| By Richard Thater

Most New York tennis players are familiar with the two most popular tennis-teaching organizations: The PTR (Professional Tennis Registry) and the USPTA (Professional Tennis Association). They both offer workshops and testing to become certified tennis teachers. Each organization has about 15,000 members.

Does one need this certification to be a good tennis instructor? Not necessarily. I have overheard coaches complaining that these are nothing but schemes to get people’s money.

So why join? Testing for certification and continuing membership in these organizations is an easy way to evolve and develop as a teacher.

PTR Executive Director Dan Santorum editorialized in the recent issue of Tennis Pro magazine that “Continuing education is the most valuable benefit we can provide.” He continues saying that “education ensures that you can do your job more proficiently, responsibly and effectively … it leads to success and upward mobility in your chosen profession.”

USPTA Vice President Alan Cutler echoes these thoughts when writing in Tennis Industry magazine that “Becoming a lifelong learner has been identified as one of the habits of effective people.”

And he reminds us that “Lifelong learning is part of growing as a person, as well as a professional.”

Both organizations teach the basic skills of tennis—Grips, spin, point of contact, footwork, forehand, backhand, serve, etc. During testing, you are required to spot errors and make corrections, whether on court or online. You are usually required to teach either a group or an individual lesson.

There are teachers who have their own very unique and eccentric way of explaining what goes on when you pick up a racket to hit a ball. We have all known coaches who insist on teaching their correct way of hitting the ball and playing the game, only to see their theories discredited 18 months down the road.

But teacher certification and testing is not like a creative writing course—originality does not count. I have been certified as a NYS EMT, an American Heart Association CPR Instructor and PTR professional. Creativity is not rewarded when testing for a certification.

The PTR is the only tennis organization with external accreditation for its educational programs. The National Council for the Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE) accredits the programs listed below :

►10 & Under Certification Workshop

11-17 Certification Workshop

Performance Certification Workshop

Master of Tennis–Junior Development

Master of Tennis–Performance

The USPTA approach is more traditional in that they offer only one certification program. Their training workshop and test both focus on tennis basics applicable to all ages.

If you are a teacher looking to make a commitment to tennis, and your career, you will not go wrong joining either organization. If you are looking to specialize in a specific age group the PTR offers a wider range of choices. If you are very ambitious you might join both organizations. According to PTR Director of Education Steve Keller, roughly 10 percent of certified tennis teachers belong to both the PTR and the USPTA, and your pay will often be based on your level of certification.

If you are a student looking for a tennis teacher, I would choose one from the Web site of either organization. Current certification guarantees that a teacher has kept up with advances in tennis education. Many coaches took their certification program years ago, and have allowed their memberships and certifications to lapse. Keller told me he receives many phone calls about teachers fraudulently claiming to be certified. PTR does follow up, since their published Code of  Ethics prohibits implying false claims of membership, and unethical claims are unfair to paid up members.

In closing, I will admit to a prejudice against those who stretch their biographies by calling themselves pros. I am tempted to ask when I will be seeing them on the Tennis Channel. On my passport, I list my occupation as tennis teacher, which best describes what I do.

Tennis pros play tennis very well. Tennis teachers teach. Who do you want helping you with your game?