The USTA’s new school tennis curriculum can open up opportunities for local teaching pros and facilities, too.
With its new curriculum, the USTA is looking to institutionalize tennis in school systems, a move that can mean impressive dividends for local tennis pros and facilities willing to supplement students’ tennis experiences after school.
Since April, USTA School Tennis Curriculum kits have been distributed to schools eager to introduce a tennis unit to their physical education classes. To receive the kit, schools must participate in a three-hour, in-service teacher training and sign up as a USTA Organizational Member.
The kit includes a teacher’s manual, which incorporates National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards, as well as a pocket guide. Both include eight teacher-friendly, illustrated lesson plans. Additionally, the package contains a DVD featuring basic tennis skills and how to teach them in a PE setting with a large number of students. “We utilized real-life PE teachers working in a true, unrehearsed setting to show that tennis can be taught in school,” says Jason Jamison, the USTA’s national manager of School Tennis.
The USTA collaborated with renowned phys ed expert Dr. Robert Pangrazi and a team of PE specialists to develop the highly active curriculum. It was playtested by the PE specialists in indoor and outdoor settings, with both younger and older children, and reviewed by PE Central, the leading online resource for PE lesson plans. The School Tennis lesson plans are appropriate for children in grades 3 to 6, but can easily be modified for higher and lower grade levels and re-created in any school setting.
“It’s a no-court required curriculum,” says Jamison. “We can now introduce tennis in any school environment, like a playground, cafeteria, or parking lot. Our goal is that every school in this country can become a center for tennis participation.”
With the use of age-appropriate racquets, foam balls, and nets or other court dividers, tennis skills can be taught easily and safely even in large groups. “The use of modified equipment and easy-to-follow lesson plans allows students to experience a high degree of perceived competence when introduced to tennis for the first time,” Jamison adds.
Before getting involved with the development of the USTA School Tennis curriculum, PE teacher Leslie Robinson, who teaches grades 1 to 6 at Fitzgerald Elementary School in Arlington, Texas, did not have much experience with the game. She was trained in the curriculum two years ago, and has since implemented a tennis unit into her PE classes, managing up to 60 students at one time.
To keep all students active, PE classes can use the curriculum’s station activities around the gym floor, using station signs found on a CD inside the curriculum kit. The activities are geared toward fitness, movement, and tennis skills. “Our tennis lessons are exciting, energetic, upbeat, and aerobically challenging,” says Robinson, adding that children in her school district are excited to play the game again after their first PE tennis experience.
Local pros and tennis facilities can capitalize on the new curriculum offering, while helping to grow the game, by providing tennis programming for students once the school day ends. “If we just introduce the PE curriculum and nothing beyond it, it’s a dead end,” says Jamison. “We need to make sure there is an after-school follow-up. We need to rely on the tennis community to take the lead on that.”
Jamison suggests that teaching pros and their facilities “adopt” a local school. To develop a relationship with a school community, a teaching pro or after-school leader could offer to help with a PE class, conduct a tennis demonstration on campus, attend a teacher’s meeting or even meet with the school’s principal. Pros can even bring the school community to them, by hosting a field trip like a tennis carnival at their facilities.
“It’s good business,” says Jamison. “There’s no better way to get kids and parents involved than to establish a relationship with your local school. Additionally, the availability of play-based program opportunities including Junior Team Tennis and National Junior Tennis League will help ensure kids stay in the sport.”
A number of Robinson’s students and others from the district have joined local NJTL or other city programs after participating in the tennis units in their PE classes. She has also seen the excitement that talented tennis teaching pros can generate among her students. “They want positive role models,” says Robinson. “Tennis pros coming into the schools, giving tennis demonstrations and assemblies, have a lot of impact on the students and their future sports decisions.”
For more information on USTA Schools Tennis, visit USTA.com/schooltennis.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.