Beginning this year, tennis teaching certification and coach education will move into the largest change seen in the United States in over 10 years. The United States Tennis Association (USTA), the national governing body for the sport of tennis in America, has taken the reigns in creating a scaffolding of sport science-based parameters that each certification body must adhere to in order to receive accreditation from the USTA. The goal of this endeavor is to increase the standards of tennis delivery in this country.
Some years back, it was discovered that tennis coach education delivery in the U.S. was below the international norms (ITF, 2005). Upon recognizing this, the USTA decided to take action. This made for a precarious situation. You see, every other top 30 tennis nations in the world has their national governing body delivering the coaching education. One slight exception to this would be in the United Kingdom where the first three levels, of five, can be delivered by independent coach education companies. In doing so, they still need to follow strict parameters by the Lawn Tennis Association, or LTA, which is the national governing body in the U.K. Every other leading tennis nation takes responsibility to deliver the entire coach education curriculum.
Currently in the U.S., the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) have both been accredited by the USTA to deliver tennis professional certification. Theses mainstream trade organizations have already begun to restructure themselves to fit the parameters given by the USTA. The USTA has decided upon four levels of certification. Theses labels are:
►Level 1 or Instructor
►Level 2 or Professional
►Level 3 or Specialist
►Level 4 or Master
This is similar to how the other top 30 tennis nations around the world create their systems. The idea that there is a universal system of levels helps distinguish tennis instructors, professionals, and coaches apart from those that peruse more detailed understanding of tennis player development, or the applied business side of the tennis industry.
These changes are slated to go into effect in June 2021, yet one can already see how they are adapting to the upcoming changes. The PTR, for instance, has already redesigned their certification levels into the four above mentioned levels, and the USPTA will roll out their version by the summer. The USPTA is beginning the process of encouraging those members who are recreational coaches to upgrade and will become certified tennis instructors. In order to do this, they must follow the parameters set forth by the USPTA, including taking a Teaching Essentials 1 course. Similarly, those who are currently PTR “Professionals,” which is the current Level 1 certified instructors, are encouraged to upgrade to a Level 2 Professional. They can do so by completing their First-Aid requirements, a physical development course and an online exam.
In all, the contemporary changes that we are seeing in the U.S. tennis provider certification process are a positive movement towards enhancing the sport that we love. These changes will raise the standards of tennis delivery across the U.S., and will also allow for uniformity in how instruction is delivered via evidence-based, sport science principles that help accelerate the skill of the learner and improve the quality of play nationwide. It will also allow American coaches to be recognized internationally, something that currently is not seen.
In closing, the idea that the rising tide lifts all ships is a good metaphor for the coming wave of change in coach education in the United States. The USTA, in conjunction with the USPTA and the PTR, will help create higher standards in our industry while helping the individual tennis provider reach a higher skill level of tennis delivery.
Jason Joseph is a Level 4 Master Performance coach and a Level 4 Junior Development coach through the PTR. He also has performance coaching certification that is recognized by the USTA and Tennis Canada. Jason currently serves on the USPTA Eastern Board of Directors as the Education Chairman.