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Butch Staples Leads 10 and Under Workshop in Greenville

Jonathon Braden | SCTennis.com

GREENVILLE, S.C. – A prominent tennis instructor told a group of tennis pros Wednesday that to get kids more enthused about tennis, they should do less of what they’re paid to do: teach during practice.

Butch Staples’ advice might sound crazy, he said, but it works.

Butch Staples

Rather than pontificating and constantly running kids through drills, Staples said pros and coaches should rely on the environments they’ve created at their lessons to help kids learn how to play tennis.

If the pros’ sessions promote competition and fun, he said, kids will practice their footwork and master their forehand without even knowing they’re doing so.

Kids’ skills also will benefit more quickly, he said, “if we create an environment where we don’t teach too much.”

Staples shared the message with about 50 instructors and Jr. Team Tennis volunteers at the USTA South Carolina 10 and Under Tennis teaching workshop. The workshop, held at the Sportsclub indoor bubble, was free to attend. Participants came from as close as Greenville and from as far away as Daniel Island.

The high attendance at the workshop impressed even Staples, who has taught tennis around the country for decades.

“Six years ago, we could have done this and gotten 10 people,” said Staples, who currently is one of the owners of the Tennisclub of the Low Country at Rose Hill in Bluffton, S.C.

He equated a larger group with more momentum for the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis program. The initiative helps kids enjoy tennis while learning the game. Kids play on shorter courts, use smaller and lighter racquets and hit slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls than they did years ago.

Staples also told the participants about how he typically runs his lessons. He tries to have kids hitting the ball as much as possible; he never teaches the same skills in the same order; and he’s always experimenting with new ideas or new games that could help kids learn.

“There’s no absolutes in this game,” he said. “It’s all about finding ways to help our students learn.”

Before his current job in South Carolina, Staples was the head tennis professional at the Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago. He also has worked as the director of tennis at the Athletic Club at Weston in Weston, Fla., and he spent seven years as the director of special projects for Van der Meer Tennis.

These days, in addition to helping run the Bluffton club, Staples also frequently travels the country teaching pros and volunteers how to best teach 10 and Under Tennis. Next week, he is scheduled to help lead such a workshop for the USTA in Chicago.

Nancy Powell has attended dozens of workshops during her more than two decades of teaching tennis. But Powell, a tennis pro at the Lexington County Tennis Complex, still gained something from Wednesday’s USTA training.

The workshop reminded her to occasionally shrink the court when working with kids to help them practice their accuracy, she said. She came to the training to hear Staples speak.

“He makes you get excited about working with kids,” she said. “He gives you such insight.”

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