The New & Improved USPTA Specialist Degree in Tennis Fitness

Lane Evans, USPTA Elite Professional

I’ve never liked the term “think outside the box.” It’s a little broad for my liking. I need a little more structure and organization. In my 40 years of teaching tennis, 30 of them as a USPTA professional, I have seen much change. With a little luck, I will become a Master Professional next year. Aside from my kids, my relationship with tennis is probably the longest one I’ve ever had. However, like many relationships, it’s had twists and turns, good and bad, over the years. Relationships are like that and they always will be. Change is a good thing. No matter how hard we fight it, it will always be there.

Our game has changed, too. Tennis athletes, both men and women, are bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful than ever before. This trend isn’t going away any time soon. Sports instruction and training in general have become very complicated and now require different skillsets. Tennis-specific fitness is a relatively new concept that keeps growing by the day. The iTPA, TPI and RacquetFit have shown us unique ways to train athletes in many different sports, including tennis. It’s now up to tennis professionals to absorb this new information and use it to build their tennis athletes.

Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed with the vision and ability to reinvent myself as my work environment has changed. As the industry changed, I became a certified fitness trainer, a specialist in senior fitness and exercise therapy, strength and conditioning, as well as tennis and golf performance.

As chairman of the USPTA National Fitness & Wellness Committee, I’ve worked to emphasize to tennis professionals the importance of tennis fitness, even pushing them to get certified in tennis fitness where applicable. I built my tennis program at Champion Hills Club in North Carolina around fitness. I had seniors who hadn’t played tennis in years. I needed them to get to a reasonable level and without pain. It was a long and arduous process, but we did it.

To teach professionals about fitness, the USPTA offers a Specialist Degree in Sports Science. However, the degree was terribly outdated. Its resources were out of print and no longer available. So with the USPTA National Fitness & Wellness Committee Dream Team of Dr. Nick DiNubile, Dr. Stephan Esser, Christy Bennett, Josh Jorgensen, Kevin Theos, Jason Kinder, Alex Shusis and myself, we set out to re-write the degree.

First, we removed the term “Sports Science.” It just didn’t seem to fit. We are not scientists. We are tennis professionals. The new and updated degree covers a variety of tennis-specific fitness areas such as training, rest and recovery, nutrition, tennis injuries and injury prevention, tennis-specific fitness terms, reading and video assignments and situational case studies and analysis.

I’ll be the first to tell you, this degree is not for the weak. This degree is tough, but well worth the work. When you are finished, you will have valuable knowledge that will certainly give you a “leg up” in this area of your coaching. The degree isn’t an “end all,” but rather an important educational step towards your future as a tennis professional.

The USPTA National Education staff reviewed the content, made a few changes and is now formatting the revised curriculum for online use. We hope to have it out very soon.

Until then, please continue including tennis fitness in your state and division newsletter articles and convention presentations. It will become more important as we move our game forward and hand it down to the next generation of tennis professionals. If you have questions regarding the new Specialist Degree in Tennis Fitness, please direct them to: Lane Evans,
Lane Evans is an incoming USPTA National Board Member and is the chairman of the USPTA National Sports Science Committee. He also serves as director of tennis & wellness at Champion Hills Country Club in Hendersonville, N.C. He is a USPTA Elite Professional and has been a member for 30 years.

Proper fitness is key to enjoying tennis in later years.