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ADDvantage magazine
The One Thing
by Bill Mountford, USPTA Vice President
The single most important matter facing the USPTA, as a trade association, is the provisional accreditation agreement with the USTA. It will, theoretically, affect both the quality and quantity of our membership base. Expectations are that ultimately, it will have a significant impact on the viability of tennis jobs in this country. For now, however, any deal is merely “provisional.” There is much to formalize.

The USPTA is the leading trade association for coaches and teaching professionals. However, this approval and this entire partnership, is conditional and “provisional.” Crucially, if the details of the terms do not ultimately suit the needs of the USPTA which exists as a trade association, then there can be no deal.

Given the ambition of fulfilling this ideal of a unified accreditation scheme, it will not succeed without the USPTA’s full support. In full disclosure, I write this as both a former USTA employee (two happy “tours of duty” during my career) and a current USPTA board member, but my opinion has remained virtually the same since the notion of this project began over two years ago. This creates the rare scenario where the USTA may actually need the USPTA far more than the other way around. Imagine that!

During this process there have been general promises inferred and suggested by the USTA. While this stands as a transformational time for the USPTA, it could also prove to be just an exploration into the unknown if the specific terms are not deemed mutually beneficial. That is what the national board must grapple with carefully.   

What happens if the USPTA chooses to not pursue a permanent agreement about becoming the accrediting body which supports the USTA’s expectations regarding entry standards for our profession or the continuing education that will become required? Well, the USTA may be forced to create a new path without budgeted resources, with limited staffing in this area, and with a relatively minor network.

The previous paragraphs are not meant as a threat to the USTA. Of course I want this ideal to succeed. The USPTA has complied with all of the mutually agreed upon deadlines that the USTA established over these past few years. USPTA has held firm regarding updated educational expectations for both new applicants and our current membership. This was risky, and took some real conviction by the prior term’s board of directors. During this process, USPTA willingly lost a significant number of dues-paying members to both the more stringent entry guidelines and the newly required continuing education mandate. That, fellow members, is definitely “skin in the game.”

Most agree that elevating the standards includes additional required education and being mentored prior to certification. Assessing this “cost” to the USPTA – whether in lagging retention numbers or with the reduced influx of new members due to a soaring barrier to entry, is fundamental to our negotiation. The USTA could choose to agree that coaches and teaching pros truly are our sport’s most important resource for promoting and developing the growth of tennis. Of course, if we are in agreement, then the USTA will allocate enough financial support to make this a new reality. If we do not agree, then this deal – this ideal, really – will fail. USPTA, in effect, will be informed that both parties do not feel similarly about the fundamental importance to elevating the standards for coaching and teaching professionals in this country. It takes two, you know.

So, yes, this is The One Thing that USPTA members – and especially leadership – all must pay close attention to during the coming months; everything else is just details.