Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Case For No Cut

Lots of great info from the USTA South Carolina tennis coaches workshop I attended recently. New drills forthcoming. In the meantime I am taking a moment for a brief rant about 'no cut' tennis teams. If you are not into rants, just be patient and new drills will be posted over the next few days.

Rant Commences Here

When the workshop broke for lunch, I was fortunate to be sitting at a table with lots of great tennis folks
These fun portraits happen when you get
inducted into the SC Tennis Hall of Fame
including Barbara Jones from St. George SC and some of her pals who have done amazing things getting youth tennis going there. SC Tennis Hall of Famer Bernie McGuire also joined us. Bernie is the tennis coach at a private school called Hammond in Columbia, SC. I had never met Bernie in person, but had worked with him by proxy, coordinating a friendly with some of his players last fall through his assistant, Bob Crab. I introduced myself and we talked about Hammond a little bit. He mentioned he had 71 girls on his no cut tennis team.

Seventy. One.

While that is sinking in, let me 'splain. In case you are not familiar with 'no cut', it's exactly what it sounds like. No one is cut. Anyone can join the team, regardless of skill level. USTA has an official No Cut program and encourages schools to participate because obviously this has the potential to increase the tennis playing population. But in my experience, schools are reluctant to embrace no cut. Last year another coach (who will remain nameless) summed it up when she said she didn't like no cut because they didn't have enough coaches to handle large groups of kids. Okay, I get that. But she also had some tasteless remarks about the skill levels of the kids that no cut attracts. She basically didn't have the personality or patience to coach beginners, is what it boiled down to. She'd rather just cut them.

With this conversation in mind, I asked Coach Bernie how he handles staggering numbers like 71 kids on a team. He said he just recruits volunteer coaches through parents, friends and staff members who have tennis skills. And that was that. No complex methods or explanations. No whining or complaining. Just asks for help, finds help, finds a way to not turn away 50 kids who want to play tennis.

Doesn't that sound simple? Yeah, but you and I both know it's never that simple. It's a lot of work. But if you have what it takes, the rewards are worth it. Reach out to your state USTA reps, your local tennis professionals, parents, staff, neighbors. Ask for resources. Ask for help. Put a racquet in a kid's hand. The magic of no cut is providing an outlet for kids to play a sport whose main roadblock to playing a sport is the dread of being cut, of being told you're not good enough. High school has enough soul-devouring experiences over four years. Anxiety over making a sports team, which is supposed to be about playing a GAME for crying out loud, supposed to be FUN, should not be one of them.

And all you parents out there worried a no cut team will dilute the coaching talent too much and your little Andy Roddick wannabe won't get his share of coaching time - you and I both know the junior development coaching does not occur on the high school courts, so get over it. If you don't know that, and you're depending on the high school team experience to get your player to Wimbledon, you don't know much about tennis. You're doing it wrong.

Rant Concludes Here

So props to Coach Bernie and all the other great no cut high school teams out there. I'm impressed. You're doing it right.
Photo from USTA Midwest section No Cut page