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.
ARE THEY PLAYING TENNIS IN A CHICKEN COOP WHILE IT IS SNOWING?
An Introduction to Platform Tennis
By Gary Horvath
In 2020 and 2021, pandemic policies caused a spike in participation in outdoor racket sports. As a result, tennis players and teaching professionals learned about platform tennis, pickleball, and padel. People who have not played platform tennis often think it is mini tennis in a chicken coop.
All three sports have distinguishing factors that make them popular to play and teach. The following commentary provides an overview of platform tennis for newcomers to the sport.
In 1928, James Cogswell and Fessenden Blanchard created platform tennis as a winter replacement for tennis. Over the next couple of years, the sport went through several iterations before reaching its current form.
The American Platform Tennis Association (APTA) was founded in 1934 to oversee the national championships and serve as the governing body for the sport. The APTA maintains the rules and codes of behavior for the sport; it creates awareness for the sport and advocates and supports programming.
Additional information about the history of platform tennis is available at http://platformtennishalloffame.org/history-of-the-game/.
Platform tennis has characteristics and rules similar to other sports. Many of these commonalities relate to the origin of the sport.
The size of a court, including out-of-bounds, 60' x 30', is the same as the playing area of a volleyball court.
The size of the playing area for a platform tennis court, 44' x 20', is the same as the playing area of a badminton court.
One serve is allowed in platform tennis, the same as volleyball and pickleball. The ball is playable on let serves, the same as volleyball and men's college tennis.
Platform Tennis Starter Kit from Master Athletics incl. Paddle, Backpack, 2 balls, protective eyewear, mitten, sticker.
The scoring system is the same for platform tennis and tennis; however, tiebreakers are slightly different.
The material that encloses a tennis court is a fence. Twelve-feet high wires or screens surround the platform tennis courts. They look like fencing but are 16-gauge wire that is more durable than chicken wire.
During a point, the ball must land in the playing area on the opponent's side of the court, the same as tennis. Shots with enough pace will rebound off one or two wires. Players may play the ball off the deck or "out of the wires"; however, it is not allowed to bounce on the court a second time. The point is lost when a player hits a shot that bounces out of bounce or over the wires.
The net is disproportionately high in platform tennis. It is 34 inches at its center and 37 inches at either end.
The paddle may have up to 87 holes measuring no more than 3⁄8 inch. Players are not allowed to "sharpen" the holes on their paddles.
Platform tennis balls are heavy sponge balls measuring 2.5 inches in diameter. By comparison, a tennis ball is 2.575 to 2.700 inches in diameter.
Platform tennis started as a winter replacement for tennis which means most courts are constructed with abrasive surfaces to reduce slipping, heaters to melt ice off the courts, and snowboards.
Every year the APTA surveys the industry to estimate the number of courts. In the most recent survey, the respondents indicated there are about 1,566 courts in 30 states and Toronto, Canada. About 98% of the courts are in 21 states.
Slightly more than half of the courts have batteries of three or more courts; about 36% have batteries of four or more courts. Having at least three adjacent courts is essential for hosting leagues and tournaments. Finally, about 82% of courts are at private facilities.
Accomplishments of the APTA
The national governing body for platform tennis has been active and effective for almost 90 years. After the May 2022 annual meeting, the APTA hosted an online update and review of the past season (September 2021 through March 2022). The primary theme was growth, albeit on a smaller scale than tennis or pickleball. Highlights are listed below.
There were over 250 APTA-sanctioned tournaments.
About 500 people participated in the APTA national team championships.
There were about 700 players in the 17 APTA PTI national championships. The PTI is the national rating system.
The APTA has a one-million-dollar budget.
APTA membership was up 21% to over 29,000
There was about $200,000 allocated for court construction grants and loans.
Next season, the APTA plans to expand its relationship with MiPaddle (https://mipaddle.co/) and migrate their traditional magazine content to multi-channel distribution. Finally, the APTA plans to livestream 13 of the 14 events on the upcoming APTA Tour.
Throughout the sport's extended history, quality instruction has intermittently been a major part of the sport.
During the 1970s, Doug Russell founded the American Professional Platform Tennis Association (APPTA) to certify teaching professionals. After several years, the organization died out, but it left its mark on the sport. It set the standards for teaching the sport.
During the late 1990s, Gary Horvath led a group of teaching professionals to organize a trade association for teaching professionals. The group re-established the standards for teaching the sport. In 2000, the USA Professional Platform Tennis Association (USA PPTA) was incorporated in Colorado, and in 2015, it merged with the USPTA.
The Professional Platform Tennis Registry (PPTR) was founded in 2020 to educate, certify, and serve those professionals teaching the growing sport of platform tennis. The PPTR is the official education and certification partner of the APTA. In that capacity, the PPTR has partnered with the APTA to increase participation by providing relevant certification and education opportunities for PPTR members (https://pptrplatformtennis.org/). An Advisory Board of Directors, chaired by Jack Waite, oversees the PPTR.
Currently, the PPTR has about 350 certified members. Between now and the end of September, it has workshops scheduled for Montclair, Rochester, Boston, and St. Louis.
Like all sports, the platform tennis industry faces challenges.
The greatest challenge is the lack of awareness of the sport. Platform tennis participation has increased as fanatics have moved to places like Georgia and Colorado and built courts.
Most courts are at private, exclusive clubs. Less than one-in-five courts are at a public facility.
Most courts are made from aluminum and very expensive to build.
On a positive note, platform tennis is easy to learn, the equipment is inexpensive, and the sport ranks high on the social and fun scale.
See you on the courts!
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