The desire to “Grow The Game” is a lofty goal because if you love tennis, you want to share your devotion to the sport with others. Coaches choose to spread enthusiasm, passion, understanding and experience because they recognize that knowledge is true power and education is empowering. If you love something, you set it free by sharing your passion to help others become ready, willing and able to take on the world.
Now, some organizations promise to promote and develop the growth of tennis. But somehow, they seem to always come back to self promotion in an endless loop of progressive and diverse promises to get us to "Let's Tennis" by supporting the most elite elements of the sport in a kind of trickle down Laffer Curve approach to growth. Supply side tennis economics don't work however because even if we bring people into the sport, the challenge is keeping them playing by focusing on the quality of their experience.
Not everyone over promises and under serves, however, which brings me to the Advanced Tennis Foundation, a Facebook group that seeks to grow the sport at a local level by sharing information and ideas from 4,000 (and growing) of the best, brightest and most passionate coaches from around the world. Yes, I know that Facebook is mostly evil but as Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." What I love about this group is that it's sole mission is empowerment through knowledge. The group is accountable to its mission because members participate with no other agenda other than to share articles and ideas because they love the sport and wish to take action to promote local growth.
The underlying philosophy of this group is that to build the tallest building you must start with the strongest foundation. Too often, starting tennis players are taught skills that are modified to such an extent that they must be unlearned and relearned to progress. The method that almost every coach that has had great success recognizes is to "start with the end in mind" as Stephen Covey explained in 7 Habits Of Highly Successful People.
This group has no dues other than the cost every passionate coach pays to learn and develop their craft to pay it forward to their students and, in this group, to other coaches.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggested that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. My guess is that this group brings well over 50 million hours of experience in one forum, yet maintains a fluid hierarchy system, because ideas are encouraged from all to provide insights that are unique, fresh and progressive. I promise your thoughts and ideas will be heard, debated, discussed, valued and will evolve to help you grow the game.
You always pay to play. The cost of joining the "Advanced Tennis Foundation” is an open mind with the desire to learn and share ideas to grow tennis.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.