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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. 

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Tennis Club Business

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.

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The Certification Kerfuffle

The certification programs need more rigor!

By Gary Horvath

Since at least 2019, the tennis industry has been in a predicament because of its inability to certify and retain a sufficient number of coaches, instructors, and teaching professionals. COVID-related policies caused approximately six million new players to take up the sport between 2020 and 2022.

 

The following discussion addresses this dilemma. Key issues are listed below.

  • The certification process is a progression of evaluation and ongoing education. The tennis industry is constantly evolving.

  • There may be subtle differences in the certification process for clubs, parks and recreation, K-12 (high school), and college programs. The current USTA accreditation process does not address all of these markets.

  • It takes a tremendous amount of work and knowledge to set up a certification process that is reliable, valid, and that discriminates between the skill and knowledge levels of the applicants.

 

The Primary Providers of Certification and Education

There has been an ongoing controversy over the certification process during 47 of the 54 years since the first exams. In addition, the existing certification programs emphasize teaching professionals at private and public clubs and facilities. It should be a priority to allocate more resources to the certification and education of recreation, high school, and college coaches and instructors. Industry participation data shows that more players play at recreation facilities and school courts than in clubs.

 

A group of tennis professionals met in New York City in 1927 to establish the Professional Lawn Tennis Association of the United States to protect and promote their professional interests. In 1969, the organization administered its first certification exams, and in 1970, the association changed its name to the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA).

In 1956, J.D. Morgan, the UCLA men's tennis coach, started the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) as the governing body of men's and women's college tennis programs. The goals of the ITA are to promote the sport, take responsibility for teaching and managing the college programs, and educate the tennis community about college tennis. The ITA website says there is no certification process for becoming an ITA coach, although coaches are encouraged to become USPTA or PTR members. ITA has recently focused on upgrading its member education programs.

The Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) was founded in 1976 by Dennis Van der Meer. He advocated for improved connections between the professionals, a universal teaching language, and a clear coaching progression. By contrast, the USPTA felt there were many ways to connect and teach the sport.

 

Starting in 2018, the USTA began its voluntary accreditation program for certification organizations to strengthen the standards of the U.S. tennis industry. The good intentions of the USTA have not addressed critical issues and have, at times, created more problems than it has solved.

 

The industry will benefit from these four organizations working with each other to add more rigor to their certification programs, include all market segments, and give their members more opportunities to participate in meaningful certificate programs, short courses, workshops, or conferences.

 

Best Practices for Tennis Certification

The primary reason for administering certification exams is to determine if applicants have the skills and knowledge to be a coach, instructor, or professional. Best practices for connecting with applicants are listed below.

  • The process includes both certification and education.

  • Certification is the first step in attraction and retention. The certification process must be flawless because it is the first step in retaining successful applicants as members.

  • Appreciate the different skills, knowledge, and experiences of each applicant. They have the potential to make unique contributions to the industry.

  • Applicants should feel welcome during the process. They should be encouraged to ask questions.

  • Certification questions must be tested to ensure they are reliable (consistently measure the criteria) and valid (measure what it is supposed to measure). Similarly, the evaluation process should discriminate between the skill and knowledge levels of the applicants.

    Access to the program should be open to all interested parties.

  • The certification process should be affordable. If possible, scholarships or financial assistance should be available.

  • A list of resources, a study guide, and an in-person review session will help applicants understand the skills and knowledge they must possess to succeed in the industry.

  • Applicants want to know the criteria used to evaluate their skills and knowledge.

  • The process should be valuable for the applicants. They want to know how certification will help them improve their skills and knowledge and advance their careers.

 

The CBOK – the Foundation of the Certification Process

The most important part of the certification process is the Common Body of Knowledge (CBOK). As shown in Figure 1, The CBOK impacts the attraction of members, certification process and upgrades, retention of members (certificate programs, short courses, workshops, and conferences), and service to the industry.

  • The CBOK may vary between market segments.

  • Applicants should view certification as the first step in their personal development and service to the industry.

  • All applicants have different backgrounds. The CBOK helps them identify areas where they can improve their skills and knowledge.

  • Certification questions must be tested to ensure they are reliable (consistently measure the criteria) and valid (measure what it is supposed to measure). Similarly, questions should discriminate between the skill and knowledge levels of the applicants.

Certification questions must be tested to ensure they are reliable (consistently measure the criteria) and valid (measure what it is supposed to measure). Similarly, the evaluation process should discriminate between the skill and knowledge levels of the applicants.

PRESENTED BY WTCA

The Challenge: Tennis needs more coaches.

The Answer: Women's Tennis Coaches Association.

Having female coaches in tennis is not just about gender diversity; it's about providing equal opportunities, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment, and harnessing the unique skills and perspectives that female coaches can bring to the game. It benefits both the sport and the individuals involved, helping to develop a richer and more diverse tennis community.

The WTCA is the first organization of its kind, solely dedicated to advancing women’s tennis through thoroughly educated coaches. The global hub for coaching women’s tennis, the WTCA has resources in medicine, coaching, and athletes in order to assist and educate all coaches.

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With instructional videos, mentorship programs, conferences around the globe, and educational coaching courses, the WTCA both educates and inspires passionate tennis coaches with the one goal of enhancing the world of women’s tennis. Our online courses come with certifications, helping coaches to both learn and draw in more athletes. Members will have unparalleled access to WTCA material on both our website and our social media pages. 

Help us grow.

Start your path to coaching career success now!

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Figure I - CBOK – the Foundation of the Certification Process

Examples of the CBOK

Tables I and II are examples of CBOKs. The first table provides high-level criteria for evaluating an applicant in Playing, Teaching, and Business/General Knowledge categories. The second table provides more detailed evaluation criteria for these categories. It may be appropriate to emphasize different criteria based on the market segment.

 

The CBOK is subject to change as the sport, techniques, equipment, and teaching and training philosophies evolve.

Take-Aways

This review of the certification process provides the following insights.

  • The certification process should be called a certification and education process. Ongoing education upgrade opportunities allow coaches, instructors, and professionals to improve their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.

  • The most important part of the certification and education process is the CBOK.

  • The testing process must be reliable and valid in measuring the skills and knowledge of the applicants. It must also discriminate between the knowledge and skill levels of the applicants.

 

The tennis industry has been in the certification process for over fifty years. The USTA, USPTA, PTR, and ITA would better serve the industry by cooperatively adding more rigor to their certification programs, including all market segments of the sport, and increasing the opportunities for members to participate in meaningful certificate programs, short courses, workshops, or conferences.

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The most important part of the certification process is the CBOK. It impacts the certification process, recertification, testing, certificate programs, short courses, and workshops.

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