June 8th, 2017

USTA Florida, USPTA Florida Growing Tennis Together

General News

By Chuck Gill, USPTA president

Five years ago the leadership of the USPTA Florida Division (Jeff Cohen) and the USTA Florida Section (Bob Pfaender) came together and signed an agreement to align and work together to jointly grow tennis participation and raise the standards of tennis professionals in the state of Florida.

While at the time it was viewed as somewhat symbolic and even a bit of a “feel good” arrangement, this caught the attention of many USTA sections and USPTA Divisions. What a concept…two groups agreeing in principal to work together on initiatives that would benefit both parties! While some asked “why?” many were asking “why not?”

If pros are better served with more players wanting to learn, play and compete, and the USTA has a mission of growing the game…why would these two groups NOT want to work together? In Florida we are lucky to have staff and past presidents of both groups who simply “get it.” Kudos to Robert Hollis, Nancy Horowitz, Bob Pfaender, Dan Casey, Brad Leu, Trish Faulkner, Jeff Cohen, Doug Booth and Pat Anderson for growing this relationship over the past five years. Being on the USPTA National Board and serving on our Florida Section board while running a very active tennis program has given me pretty good insight into how these associations work together.

Five years later, we jointly still have so much to do, but in Florida we can be proud of what we have both achieved and continue to work towards. We now have members and representation on both division and section boards, have speakers and presenters at all of the USPTA regional education days, and have great representation of tennis professionals at the USTA section meeting. Thanks to the work and support of section staff (especially USPTA Florida incoming president Jason Gilbert), Florida has the country’s most active and engaged group of USPTA U30 professionals, who are supported in attending both section and division meetings.

As always we have some questions about this “alignment/collaboration” and why and how it actually works. Here are some bullet points of FACT vs. FICTION:

• The governing body (USTA) wants a bigger say in raising the bar for tennis professionals — FACT! Yes it is REALLY important to the USTA that tennis teachers are providing great lessons and the best possible first experience for new players. That is why they are willing to support more education for coaches who want to grow their business via youth tennis.

• The professionals want more input as to how leagues and tournaments are operated — FACT! That is why when you attend a Florida Section meeting there is a large presence of certified teaching professionals…why not?? How can we as professionals deliver products that we have no interest in and had no part in developing?

• The governing body wants to take over the teaching pro associations as in other countries — FICTION! It has been my experience that while they are concerned that the U.S. has the LOWEST requirement for certification, they realize that there are many great providers/teaching pros and would strongly prefer to work with the USPTA and collaborate in raising the standards, and to support our efforts.

• Teaching pros ONLY care about giving lessons and could care less about growing tennis — FICTION (kind of)! We know of many pros who focus more on lessons simply because that is how they make money — who can blame them. More and more however, the trend is towards finding ways to support those who run programs and increase participation at both public and private facilities.

There has never been a more important time in our sport’s history that everyone work together to grow the sport, and in turn our business.

I am proud to be a member of both organizations and look forward to “growing tennis together.”

Chuck Gill