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1.      Why were the $5.00 incentive payments discontinued for USA Tennis 1-2-3?

After four years of experience, it was clear from the data collected that although hundreds of thousands of young players had been introduced to tennis and participated in USA Tennis 1-2-3, a relatively small percentage of them had continued on to the next USA Tennis Pathway program which is USA Team Tennis. 

Since there is a limit to the amount of incentive payments that can be made, it was decided that it would be more effective to both recruit and retain young players if more emphasis was placed on USA Team Tennis and the incentive money used for that program.

Evidence from many sources continues to reinforce the belief that kids are attracted to “playing the game” as soon as possible, practicing with friends and having fun.  USA Team Tennis addresses all of these needs.

2.      What should tennis facilities do that were counting on receiving the incentive money for USA Tennis 1-2-3?

The $5.00 incentive was always intended as an extra bonus for the instructor or coach rather than as payment for work. User fees should cover the expenses of the coach’s payment, equipment, court rental and promotional items.

It is important to realize that USA Tennis 1-2-3 incentives were offered only ONCE in a lifetime for new or returning players.  The USA Team Tennis incentives for youth can be collected for each season of play up to three times in one year!  In addition, young players who return year after year are eligible for the incentive payment in succeeding years.  Therefore, it makes good sense for a facility to take aggressive steps to promote and build USA Team Tennis (Youth) and place emphasis on getting kids to "play” tennis on a team as soon as possible.

3.      What materials are available to help run a successful USA Team Tennis Program?

The United States Tennis Association has materials available through your state office that will aid in starting up and running a successful USA Team Tennis Program. The materials that will be most helpful to you are listed below.

  • Coaching Youth Tennis, 3rd edition - This book provides you with a step-by-step guide to coaching both practices and matches. Coaching Youth Tennis prepares you to be a better communicator, provides you with player safety information, gives you the latest and most effective method for teaching tactics and skills which is referred to as the “Games Approach,” as well as shaping the skills and correcting the errors of your athletes. This book also gives you plans to guide you throughout your season for all three divisions: Red, White and Blue.
  • Ralleyball Format Manual – This facility procedure manual will guide you through all of the steps needed to run a successful USA Team Tennis program for ages 6-12. This manual tackles both the administrative end of the program as well as the coaching end. It gives you a step-by-step guide on starting the program, making flyers, registration needs, staffing requirements, plans to get parents involved with the program and more. With regards to the coaching aspect, this manual provides diagrams and full descriptions on how the kids should flow on and off the court, what skills they should be developing, how you can best feed the balls to the kids and keep everyone involved.
  • Ralleyball Video – This video is 8 minutes in length and provides a visual look at the Ralleyball format. This video should be used along with the Ralleyball manual.
  • Games Approach Video - This video will showcase the Games Approach. (available January 2002)
  • USA Team Tennis Youth Program Guide – This is a folder full of national standards for the program, recommended formats, sample round robins, league coordinator duties, insurance information, and a description of each division within the USA Team Tennis program. This is a very helpful guide in giving you a brief overview of the program.
  • USA Tennis 1-2-3 Curriculum Guide for Kids – This is an additional resource that provides excellent instruction on tennis skills for new youth players. The book includes detailed drills and games for young kids, and can be a helpful guide for planning team practices. 

4.      How do I convert my USA Tennis 1-2-3 program to USA Team Tennis (Youth)?

The conversion of USA Tennis 1-2-3 to USA Team Tennis can be a simple process. The USTA is not asking you to discontinue your skills program, but rather asking that you place more emphasis on the “play” component. An example for existing programs may be to keep intact the lesson component and add on the play component. Another example is to use the practice and play formats provided in the “Coaching Youth Tennis” book, developed for, and endorsed by USA Team Tennis (Youth).

USA Team Tennis requires that a league consist of a minimum 6-week season with 45-90 minutes of practice. Most programs presently are either that length of time or longer. One solution is to keep the existing USA Tennis 1-2-3 program as the practice/skill session and then add another day in the week as the play/match day. This system allows players to get the necessary practice/skills, match/game play to improve their level of play and keep their interest in the game.

This is also true for after school programs. Add a match play opportunity in combination with the skill development provided by USA Tennis 1-2-3.  For example, half of the time can be devoted to team practices and the other half can be dedicated for team matches.

Like other sports after school programs, children should be encouraged to sign up to be included on a tennis team.  Publicize that it will include skill development for inexperienced players and also match play in teams.  This will encourage additional participation because children will recruit friends to be part of their team. Very few players ever developed a love for the game by taking lessons, but plenty have by playing and trying to get better each time on the court.

5.      How can kids play USA Team Tennis with little or no tennis experience?

If children don’t have tennis skills, they can still be on a team and learn in the practice sessions and during the team play.  Most other youth sports have similar points of entry.  Many high school coaches indicate that students simply sign up to be on the team.  The important point to remember is that USA Team Tennis includes both practice sessions where children can learn and practice basic skills along with the opportunity to play matches.

6.      How can I do USA Team Tennis without any transportation?

If you have courts or even modified courts, you can conduct practices and matches on site.  Groups can be divided into teams that compete at the same site.  There is no need to travel to another location.

7.      How can I do USA Team Tennis without enough qualified coaches?

Most youth sports rely heavily on volunteer coaches.  Baseball and soccer have flourished using parents, grandparents and interested adults.  High school players could be excellent coaches and role models.  Once recruited, training is essential.  The USTA provides books and videotapes for teaching skills to groups and conducting team practices.  The USTA also offers 6, 12 or 18 hour Development Coaches’ Workshops that are specifically designed for coaches working with players at the developing stages.

8.     At some facilities, especially neighborhood parks, courts are limited.  Large group teaching on one or two courts has been the norm and the logistics of offering USA Team Tennis are challenging. How can we handle large groups and still emphasize “play?”

For children ages 6-12, the recommended Ralleyball format is an ideal way to handle large numbers of players.  The minimum number of players is six per team, although eight players per team works well also.  Players rotate in and out of the game in pairs and no one waits long to play.  Practices can include typical learning situations that allow everyone to work on skills at the same time, particularly if short courts are used. 

For older players, use of space may be more challenging.  The secret is to rotate players in and out of activity after short intervals and involve them all in match play as players, scorekeepers, fans, etc.  During practice, it is easier to accommodate more players per court by following the principles of large group teaching which are presented by USTA in clinics, workshops and written materials.

9.      My local program does not fit within the required national standards for qualification for a USA Team Tennis (Youth) league and incentives. How can my program qualify for the incentive?

National Standards

  • Leagues must be named and promoted as USA Team Tennis.
  • Leagues must have a minimum of four teams, and each team must consist of a minimum of six players.
  • Leagues must have a minimum of a 6-week season with 45-90 minutes of practice focusing on skill development and one match play per week.

One suggestion to assist a smaller program to meet the national standards is to combine your program with another local program to meet the match/play requirement. The two programs can run the skills/practice session separately and then come together one day of the week to play the team matches. This gives players the opportunity to play with others outside their own group. Playing against different players usually increases the interest, fun and level of play. 

10.  What can we do if our local league is having difficulty meeting the requirements of USA Team Tennis?

If your local community is having difficulty meeting any of the USA Team Tennis requirements such as; length of a season, minimum number of participants, or minimum number of teams in a league, please contact your SCTA USA Team Tennis Coordinator (Brad Watkins for Youth programs or Alicia von Lossberg for Adult programs at 800-644-7282) for assistance. They will be able to help you meet certain requirements by sharing creative solutions used by other communities.