Friday, April 21, 2017

USPTA Professional Exam - Tips and Course Review



USPTA and Tennis Coaching

Prior to getting my USPTA certificate, I had coached tennis for over 10 years. I have taught for various tennis programs, at local county and club levels. Through the years, I've also dabbled in some freelance tennis coaching on the side - mainly for Juniors and Beginners students.

I have not been paid to do this review but simply want to share my experience with prospective exam takers. Also, I hope this blog post can help encourage other candidate tennis teachers. I too was a bit hesitant to spend the $350 at first and unsure if I could pass it because I am not a full time teaching professional. But if I can do it, so can anyone who studies for it*

Exam Sign Up: 2-day course vs 1-day course
When you sign up for your on-court exam, you can choose between the 1-day or 2-day courses held across the US during different times in the year. I signed up for the 2-day course.

The first day was basically what I would call "rehearsal" and Q&A about any questions on the test. We had the test in a bubble, at a local country club. The instructor covers everything you need to know the first day. If you listen and follow their advice, you should do fine. On the flip side, I noticed that there were a few "1-day" students who ended up having to repeat (and redo) portions of the group lesson that they failed during our 2nd day.

Day One: Q&A
All the fellow students (5 total) in my class had some former teaching experience. Their levels ranged from a high school teenager, former ATP Top 300 player to a teaching pro with over 30 years experience.

I was very fortunately to have a good instructor (Ted) that explained everything and set expectations clearly from day 1. It was great chatting and networking with the other tennis instructors too. We went out for lunch together and helped each other with studying for the test. Your fellow students will also be used for various portions of the test.

Day Two: Lesson Plan Testing
The bulk of the on-court tests happened on the 2nd day. Sometimes they compress some into the end of the first day to save time (which I liked). The group lessons are comprised of 3-4 random students they pick from the club. Most are between NTRP 3.0-3.5 in my opinion.

The schedule was 8am-3pm both days, but the second day was spent completely on taking turns to do the private and group lessons (~25 mins per person). You get about 90 mins for lunch, plenty of breaks, and time to ask additional questions.


Benefits for paying for USPTA

The great thing about any USPTA certification is that it offers Nike wholesale discounts on personal tennis gear. Plus, the members' site offers excellent online resources (movies and diagrams) for tennis drills. Their Tennis Industry magazine is also a top-notch publication that comes with the membership. You can also buy court insurance for a bit extra.

The USPTA and USPTR certs are the most widely recognized tennis credentials in the USA - basically, it helps you land a job in the industry. If you can get the test fees and dues paid for by your club, that's even better!

Test Preparation and Online Material

Recommend you spend some time reading through the USPTA PTCA1 pdf prior to coming to class. They will send you this pdf when you register for the USPTA Professional test. I found it helpful to print it out and put it in a binder to take notes and review.

Again, the 2-day session is highly recommended - the 1-day course seemed to be designed mainly for those who are just doing a retake or have no time but are very experienced pros.

My pre-test strategy included watching a few Youtube videos of the USPTA exam, read some forum posts on tennis-warehouse and a blog on USPTA testing.

I spent about 2-3 weeks to review and prep for the exam – they want everything taught a very specific way. I even worked with a few friends that are also USPTA certified to go over some of the drills and shot I know I might have problems on the stroke production portion. If you have played tennis at the NTRP 4.0+ level then most of the strokes test should be passable.

Tips for taking the USPTA 2017 updated exam

Feeding, Stroke Production, Private Lesson, Group Lesson, Written Test, Grips & Youth Tennis Course (online).

Youth Tennis Online Courses (7 modules)
As far as computer based training goes, it is very well designed. Just watch the videos and answer the little Jeopardy-style questions. I'll even admit some are fun to play and test your knowledge. I recommend going through at a pace of about 1-2 per day.

The final youth tennis training course ($15?) is mostly a summary review of the other 6 courses. The USPTA should send you the link to this online course when you register. All your progress will be saved, but be sure to save your certificate at the very end as they will ask you to email them a copy when you are done.

Grips
Know the bevel positions for the forehand knuckle and palm! Do NOT use the "V" method.
Be sure you are able to rattle off at least 3-4 Advantage and Disadvantages with each grip (Continental - good for lower balls and hitting slice, Eastern - easiest for starting players to use, Semi-Western - good for topspin and passing shots, etc).

Feeding
Make sure you lead the "player" into the court and across. Practice this at home if necessary. The 2-day course goes over this in the rehearsal.

Stroke Production
The drop shots (3 bounces before crossing the service line) is nearly impossible. I watched a former Top 300 player barely get 50% on this. It helps to put a little sidespin (and underspin) on the ball and aim toward the diagonal service line corners. Do not get flustered if you bomb this one...the lobs and overheads count toward the final score.

They do not give you style points. Whether you hit a 135 mph serve or a 65 mph serve in, it counts as one shot. You should definitely strive for accuracy, not power.

You do need to put the proper spins on the ball (when the ask for a forehand slice or topspin serve, for example).


My Tips for a high score on the Private and Group Lessons:

  • Give an intro with 3 things about yourself.
  • Always try to memorize and repeat your student’s first name for specific encouragement (they count each time you repeat it)
  • Adjust the practice feed Depth & Frequency to suit the skill level of the student - keep the drill moving but also do not have a lot of idle time in the back waiting.
  • Provide different "stations" and rotate players, if possible
  • Use Progressions - step by step drills; always have multiple training drills that range in difficulty from super easy to more advanced
  • Keep the lesson plan very simple and focused ~20 mins
  • Spend less than 3 mins with intro and less than 5 for wrap up and homework - I had trouble with this. Use the clock on the wall or pro tip is to wear a watch facing in so you can glance at it during a feed.
  • Safety First (clear all balls on their side of the net)
Written Exam
This is a 2-hour test taken online - but should take about 30-45 mins for most people. It covers most of the material in the PTCA1 .pdf file. There are portions where it helps to reference some notes and to know where various chapters are located. The passing grade was 70% and I feel like most people should be able to pass this with no major issues (as all the answers are essentially on the provided booklet*).

It is all multiple choice and if you do not think too hard about the questions, you will usually pick the right answer. I would review some of the youth tennis dimensions and knowledge about the effect of using different tennis strings and racquet specs.

After you pass the test and send in your youth tennis certificates to USPTA, they will review your scores and send you in the mail your results. I found that the USPTA tester gives you very good feedback on your performance during the lessons. Also, your diploma will be in the mail too!

Congrats and good luck! If you have any other questions, please leave a comment at the bottom and I'll try to answer it.

USPTA Levels

Level 1: Recreational Coach (Part-Time Coaches)
The Recreational Coach is the most basic level designed for part-time coaches and assistants. It can be obtained by going to a coaches workshop for a day and reviewing the online training instruction. Also, if you happen to "fail" any part of the USPTA Professional test, you will also be put into this category. The fees are about $250/year to keep this membership.

Level 2: Professional Coach (Standard Certification)

Level 3: Elite Coach ("Perfect" scores and complete elective exams)

Level 4: Master Professional (Elite for 10+ years)

Related Posts