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Our Competitive Edge

by Rich Slivocka, USPTA Vice President

As we are through the first half of the year I want to start off by saying how honored I am to be on the national board and to represent our great organization. Our greatest asset is our membership and I am proud to be a part of that membership and extremely excited about where it will take us into the future. After serving on the Missouri Valley board for the past eight years, I know that our organization has had a history of very strong leadership and I believe that our current leadership from our President, Gary Trost through our national board and our Executive Committee will continue with that tradition. I can assure you that the national board and the Executive Committee has the best interest of our membership and organization in mind. We will have some interesting challenges moving forward but they are ones that I believe will move the USPTA into a stronger position within our sport and our industry.

The USPTA has created so many great traditions over the years from our commitment to education, philanthropic contributions, our commitment to growing the game, etc. However, one of the great traditions that often gets overlooked is the USPTA’s commitment to giving our members competitive opportunities to showcase and develop their playing abilities. The USPTA was founded in 1927 and our first men’s tournament was offered to our membership in the same year. We’ve had legends of the game like Don Budge, Jack Kramer,  Pancho Segura and Bill Tilden compete in our tournaments. The first women’s tournament was held in 1969. During the early years non-members of the USPTA were allowed to compete in the tournament. In 1983, the executive committee made the decision to only allow USPTA members to participate in the tournament. Even after this decision was made we still saw many top touring professionals that were also USPTA members compete in the event such as Kim Barry, Viktoria Beggs, Peter Doohan, Cammy MacGregor, Jim Parker and Pat Serret are just a few. I don’t think that many of our members know the history of our tournaments and how they not only provided a competitive outlet but also how they created camaraderie amongst our professionals. The ability to meet new professionals from all over the country, to network and bounce ideas off each other, and share their professional experiences amongst one another.

I believe that playing competitively has been overlooked by many of us. I started playing competitive tennis again about two years ago and I feel that the benefits have far outweighed the potential revenue lost from being away from my club. As teaching professionals, we all get wrapped up in the technical side of the sport whether from a stroke production stand point or from a strategic stand point. Issues can start to arise when we try to bridge the gap between what we have taught our students in a lesson or clinic and then the application of those skills in a competitive scenario. I feel that since I have begun competing again, I have become more in tune with the potential pitfalls that a player can experience when bridging the gap between the learning of skills and then the application of those skills. We all can understand the game but to refresh our own memories in regards to the difficulty that goes into application (match play) is very motivating. I’ve also found that my club members have gotten behind the fact that I had started competing again. They love to hear about my successes and my failures when I’ve gone out and competed in events. They enjoy the fact that they feel more connected to me and that even though the level of play is very different that we can relate to each other about the emotions and struggles that go into competition. These are all positives that can help us in our day to day lessons and clinics.

The Tournament and Rankings Committee is currently reviewing our current tournament structure. We are committed to try and rekindle this tradition but we need the support of you the membership. Everything is on the table for discussion. We are currently looking at every potential option. We are looking into going into more rating based events versus aged events, short formats, team events, U30 events, etc.. I urge everyone if you have a USPTA Surface Championship in your area get out and compete. See if we can once again get those competitive juices flowing. If you have any questions or ideas please feel free to get in contact with me at*

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