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Alternative Racquet Sports
At TCB we want to embrace many racquet sports and introduce you to the games and the forces that drive them. We're here to show you how to get into the sport and how to make money with it.
In August, we'll introduce touchtennis from the UK, update you about Platform Tennis, bring you the latest information about Spec Tennis, tell you what's going on with Beach Tennis n Southern California, and show you what's going on in Pickleball including an introduction to Lynn Cherry's Pickleball Fire.
As always let us know here if you want to get connected to any of the people featured below. State your name and what you do, please. Thank you.
GROWING THE GAME ONE BARN AND ONE DRIVEWAY AT A TIME!
Rashid's dream: "To see a billion people play this form of tennis."
Meet Rashid Ahmad from London, England. He calls himself half-jokingly The Goat because he has won 20 touchtennis Grand Slams. He's also very particular about the way he writes touchtennis (one word, small letters). Rashid founded touchtennis almost 20 years ago.
Rashid Ahmad's initial vision:
"To create a sport that works for every age and every ability, possible to play anywhere, that will foster fun and connection above all, as well as of course getting people fit, energized and moving."
Rashid writes on his website: Played on a 12 x 6 meter compact court with foam balls, a foldaway and easy to set up net, and 21-inch tennis racquets, you can set up to play wherever you like from your school, park, garden, or even the beach.
Although the game is particularly attractive to beginners and less experienced tennis players looking to improve their hand-eye coordination, if you want to take it a step further from your garden, you might be interested in joining the growing touchtennis world tour. With Slams and Masters Tournaments, the tour has attracted players of all abilities who compete like lunatics for ranking points and prize money. But mainly just for the larks!
Because you see, the key to touchtennis is the amount of spin, deft stroke-play, chess-like tactics, and unique, sometimes even silly, rules like using your body to make shots after (and only after) you’ve made a shot by throwing your racquet at a ball you couldn’t reach. It’s a game that is brains over brawn, touch overpower, spin over strength, flair over fighting.
And this is where the bigger vision comes in and why we would love you to join us – we believe as people soften their approach to sport they can soften their approach to life and that touchtennis can become about connection, community, purpose, and a sense of belonging in something fun and healthy instead of to violent gangs or peer pressure activities or just to break the habit of your life stressors. We all have them.
The bigger picture is to see touchtennis being a force for change and good around conflict and violence. A court straddling the borders of warring countries where individuals from those nations are seen battling their feelings through the skill and expertise of touchtennis and having fun doing it, perhaps even sharing a doubles partner with someone from the opposite country would be Rashid’s dream. (We are also striving to make our products sustainable and cheap for the whole world to be able to afford to play.) touchtennis shows that what divides is not as great as what unites us in this instance via a playful, intricate but easy sport. As Gandhi said, “The golden way is to be friends with the world and to regard the whole human family as one.”
We would love you to join the tribe.
There are many good videos about touchtennis but the above paints a pretty good picture about that relatively new sport. We found it on LinkedIn.
The below video shows how easy it is to set up a touchtennis court anywhere in 15 minutes.
The touchtennis YouTube Channel has tons of great videos.
When we heard that the PTR had set up a certification program for Platform Tennis, we asked Dan Santorum about it. He wrote back: We do have a new Board led by Jack Waite. Patricio Misitrano is responsible for the educational content and designing the PPTR workshops. PPTR is the official education and certification partner of the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA), and their President, Tiernan Cavanna is on the PPTR Board. Platform tennis is booming, just like tennis and pickleball.
PPTR began in July of 2020, and Patricio did our first workshop last October. We conducted 21 PPTR workshops in 9 states and in all 7 APTA regions. We presently have 287 PPTR members in 28 states. We project that to almost double to more than 500 within 12 months.
We are planning our first PPTR Conference on Long Island during the first Wednesday of the US Open. We are also planning to conduct 20 PPTR certification workshops again next season. Patricio is also working on a Level 2 certification for PPTR.
With this now the age of racquets, we have reached out to Methodist College, Ferris State, and Hope PTM programs to add PPTR - platform tennis and PPR - pickleball certification. So the graduates will leave college better prepared and holding the prestigious designation of “Triple Threat.”
Jack Waite, Director of Tennis at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, was nice enough to send us some information and his impressions of Platform Tennis.
THE POWER OF PLATFORM TENNIS
By Jack Waite
If you are looking to land a top job in a cold-weather area of the country, read on as platform tennis is becoming your key to the kingdom.
Platform Tennis sometimes referred to as “Paddle,” was invented in 1928 by a couple of Scarsdale, NY neighbors (James Cogswell and Fessenden Blanchard) looking for an outdoor winter sport to play in one of their backyards. They built a wood platform and bought paddle tennis equipment; itself a sport invented several years earlier. Included in the package were some wooden paddles and sponge-like balls, and they added some chicken wire to enclose the court and keep the balls from escaping. Alas, platform tennis was born.
Advances to the chicken wire enclosure evolved into the metal screen wiring today. The 1970s brought about the advent of aluminum courts, which also contain grit to allow for all-weather play, as do the heaters located below platform tennis courts to melt snow and ice. The wood playing surface evolved into aluminum with “grit’ applied, and foam core paddles replaced wooden paddles near the start of the millennium.
From the beginning, players were allowed to play the ball “off the wires” or play the ball before it hit the platform for a second time which neutralizes the advantage of hitting the ball hard and forever made platform tennis more a finesse game than its parent sport, tennis. The one serve rule was adopted to make this a sport balanced between serving and receiving teams.
The sport quickly became very social and a way for local families, adults, and kids, to gather, play, and cheer each other on during the winter months. That spirit continues and grows with paddle being the perfect daytime and especially nighttime outdoor winter sport with accompanying fire pits and paddle or warming huts to set the atmosphere to enjoy the cold season. Platform Tennis is also now becoming popular during the summer months, with modified balls and summer leagues sprouting up around the country.
In terms of competition, the sport has grown steadily over the years with the help of the APTA, the American Platform Tennis Association - http://www.platformtennis.org/ The APTA was formed in 1934, and today, the APTA has almost 26,000 members, sanctions approximately 200 tournaments for players at every level and supports over 40 leagues across the country. The APTA is one of the most hands-on governing bodies in sports, and they do a fantastic job of providing excellent playing opportunities for anyone who plays paddle.
To assist the APTA with managing the growth of platform tennis, the APTA partnered with the PPTR (Professional Platform Tennis Registry) to help expand the education/certification opportunities for platform tennis professionals. One of PPTR’s goals was to help grow the sport through education and partnerships with industry leaders like the APTA. Normally, launching a new organization in the middle of a pandemic would be considered absurd, but with paddle booming, the timing of the partnership between the APTA and PPTR was perfect.
PPTR conducted 21 workshops last paddle season, and they are going to conduct at least that many this paddle season. For information on how to get educated/certified, go to: http://pptrplatformtennis.org/ The added PPTR pros will help fill the current shortage of paddle pros, which will enable the sport to continue to grow. PPTR is starting to see many good players, especially women, fill the gap as part-time coaches.
Platform Tennis is definitely in the sweet spot of the “Age of Racquets” and is poised to see further growth as a core racquet sport. In areas where platform tennis is popular, many high-level country club jobs are filled by up-and-coming coaches who play in APTA tournaments and rise to the top level of the platform tennis rankings.
For coaches looking to be in the industry, especially in country clubs in the Northeast and Midwest, platform tennis has become a significant factor in hiring. Becoming a “Triple Threat” in the Professional Sports Registry – PSR (certified by PTR (tennis), PPR (pickleball), and PPTR (Platform tennis) is nowadays considered a requirement for Racquets Directors and most teaching professionals.
The good news about platform tennis continues as it was one of the three fastest-growing sports this past year. Paddle was a welcome and safe outlet for both returning players and those who decided to try it for the first time during the pandemic, This past winter, courts across the county were filled with families and friends coming out to play socially with others competing in leagues and tournaments.
In addition, Platform Tennis is a great compliment to tennis by helping to develop skills of touch, reaction time, patience, consistency while also developing new skills, including how to play off the screens. The end result is the creation of many more paddle enthusiasts. It is easier to learn than tennis and, like pickleball, lends itself to being very social. Paddle is also extremely attractive for clubs looking to generate revenue from underutilized facilities in slower, winter months while providing more services and amenities for their members.
In terms of skill level required to play, paddle is somewhere in between tennis and pickleball. If you have never played Platform Tennis, I highly recommend you give it a try. I guarantee that you will like it and be on your way to becoming a “Triple Threat” racquets player!
Nate Gross created Spec Tennis in 2016. He has recently presented at the USPTA San Diego Convention, USPTA Eastern Webinar, USPTA Middle States Conference, Texas Tennis Coaches Association Conference, Between the White Lines Summit, and the USPTA New England Conference. Contact Nate: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOCCER PLAYERS TRAIN WITH FUTSAL,
TENNIS PLAYERS SHOULD TRAIN WITH SPEC TENNIS
By Nate Gross
If you’ve never heard of futsal before, it’s a modified version of soccer. It’s played on a smaller field with fewer players and a modified ball. It’s become the norm if you are a high-level soccer player to train with futsal.
Why? By playing on the smaller field, players develop great control and tactical awareness; they have to create plays in a smaller space.
After playing futsal, when they go back to the larger soccer field, everything seems easier, since they have a lot of space.
World-class soccer players like Reynaldinho, Neymar, and Messi all credit futsal for helping to develop their soccer skills.
So how does this relate to tennis? Well, tennis players train for tennis by playing tennis, but this has limitations.
What if there was another sport that tennis players could play to greatly improve their control, patterns, and tactical awareness?
That sport has arrived and it’s called Spec Tennis.
It’s played on a smaller court with a slower ball and a circular paddle, and that’s why I make the connection to futsal.
Nate Gross calls Spec the "bridge to tennis excellence" in this great 6-minute video
In futsal you are training the exact skills needed for soccer; in Spec Tennis you are training the exact skills needed for tennis.
Here are some benefits I see in using Spec Tennis to train for tennis:
“Players that play in a small space can see the whole court visually, and can also see and understand patterns and tactics better,” said Styrling Strother about Spec Tennis, “Many times we have more difficulty visually recognizing developing patterns because of the bigger space of a regulation tennis court. But once you open up the space after playing in a smaller space, you play with the small court mindset which increases precision and reduces errors.”
Specific patterns, even advanced ones, can be executed effectively.
Imagine you have two tennis players and you want one of them to construct a point where they eventually get to the net and close out the point with a volley. Many possible things could happen when you try this on the tennis court:
- The approach shot from the offensive player might be a winner so they don’t get a chance to volley
- They are afraid of coming to the net and volleying, so their confidence level is very low once they get to the net
- The defensive player lobs, and the offensive player can’t cover it.
If instead, you train this pattern using Spec Tennis here are the results using the same examples:
- The approach shot is not a winner, because the defensive player can cover the smaller court better, and is able to actually make the offensive player hit a volley
- The offensive player is not afraid of volleying because they have a softer ball coming at them at a slower speed than a regular tennis ball would be. They build confidence real fast and are no longer scared of coming to the net.
- If the defensive player lobs, the offensive player is able to cover it better since the court is smaller.
Specific tennis skills can be learned quickly.
Have you ever worked on poaching with a group of intermediate adults for example? You might be able to have some success in a controlled environment that you as the tennis pro set up, but what happens when you see that group playing a practice match? They don’t poach a single time. Poaching is a daunting task. The potential for them to have to run across the court a great distance to intercept the incoming ball leads to a lot of uncertainty by the poacher, and they elect to just let the ball go instead.
Now, if you train poaching in Spec Tennis, it’s a lot easier to execute, as the width of the court is nearly cut in half, making a high percentage of balls poachable. More success leads to more confidence, and once they have that confidence, these players start doing the same thing on the tennis court as well.
Tennis can be a grind, especially at the competitive level. It can be nice to be able to mix things up by playing Spec Tennis for fun sometimes, especially since it will help their tennis game. I played competitive junior tennis as well as college tennis and saw a lot of players get burned out. Had they been able to mix things up just a little bit by supplementing with Spec Tennis, maybe they wouldn’t have lost their initial love of tennis.
Spec Tennis is the racquet sport that has the most direct translation to tennis so why not give it a try?
If you’d like to test out Spec Tennis to see how it works with your players, shoot me an email email@example.com
From the Beach Tennis Association website: Beach Tennis Assoc, a 501(c)3 corp, is at the center of the newest sport making waves on the sunny southern California Coast and around the United States. BTA brings the hottest new action sport, played in the sand directly to your beach, where ever you are.
In Southern Cal, Beach Tennis is being played at 4 locations in the Los Angeles area: Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach.
We were able to catch up with Beach Tennis Association founder Donny Young.
TCB: Hi Donny, make a case for Beach Tennis for us? Why should we get into that sport?
DY: There are many reasons. Beach Tennis is four times easier to learn than tennis. Also, the sand is easier on the body than a hard court. It's a really fast game that's growing like crazy in over 60 countries now. And we have a Pro Tour and a rating system in place.
TCB: How is it going with the Beach Tennis Association?
DY: We are growing but COVID slowed us down a lot. We are a very small operation. We usually have 16 events per year and this year we only had one but more are coming. The good news is: Beach Tennis is now played on more than 30 courts in our area.
TCB: Is Beach Tennis your main source of income?
No. I'm teaching tennis part-time on a private court in Palos Verdes. My wife Ginger is a flight attendant.
Donny Young in action
Ginger Sugg Young in action
TCB: What are your plans now that COVID restrictions are being lifted.
DY: I originally intended for the Beach Tennis Association to go much bigger. However, I never had a real business plan to build the grassroots platform. I need to do that now. The good news: The ITF is our governing body and they encouraged me to keep going. They are trying to get Beach Tennis accredited as an Olympic sport. And, fortunately, all beach cities and counties here are behind us.
TCB: Is there a number for player potential for Beach Tennis.
DY: Hard to say but consider this: Sixty million people go to the beach each year. The potential is huge!
TCB: Thank you, Donny!
Lynn Cherry, Owner
I wasn't around Pickleball very long before I knew I wanted to start a website about the game. That's because I became addicted to the sport in 2018 shortly after finding it when I moved to Connecticut from North Texas. When I saw the local recreation center had Pickleball, I looked up the sport on Youtube and thought I'm going to love this game! I hadn't played a racket sport in quite a few years because of my bad knees but I realized on the small court I could probably handle the movement. So, using my skills from when I played open-level racquetball and a couple years of tennis, I started playing and writing about the game.
As you might imagine, my website Pickleball Fire grew right along with the rapid rise of the sport. Then in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was stuck in the house in Connecticut during the winter. That's when I started the Pickleball Fire podcast and I now have interviewed over 80 Pickleball professionals and people in the industry. The show comes out twice per week. Mondays are usually interviews with professionals and coaches. The Thursday show is an interview with someone in the industry and this can range from paddle manufacturers to people running juniors programs. After a couple of months of interviewing guests on the podcast, I realized I had so much content from the interviews that I needed to publish a magazine too! That's when I started the Pickleball Fire Magazine which comes out every other month. So far, four digital issues have been published in January, March, May, and July of 2021.
Leigh & Anna Leigh Waters
Anna Leigh Waters
Both the podcast and magazine have been well received by the Pickleball community. I think the younger players enjoy the podcast and the older crowd likes the magazine. I've had many people ask for the magazine in hard copy so now that is even available for people to purchase. If you are interested in being a guest on the podcast, be sure to reach out!
More podcasts (a small selection):
075: 3 of the Best Tips Given to Coach Russell Elefterion by the Pickleball Pros Who Teach at his Boot Camp
Coach Russell runs an absolutely amazing boot camp for Pickleball players in North Carolina. He brings together eight of the top pros for each camp and in this interview he gives his top three tips from these world class instructors. We also discuss the difference between a Pickleball camp and actual boot camp.
074: The State of Pickleball in Canada with Pro Ernesto Fajardo
While Ernesto Fajardo is still in university, he is the second ranked men’s Pickleball player in Canada. During the podcast he talks about the state of Pickleball in Canada plus his academic and Pickleball goals.
073: How to Play Great Defense with Pickleball Pro John Sperling
I really had a lot of fun interviewing senior professional John Sperling. He is so full of energy and enthusiasm which really comes across on the show. Plus, he gave some great tips on how to improve your defense and figure out you opponent’s patterns so you can defeat them.
072: What it Takes to Have Tournament Success with Pro Mircea Morariu
Mircea Morariu finished second in senior pro doubles at the 2021 U.S. Open, but he says he still has a lot of room for improvement. He talks in depth about what else he is working on and what it takes to progress beyond the early rounds of a tournament to the semis, finals, and winning gold.
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