Larry is a USPTA , PTR pro, and long time USTA volunteer. He is the only person to have been President of two USTA Sections and four Districts. His accomplishments have been recognized by the USPTA, PTR, USTA, and TIA. He has worked in just about every area of tennis. Larry has coached all skill levels from red ball to touring professionals. His experience owning a club, running a foundation, working at a member-owned club, and running a public facility has given him the experience for his tennis articles and presentations. He is President of Larry’s Racquet.
Growing High School Tennis
By Larry Haugness
I hosted a USTA NET event in 2018 at a local high school where I volunteer my time with the team every so often. Having been an ITF and USTA National Open tournament director I figured I could handle this non-elimination event, but 6 pages of guidelines? I had a total of 19 kids sign up. I saw a high school coach there and asked why he didn’t send his players to play. He said since it was a USTA event it was a hassle for his players to sign up online, get a number to register, and jump through who knows what hoops so he didn’t ask his players to participate. To me the idea of a local low-stress tournament for high school age players just made sense.
I asked the coach of the team I was helping if I could get on the schedule to make a presentation at their regional high school meeting. At the meeting, I presented an idea for a Southwest Missouri High School Circuit. The idea was to host a short one-day event that had a pretty much open structure, with no gender or age divisions, depending totally on the discretion of the host coach. There would be paper entry forms to include the coach's name and contact info as well as the player's information. The entry fee was set at $10 per player. If the host coach wanted to give out awards that was up to them. All the money was theirs to do with as they saw fit. I offered to assist in running the event or advising in any way. I had three coaches interested and away we went. They sent me the dates for their events, along with their contact info. I made up the entry forms and sent them to the coaches so they could pass them out.
The first event had 21 players, which I thought was an okay start compared to the NET event the year before. Tuesday before the second event I received a panic call from the host coach saying she had about 50 players and what should she do? We talked about a couple of options and she ended up with a junior varsity division as well as varsity division. The third and last event also had two divisions, a girls division, and a boys division. All the coaches were thrilled that their kids got some match experience while playing in a fun and relatively relaxed atmosphere. They had no problems and asked to host again this summer.
At the end of last summer, we had 119 players with my total time investment under three hours! During that period, the USTA hosted five tournaments with a total of 69 participants.
This summer we lost one venue but replaced it within one week. We just finished our circuit that included social distancing without any issues. Players came from a radius of 65 miles, the longest drive was about 130 miles one way. We will be adding another venue next year. During this same amount of time, two months, the USTA hosted seven events throughout the district. They had a total of 91 players sign up. Our three events had a total of 151 players. This year my total time investment was a whopping one hour! How easy is it to grow tennis?