As I write this last message for 2019, I want to opine on two items: what just transpired at our World Conference in Las Vegas in late September and the urgency for compliance on the continuing education requirements for the current cycle, which ends on Dec. 31.
Most of you know that our stated mission is “to elevate the standards of tennis-teaching professionals and coaches” in the USA and around the world. In order to truly raise our professional knowledge and provide our clients a better experience on the court, each professional needs to make a commitment to learn by seeking educational opportunities that will improve their performance and enhance their clients’ experience when coming to our facilities. It would be impossible to do so without making a concerted effort to take online courses, to attend division and national conferences or participate in many local regional education offerings.
After 20 years with no educational requirements needed to maintain your membership in good standing, the national Board of Directors and Executive Committee implemented a modest requirement of 12 hours/6 credits over a three-year cycle that began in 2014. Failure to comply with this mandate by the end of December 2016 resulted in the suspension of over 660 members. There were many amongst you who did not believe we would stick to our guns and jettison members for not fulfilling this obligation. But, we did.
Here we are, coming up on the end of the second three-year education window. The following numbers are startling and should be taken very seriously: there were approximately 5,300 pros whose education cycle ends in a few weeks. The good news is that 58% of that total have crossed the finish line. Thank you to those who lived up to that responsibility.
But the reality is that almost 2,200 members have yet to comply with the education requirements, and 1,200 pros have no credits whatsoever during this three-year period. Just as we did in early 2017, we will suspend those who are delinquent beginning Jan. 1, 2020. They will not be allowed back into our Association until they have complied.
I don’t want to come off as a taskmaster, but the national Board of Directors and the Executive Committee have made it very clear as to the action that will be taken. If you are one of those professionals who have not made this a priority or who may have forgotten about this requirement, please take the time to get it done before Dec. 31. And if you know of colleagues that are lagging, please reach out to them. We don’t want to lose them and hopefully, they do not want to be without their USPTA certification.
On a more pleasant note, I could not have been more pleased with how our World Conference went in Las Vegas. We had our largest attendance since the last time we were in Las Vegas in 2006. Close to 1,000 people were registered, 65 unique vendors came to display their products and services at our Merchandise & Trade Show, and there were over 40 distinct educational sessions, plus two specialty courses. Candidly, I think this was the strongest lineup of speakers in my eight World Conferences since being in this role!
We sold out of the two IPTPA (pickleball) certifications that were held on the beginning weekend and our colleagues from RacquetFit held their level 1 certification on the final weekend with over 30 participants. Seven people took their certification exam along with one member who wanted to upgrade.
Naturally, we began the week by hosting our usual Board and Executive Committee meetings, dedicated to addressing the business of our Association. Two days later, we hosted our General Membership Meeting, which gave the rank-and-file member the chance to be updated on most important issues that we face and how we are performing.
But the real highlights of the week were the full day of female speakers on Tuesday and Andre Agassi’s appearance that preceded our Awards Lunch on Wednesday. To have the brightest women coaches presenting their learnings to professionals of all genders was impactful. We are committed to reaching out to diverse coaches who have a message to tell so that all our professionals can benefit from their perspective. Expect to see more of that in the future.
Andre’s take on coaching, his personal impressions of his mentors and the lessons that he has learned from those individuals was enlightening. Thanks to Mark Knowles, Tennis Channel commentator and tour veteran, for moderating this enjoyable session. And thanks to Todd Martin of the International Hall of Fame for making this special event happen.
Finally, our awards ceremony put a spotlight on the best that our Association has to offer. We recognized those individuals who have contributed so mightily to tennis and their communities, not only for this past year but over their entire careers. Congratulations to all the winners, including our latest inductees into our USPTA Hall of Fame, Frank Brennan and Dick Gould. As legendary coaches at Stanford and both long-time members of the USPTA who started their careers as tennis-teaching professionals in the USPTA, they took their rightful place with other icons in the coaching and tennis-teaching world.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the untiring efforts of our entire staff who made the week the success that it was. We began the planning process of this extravaganza nine months ago; it takes that long to make sure that every detail is thought through and executed, much of which is done behind the scenes and with little fanfare. We had 16 people on-site working morning until night while seven members stayed back to mind the fort in Lake Nona. I am sure the staff would appreciate a word of thanks and congratulations on a job well done if you are so inclined. I am so proud to be a small part of this incredible team!
Enjoy your holidays, everyone. Thanks for your support of the USPTA. 2020 is going to be one heck of a ride – buckle your seat belts!