Great plans but can USTA deliver?
By Jim Reffkin

February 2008

There have been some very encouraging articles written recently on the importance of "Tennis in the Schools." In one of the more recent USTA magazines, USTA National President Jane Brown Grimes described a very ambitious plan for her two year term in office. The "plan" has four key priorities: first is tennis in PE classes with a new curriculum designed by and for PE teachers; second is the introduction of after-school programming for elementary students; third is fostering of middle-school intramural and interscholastic teams. All this then leads to priority number four which is no-cut high school tennis teams.

Wow! This is truly an ambitious plan our USTA President is suggesting. On paper this is good stuff, however, implementing the plan is a whole different challenge. On the positive side, USTA has excellent staff in place to present, promote and support, but can we close the deal with actual participation?

Our situation reminds me of when the United States introduced the metric system. Every national official was certain it would be accepted and would save a huge amount of money and effort at every level of our economy. Unfortunately, national only suggested but made no real plan to implement this change to the self governing states and municipalities.

Unfortunately, we have a similar challenge. The US government's metric plan made sense at the national level, just as the USTA plans makes sense. The real issue is how can change be accepted and implemented where the ball hits the court. In truth, the infrastructure (National...Section...Community) of our tennis governing body is much like our government, a minefield of self controlled associations and committees - many dedicated to self-interest; or worse yet, apathy in delivering the latest product from USTA.

Once again, USTA national has designed outstanding programs that will enrich the opportunities for growing participation: "Tennis in the Parks"; Schools Program and "quickstart." These programs are all capable of tremendous success in growing our game. Especially "quickstart," the very latest (coming out this spring) which in my opinion is the most exciting program since Adult Leagues.

Our delivery problem is not with our section?s capable staff, the Southwest has Jason Jamison and his service reps, a real dynamic force in presenting the programs. The issue is the long standing philosophy that USTA staff should suggest and present, but should never implement.

In selected sections, I suggest each major metropolitan area have at least one "model facility" implementing national's suggested programs that will become the example for attracting other interested facilities. I suggest we quit talking about it, roll up our sleeves, set dates and begin soliciting sites - "just do it."