2021 USPTA WORLD CONFERENCE
Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
September 19-23, 2021
WORLD CONFERENCE DELIVERED WORLD-CLASS CONTENT FOR USPTA MEMBERS
After last year's very good virtual conference, I expected nothing but excellence for the first in-person event after the pandemic. John Embree and his staff did not disappoint. From the very well-organized registration to the presentations and the trade show, everything flowed easily and made sense. To be honest, the only reason for criticism for me was the frigging icebox Westgate Resort & Casino. The A/C went full blast throughout the property and I was cold even with my room's A/C turned off. The long-sleeve conference shirt came very handy. Thank you!
One other thing I had noticed: Participants seemed slightly younger in age compared to previous years. Maybe USPTA efforts to attract younger tennis players into the fold are working? Time will tell.
I was only able to attend the entire Monday and half of Tuesday. Below are a short summary and some photos. Hope they give you a good impression of this excellent event.
Jim Loehr mesmerized the crowd
Dr. Jim Loehr needs no introduction. He believes the single most important factor in successful achievement, personal fulfillment, and life satisfaction is the strength of one's character. His presentation "Coaches and Teachers as Sherpas" was all about leading with character. Helping players scale the mountains of tennis and life is what you're all should be doing day in and day out. He was challenging everyone with the question "at the end of your life, how are you likely to be remembered?"
Jim Loehr showed the packed room one more time with profound knowledge why he is so popular in the tennis space and I found his presentation at times quite moving.
The Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the USTA in Orlando did the ballroom on-court presentation of "Strength & Conditioning for Players of all Levels." he conveyed the message that tennis is known as a sport that requires many physical skills and superb physical conditioning. His session covered tennis-specific strength&conditioning exercises and drills for players of all levels. Great presentation from a guy who knows his stuff!
The Guru of Cardio Tennis finds packed rooms wherever she goes. Cardio is her calling and enthusing the crowds is her passion.
Michele says that the games segment of any workout is a fan favorite and it is what separates Cardio Tennis from any other group fitness class. Her clinic demonstrated signature games, Cardio Blasts, use of the agility ladder. (And it showed that Bill Riddle is in really good shape AND can hit a tennis ball!)
Incidentally, Michele has created the "Cardio Tennis Instructor Network" which she calls the "Global education source for Cardio Tennis education and programming."
When it comes to packing rooms, there is no one better than the man behind "Brain Games Tennis." It was standing room only when I joined and people were eagerly listening and taking notes. Craig's on-court demonstration included two players compete in a "live' practice setting. He says that coaching during practice sets has always been a critical component of his coaching through the years.
As expected, Craig dazzled the crowd with numbers because what would a strategic analyst for the ATP Tour, Wimbledon, and the New York Times be without eye-opening statistics?
One of my favorite sessions was about Pickleball. Karen Schott (here with John Embree), Director of Tennis at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, spoke about "The Pickleball Reality" and a lot of very interested tennis pros listened very carefully.
After explaining everything a tennis facility needs to know about starting and running a Pickleball program, she hammered home one important message for all in the room: "If you don't learn how to teach Pickleball and incorporate it into your programs, you will be out of a job in 2-3 years!" Let that sink in, folks. I happen to believe that to be true.
We saw an interesting mix of tennis personalities winning 2021 awards.
2020 USPTA Award Winners – Final Results
Presented at the 2021 USPTA World Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada - Wednesday, September 22, 2021
High School Coach of the Year
Ryan Knarr (Middle States)
College Coach of the Year
Jimmy Borendame (Southern)
Touring Coach of the Year
Lucas Regas Melero (Florida)
Manager of the Year Small Facility
Brian Darlak (Mid-Atlantic)
Manager of the Year Large Facility
Hunter Gallaway (N. California)
USPTA Elevate Award
Ryan Johnson (Southwest)
Lessons for Life Award
Kevin Pope (Northern California)
USPTA Star Award
Rita Gladstone (Florida)
Caitlyn Sagraves (Missouri Valley)
USPTA Diversity Award Christine Macur (Middle States)
USPTA Industry Excellent Award
Peter Dauphinee (N. California)
2020 Top Education Credit Winner
Michael Friedman (Midwest)
National Tester of the Year
Mark Centrella (Middle States)
USTA/USPTA Comm. Service AwardAmanda Shaw (Texas)
President’s Paul Waldman Award
Carol Anderson (Midwest)
George Bacso Lifetime Achievement Award
Ken DeHart (Northern California)
Alex Gordon Prof. of the Year
Lane Evans (Missouri Valley)
Hall of Fame Award
John Wilkerson (Texas)
Trish Faulkner (Florida)
Stan Smith (Southern)
Bruce Gullikson (Northern)
Scott Mitchell (Florida)
It was good to see Steve Keller at the conference. I keep admiring the unbreakable enthusiasm of that man for the sport while working for an organization (USTA) that isn't exactly known to encourage enthusiasm and excitement. Good for him. Bringing new coaches into tennis and educating them is a very noble and worthwhile job. Providing resources for "elevating national standards" is certainly needed and appreciated.
Another enthusiastic guy is Mark Leschly. Universal Tennis happens to be the “Official Club Software and Rating System of the USPTA.” I wonder how that relationship will continue once the USTA has fully implemented a functioning World Tennis Number which may put the USPTA under pressure to follow suit. My best guess, not for another 3-4 years. Talking with Mark gives you a great insight into the future of tennis the way he envisions it for his company. I am, of course, interested in exploring how my new company, CONGA TENNIS can utilize the amazing infrastructure Universal Tennis is already providing today. We'll be exploring their league and tournament technology very soon.
Steve Pratt and Doug Thompson, co-owners of PR-company Racquet Wire, were roaming the hallways of the convention, making connections and renewing relationships. I like their mission: "RacquetWire promotes the business of racquet and paddle sports with seamless delivery of relevant, timely content (copy, photos, video) to the top media outlets and influencers for turnkey broadcast, internet, and print usage worldwide." Nice! Much needed service in my opinion.
HEAD Penn Racquet Sports National Ad Staff Meeting. As the longest-running advertiser in TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS, I just had to join their meeting and learn about all the successes they had in the past 12 months. National Sales Manager Joe Keenan reported that shipments of racquet units were up 40.5%, ball units 8.8%. The Key is retention. "How do we keep the people we picked up last year?" All those recent successes are a little overshadowed by the current supply chain challenges. "Demand is exceeding supply." The industry is facing two real problems right now.
1. Shipments from Asia are still delayed because of the pandemic in that area and because of a real shortage of empty shipping containers. Many of the full containers are sitting on ships that can't be unloaded for various reasons. Just off the coast of Los Angeles, they are counting 65 large ships with 10s of thousands of containers that can't get into port. There are your tennis balls, SoCal!
2. Supply chain problems have made shipping containers with freight extremely expensive. One forty-foot container, for instance, can hold 2,000 cases of balls which used to cost $4,000 to ship from Asia to the U.S. That price is currently at $30,000 and could rise even more.
HEAD's Western Regional Sales Manager Erik Lange reported about products and technology. The new frame construction AUXETIC is supposed to enhance the impact feel of a racquet. In November, HEAD will introduce a new racquet silo called "Boom" which is a little more on the power side of hitting balls. "Even a mishit feels great!" The racquets have a slightly wider beamwidth and come in models Pro, MP, Team, and Team L.
Erik was also talking about the Speed coming with AUXETIC, new insoles for shoes, and the newly constructed REVOLT Pro 4.0 shoe.
Penn Sr. Business Manager Jeff Ratkovich made quite an impression telling us that Pro Penn is now the no. 1 preferred ball in the U.S. The year 2021 "is on pace to break all records." Makes me feel good because we'll be using a boatload of tennis balls next year and in the years to come.
A crowded trade show floor and a big selection of products and services is not only a good sign for a convention but also for the industry. It was good seeing all those tennis industry vendors coming together and showing us what's new. Since the trade shows have always been my favorite parts of any convention, I took advantage and talked to a lot of them. Here are just the ones that stuck in my mind as noteworthy.
Much has been written about CourtReserve, the "all-in-one court reservation & club management platform that helps you run your club with ease and confidence" in our newsletter. In fact, they are sponsors of our content. It was a pleasure to finally meet the couple behind the company: Ashley and Tim Ownes.
CourtReserve's new Book A Pro feature allows independent coaches and instructors to now have a Mobile app that:
*Allows students to sign up directly for lessons
*Manage programming, registration, and classes
Check it Out
For all of you who attended the conference and want to see what Ashley and Tim look like with and without face masks, check out the photos below.
Charly Ruddy is one of the greatest innovators in our industry. He and his team took Foundation Tennis to over 1 million users before they were acquired by Slinger Bag a few months ago. (See our report in July) In June of last year, we reported about the extraordinary "Play Safe Solutions" Foundation Tennis offered facilities during Covid. Slinger's vision is to become THE connected sports company and Charlie Ruddy's app gets them there covering tennis club and facility administration and "encompassing highly functional user and CRM experiences." The Foundation Tennis business services include operational and payments software as well as digital platform management (website design, hosting, iOS, and Android apps). Real interesting. I bet we'll hear a lot from Foundation Tennis (and from Slinger) in the future.
We spoke with Thanks USA Director of Sports Initiatives Jean Pletchette in February. In case you're not familiar with them, their mission is "Providing need-based college, technical and vocational school scholarships and pathways to employment for children and spouses of our troops."
In 2012, ThanksUSA and the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) teamed up to encourage tennis professionals and enthusiasts nationwide to raise funds to benefit military families through the Tennis Thanks the Troops campaign. After nearly 10 years, the USPTA has recommitted to assist ThanksUSA in their mission to say ‘thanks’ to our service members and their families – by helping to close the financial gap for thousands of military spouses and kids seeking higher education and meaningful careers.
Jean sent me this ad and said, "We are grateful for the continued partnership with the USPTA and all the tennis professionals who have advanced these efforts to support military families nationwide." (Click on the ad if you're interested in helping them)
Jean added, "Please plan to join us on December 11-12, 2021 at the USTA National Campus for an unforgettable event to support military families." One of the celebrities at that event: Frances Tiafoe! Here's the link.
I had to applaud Kathy Myers, USTA Technical Services Manager out of Orlando for being brave enough and represent Serve Tennis at an event for tennis professionals. We just haven't heard much positive news about that tennis program lately. To make matters worse, the trade show featured tennis management software that actually works and is being embraced by thousands of professionals, such as CourtReserve and Foundation Tennis. But Kathy was pretty upbeat and showed that she knows her stuff. Good for her. I think the upper management USTA types could learn a little about enthusiasm from Kathy.
The CEO of GAME (Genuine American Merchandise & Equipment) Joel Joseph, thinks La Jolla, California is the tennis capital of the world. I guess he has never heard of Irvine, Palm Desert, or the REAL tennis hotbed Atlanta, Georgia. But that's OK. I've been to La Jolla many times and know about the great tennis folks there.
GAME prides itself on selling products that are "always Made in the USA." Since I try to support U.S. manufacturers wherever I can, I took an interest and found some nice tennis items. Like the "Tennis Wellbow" kit, three specially designed tension bands to strengthen your elbow tendons. Or Good Vibe™ a triangular-shaped, large vibration dampener. I intend to try both out very soon.
RIA Eyewear sunglasses are easily the coolest new shades in my humble opinion. Made by tennis guys for tennis folks. Positioned very well price-wise ($189) they ship from San Diego. I think I need to pay them a visit. (I never really need a reason to drive down to San Diego, haha)
RIA Eyewear is changing the way tennis players see the game with the introduction of RIA ONE. Developed in collaboration with world-renowned lens maker Carl Zeiss, the Cobalt Blue Mirror HD+ lens (housed in the RIA ONE frame) was built specifically to enhance contrast of the yellow ball against the surrounding court background. This shield-style lens provides 100% UV protection and a full range of coverage to protect against those harmful UV rays. For overcast or low light conditions, RIA Eyewear also offers a Clear HD+ and Hybrid Orange HD+ lens that can be swapped into the interchangeable RIA ONE frame. This frame is feathery light, weighing under 1 oz, and is handmade in Italy.
JMC Lighting Founder Joshua Conlin needed just one block of LEDs to showcase what his company is all about: LED Lighting Done Right! They are an LED lighting company specializing in tennis courts serving: California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Impressive: Joshua has installed lighting at 94 Country Clubs, Tennis Clubs, Universities, and Private Courts including 6 ATP/WTA and ITF Men’s and Women’s Professional Tennis Tournaments. Nice.
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