Tennis Industry magazine


Future of Tennis: Wish List for the New Year

We asked last year’s Champions of Tennis winners what they’re looking forward to
in the coming year.

Virgil Christian

USTA Director of Market Development & Collegiate Tennis (2013 Person of the Year)

“I am excited and hopeful that college tennis will become relevant to fans both on and off campus. In the current collegiate landscape, increasing relevance of the sport will be vital to its sustainability. College athletics serves as a major avenue for overall sport growth — football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and softball are primary examples of this. College tennis can be a big business driver. If we lose varsity programs, we’re going to lose courts. As tennis programs capitalize on the value of their school brand combined with the excitement of the sport, the future looks bright."

Butch Staples & Gavin Cox

TennisClub of the Low Country at Rose Hill (2013 Private Facility of the Year)

“With the continued growth in participation of Youth Tennis, we believe there are a lot of opportunities for small facilities around the country to focus on ‘family tennis.’ With the success of the ROGY pathway, which has resulted in more children playing at a younger age, it only makes sense to promote tennis as a family sport. TennisClub of the Low Country at Rose Hill is committed to being a leader in getting parents and children playing tennis together.”

Carla O’Connor

Executive Director, Charlotte Tennis Association (2013 Grassroots Champion of the Year)

“My wish is that we will see an increased number of Play Days structured to provide kids with a fun introductory play experience; and that these events will also be geared toward providing connectivity with programs and events that are designed to keep kids engaged, such as Jr. Team Tennis and Entry Level Tournaments. My wish is that we will make significant progress toward creating greater awareness for the benefits of engaging kids on teams, and that even more coaches will see team play opportunity as an important component of instructional programming.

“My wish is that we will begin to see a shift in the importance of including Jr. Team Tennis matches on the calendar, and that the cross-over rate for tournament and Jr. Team Tennis play will increase. My wish is that many more kids will learn about the fun of playing tennis on teams well before they reach high school. My wish is that the products and support/incentives/training provided by the USTA will be attractive enough to engage many more individuals to participate in the delivery system.”

Jill Fonte

Executive Director, USTA Eastern (2013 USTA Section of the Year)

“USTA Eastern was named ‘Section of the Year’ because of our emphasis on participation. We feel strongly that participation is the engine that will drive our sport forward, and we do everything possible to strengthen participation. At Eastern, we want tennis to boom. To us, a boom means courts are in good repair and filled with players; pros’ lesson books are filled; volunteers are enthusiastic and supportive; tennis is in high demand. This can only happen if we’re building charisma in our sport. When good sportsmanship is rewarded, volunteers are all pulling in the same direction for the good of the sport, parents and kids respect tournament directors, all players respect officials, and everyone involved puts the good of the sport ahead of his/her own personal agenda, tennis can truly thrive. That’s our wish list for 2015.”

John Pratt

Director, Baseline Tennis Center at Univ. of Minnesota (2013 Municipal Facility of the Year)

“My wish for 2015 is that tennis continues to evolve and make itself more attractive across the spectrum; it becomes magnetic for more of the best junior athletes (feeding high-performance), appealing and engaging to the 20- and 30-somethings looking for fun and exercise, family-centered and fun for new parents (keeping the circle of tennis life alive) and remains a lifelong sport to those who have enjoyed it and will continue to enjoy it for years. Transition balls and the appropriate pathway offer a never-seen-before opportunity to keep all levels and ages hitting more tennis balls and enjoying the greatest sport in the world. Continued partnerships between the USTA, USPTA, PTR and facilities can only make the game continue to grow.”

Chuck Hakansson

MRT, Atlanta (2013 Stringer of the Year)

“I would like to see the U.S. win the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, and that the U.S. men have more than one player in the top 10. I’d also like to see racquet manufacturers not change racquet models so frequently. I would also like to see the USTA concentrate on developing juniors in their home sections and not worry so much about a national tennis training center. And, I’d like to have the general public be more educated on polyester strings. The fact is they should have polyester strings strung a lot more often than they would a synthetic.”

Nick Taylor

Assistant Coach, Wichita State University (2013 Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year)

“I hope for a strong year in 2015 from all of the America wheelchair players who will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. For the sport overall, during the US Open, we had a complete match on ESPN, live all over the world. We have to continue to build on the exposure and keep the momentum and excitement going. The sport continues to grow and feed off these positive chances for exposure.”

Kenneth Griffith

Head Tennis Coach, Adm. Henry E. Lackey High School (2013 High School Coach of the Year)

“I would like to see parents becoming knowledgeable in the ‘Rules of Tennis’ and imparting this knowledge ‘by example’ to their juniors. I would like to see parents stop ostracizing their players for losing a match, especially at the high school and USTA Level 6/7 tournaments. These players are not experts; they are relative beginners, learning the sport. I would like to see high school-level coaches at a minimum be required to take a basic tennis officiating course, 1) to further assist them in player development, and 2) to be a ‘knowledgeable coach’ and able to be a ‘roving official’ during high school and local USTA sanctioned tournaments. And, regarding cheating — whether matches are officiated or not, players need to uphold the integrity of the sport and make the correct calls. Be an example.”

Jorge Andrew

Director of Tennis Operations, Lexington County Recreation & Aging Commission (2013 Park & Rec Agency of the Year)

“In 2015 I would like to see more kids playing tennis more frequently. Not just 10 and under players but also 11 to 17 years old who play high school tennis for only six to eight weeks a year during the season and then don’t play tennis until the next year. Even if they had a good experience during the tennis season, they don’t know the many other alternatives they have to make tennis a year-round sport. One of the keys is a ‘no-cut’ high school coach, with a junior varsity team for continuous development of the team, that motivates all kids and gives them the best possible experience during the season. After the season, the coach guides the player for the future, especially ones at an entry-level, to find a facility or programs that offer other playing opportunities such as Play Days, Jr. Team Tennis and Entry Level Tournaments.”

Robert Walsh

Northern California (2013 Tennis Advocate of the Year)

“The population of Napa in 1970 was 36,000, and today it’s 80,000. In that same time, public tennis courts declined from 48 to 16. There are eight courts at the local college still playable but not maintained or protected. Eight others are on school property and protected and maintained by a volunteer tennis association. My wish is that there is a turnaround in the thinking about the importance of tennis facilities in Napa and realize that tennis is a healthy game that can be played for most of your life.”

Vesa Ponkka

Senior Director of Tennis, The Tennis Center at College Park (2013 Junior Tennis Champion of the Year)

“We have to improve The Spirit of training and competing in junior tennis here in the U.S. There is way too much whining, moaning, crying, and complaining going around among players, coaches, and parents nowadays. Everyone is pointing fingers at each other … it is wasted time and totally counterproductive activity. The simple fact is that players need to train/compete better, and we as coaches need to teach/coach better, with a long-term mentality. It is impossible to compete with the rest of the world if and when our own training/competing environment is way too negative, and mainly operates with short-term mindset. Young talent needs a positive and supportive training environment to blossom. A no-excuses mentality is a must!”

Robert Carlbo

PTR (2013 PTR Member of the Year)

“My wish for 2015 is that we continue to make positive strides in coach education. I believe that if we raise the standard of our coaching practices through education, we will produce Grand Slam winners. I think this can be achieved by continuing to improve coach education and encouraging new and experienced pros to commit to improving their own tennis education. The opportunities have never been more readily available; the PTR, USPTA , iTPA ,USTA ,ITF and national tennis federations all have tremendous information, workshops and conferences that can raise the standard of our coaches and, as a result, our players. My wish is that experienced coaches mentor younger and/or less experienced coaches.”

Trimmer Dettor

Fast-Dry Courts Inc. (2013 10 & Under Tennis Facility Developer of the Year)

“We are excited about the 10 & Under Tennis USTA initiative. We have experienced growth in retail sales of 10 & Under products, as well as an increase in demand for the blended lines on court resurfacing projects. In 2015 we hope to see additional opportunities to build stand-alone courts with an increase in the awareness of the availability of USTA grants. The biggest obstacle we see is facilities finding the space and funds to add 10 & Under courts without replacing any of their existing courts. We believe the main focus should be creating these new, dedicated spaces for our youth within existing facilities to generate more concentrated learning.”

Avis Murray

USPTA (2013 USPTA Member of the Year)

“As I’ve just passed another birthday, my wish is that I have continued good health so that I may continue to teach, coach, keep growing tennis, and be able to give back to this wonderful sport that has given me a lifetime of pleasure and memories all these years.”

Fred Kolkmann

Fred Kolkmann Tennis & Sport Surfaces (2013 Builder/Contractor of the Year)

“In recent years, many court and facility owners have put off court repair or replacement due to funding issues, but that’s been turning around, and my wish for 2015 is for that to continue, so that business continues to increase for court contractors. The private sector also has been more active lately with new courts, and we’re looking for that to continue and to increase through the new year. In this industry, we’ve had challenges with asphalt courts such as surface and structural cracking, asphalt mix design issues, etc., forcing designers, builders and owners to consider alternative playing surfaces, which is good for this industry. I think we’ll be seeing more and better alternatives to asphalt courts.”

Bo Bowman

Director of Tennis, BNA Bank Park (2013 Public Park of the Year)

“We have had a super busy year and continue to grow and expand! Our main wish list is to get at least two covered courts. We had a tough winter last year and many players did not get to play. Tennis is booming in northern Mississippi and there’s a great need for us to play year-round.”

Rich Mennig

Babolat (2013 Sales Rep of the Year)

“I’d like to see us better connect the right coaches to the students/clients, and we need better connections between coaches and retail stores. There are good coaches out there, but we need more. And we need better training and education for coaches, and also some kind of financial protection for their future. I want to see professional tennis players give back more to kids at these tennis events. We all need to promote tennis. The industry, me, you, everybody needs be a contributor.”



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