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USTA Florida Introduces Jr. Team Tennis Recreational, Championship Tracks

December 20, 2012 02:00 PM
JTT-Sun-2Effective beginning January 2013, USTA Florida will offer both "recreational" and "championship" tracks for local Florida Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) leagues, encouraging greater growth with fewer restrictions for youth tennis.
 
The decision by the USTA Florida Team Tennis Committee also includes waiving the former "Standards of Excellence" to allow more flexible junior league growth, and in 2013 providing various new team tennis play opportunities via local, regional and section-level JTT events.
 
"USTA Jr. Team Tennis has not shown the kind of growth we have expected when we implanted our required standards four years ago," said USTA Florida Associate Executive Director Andy McFarland. "After realizing we aren't developing junior leagues and growing participation these past four years to satisfactory levels, our committee and leadership felt it was time to make another paradigm shift."
 
The changes are the result of extensive input from field league coordinators and regional USTA Florida staff.
 
"After getting a lot of input from our local league coordinators and staff that help sell our program in the field, the word 'flexibility' kept coming back to us time and time again," McFarland said. "So we have listened and have decided to provide more flexibility by supporting and being more inclusive of recreational team tennis leagues throughout Florida."
 
Jr. Team Tennis leagues seeking endorsement from USTA Florida will require league coordinators to sign a memorandum of understanding that requires minimal guidelines in using the USTA Florida brand. USTA Florida will also offer support, resources and best practice assistance for those leagues that do not wish to promote their league under the USTA Jr. Team Tennis banner and name. Players from both USTA Florida-endorsed leagues and non-endorsed leagues will be given the opportunity to participate in local, regional and section-level JTT events in divisions that will not have the option of advancing to national championships.
 
USTA Jr. Team Tennis leagues competing in the Championship Track will be eligible to qualify for the USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships in meeting all the Championship Track eligibility requirements (for full requirement listing go to www.florida.usta.com/youth_tennis/jr_team_tennis/home).
 
A USTA Florida Team Tennis Project Team will convene beginning in January to discuss and formulate more local and regional team tennis play opportunities for all ages and skill levels.
 
"I'm proud to be a part of an organization that is willing to take a hard look at things that are not working as they should be, and is willing to make changes," said USTA Florida Team Tennis Committee Chair Christine Ducey. "I'm even more proud to volunteer for an organization that listens to the people in the field: local league coordinators, staff, volunteers, captains, and parents, before implementing such changes. Overwhelmingly our feedback from the field was that USTA Florida does a fantastic job on the Sectional Tournament events. The other main concern mentioned was the fact that the local leagues need flexibility to operate in a way that works in their particular area. As a committee, we plan to try to assist these leagues by implementing this more flexible plan, as well as researching ways that we can bring more of those great events, like the sectionals, to kids throughout the state."
 
For more information or questions contact Andy McFarland at mcfarland@florida.usta.com.
 
 
USTA Jr. Team Tennis
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for 2013
 
Q: Why is USTA Florida loosening the ropes on local league structure and standards?
A: After much research and homework and four (4) years of offering structure, it has come to our attention that flexibility is much sought after by local leagues for them to grow and flourish. So, after much discussion, USTA Florida has decided to showcase more flexibility and less rules for local league play. We also want to support any and all local team tennis leagues that exist and show support for those growing the game via team tennis.
 
Q: If I am not required to use TennisLink as a registration tool for JTT, what can I use?
A: If you prefer not to use TennisLink as a registration tool for the recreational track of JTT, you may use whichever registration tool you prefer to use that best fits your needs. Remember, you must use TennisLink if you have teams competing to attend the JTT National Championships in the summer.
 
Q: What if I want to continue using TennisLink but have technical issues or questions?
A: You certainly may continue using TL as your local league registration tool of choice. You will be asked to submit your question or challenge to the TL Link Team to help you. That's their job. They can be reached via email at LinkTeam@usta.com.
 
Q: If TennisLink is the registration system tool I want to use for registration, how do I set up the parameters so the money is filtered to a local account and not USTA Florida?
A: When submitting a program application via TennisLink you are given the option to input a bank routing number. The funds will be transferred to this bank routing number on a regular, timely basis (twice a month). If you have challenges with this, consult LinkTeam@usta.com.
 
Q: Am I able to register non-USTA members using TennisLink for local league registration?
A: Yes. USTA Florida can set the parameters of a branded USTA Jr. Team Tennis league to be non-member required. Also, a league coordinator can use TL for non-branded leagues but will have to pay a $50.00 TL administration fee to use the system (as we're told by USTA).
 
Q: If USTA Florida no longer requires a $30 league fee be submitted to them, what can I charge and where does that money go?
A: Whatever you feel your market and community can afford to pay is what you should charge locally. It will also depend on what you are offering of value from practice, matches, amenities, parties, marketing, etc. You should charge enough to at least cover your own expenses as a local league coordinator and make a little for yourself as the league administrator. The local league fee that you do charge will stay local. Note: It must be made very clear that whatever you charge for local team tennis registration that 100% of the funds are being kept locally to run the league effectively and not sent to USTA Florida.
 
Q: Is it true that USTA membership is no longer required for local league play?
A: Yes it is true for the recreational track for JTT. However, for the championship track, all players must be USTA members through the end of the year. USTA Florida recommends that you offer a tiered pricing option for USTA members vs. non-USTA members for your local league to offer member value to those that support the governing body of tennis.
 
Q: So, if USTA Florida is no longer offering a stipend to the LLC, how do I get paid?
A: With the elimination of the $30 program fee, that eliminates the revenue that was used to offer stipends to LLCs for their efforts. Now LLCs can potentially make more money by taking it out of the local league fee. Or, as a choice, you don't have to get paid for the efforts you are making and can use the monies for league expenses.
 
Q: How do I go about ordering T-shirts or other sources of apparel for my participants if USTA Florida is no longer providing that service?
A: You now have the option to offer a T-shirt, an athletic shirt, no shirt at all or something else of value to the participants. It's your choice! You can go through a local apparel vendor or a vendor that USTA Florida recommends. USTA Florida will also be providing youth apparel on its E-store in the coming months so you can shop with USTA Florida and get a discount as a USTA member!
 
Q: How do I go about offering trophies or another source of recognition for my participants if USTA Florida is no longer providing that service?
A: Same answer as above -- it's your choice! You can go through a local vendor or perhaps one that USTA Florida recommends should you choose to offer awards or any other type of recognition for your players.
 
Q: Will I be required to have an end-of-season party for my participants?
A: No you will not be required but note that most, if not all, youth sports offer some sort of end-of-season playoff, play-day, festival or just a big celebration filled with music and food. It would be highly recommended that you offer something, especially to the little ones that participated in your league.
 
Q: Am I allowed to use the USTA Florida or USTA Jr. Team Tennis logo and brand name for my local league?
A: If you are offering a championship track league for your players, absolutely! If you are offering a recreational track league, you have the option to use our brand name in the marketing of your local league. Should you choose to use the USTA Jr. Team Tennis brand name, you will be asked to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that has guidelines in using our brand name in local marketing efforts. If not followed or used properly, you may be asked to stop using the USTA Jr. Team Tennis logo and brand name.
 
Q: Why do I need to sign a MOU to use the USTA Jr. Team Tennis brand name and logo?
A: USTA Florida has to be protective of the use of its logo and brand name. If used improperly, USTA will receive negative traction and perception amongst consumers and participants. Using a brand name or logo comes with great responsibility and it should not be taken lightly. The MOU is just to ensure a few guidelines are followed in using the brand name.
 
Q: Would I be eligible to use any of the USTA Jr. Team Tennis marketing materials?
A: If you are an endorsed recreational league with a signed MOU on file, then yes. If you are offering a championship league, then absolutely yes. However, you now have the flexibility to create your own marketing materials using your own brand name and sponsors as you wish.
 
Q: Will those marketing materials/flyers/postcards be paid for by USTA Florida?
A: Not necessarily. Ideally, the costs for marketing materials should come from the local league fee if set appropriately and/or sponsors that help offset the league business. A league coordinator can apply for a Share the Love JTT grant and with a compelling need may be able to receive some funding for marketing. In addition, USTA Florida and USTA National can provide JTT flyer/postcard templates to use which is of some value.
 
Q: If I am offering only a recreational JTT program, how can my teams and players be eligible for a JTT Section or Regional event?
A: The JTT committee is working on that currently. It is our objective to invite and include as many recreational teams as possible to allow for more team tennis play opportunities. But, we have yet to work out those details as of this time. More information will follow in 2013.
 
Q: What other resources would my JTT league be eligible for with USTA Florida?
A: Assistance and advice from USTA Florida staff and committee members, financial resources via our Share the Love grant program (showing a compelling need), best practices and open communication via USTA Florida staff and other leagues and opportunities to participate in local, regional and section-level JTT events.
 
Q: Will USTA membership be required at the upcoming local, regional and/or section-level JTT events?
A: Yes & No. For the advancing "championship track" division teams in, membership is a requirement for local league and Section Championship participation. However, for the recreational track divisions, USTA membership will not be required. Rather, USTA Florida will be offering tiered pricing for members vs. non-members of our future JTT events.
 
Q: Will USTA Florida still require a 3 boy/3 girl local team requirement?
A: Not unless you plan to compete and become eligible for the USTA JTT National Championships. Otherwise, recreational JTT leagues can set up any format of play that works best for them and their communities for local league participation.
 
Q: Which divisions will be offered for USTA JTT National Championship eligibility?
A: Currently there are four (4) divisions acknowledged by USTA. This includes 14u Intermediate and Advanced as well as 18u Intermediate and Advanced. No other age or skill level will offer advancement to Nationals.
 
Q: How will USTA National's new requirement for team captains to have background checks affect our leagues in Florida?
A: Only those teams and captains that are following the National Championship track will be required to fulfill National's background check requirement. We will have more information on this as it is passed down from National to the Sections.
 
Q: Who will pay for the background checks?
A: Once we learn the cost and the process for background checks we can better answer this Q. We need more information to come from USTA National before responding.
 
Q: Will USTA Florida be providing any workshops or educational seminars for league coordinators that offer a team tennis league?
A: The opportunity to have team tennis workshops for idea sharing, best practice sharing, etc. may be possible. We may offer them in the form of in-person workshops at a regional level or perhaps via webinars. We'll have to see if that need is still warranted in time. In the meantime, contact information can be shared so that local league coordinators can contact others to see how they are successful.
 
 
 
 
 

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