New Balance, USTA Create H.S. Event
By Kent Oswald
With a goal to explore the possibilities for a frequently overlooked audience, New Balance and USTA Community Tennis teamed for the initial year of the New Balance High School Tennis Championships. The hard-court tournament, which will take place at Harvard University’s Beren Tennis Center, a short walk from the American manufacturer’s headquarters, will be July 21-25, and will feature 64-player compass draws and some of the country’s premier boy and girl singles players.
According to Bruce Schilling, New Balance general manager for tennis, the tournament came about, “in some sense as a celebration of the people who play and what the game means to them.” In other words, what makes this tourney different from other junior tournaments is its emphasis on drawing in high school players, not necessarily the same demographic as regulars on the junior tennis circuit.
Schilling, who champions his own high school tennis coach and constantly makes connections with people through their shared high school tennis experiences, believes, “High school tennis is an unacknowledged sector of the sport. In some sense the tournament will be a celebration of the players and coaches and what the game means to them.”
The tournament has been gaining attention with an aggressive marketing campaign to high school tennis associations, players and coaches. As time draws closer to the event, more applications to the tournament (singles only this year, although doubles competition is expected to be part of the future) are being accepted via the USTA’s TennisLink.
Eligibility requires high school team affiliation and, unlike other tournaments, does not have an age component. A committee will determine the final field based on UTR ratings, geographic distribution and success in state play.
“The expectation is that this tournament will grow in stature and become a staple on the national calendar,” says Bill Mountford, USTA director of junior tournaments. “The experiences that the players will enjoy in 2014 will put this tournament in a great place for future years.”
Currently there will be no national or sectional USTA (or ITF) points awarded, although an ITF event wildcard will be offered both the boys’ and girls’ champs. In addition to the guaranteed four matches, participants can also look forward to mixing with players they wouldn’t see at their local and state competitions, the opportunities to be observed by college recruiters, social events in the evening, and New Balance swag, including a gear bag with apparel and shoes.
Plans for next year are to build on the event and push for more state and local connections to a national event. In conjunction with other New Balance efforts to support high school tennis, there is consideration of coupling this event to additional local outreach, including potential sponsorship of seminars for coaches on technique and nutrition.
The result should be an increased presence for New Balance in the “amateur” tennis arena, an expansion of the USTA Community Tennis portfolio, and opportunities for high school players and coaches previously reserved for those involved on the junior circuit.
See all articles by Kent Oswald
About the Author
Kent Oswald is a contributor to TennisNow.com, producer at the JockBookReview.com and a former editor of Tennis Week magazine.