Originally Published: April 8, 2002 6 p.m.
One of our Southwest United States Tennis Association representatives recently asked me what my ideas are on how the USTA might be of better help to us in the Prescott area.
So, with a little thought, here are a few items I came up with.
First off, I think we need to take control of our own destiny and not depend too much on what they can do for us, although we members make up the USTA.
Someone in Phoenix or New York is not going to care for us like we will care for ourselves. But at the same time we shouldn't have to re-invent the wheel, so for the most part we can (and have) incorporate some of their programs they've spent so much time and money developing.
One of our biggest accomplishments is the formation of the Prescott Area Tennis Association and before that the Yavapai Tennis Association. The people who have volunteered their time on those boards over the last 25 years have helped make tennis in Prescott what it is today.
•I'd like to see the USTA invest money in sending a representative to each college, high school, middle school and city that has public tennis courts that are underutilized and see how they could help partner new programs at those facilities. The USTA could enter into a contract to set a pro in place at these sites and let them help develop new tennis community programs.
Build a shed, or pull a portable office onto the site and let the pro(s) get things going. Then you'll really build the game of tennis to new and old players.
There are a vast number of excellent tennis professionals that would jump at the chance to have their own site to develop.
•Continue providing the free coaching seminars to high school tennis coaches and PE teachers in each area of the state. This helps those individuals learn how to do their job better, jazzes them up and that excitement and knowledge gets to their students and teams.
•Hire some top college players to go around and talk to the high school tennis teams during season about what it takes for them to get the opportunity to play college tennis.
Most kids don't have a clue what is available scholarship wise and either do their high school coaches, let alone what the college coaches are looking for in a student-player.
•Help rally each town/city to form a local tennis association. What a plus for pulling tennis together with a quarterly newsletter, list of players, promoted programs, fund-raisers for up-keep of facilities, etc.
•In the sponsored USTA, USA Adult and Senior Leagues, it would probably be more fun if there were more teams involved in each town/city. Change the format of the Senior League to two doubles teams, instead of the current three. Just think how many groups of four players might just say to each other, "Hey…lets give this a shot and we can still keep our group together."
•In the Adult League, change the format to two doubles and two singles, instead of the current three doubles and two singles. It's just too many people to have to come up with for holding very many teams together, especially in a smaller population. I'd even go as far as to say the doubles players could also play singles if needed.
•Get more people writing a weekly column about tennis in their community newspapers. What better way to spread the word of what's going on tennis wise and how to get involved.
•Make some rule changes that would help tennis in this day and age:
Seniors, juniors, and weekend warriors don't need to hurt themselves playing more tennis than their body can take. Change the third set to a tiebreaker. The pro's can hardly take the pounding day in and out, so maybe they should make the change too.
Play service lets.
You get two chances to hit your serve. Change the rule to say that if you toss the ball up and don't swing, it still counts as one of those two chances.
Change the scoring to first to four points wins each game. The old scoring is confusing and can last too long. Learn to deal with the pressure of trying hard every point.
Go back to changing sides every odd numbered game with 90 seconds on changeovers. Recently that rule was changed so there would be no time given after the first game of each set on change-overs and then after each set, 2 minutes is given.
In wheelchair tennis, provide two cans of balls for all tournament play. Let the players play more and chase balls less.
Bad language, racquet abuse and poor sportsmanship would be an automatic disqualification without any warning.
These are some of the things I'd try to push through if I were trying to grow the game of tennis today. Send me an email with your ideas.
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA tennis professional with over 25 years in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org).