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Winter JTT Returns to USTA St. Louis
After a one-year hiatus, winter Junior Team Tennis returns to USTA St. Louis. With a pair of first-year organizations joining the fray, multiple new team offerings and the district running a pilot program with USTA Missouri Valley’s assistance, the JTT winter session promises to be unique and action-packed.
Toni McDonald — USTA St. Louis JTT/10U coordinator — said the district didn’t hold a winter Junior Team Tennis season a year ago due to the slate interfering with junior tournaments. This year the district found a good middle ground. The result is the JTT winter season will feature the same number of matches as previous years, just stretched over a longer period of time.
“So we’re averaging two matches a month,” McDonald said. “If there is, say, a Level 6 junior tournament a weekend, the 14s Advanced won’t play that same weekend. If there is a Junior Circuit event, the orange ball and green ball teams won’t play that weekend. We made a compromise.”
The move enables competitors to participate in both JTT as well as USTA junior tournaments of their choosing. While JTT matches kick off in December, the bulk of the campaign will take place during January and February.
With the boys’ tennis high school season in Missouri and Illinois starting at the tail end of February, the JTT age groups featuring those players will conclude a bit earlier than the rest. The younger age groups will continue on with their JTT seasons into mid-March.
In addition to the regular lineup of participating tennis clubs (listed below), two new organizations are jumping in on the action: Top Performance Tennis Academy and Woodsmill Tennis Club. On top of that, two moms of JV girls’ tennis players — one from Lutheran High School South and one from the Parkway School District — are coaching teams. A group of Junior Varsity girls from Kirkwood High School will also be participating.
“It’s going to be pretty good numbers-wise,” McDonald said. “Edwardsville is probably only going to have a high school team just because it’s hard having to drive all the way in during the winter weather on Saturday nights. They’re probably going to have one team, and they usually have like 10 teams. But I still think we’re going to be around 30 teams total again, which is not bad considering we didn’t have it last year.”
The other significant change is tied to how teams will be grouped together within their age bracket. McDonald explained in past years USTA St. Louis had divisions — silver, gold, advanced — at each age level to ensure even competition. Coaches informed McDonald which division their team was best suited for based on ability level.
This winter will look different, as USTA St. Louis was selected to test a pilot program that Tara Williams — USTA Missouri Valley community tennis/JTT manager — is helping the district implement.
In the new system, each age group will have just one division. Once all teams complete registration, Williams will run the players’ World Tennis Numbers. Teams will then be grouped according to their average WTNs to create balanced matchups.
“We were selected for the pilot because we have one of the bigger JTT programs and not all districts offer winter JTT,” McDonald said. “And the ones that do don’t have enough teams to actually break it down. They’ll have three or four in each age group. We’ll average 8 to 12 in each group so it will make sense.”
McDonald said she’s excited to revive the winter JTT season and to see how the WTN pilot program goes. To learn more about Junior Team Tennis, click here. Here’s the list and contact information for tennis clubs partaking in winter JTT:
Creve Coeur Racquet Club
Missouri Athletic Club
St. Louis Country Club
Top Performance Tennis Academy
Vetta Sports Concord
Vetta Sports West
Woodsmill Tennis Club
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