By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- From 10 and Under Tennis to adult players to parents who want to take a more active role in their child's personal development, the Community Tennis Development Workshop (CTDW) each year serves as the meeting of the most tireless minds from all 17 USTA sections and the national level to discuss the future of tennis in the United States.
As part of USTA.com's coverage of the 2011 CTDW in Washington D.C., we're going around the workshops to discover which new ideas, initiatives and practices are pushing people towards the ultimate goal: To promote and develop the game at all levels.
Along the way we'll meet the impassioned speakers delivering the presentations and come to know what drives their efforts.
Lew Brewer, Director of Junior Competition, USTA Player Development
Why He's Speaking:
As a 30-year USTA employee, Brewer has a treasure trove of coaching knowledge spread to several generations of graduated players -- many of whom went on to national and international acclaim.
The idea for the workshop, "Kid to Pro Continuum," is fairly straightforward: There's a start point and end point for every junior player. Through practice and competition, players progress at varying rates as they age, while the USTA sections work with staff and volunteer committees to ensure our young players have opportunities to reach their maximum potential.
With the rules of tennis set to change on January 1, 2012, along with the National Junior Tournament Schedule in 2011, the "American pathway" has been altered with the rise of 10 and Under Tennis, and now all must be cognizant of the new methods by which the game will be taught to young kids. With a larger age range accommodated for and earlier entry into the game, signs point to advancement across the board along the progression timeline from junior player to the professional level, much like in Europe, where variations of 10 & Under Tennis have been in practice for almost two decades.
"From start to finish, there are competitive opportunities at each level, from the introduction of 10 and Under Tennis to junior competition, college and right on into the pros," said Brewer. "Today, we're trying to let people know that there's something for everybody all along the pathway."
Feature Idea: Competition
The workshop featured much active discussion about 10 and Under Tennis and the idea of matches and tournaments at ages where coaches are primarily concerned with instruction. While 10 and Under Tennis won't feature a ranking system for players, competition - and the types of competition - exists as perhaps even more crucial an element to development in the youngest stages than at any future point. To find ways to test the confines of the resized courts, learning the space and practicing against an opponent serves youngsters best. "Practice is the mother of all skill," repeats Brewer as a mantra.
Brewer adds that as juniors graduate into the 11- to 18-year age range, "bigger brains turn the game into cerebral tennis." Competitive players can decipher complex strategy and tactics and thus are ready for a rankings system to motivate towards personal improvement.
How to Improve: Seek College Play
Proof positive of the mindset that everyone can have a tennis pathway, American junior players are offered more development options at the collegiate level than ever before. There are currently more than 1,600 NCAA Division I, II and III programs, along with NAIA and junior colleges for nationally ranked players down to natural athletes who have untapped tennis gifts. There are also 500-plus participating colleges involved with Tennis On Campus, a national network of team-tennis competition at the club level with over 30,000 active participants.
Being involved with any program almost always leads to a more active role in the community to promote the game, keeping players involved in one way or another after they leave school, so the pathway never truly has to end.