through USTA’s TennisLink platform in relation to other offerings such as a USTA Level 5 tournament, the entry level tournament on USTA's junior development pathway. Level 5 tournaments have been growing steadily in the Chicago District as an appealing product for players not ready to dedicate an entire weekend for a tournament. The short half-day/evening format may already provide the entry-level opportunity for level-based play.
Net Generation is the USTA's youth (ages 5-18) tennis brand, dedicated to welcoming millions of new players to the game by focusing on empowerment, unity, and play. It is more than the powerful commercials aired during the U.S. Open that inspire youth – and all of us – with “greatness is waiting.”
Net Generation is also a network of committed, talented, and dedicated pros, coaches, and volunteers who are registered providers available to consumers through the USTA’s Net Generation website. In Chicago, we worked in 2019 to make sure that our local Net Generation providers had access to the best opportunities to help them grow as professionals and reach more players.
There are more than 450 Net Generation providers in the Chicago District. In addition to the resources available across the country including curriculum guides, background checks, and continuing education credits, CDTA upped the benefit ante by offering free training opportunities, tennis volunteer opportunities, paid tennis teaching opportunities like those in the Chicago Park District, additional USTA coaching opportunities, such as Early Development Camps that help to identify our most talented young players, general awareness of tennis happenings in the Chicago District, Chicago-based events and camps for students, and eligibility for USTA monetary coaching incentives (JTT, Team Challenges, etc.).
For more information on Net Generation, please contact Tennis Service Representative Sarah Stanchin at email@example.com.
Positive Coaching Alliance
Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national non-profit organization with the mission of creating a positive, character-building youth sports environment that results in BETTER ATHLETES, BETTER PEOPLE. According to PCA youth sports currently involve 40 million children, which presents a tremendous platform on which to develop youth character and life skills. Research has shown that for youth to accrue these benefits from sports, sports needs to be done in a way that creates a positive youth development culture.
In 2018, the USTA sanctioned the University of Central Florida (UCF) to research the level of loyalty to USTA’s competitive products. The objectives were to examine the retention rates of USTA youth competition, understand the reasons and benefits for participating, and define the reasons for withdrawing from competition. This research revealed a lot of troubling trends for tennis and the USTA with the finding that only 40% of youth players continue playing in USTA programs after just one year.
Operating under the assumption that coaches can have a huge influence on retention of players, CDTA convened a training session with PCA for all of our coaches/pros teaching in the Chicago Park District summer camp program and our CDTA staff. We now bring this training to all of our youth outreach. PCA’s philosophy states that “a positive approach gets the most from youth and high school athletes, which is what coaches, parents and the athletes themselves want. Staying positive also helps youth get the most out of sports.”
A positive approach also provides a more fun and engaging experience to children. Once our teaching staff was armed with tips and tools for staying positive on court, they were able to impart their knowledge to Park District camp counselors working with campers on and off the court. In 2020, we hope to partner with PCA again to host parent workshops to share PCA’s insights on developing winners in life through sports.
You can learn more about PCA here.