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'Adopt-a-Regional' Program promotes College Tennis

SKILLMAN, N.J. — As former ITA All-Americans John Isner and Irina Falconi enjoy breakthrough seasons as professionals, college tennis is gaining momentum as a pathway to the pro tour. In an effort to further expose fans and future players to the collegiate game, the ITA and United States Tennis Association (USTA) launched the ‘Adopt-a-Regional’ program this fall.

During the offseason, members of the USTA Collegiate Varsity Tennis Committee reached out to Regional Championships tournament directors and officers from the 17 USTA Sections in hope of bringing both parties together toward a common goal. Mission accomplished. “The sections just needed something that connected them to collegiate tennis beyond ‘Tennis on Campus,’ from a competitive standpoint,” said committee chairman Timon Corwin. “This seems to be a really easy tool for the sections to provide support.”

With 87 USTA/ITA Regional Championships held across America, the ‘Adopt-a-Regional’ campaign has already led to increased attention for Regional Championships at the small college level. USTA Eastern staff and volunteers pitched in at the Division III Northeast Regional Championships that took place at Skidmore College and William Smith College, as well as at the Division I men’s event at Cornell University.

On the other side of the country, USTA Southern California provided unprecedented coverage for the Division III West Regionals hosted by the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges. Led by staff member Norman Tam, the section held a QuickStart Kids’ Day, posted tournament photos and results online, and published player bios about local participants. “It was a D-III event, which in a way can be underrepresented at times,” said Tam. “I found in the draws that there were a lot of Southern California players, so collectively, we decided that it would be a nice thing to highlight them and support the Regional.”

USTA Southern California provided “new energy to the event” according to CMS Men’s Head Coach Paul Settles, who starred as a player at the University of Pennsylvania and has served as a West Regional tournament director in each of his eight seasons on the job.

“The whole event felt a little bit more professional and polished with the section personnel on site,” said Settles. “It sent a message to the players that this was an event that really mattered.” More ‘Adopt-a-Regional’ festivities are planned at the 24 Division I Regionals taking place nationwide this month. From October 21-23, six Regionals are teaming with the USTA to deliver a recruiting information session, which is designed to unite junior players, parents and collegiate coaches for a lesson in ‘College Tennis 101’.

USTA Southern will have a presence at tournaments hosted by Samford University, the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina, where a recruiting information session is scheduled for October 22nd.

“It’s a great partnership because young kids are able to be more informed about collegiate tennis, know what coach is there, and see what it’s like if they practice and work hard,” said USTA Southern President Mike McNulty, who attended many matches at Ole Miss while his son was a student there. USTA Northern California is sponsoring a Q&A with Stanford coaching legend Dick Gould on October 23rd, while USTA Junior & Collegiate Competition staff members Erica Perkins and Elissa Kinard — both former Division I head coaches and players — will be among the speakers at the University of Washington and UNC sessions respectively. In Perkins’ eyes, the highlight of each recruiting information session comes at its conclusion, when juniors get the chance to watch the college players in action.

“Whether it’s a fall tournament or a dual-match in the spring, the more junior players and parents attend college matches, the more they want to go back,” said Perkins. “In one sense, I feel like these kinds of programs organically grow within the sections and across the country.” Though the USTA/ITA Regional Championships will conclude soon, the college tennis season is only beginning. As such, Corwin and USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe are taking steps to ensure that the college game remains on the minds of tennis fans throughout the year. McEnroe and Corwin, who each earned multiple ITA All-American honors in the 1980s, recently co-wrote a letter to section presidents and executive directors. They called on sections to team up with ITA coaches by dedicating a staff person, committee and webpage to promoting college tennis.

Looking ahead to the fall of 2012, USTA Texas Executive Director Ken McAllister and USTA Midwest Collegiate Varsity Sub-Committee member Jennifer Reinbold have already expressed interest in adopting Regionals — a good-sign that attention and attendance for college tennis will continue growing for years to come. “We’ve got a template,” said Corwin. “The USTA/ITA Regionals, over time, can be a great way to build fan interest on campus and in the community.”

About the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) As the governing body of collegiate tennis, the ITA promotes both the athletic and academic achievements of the collegiate tennis community.

The ITA, which is comprised of nearly 1,700 men’s and women’s varsity coaches representing over 1,200 institutions, administers numerous regional and national championships and the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings for over 20,000 college varsity student-athletes at the NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior College levels. The ITA also has a comprehensive awards program for players and coaches to honor excellence in academics, leadership and sportsmanship. The official ITA web site is ITAtennis.com.

The USTA and CMS partnered on a QuickStart Kids’ Day in conjunction with the D-III West Regional finals.

 

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