When I started stringing and teaching tennis back in 2011-12, I wasn’t certified to do either. I also wasn’t great at either. This wasn’t really an issue at the time, because I was helping other coaches teach (feed) clinics and wasn’t stringing much at all (outside of my own racquets).
When I started to consider teaching and stringing as a career, I knew there were steps that needed to be taken for me to be the most effective/efficient.
I first got certified to teach tennis with the USPTA in 2013. I made the commitment to drive 2 hours + to Hilton Head Island after studying for months for this certification exam. I knew that I had passed the written portion, which was actually very difficult (80+ questions on coaching, technique, rules, etc.)
I was one of 3 taking the on court portion of the exam that day. My briefing was to create a lesson plan in less than 5 minute, focusing on the forehand. This lady had an incredible forehand! Maybe not the most efficient use of my time but I felt like a gave a great private lesson until she proceeded to throw up after the lesson! I was sure I had failed...
I shortly learned that she had just eaten prior and she said that the lesson was fantastic (whew)...the group lesson went much smoother and they had a blast!
The point I’m getting at through this story is that people who truly care about their careers, take the time to make themselves the best they could be! I’m trying to learn new teaching styles every day myself! I’m nowhere near perfect!
Stringing was a similar story: I studied for months. Dropped by the USRSA HQ in Birmingham, AL to take my exam with the Director of the USRSA, Bob Patterson. Bob and his assistant were super friendly and inviting!
I sat down to take the written exam and thought, holy cow this is really difficult...thankfully I passed that portion. Everything ended up going swimmingly until my regrommeting. I had chosen to take a racquet and grommet from the former shop I worked at...I should have known better. The grommet had been warped to oblivion where a coworker had tried to force it into a frame. Bob felt sorry for me but had to grade me the same as anyone else. That’s where I failed.
Fast forward 2 months later and all I have to retake is the regrommeting portion (thank goodness!). Round two was a monumental success! All the hard work had paid off finally!
Eventually this small step gave me the confidence to leave my job and pursue my own stringing and racquet tech. business. String Theory was born and the rest is history!
You see, these stories highlight the fact that certifications aren’t just pieces of fancy paper to hang on the wall; they’re the physical representation of the hard work and dedication to education.
Certifications exemplify a commitment of that individual to continued education and excellence in their respective fields. These are the reasons why certifications are so important!
We of course need to acknowledge the fact that not all certified individuals are in pursuit of excellence and future education, and that’s a real shame. Although, the effort preparing to pass these exams should always give them a massive distinction from uncertified individuals in most instances!
I will continue to encourage certifications and future education in both the stringing and teaching industries. I hope this will create a stronger knowledge base amongst both certified and uncertified individuals alike!
To conclude, I’d like to leave everyone with an excellent quote from a tennis great:
”The day you stop learning, is the day you should stop teaching.”