Gary Horvath is a USPTA master pro, founder and past president of the USA Professional Platform Tennis Association, charter member of PPTR, a certified coach with USA Volleyball and a long-standing member of the Wilson Advisory Staff.
His experience as a tennis pro has covered the entire spectrum from grassroots to college tennis. In addition, Gary Horvath has conducted extensive business and economic research that has largely supported the state of Colorado's economic development efforts.
TENNIS IS BIGGER IN TEXAS
TTCA had a Texas-size Annual Conference
By Gary Horvath
There is a saying that everything is bigger in Texas, from the size of the pickup trucks to college football budgets, to the Lone Star State's tennis industry. To illustrate the latter, this discussion will focus on the Texas Tennis Coach Association (TTCA), and its recent annual conference at Horseshoe Bay Resort on the weekend of December 9.
Touring professional coach Philip Farmer presented the keynote address, compliments of Wilson Sporting Goods. There were prominent speakers such as Ken DeHart, Michele Krause, Bryce Young, and Michael Woodson, plus a group of outstanding regional and state speakers.
In a press release by TTCA, Farmer said, “It was an unbelievable event to experience, with middle school, high school, and college coaches coming together. Over 600 coaches convened in Texas to celebrate and improve our skills to help all these kids. The word ‘family’ stuck with me. I do not think many organizations stage this big of an event.”
And yes, the event included a two-hour play-and-learn pickleball session.
The TTCA is the Real Deal
The TTCA helps make the case that Texas is a tennis rockstar because the U.S. High School Tennis Association (https://ushsta.org/) lists it as one of only 16 state high-school tennis coaching associations in the U.S.
State tennis icon Ken McAllister documented the history of the TTCA. He wrote that high school tennis has been a part of the Lone Star state tennis scene for over a century, starting with the University Interscholastic League (UIL), formed in 1913.
The following year, UIL hosted a state boys' doubles championship, followed by a boys' singles championship in 1919.
Girls' singles and doubles were added in 1920, 52 years before Title IX. As the UIL expanded its influence on tennis, it became the Texas High School Tennis Coaches Association. Ultimately, it became the TTCA.
Texas High School Tennis Programs and Participation
The National Federation of State High School Associations (https://nfhs.org) supports all high school sports and activities. NFHS collects participation data from state organizations that is a reasonable metric of tennis players who are 14 to 18 years old.
The data in Table I shows that the COVID-related policies slowed the growth rate of high school tennis participation in Texas. Between 2011/2012 and 2018/2019, the annualized growth rate for total participation was 2.04%, and the change from 2018/2019 to 2021/2022 was 1.63%.
U.S. High School Tennis Programs and Participation
Table II tells a much different story for total U.S. participation. The impact and recovery from the COVID-related policies were less favorable than the changes in the Texas data.
Specifically, the number of boys’ and girls’ programs declined between 2011/2012 and 2021/2022.
Between 2011/2012 and 2018/2019, the annualized rate of change for total participation was 0.3%, and from 2018/2019 to 2021/2022, it was -2.6%. Participation in both boys' and girls' programs declined between 2011/2012 and 2021/2022.
Reasons Tennis is Bigger in Texas
The TTCA is critical to the state's infrastructure because of its rich tradition, engagement of the stakeholders, and meaningful involvement of the TTCA family members.
Rich Tradition - High school tennis has been a part of the tennis infrastructure for over a century. Yes, that includes girls' tennis.
Engagement – Over 600 coaches participated in TTCA 2022, and over 400 attended TTCA 2020 (virtual). Most tennis organizations would love to have this level of attendance at their events.
Family – The TTCA family emphasizes middle school, high school, and college coaches coming together. Many other tennis organizations do not recognize the importance of players in these categories.
The U.S. and Texas data show that high school participation slowed as a result of the COVID-19 policies. Given the strength of tennis in Texas, a stronger post-pandemic growth rate is likely to occur this academic year or during the following season. It may take longer for U.S. high school tennis participation to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Thank you to the leaders and members of the TTCA for all you do for tennis in Texas! You set an example that other tennis organizations should learn from and apply in their communities and with their memberships.
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