Steve Keller, Director of Education for the Professional Tennis Registry, (PTR) is responsible for the educational direction and content of PTR within the United States and abroad. Keller oversees PTR clinical training, content delivery, design and professional development courses to create opportunities for certified tennis professionals. Keller has been a member of PTR since 1986, and a member of the United State Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) since 2005. He spent eighteen years with the Dennis Van der Meer organization, prior to joining Tennis Corporation of America (TCA) organization.
Examiner: What are the current development trends influencing the education and credentialing of professional coaches?
SK: This is a terrific question. The tennis teaching industry has come a very long way in the way it now educates and certifies tennis coaches. PTR previously had one general certification from 1976 through 2010, basically a one size fits all education/certification program. In 2011, we made the change to incorporate specified education and certification for coaches working in different areas of the game. For example, the manner or methodology in which you teach an adult how to play the game is vastly different from how you introduce a young child to the game. PTR now offers four distinct educational pathways for coaches with areas of concentration in 10 and under, 11 to 17, Performance, and Adult Development.
Examiner: What are the benefits of a consumer working with a certified professional?
SK: Certified professionals have made it a point to reach higher in their commitment to education. In the current marketplace, consumers have become savvy to reach out to credentialed coaches. The consumer mindset has gradually shifted to the thinking of, “If I am willing to invest in a particular coach, I want to have a degree of assurance that this person has gone through an educational program that will best serve my needs.”
Additionally, certified professionals are not only licensed but have the ability to be insured. There is a lot to be said for “peace of mind,” knowing that you are walking out on a court with a professional that is licensed and insured.
Examiner: This year the PTR & USPTA announced a programmatic alliance in an effort to elevate the standards of tennis teaching professionals. Explain the collaboration between the PTR & USPTA. In what ways will this alliance improve the resources of professional coaching?
SK: This is a very exciting time in the industry. We have several areas of collaboration with the USPTA. A new continuing education requirement for coaches as well as a joint partnership with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and USPTA featuring education for coaches working with players under the age of ten through The Coach Youth Tennis initiative.
Both organizations have realized a need for continuing education for quite some time. We feel it is crucial for professionals to expand their knowledge and stay current with the latest information available. By having both organizations in this together, coaches can see that the industry and teaching organizations take this seriously. The bottom line is simple, we want better qualified coaches in the sport. Quality coaches produce quality results, everyone wins in the long run. Coaches, students, and parents all gain in the end.
One quick note on The Coach Youth Tennis Initiative. PTR has been a leader of 10 and under education for the last several years (in fact we have certified more than 2,500 coaches in 10 and under tennis over the last three years alone. In having the USPTA partnering with PTR and the USTA this will make a huge difference in getting children off to a good start in the sport and hopefully keep the growth of the game healthy for many years to come. Finally, PTR and the USPTA have agreed to collaborate on conferences and professional development opportunities for members. Reciprocity is given to coaches attending either organizations events.
Examienr: Does PTR have a Sport Psychology component to their certification? How important is an understanding of Sport Psychology in the overall mix of a teaching professionals development?
SK: We do have components relating to Sport Psychology within our Master of Tennis program. PTR has been very fortunate to have an association with Jim Loehr from the inception of the organization. In fact, Jim Loehr was just inducted into the PTR Hall of Fame this past February. PTR has only three people inducted into the Hall, our founder, Dennis Van der Meer, legendary coach Jim Verdieck from the University of Redlands, and now Jim Loehr.
We have annually offered a program in conjunction with our International Symposium with Dr. Loehr’s, Human Performance Institute. His program offers an incredible educational opportunity for coaches working with mental training and performance. The amount of information in this area has grown substantially. We are currently looking at additional opportunities in this area that will have broader outreach to our membership.
Examiner: Competitive junior tennis is becoming more and more stressful as parents hope their child secures a college scholarship from tennis. There are many stories of cheating that occur regularly in junior tennis. Is the education and development process helping coaches discuss these issues with junior players and parents? Coaches receive pressure from parents for their children to win, and parents pressure their children to produce.
SK: I am pleased to announce that we do cover this area. When developing content for our new educational pathway, our CEO Dan Santorum insisted on having the areas of sportsmanship and fair play covered in our new curriculums. Dan has a son competing in youth sports and has personally coached many young athletes in a competitive environment. Many coaches have gotten away from educating their players in this area but as you can see we take this matter seriously and will continue to lead the charge with our junior development educational offerings.
Examiner: What would you like to see going forward in advancing the standards of professional teaching?
SK: With the evolution of our educational pathway, we have recognized the need for coaches to become well rounded. The more educational opportunities we can provide for our coaches the better for the industry. I would strongly encourage all coaches from the most seasoned veterans to the novice coach just starting out to seek out quality education. PTR has challenged coaches over the years to “Make a World of Difference.”
PTR will continue to raise the bar higher and challenge coaches to continue their personal and professional growth.
Examiner: You’ve been involved in professional tennis education and development for quite a while. Do you have any favorite, quotes, tips or stories that keep you focused on the long game of your career?
SK: My favorite quote is from Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power.” Personally, I still make it a point to attend as many educational and professional development events as possible. I LOVE to LEARN, every little gem I can pick up along the journey is precious. The additional education I gain is beneficial to not only myself but also to the coaches I meet along the way. Anytime I can create content or share information I feel tremendously rewarded. I also must add it is an incredible feeling when the wheels are up on my flight out of a city that I have made a difference in the life of someone that will then in turn make a difference in another person's life. That is direct impact and extremely powerful.
Examiner: Steve thanks so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to participate in this discussion.