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The Heart of the Matter

By Bill Mountford, USPTA Vice President

The following is not the Vice President’s Message that I had expected to share this month, but circumstances are such that USPTA members deserve explanations about the status of the agreement with the USTA regarding accreditation.

For more than a year, USPTA has touted the merits of the USTA’s involvement to raise coaching standards in the US. The USTA, as the national governing body, determined that accreditation was necessary to assure an influx of qualified professional coaches. This status would be granted to any organization that met their strict and expansive criteria. USPTA was fully accredited recently and is the only organization to earn this status. It seemed like a fruitful, mutually beneficial “partnership” (a description that has been used frequently). Unfortunately, the progress has been delayed.

Each party had one threshold point that has defined this long negotiation. Somewhat unrelated to actually raising the standards for coaches, the USTA was determined to include mandatory Safe Play training and background checks for any applicant or member of an accredited organization. In seeing the scandals that have transpired lately with other governing bodies, the USTA is determined to make tennis a safer sport. USPTA is the only organization positioned to support the USTA’s desire to be compliant with this initiative. The USPTA remains fully committed to supporting this Safe Play training and a background check mandate as long as the USTA would similarly support the one deal point essential to a trade association for coaches and teaching professionals.

For the USPTA, the threshold point to this agreement has always been how the accreditation scheme would affect the employment market. If this agreement does not lead to better professional opportunities for members, then it will remain unfinished. It was determined that the best way the USTA could actually affect the job market would be to require all the USTA’s member organizations to strictly employ current members of an accredited coaching body. Status as a member organization entitles a facility to host USTA sanctioned tournaments. It does not encompass all facilities in the US, which would be ideal, but it includes many large and influential ones. However, the member orgs should know that the USPTA and USTA will be prepared to deliver exciting benefits for those facilities that comply.

When the job market becomes influenced by this accreditation, then membership to the USPTA would matter as never before. The impact upon hiring practices would be significant, so our trade association would be able to support the USPTA membership in the most tangible way: with job opportunities. The USTA would get better quality control of American coaches and teaching professionals and would also have all USPTA members Safe Play trained and background checked.

In January, the USTA’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Executive of the National Campus, Gordon Smith and Kurt Kamperman respectively, attended our USPTA Board meeting so that we could hash out final details. When they presented our agreement to the new USTA Board of Directors, some additional questions arose. The USTA did not feel ready to take this final step at that time. Shortly thereafter, the USPTA Board was informed that the USTA was not prepared to enforce these higher standards for ALL member organizations with tennis courts so a compromise was reached that would impact those member organizations with four or more courts (approximately 1,600 throughout the US). Subsequent to this compromise, further explorations are occurring.

USPTA has consistently demonstrated willingness, including two years of good faith negotiations, to accept the USTA requirements for accreditation. USPTA has been entirely compliant, despite an erosion of nearly 10 percent of the membership base due to these rising standards and expectations. No other organization showed any such commitment. USPTA has made a series of compromises to move this deal along, yet the one thing which was always most important to us has been temporarily put on hold until all segments of the USTA can embrace it.

Presuming that the USTA and USPTA can finalize this crucial detail regarding the accreditation agreement, our sport - and our trade association - will be in a better place. While I wish that this monthly update included a specific start date and confirmation of a signed agreement between the USPTA and USTA, a status report was appropriate to keep our USPTA membership informed.

Your Board of Directors will maintain our transparency and keep you updated as this progresses.
 
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