‘Coach Youth Tennis’ Hits A Winner with Providers
It was a pretty revolutionary idea for this industry: Get the USTA, PTR, USPTA, and U.S. Olympic Committee to collaborate on a curriculum that would improve the quality and standards of teaching tennis to kids. And make it a requirement of certification to become a teaching pro in both the PTR and USPTA.
In promoting the Youth Tennis initiative and getting more kids to take up tennis and stay with the game, experts knew there needed to be consistency in how kids were being taught tennis, and that there had to be buy-in among key tennis provider organizations. The result, after many meetings about curriculum and program details, is Coach Youth Tennis, which was launched at the beginning of 2014 and has been receiving high marks from tennis providers across the country.
But just as impressive is how the CYT curriculum is being delivered to providers. The program consists of six online courses and a face-to-face workshop. “There had never been an online coaching education platform for tennis in the U.S.,” says Paul Lubbers, the USTA’s director of coaching education and performance. “When we started working on this more than two years ago, it was a real collaboration. Now, it’s part of the certification process for the PTR and USPTA, and part of the pathway to becoming a teaching pro.”
In the 10 months since CYT went live, there have been nearly 21,000 online course installments completed by nearly 8,700 unique users. In that time, more than 3,300 participants completed the CYT process by attending an on-court workshop (more than 200 workshops have been held throughout the U.S. since February). The only cost to participants is a $15 registration fee for the 3.5-hour workshop (at which they receive a CYT manual); all the online courses are free.
Coach Youth Tennis requires a simple, one-time registration. The six online courses take between 20 and 40 minutes each to complete. After each course, participants can print out a form showing it was successfully completed. After completing all six courses and taking the workshop, tennis providers can print out a participation recognition form.
“The courses we’ve prepared in conjunction with the USPTA, PTR and USOC have been overwhelmingly accepted by a wide variety of tennis coaches, recreational coaches, parents — everyone across the board,” says Kirk Anderson, director of coach education for the USTA. “We’ve realized that when people can get information and courses and take them at their own time and at home, that’s really the way we need to take a look at how we’re delivering education in the future.”
“The online courses have been incredibly well received,” adds Fred Viancos, director of professional development for the USPTA, “and not only by the people going through it for certification, but by many of our members going through it for continuing education credit.”
“The curriculum is first-class,” says PTR CEO Dan Santorum. “The buy-in from both teaching pro organizations is one of the strengths of the program. There is constant communication between Kirk, Paul, Fred, Steve [Keller, the PTR’s director of education] and Chris [Snyder, USOC director of coaching education].”
“Since this is a prerequisite for certification for both the PTR and USPTA, we all held our breath and wondered if we’d restrict the flow into these organizations,” Anderson says. “But both organizations have told us they’ve received a significant increase in applicants in 2014.”
One concern has been making sure online course participants are able to get to a workshop in their area in a timely manner, and Anderson and others say the team is looking at how to continue to make that more efficient. About 70 certified pros, trained specifically to conduct CYT workshops, comprise the national workshop faculty.
“We have a satisfaction rating for our workshops of 4.76 out of 5,” Anderson says. “They just do a terrific job. In fact, Dan Gould [director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University] says it’s the most professional and highly trained group he’s ever seen for youth sports coaching.”
Anderson says that between NJTL chapters, CTAs, parks, clubs and other facilities, “There’s a nice cross-section offering workshops.” Host sites receive a $300 incentive and help promote the workshop and recruit local participants. For many facilities, it’s a fast, no-cost way to get their own staff trained.
The success of Coach Youth Tennis is causing the team to look at other opportunities where online courses might come in handy. “We’re working on getting ‘team coaching’ on the online platform,” Lubbers says. “Like Coach Youth Tennis, it would be non-branded, working with the USPTA, PTR and USOC. That’s what’s really exciting — the collaboration within our groups, and working to create educational resources for providers in the field.”
For more on Coach Youth Tennis, including signing up to take the free online courses and on-court workshop, visit coachyouthtennis.com.
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