USTA Eastern once again brought together all the pieces that make up the Section’s puzzle for a weekend as it hosted its annual Tennis Conference at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains, N.Y. this winter.
The Conference serves as the Section’s annual professional development gathering, where leaders and professionals in the tennis industry and join forced to learn about the state of tennis, both competitive and community-oriented, talk about new trends in the Section and provides a platform for innovative collaborations to be formed.
“One of the most important things about the conference is the amount of networking that occurs,” said Jenny Schnitzer, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer for USTA Eastern. “So many people are able to get together and share what’s working, what can be done to improve things and discuss how to get new people involved in the game.”
The Section brings in experts in their respective fields to discuss teaching techniques and methods. This year featured Mark Bey, USPTA Elite Professional, TV analyst and Assistant Coach of the Bryan Brothers; Emilio Sanchez Vicario, Co-Founder of the Academia Sanchez-Casal and former number one-ranked doubles player on the ATP Tour; and Craig Morris, General Manager of USTA Community Tennis.
There were sessions both on and off court to promote things like business development, competitive development and community development. One of the main initiatives discussed was getting tennis into local schools throughout the Section, something that USTA Eastern has put an emphasis on in recent years.
Beyond bringing tennis into the schools, the discussion focused on how to build on the next steps of it to create a pathway forward.
“We have been doing the schools program for a long time now, and it’s our number one initiative,” said Schnitzer. “We want to make sure that they have community partners in order to move forward, whether it’s a club, community tennis association or a local parks & recreation department. Once we get the schools program started, in a physical education class or after-school program, then these partners have the chance to get the kids to their facility, parks program or community tennis association. It’s all about developing that pathway for kids to get them to love tennis and stick with it.”
The discussions also circled around programs for young adults, to create some more leagues and events that combine competitive tennis with a social atmosphere, as well as continuing to grow the Junior Team Tennis leagues, which gained a great deal of traction in 2018.
The Junior Award Lunch and Adult Awards Dinner honored those who have had a positive impact both on and off the court in the Eastern Section. The Junior Award Lunch featured special guest speaker Jessica Long, an American Paralympic swimmer who spoke to the players about the obstacles she has overcome in her life, and even brought her Gold Medals.
With the Annual Conference in the books, it will be exciting to see what the tennis world in the Eastern Section brings and how the sport continues to grow in our community in 2019.