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T.A. Tennis Blog 11/03

December 2, 2008 12:20 AM


USPTA Fort Myers Pro League

Hundreds of club members and tennis lovers attend the free USPTA Pro League events every year, yet few know very much about the leagues themselves. How many teams are there? How many pros are on each team? Do players choose their teams? Are they assigned or chosen? Are they just playing exhibitions, or is there something on the line?

Although leagues are run differently in the different areas, the example below of the USPTA Fort Myers Pro League offers a glimpse of how one league is run, and should provide a few answers to the above questions.

What is a USPTA Pro League?
According to Pat Anderson , executive administrator of USPTA Florida, the original objectives of USPTA Pro Leagues were to “promote USPTA camaraderie among members; to expand playing opportunities for pros in the area; and to provide local communities the opportunity to watch great tennis.” Pro leagues have taken root in several tennis communities across Florida, including Fort Myers, Naples, Boca Raton, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, and North Dade/South Broward.

Turning to our example, the Fort Myers Pro League is a team competition from October through March, among four local-area business-sponsored teams of USPTA Tennis Professionals. Each team is comprised of eight primary players and one substitute. Team matches consist of three men’s doubles matches and one mixed doubles match, and teams garner one point per set. At the end of the season, the team with the most points wins.

Prizes, Sponsorship & Funding
“Wins what?” one might ask. Well, cash, moola, the green stuff. Nothing makes a tennis pro play harder than the green stuff…and of course all of the club members that come out to watch matches. The funds contributed by sponsors and players, over and above league expenses, become a pot that is divided among the teams based upon where they finish in the season. The first place team divides the largest share of the pot, second the second largest and so on.

So where does the “green stuff” come from? Using monies donated by Title Sponsor, Fast Dry Courts, the USPTA Florida Division makes a financial contribution in support of the League that carries the organization’s name; area businesses pay a fee for the right to sponsor a team; and the league also has a local presenting sponsor that carries the heaviest financial responsibility for the success of the League. This year, Key Private Bank takes over the local presenting sponsor role from Pepsi, the presenting sponsor for the past several years. In addition, each club contributes a site fee, and the players also contribute a nominal amount to the kitty. According to League Commissioner, Jim Katterfield , director of tennis at Palmira Golf & Country Club, "There should be close to $10,000 in the pot this year."

Regarding this year’s presenting sponsorship, Katterfield, the man who negotiates sponsorships stated, “Given our current economy, we are fortunate that Jason Fidurski of Key Private Bank stepped up to provide the community support the League needs to flourish. This league is about the tennis community, and without community support, it cannot happen.” Katterfield also touted the individual team sponsors: “Without businesses like Ritzman Tennis of Fort Myers, Johnny Malloy’s Sports Pub of Bonita Springs, Fraser/Dooley & Associates of Bonita Springs, and The Andreae Group of Punta Gorda we would have no league, so we truly appreciate their participation.”

The Draft
With both cash and prestige on the line, being on a strong team is a definite plus. Yet, the draft system in place for determining team composition usually results in strong teams and parity across the League. On draft day, the commissioner and team captains meet in a smoky room (just kidding, no smoke, just hot air) and conduct the draft.

Potential players are assigned an eligibility grouping based upon perceived skill-level (eligible to play #1, #2, mixed doubles, etc.), and the captains pick available players at each position when it is their predetermined turn to choose. At draft’s end, teams are usually constituted in such a way that spectators are treated to spirited competition on all courts, from No.1 doubles through mixed doubles.

The Spectators
As noted above by the League Commissioner, the tennis community is an essential component of the Pro League. More than the nominal cash reward at the end of the season, the Pros enjoy performing for the club members who faithfully come out to watch the matches every other Friday.

In November 2007, a record crowd of almost 500 spectators was estimated in attendance at The Club at Grandezza in Estero. “I’m not sure we can duplicate that feat at Gulf Harbour this early in the season,” said Mike Curran , director of tennis & fitness at Gulf Harbour, who held the same position at Grandezza when the record was set. “But we are certainly going to spread the word, and with our thriving tennis community, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.”

Asked whether he intended to attend Pro League matches this year, devoted Pro League spectator, Steve Jensen , a tennis member at Grandezza responded, “We’re gong to go to every single one. We’re addicted to it!” Offering his reason for the addiction, Steve explained, “I just think the athleticism that the pros demonstrate is some of the best entertainment in Southwest Florida!” Mind you, these accolades are coming from a former professional hockey player who won an amateur national hockey championship last year, and actively coaches top level hockey players.

Pro League Objectives Met
Given the level of participation among area pros and the ever growing crowds, it appears as though the original objectives of USPTA Pro Leagues as stated above are being met in the various communities that have them. You can come out to any of the venues during the season and be your own judge. Contact your local tennis professional for more information on pro leagues in your area. 

Game, set, match,

T.A. Niles






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