Tennis is now on the right "Path" in Tucson- and going national!
By Jim Reffkin

December 2005

All too often, parents envision their son or daughter to be the next Andy Roddick or Lindsey Davenport and unfairly accelerate their child's positioning on the competitive tennis landscape. While some kids may view the challenge with unbridled passion, most junior players simply feel overwhelmed and quickly lose interest in the sport.

Junior Tennis Participation Path counter display at Reffkin Tennis Center, Tucson, AZ

Junior Tennis Participation Path counter display
at Randolph Tennis Center, Tucson, AZ

Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson under the tutelage of Jim Reffkin, has developed and implemented new programming designed to customize a competitive curriculum for the junior tennis player. Called "Junior Tennis Participation Path," the highly-acclaimed system clearly illustrates the skill level of its players and events. The path outlines a step-by-step natural progression for the junior player to follow as their ability moves them up the competitive ladder. From beginner to the collegiate player, parents and players can easily understand and follow the program which also instills a greater desire to perform well. "Parents and players are having a difficult time determining what a child's competitive level is and which tournaments they should be playing," said Reffkin. "Ultimately, the junior player loses interest and decides not to play the sport."

As the competitive ability of the junior player increases, the length of each match and overall event will increase as well. "Tennis is the only sport that does not have a clearly-defined program that outlines a participation path relative to a player's age and ability. Our programming at Reffkin Tennis Center handles all that," added Reffkin.

One of the most important elements of the Junior Path program are the one-day, non-elimination events. This includes the Arizona Junior Shootout using match tiebreak scoring and the Super Set Series using a six-game set per match. The Super Set Series event provides quality, USTA sanctioned match play and can be played in a half-day (3-4 hours). Since the program was established in 2003, junior participation has increased by 140%. Even the pros are singing the praises of the Super Set format. "Super Set Tennis is an innovative and exciting event that helps bring tennis into the 21st century. This event has attitude," said 8-time major champion Andre Agassi. For the record: 75% of adult tournaments now played at Randolph are one-day or half-day, non-elimination format events.

Creators of the Adult and Junior Tennis Participation Paths

Creators of the Adult & Junior Tennis Participation Paths
Jeff Brack (Left) and Jim Reffkin (Right)

For the beginner tennis player ages 12 and under, Junior Tennis Participation Path features the Star Ball Tennis Tournament with 3-4 matches in under two hours, an innovative "slower" Penn Star Ball which increases success in hitting and boosts self-esteem and confidence and promotes rally play without serving. "It's the perfect introduction to match play and transition to the next level of competition in our program," said Reffkin, former Chairman of the National USTA Tennis Innovations Committee.

From there, the junior tennis player moves along a "participation path" playing in Junior Satellite tournaments, Super Set Series and Arizona Junior Shootout events, and additional USTA sanctioned events held throughout the year. "This takes all the guesswork out of how and where to place your child as he or she begins and develops their life-long passion for the sport of tennis. We are thrilled with our program's progress so far and we look forward to attracting more youngsters to this great sport," said Reffkin.

The innovative program has been enthusiastically adopted by the USTA Southwest Section and has now been introduced in other sections throughout the country, namely Hawaii, Northern, and several state associations of the Southern Section. Reffkin has already visited Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia and will have them on board with the path programming some time in 2005.

"The Midwest, Texas, Northern and the Missouri Valley sections will soon be utilizing our concept at selected facilities. Our goal next year is to have at least one facility in each of the 17 USTA sections that will host innovative programming with the marketing package we are offering," said Reffkin. "The 'branding' is demonstrated by a highly visible counter display at the entrance to our facility - a real marketing breakthrough for tennis facilities."

Currently the Reffkin Tennis Center is working closely with the Southwest section in promoting the path to interested sections that are willing to accept the "branding" of this programming, and allow these events for USTA ranking purposes. And only recently, the adults are getting in the act; USTA Community Development Adult Programming Committee is endorsing the "Adult Participation Path" which is almost identical to the junior version.

Special Note: Jim is on the Head Penn Speakers Bureau and is currently available for presentations to Divisional Conventions. For more information on Jim Reffkin's Path Programming visit his website at www.reffkintenniscenter.com, click tournament information, then junior or adult path, then slide show.