“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today.” ~ Confucius
USATennisCoach is planting a new tree for high school tennis! Introducing this new tree will create new fruit. The current landscape in tennis is that for over 20 years some of the large tennis organizations have said that ‘If we ever got full engagement in high school tennis, then…’, great things would happen. People have talked about planting the tree for 20 years! We are now setting out to succeed where others have failed. We are Bill Patton and Styrling Strother and between us we have over 50 years of tennis coaching experience, and 36 years of high school coaching. Independently, and 3,000 miles away we have developed similar systems for coaching. A chance meeting in 2013 brought us together, and USATennisCoach was planted as a LLC at the end of 2015. This organization was created by friendship, and will always continue in that vein.
Part of what has hindered efforts to help high school tennis, has been the mixed messages, and hidden motives of those doing it. Some seek only a larger member base, others want to create a stronger income stream for the private coach, others will help high school tennis until such time as it competes against club tennis for clientele. If they were to wake the sleeping giant, then they take the risk of having the giant take over the landscape.
Recently, I was told by a major stakeholder, ‘We are all trying to protect our little piece of the pie.’ Which would reflect a scarcity mindset. To that we say, “We are baking an entirely new pie from which all can eat.” Who can argue with that?
If you are with us, then you have an abundance and a growth mentality, if you are hindering us, we don’t know why, but we will push past that, continuing to make great friendships with all the stakeholders who want to see the best outcomes for high school tennis players. Those great outcomes will be fulfilling experiences of team play, as opposed to the lonely world of junior tournament tennis.
Our experiences as coaches are widely varied and the ‘winning’ has taken on different forms throughout the years. I can’t speak for Styrling at this moment, although his teams have been state champions, and regularly challenge for state championships, but I can speak to my own experiences that make me uniquely qualified to help almost any coach. During my career of 26 seasons at 7 different schools I have worked with:
* A middle of the road team that won its first title in 26 years.
* A last place team of boy’s that broke their 37 match losing streak.
* A last place girl’s team that broke their 71 match losing streak and then were featured on local TV.
* A team full of players who were USTA tournament players, but would lose in the first round of playoffs year after year. My first year we beat a #1 seed, second year we beat #2 and #1 in the same day to take the title.
* Two teams of entitled children who carried the attitude that their parents could get me fired.
* A socially economically disadvantaged school, where our girl won the first ever title in the 60 year history of the school.
* I have worked with only 3 courts, 4 courts, 6 courts and 8 full courts. I planned practice schedules for a wide variety of team sizes and facility issues.
The above accomplishments are meaningless, if we at USATennisCoach fail to serve you! The only way for us to move forward is with deep service to one another to partner in growing the sport at the team level.
Styrling has also the same types of experiences, and together we have a wide enough base of experience to speak to any coach. A major part of the breakdown between tennis professionals and high school tennis coaches is a disconnect from not understanding what actually happens in a program. We understand, and when we don’t initially understand, we listen until we do.
What sets USATennisCoach apart from any other coaching organization? First, we have a team coach focus. Why? Because teams are fun! When former little baseball players are asked about their fondest memories of the experience, it was the snack after the game with teammates. While our primary goal for the early years is to focus mainly on high school and college coaches in the U.S., we are ready to serve anyone running any kind of tennis team. Second, we have a mission and objectives that we make public, we strive to have the highest level of transparency in the industry. Why? Because putting your goals out there for people to see is scary. Third, we engage early and often with what you, the coach, want in your organization. Why? Because a great organization is built on trusting relationships, and not much else. Fourth, we are not politically correct, or seeking political capital, but we know that at some point we will have political capital when and only when we serve you so well, that we create an incredible value, for you! Why? Because in order to have trusting relationships, telling the truth is a big part of that. Finally, we believe in logic, Tennis is a sport, a sport is a form of a game, games are something you play, playing is supposed to be fun. We believe in the logic of fun and play. Truth be told we are playing around with having an organization. We are having fun and we want you to have fun with your tennis, in coaching, and as a part of our organization. Of course, we are very competitive people, so that will alway remain.
This week our content takes a one week shift to fully explain our mission and objectives here at USATennisCoach as we attempt to practice transformational leadership. Just prior to this blog moving in a very linear direction, essentially starting a manifesto for team coach, Styrling wrote a well regarded piece Transforming the Practice Court. While there are certainly some encouraging signs amongst young U.S. Tennis players, we believe that replacing the large group of adult baby boomer players will happen from this current crop of high school players, or the game will take a precipitous drop, and the milleniels play differently than the baby boomers.
This blog has been in the midst of developing a linear and logical progression of explaining why things need to be different, why every coach needs a well defined philosophy, then moving forward to guide its development. We then started to get into the specific issues and challenges that team coaches face in planning to achieve their objectives and goals. At the moment that I am writing this, I realize that next week we will focus on objectives and goals, because the measures of success are so much better when we have those written down. USATennisCoach, LLC has a well defined mission in tennis. Our unofficial motto is “Waking Up the Sleeping Giant of High School Tennis”.
The USATennisCoach Mission Statement:
“The USATennisCoach organization provides a systematic approach to performance team coaching, pathways to success and collaborative services for continual education. Our Coaches, Parents and Players strive to create an athlete centered culture. All members desire to maintain a strong reputation for integrity and FairPlay”
It’s amazing to me that some very large tennis organizations don’t necessarily manifest their objectives. Perhaps they have them, but we don’t often see the fruit of that. Perhaps the problem is that those objectives are not made public. At other times the objectives were created in a back boardroom or on a private telephone call, and what is created does not resonate with the rank and file. Creating objectives are essential to great goal setting, but they need to be the objectives that matter most. Inside the process the people that care, and the people who are being reached must have a voice, and all those voices need to be heard in the process. Listening to people with good ideas, and promoting highly trained competent people doesn’t always happen in tennis. Instead of hiring someone with the necessary skill sets, some of these orgs hire people with name recognition or how have paid their political dues. USATennisCoach strives to listen to anyone who has an idea, will put to work anyone with the drive, direction and likeminded focus to achieve the same ends.
Each objective in our organization must support the mission, or the organization should take a close look at the mission and consider making changes. Making the objectives public is like tight rope walking without a net. It’s a scary thing, so we are trying to be brave here. First, people might criticize the plan. Second, people might point out when goals are not achieved. We believe that in order to gain the necessary buy in from members and loyalty within the organization, we need to foster a transparent, collaborative environment. Recently we updated our mission statement when we realized that part of our message was not in it, so in a couple minutes we ironed that out. We welcome additions to the mission statement from any of our members. You don’t have to have been a professional player, coached a professional player, or served as the chair of a powerful committee. Just be sincere!
It has been truly amazing the level of support we have gained, and the great ideas, feedback, warnings, advice and some unwarranted criticism. We will take it all! We use what we can and take the rest under advisement, and all ideas and thoughts are welcome. We will be perfectly honest about whether your idea fits this organization. This is another attitude that sets us apart from other organizations. Realistically, we are not going to act on everyone’s idea, but we are listening and we will engage with you. All we ask is for a spirit of collegiality and mutual respect. Without those two things we have no relationship.
Our 2016 Objectives
1. To facilitate improvement of high school tennis coaches until they reach their full potential. Of course this is an ongoing task, but we want to aspire to helping everyone to be their best, just as we want to be our best for you.
Goal: In 2016 we will publish 3 book, create 3 video instructional series, conduct a webinar, and host a workshop.
Update: 2 books are ready, 2 video series are nearly complete, and we expect a webinar to take place this fall. Our workshop is October 1st, in Los Angeles and features many speakers, but our top speaker is Steve Johnson, Sr. Father of Steve Johnson fast rising American Star.
2. Provide support to empower coaches to take full ownership of their program. Sometimes coaches are caught in a bind because they lack the experience in tennis, or in coaching to be the authority when it comes to what to do in their program. You the coach must set the tone. We can help you discover which tone is best for you in your situation.
Goal: Offer solo and group mentorship and tutorship programs for professional growth. Bill will provide a free 20 minute phone consultation in regard to the state of your program. He has already done this for coaches in various states around the country. All we ask is that you join USATennisCoach at the Annual subscription rate of only $20.
Update: We have received numerous emails and phone calls, and respond quickly as seen below.
3. Constantly improve it’s offerings through interaction with it’s membership. We have received quite a bit of feedback as mentioned above. Feedback about books, articles, videos, etc. Some of those pieces of feedback have led to changes, and inspired further action.
If we receive no feedback, we assume that we are doing ok, and that people find some value in what we provide. We will strive to continue to improve what we do, until you are compelled to give us feedback. When we get a note of feedback for something that made a difference for you, then to us that is like a home run.
Goal: We will make a quarterly active request for feedback through surveys and direct questioning. We will do this formally and informally. We will also respond to each and every one, with few exceptions. We will not answer prank emails. Haha.
4. We provide relevant and valid testing to assist coaches to discover their best pathway to success. Most of the feedback regarding The Art of Coaching High School Tennis, 2nd Edition, is that its the most valid and relevant offering for the high school coach, and we believe that team coaches in other venues can also be helped by the principles contained. Our first certification level which is ready to go, is a 186 question multiple choice test. About 70% of the questions prove that you read the book. About 20% of the questions are a little tricky, because they give which one is NOT a good idea. 10% of the questions require a very subtle understanding, so that getting a A grade is not an easy thing to do. To pass, you simply need to have the book handy as its a take home test! You don’t have to be an expert yet to pass, but you will be closer to an expert when you do.
Our championship level will be much more detailed and require proof of expert knowledge of high performance coaching, we are gleaning resources from incredible organizations like the iTPA which is a tennis specific training eduction group mainly specializing in tennis fitness.
Goal: Offering 3 distinct professional certification levels: HS Coach, Championship, Mentor
Update: We are ready with our Team Coach Certification, and expect to be ready with Championship level prior to 2017. Mentor coaches will arise from the ranks of Championship coaches, and face an extensive vetting process to assure that mentor coaches have a high level of buy in to the mission and objectives of USATennisCoach. If they don’t, why would they want to mentor coach with us?
5. Provide timely communication to facilitate interaction with members for the sole purpose of developing their voice in the organization. Styrling and I have been impressed by true professionals who get back to you and us in 24 hours. We also know the incredible off putting feeling of being ignored by so-called leadership, who do not even show the courtesy of responding to a call or email on an important topic. In essence, our way of sticking it to the man, is to not be the man. We sincerely see ourselves as humble servants working alongside you the important coach in the trenches who has such a vital impact on the health our sport moving forward. Other organizations have known that High School Tennis is a vital piece long neglected, so then why have they done very little outside of one day workshops with no follow up? We are hear to serve you and we will answer the phone, return the call or email quickly. I take great pride in returning 70+% of all phone calls within the hour, and 99% of all calls within 24 hours. Forgive us if we are out of range, or off the grid, it won’t happen often, and we will give notice.
Goal: Leadership will respond to every call and email with 24 hours of receiving.
6. USATennisCoach will function as a private company to provide excellent coaching customer service. In early debates about whether to be a non-profit, or a for profit business there were a few reasons we thought it best to be for profit. A. We see a lot of abuse of non-profit status, with exorbitant salaries and conflicts of interest. B. We think it puts the onus on us to provide service that exceeds the money paid. C. We want to pay taxes and contribute to our nation’s well being. D. We don’t become beholden to a board of directors that could work to subvert the original mission of the organization. E. It allows us to form an Advisory Board of wise experienced coaches, and new energetic coaches with fresh ideas. We then can take their advice or leave it for another day. Ultimately, we think this will force us to serve you better, or you will take your coaching dollar elsewhere.
Goal: Collaborating with other professional tennis organizations.
Update: We have been in contact with the USTA, USPTA and PTR. We have received the warm hand of friendship from the PTR, and are waiting for more acknowledgment from the other two, but either way, we will soldier on leading the way toward full collaboration. The USPTA has said that they may work with us to market our organization, when we know what that looks like. See: We do not seek to become an arm or a wing of another organization, but a stand alone for the sake of Team Tennis Coaches, and at a price that does not preclude multiple memberships. We are not here to compete with any of the above, in fact we would love to see someone join our membership, then become a full fledged Tennis Professional, and gain great traction in their career, from first having been trained in team play.
We want you to join us! Annual Membership is $20 a year, plus $37 for certification. When you join, you get a copy of The Art of Coaching High School Tennis. There are other perks, but lets just start there.
On July 31st, there will be a one day sale of lifetime membership at $197, which is $200 off. With that you get every print book by Bill Patton, and your first certification free. At least a $450 value.