Meet the USTA experts: USTA National Coach Richard Ashby
In a new series of articles online and interactive videos shared across its social media channels, the USTA is highlighting experts within its Player Development program who continue to grow the game. First up is former touring pro Richard Ashby, who currently works with American junior girls in the USTA's Player Development department.
USTA.com: What is your current job title with the USTA?
Richard Ashby: USTA National Coach, Junior Girls. I have been with the USTA almost 17 years, working on the girls’ side. When I started with the USTA in 2003, I worked with the younger pros, and then I started working with the juniors after that. Currently, I work with the 14-and-under junior girls in Orlando at the USTA National Campus.
USTA.com: Describe your education and background in tennis.
Richard Ashby: I played all through junior tennis, and then I played in college at the University of South Carolina, where I graduated in 1986 with a double major in finance and management. After college, I played in what was called “Satellites” back then. Now it’s called “Futures.” I played professionally between 1986 and 1989, and I started coaching in 1990.
When I was playing, Benny Sims was the national coach traveling with the USTA summer team, and I believe he was with Mal Washington at a particular tournament I was playing. Later, when Jennifer Capriati was turning pro, they were looking for hitting partners for her, and the USTA was helping to find someone. I guess Benny remembered seeing me and thought I could do well in the role they were looking for, so he recommended me, and I went down and tried out at Harry Hopman/Saddlebrook International Tennis. Even though I was only a hitting partner, I had an opportunity to meet a lot of people and learn a lot. From there, I continued working in Saddlebrook’s academy, and I started working with some of the good juniors.
Eventually, I started working with some of the pro players, and then I went to the Palmer Tennis Academy and the Tennis Club of Trumbull after that. I’ve been fortunate to work with high-level players, including David Wheaton, Tommy Ho, Jim Thomas and Bryan Shelton. Because my initial work with Jennifer Capriati came through USTA, I got to know those coaches. In 2002, the USTA turned over the staff and hired a lot of new coaches. I knew some of those people doing the hiring, and they had known me since 1990, so that’s how I came to the USTA.
USTA.com: How is your role different now working with the 14U juniors than it was when you were working with young pros when you first joined the USTA?
Richard Ashby: With the young pros, we typically are coaching them. They’re coming in here to train, and we’re coaching them at the center, we’re traveling with them and coaching them at tournaments. With the younger players, they have their own coaches, and we’re working with their private coaches and communicating back and forth in more of a supplementary role. We’re careful not to change their game when they come in, and we’re communicating the things that we see back that they can work with with their coaches.
USTA.com: How many different juniors do you work with in your current position?
Richard Ashby: In 2009, I started with players 12 and under, then it edged its way up to 14 and under in 2015. There are two age groups that I work with right now: players that are born in the birth year 2006, so they’re turning 14 this year, and players born in 2007, so they’re turning 13 this year. And within those two age groups, I’d say we’ll end up working with 60 to 70 players. For players to come here and stay in the lodge and train here [at the USTA National Campus], they have to be at least 13 years old.
USTA.com: What does a typical day look like for you?
Richard Ashby: The main thing that we do is that we have camps in Orlando where we bring players in. We typically start in the morning with a session with our strength and conditioning staff, warming up. Usually at that age, they’re doing body weight-type exercises. Then we’ll go on the court for a couple hours, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. After a break, we usually have a session with our mental skills coach between 1 p.m. and 1:45 p.m., and then they’re back on the court to play from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. That’s the typical camp schedule. We don’t have a camp every single week, but we try to bring in players regularly for that type of training.
When we don’t have a camp, I help with other coaches’ camps. The players we have here full time are pro players, so sometimes they’ll need help. But there are a lot of junior tournaments going on, so if we’re not attending the junior tournament, we won’t have training here because the kids are playing. There is some travel involved as far as going to the national tournaments to watch the juniors and to spend time talking with their coaches. Sometimes we’ll have camps at the other two centers in Carson, Calif., and New York, so sometimes there’s travel there, too.
USTA.com: Do you have any tennis credentials or professional licenses?
Richard Ashby: I have had both a PTR [Professional Tennis Registry] certification since 1988 and a USPTA [United States Professional Tennis Association] certification since 2003, when I started with USTA. There is a USTA high-performance coaching program certification that I also have.
The certification comes through either the USPTA or PTR. You go to a five-day course and essentially create a development plan for a player and go through things like the tactical and physical elements of developing a high-performing junior. The training covers things from video analysis to on-court drilling, with the goal to help coaches improve their level of working with high-performing junior players. That’s an example of the continuing education that they require. Each year, they require a certain number of hours to maintain the certification. Those numbers will go up dramatically in 2021 with the new certification criteria.
USTA.com: Any other tennis accomplishments or professional milestones?
Richard Ashby: I’m from Barbados originally, so I played Davis Cup for Barbados for five years when I was younger. I was captain for the U.S. 14-and-under World Junior Tennis team in 2005 and 2013. And I was captain for the U.S. 16-and-under Junior Fed Cup team in 2007.
USTA.com: At a Fed Cup tie in Asheville last year, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said that you’ve touched the lives of virtually every U.S. woman in the Top 100. How much pride do you take in that?
Richard Ashby: There are some I have not worked with, but the ones I have worked with, I feel like I’ve had a chance to impact their games, and it’s certainly nice to see them turn out to be good players and successful players. Many of them, I’ve had little impact with—maybe they’ve been to a few camps when they were younger—but it makes it worthwhile when you see the work you’ve put in helps someone become good. It’s encouraging with these young kids now, and it’s encouraging that if we can help them in the same way, hopefully they’ll turn out like that. It definitely gives you some inspiration to keep going.
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