Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Tennis Year in Review

So many events and cities explored in the last 18-20 months. I have been slow to keep up the journal of my travels. At year's end, this seemed as good a time as any to recap.

I promise later that I will go back and provide a full review of each venue later. For now, I've filled in the gap with a quick synopsis and included some photo albums of each event as a placeholder until I can complete a full write up of my experience that does each trip justice.

May 2016: Masters 1000 - Rome, Italian Open

Italian Open Champion's Trophy
This has been my best Masters 1000 and Clay court tournament experience to date. The photographers and Canon CPS were so gracious! I was able to receive a photo pit armband to cover the warmup of the Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic semi-final.

It was also the first time I had been at the press conference of either man.
JC at "Grandstand" court - sunken into ground

The hospitality of the Italian people plus all the volunteers and ball kids was unmatched. So much passion and energy in that city, it is hard to compare. Rome is definitely a top favorite tennis event, a sentiment with which Roger Federer also agreed when asked in an interview earlier this year.

The Canon Professional Services team was 1st class.

Canon CPS of Italy allowed me to check out the Canon 5D mark iii and the 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS II lens each day as long as I returned it each night before they left.

That saved me from carrying some very heavy gear back and forward to the event. I am eternally grateful to allow me a chance at these photos at Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

July 2016 & 2017 - Military Kids Charity Event with Sponsors

Tennis Olympics 2016

Part of YoPro (young professionals) outreach by the USTA. It was a fun indoor event held on a day when it was pouring rain outside. We each got to "represent a country of our choice" and we competed for both team and individual awards. It was a lot of fun as the Tennis Olympiad idea was an out of the box concept.

Hands down was much better than almost every other "indoor social" USTA-sanctioned" event that uses typical cookie-cutter activities that nobody wants to repeat.

Nov 2016 - Sanchez-Casal Academy - Tennis Coaches' Boot Camp

Revisiting after almost 8 years. It was a trip to Naples, FL and offered an upgrade to my coaching certification. More importantly, it was chance to meet some of the top College coaches and club owners in the country and from Europe / South America. The courses covered aspects of the Executive Leadership Program that Luis Mediero teaches around the world as well.

This was definitely not a vacation at the beach. It was pretty much 7am-7pm non-stop learning, teaching, practicing the whole time there at Naples. I did not even have a chance to see any sand while I was there for that week. It was a great opportunity to re-learn all the X, V drills so many years ago. The students were all very hard working and instructors offered useful advice all along the way.

The week was split into two parts - a 3-day course for teaching juniors and then another 3-day course for coaching at the professional level. I was humbled by the amount of time, energy, coordination and organization that goes into being a professional coach at that level.

Read more about my trip here and the courses. I made a lot of wonderful friends with fellow coaches and the ASC staff.

Feb 2017: ATP/WTA Indian Wells (revisited)

I honestly enjoyed the 2013 event much better when the old management under Charlie Pasarell made it a true tennis haven. It feels like Tommy Haas' first year was an attempt to save the tournament after Raymond Moore had to resign due to his remarks.

Although I tried to enter the Wild Card tennis challenge, they were unable to accommodate because I arrived too late in the afternoon (not in the morning). Problems with the lights and facility made several courts unavailable which blocked up matches.

I was happy to be able to watch the young Claire Liu win the women's wild card as a junior and later she became a Girl's Champion at Wimbledon for singles and doubles.

Sadly, the high quality of the practice courts views for spectators we loved seemed to have diminished due to the restructuring of new "mini-stadiums" that required a good bit of effort to reach and get around. It prevented fans from easily roaming the grounds as freely.

The folks I met and reconnected with outside around Palms Springs made this trip a real success for me. The tennis world makes this an annual reunion that is a great experience.

It was a chance to reconnect with the great team at Essential Tennis of Ian Westermann, Ira and of course, the photogenic Kirby was a highlight of my trip.

We got a quickie selfie in before their personalized tennis coaching course began. I missed the Meetup but was glad to see other ET Fam and Fans at Monterrey CC.

Lastly, I was able to get back in touch with the Palms Springs International Tennis Tournament Director, Daniel Nabedrick.

During a few days, I got a chance to play hours with some of the adult guests and their family that were in the competition there at Palms Desert Country Club. The pros there were also a lot of fun, but the singles tennis was excellent and got a chance to meet some very successful folks from around the country.

A wonderful facility and there is no nicer guy in the world than Dan.

 A day trip out to Joshua Tree to hike up on Ash Wednesday was also a great experience and get some exercise out there.

The Palm Springs Tram up to the top of the mountain is a very nice contrast in scenery. You literally get all 4 seasons within just an hour.

Palm Springs has a very active and lively tennis and golf community.

Home of some of the fittest retirees in the country lives in this area!

March 2017: USPTA Professional - certification upgrade

After being a USPTA coach for over 10 years, I decided to go for the Professional / Elite level tests to see how I would do.

It was an eventful 2-day course that reinforced the basics and added a lot of useful tips for coaching.

For anyone interested in learning the game more deeply or would like to coach part-time or full-time, it is a great tool and resource.

I was able to network with a lot of coaches including former top 500 in the world players as well as veterans with over 30 years teaching experience.

July 2017: Tennis Hall of Fame Open (Newport, RI)

This is my first ATP 250 and Grass Court event that I had attended.

The history of the location and my desire to be at a Grass tournament made this trip another one with a quick turnaround.

The media staff and Hall of Fame crew were amazing and super professional.

Brentan and Anne Marie were both top notch in terms of support and accommodations during the whole event and tournament.

I had a chance to meet some of the all-time greats of Photography and Journalism while chatting Media.

The caliber of celebrities (including John Legend and Chrissy Teigen) and powerhouse players in attendance to witness the ceremony was staggering.

The museum went through a recent modernization effort to digitize so much of the memorabilia. Not an easy feat given how long the sport has spanned.

Being a part of the Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters induction ceremony was a very special moment in tennis history. Getting a few pictures of Jaden posing next to her own iconic image at the US Open was magical.

It was a fun and enjoyable time to take some photos at their annual Fashion Show as well.

Visiting the town of Newport, RI - I loved the Cliffwalk at Sunrise and Sunset. Just spectacular to be near the water in that area with all the beautiful boats on the water.

A short day trip out to Cape Cod also allowed for some site-seeing at the end as well.

Although it was quite warm in July, it was the perfect beach weather in New England.

Summer 2017 - Citi Open, US Open

The 7th year in a row.

Lots of new staff changes on my team and much more rain than I expected - leading to some flooding issues at the Media Tent.

We were able to attend a Citi Open dinner with celebrity Chef Bryan Voltaggio at Range in DC. Also, a run in with Grigor Dimitrov was a highlight of the year for my social media guru.

A chance to take some pictures from some new vantage points around the practice courts offered some shots of the fan favorite from Argentina, Juan Martin Del Potro.

We saw a break out year for Alexander Zverev winning the title. The court surface at the main stadium was not appreciated by end of year World #8 Jack Sock.

Although it was extra hot and humid as usual in DC, the caliber of women players that attended made the event very worthwhile to attend mid-week.

18 Months of Tennis Summary
Many new places and faces.
Great memories that will last a lifetime.
A part of Tennis History - both as Witness and Recorder. 

Onward toward a great 2018 season next year.
Hoping to see Federer and Nadal keep their record year going! The US Open should be getting a brand new Armstrong Stadium this fall. There will even be a New York Open 250 premiering in Long Island in Februrary.

Bucket List Trips for 2018?

  • 2018 Volvo Open in Charlestown, SC?
  • Clay Court Masters: Monte Carlo or Madrid Open (if Nadal is healthy)
  • Visit to Nadal's new Training Academy Review (Majorca, Spain)?
  • Shanghai Open in October

Sunday, June 11, 2017

3 Important tips for Watching the US Open Live!

Want to see the top tennis players in the world? Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and almost all top player are in NYC at the biggest Tennis Stadium in the World!
JC Tennis Photos

If you're a real tennis fan in the USA, you gotta go see the US Open at least ONCE in your lifetime!  NYC Summer fun!

It's your chance to catch a glimpse of 2017 Grand Slam winners Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal!
Below, I show you how to get the best US Open experience and tickets...

Please subscribe to get all my tips sent to your email (in bite-size nuggets of wisdom). So you can read it over later and take with you to the US Open!

Free 2017 US Open Ticket Discounts and Tips

About the author:
I have personally attended over a decade's worth of Grand Slam tennis (all four). Been to NYC dozens of times in my life, with family and friends there.

The sport has given me an insider's view at all the Tennis Majors as a tennis fan, player, coach, and now as a sports media photographer and journalist.

The purpose of this article: I want to share my experiences and tips with others to get the best experience possible for new fans. Because I get asked in person all the time, it was just easier to write it down.

As an USTA Organizational Member and USPTA Professional - I'm committed to making the US Open Experience fun, affordable for ALL my fellow Americans.

Tickets are still sold by fans in June-August, even on so-called "sold out" sessions it's not too late!  Holiday Weekend Tickets get sold more quickly. However, prices and new tickets are updated daily, so bookmark this and check back!

Our Facebook Updates keep you in the loop about upcoming schedule and player changes.

The US Open is located in NYC around late August to early September. A great time to visit the beautiful city of New York around Labor Day and enjoy some great tennis, food and summer fun.  Below are some great tips for enjoying your tennis experience below...

Tip #1) How to get great value out of your US Open tickets

Which ones to buy or avoid, and most importantly where to look; one secret site unknown to many fans...

Read this...before you buy tickets! Free US Open Tips.

In my emails, I'll cover tips for this year based on the new Ashe Roof and Grandstand Stadiums:

Top 3 Fan Tips plus more Q&A below: 

1) How to get great, cheap tickets but still be able to see your favorite Tennis star up close

2) When and where to go to get Autographs, pictures with the pros

3) Which seats you should try to choose (the best game perspective, the best pictures, the most comfortable (shaded seat) in at each stadium 

How to get the best value on US Open Tickets
First thing is to buy tickets - without these, you can't go in. Figure out when you want to go and look up the prices.

If this is your first time, and you want to just experience some tennis - try to go the first week.

My advice given in my email list is to wait for the summer promo codesas this is when there is a good deal (around $80 for Ashe tickets) - they usually go on sale as early as May for USTA members. But worry not - you can still get them as late as the month of August without a membership...

Here is a great tennis ticket tips site with lots of US Open promo codes.

1) TicketMaster owns all original US Open Tickets.

Use TicketExchange to buy them anytime and re-sell if needed 

My best advice is usually to wait until July-August to look for the best deals. For example on 8/3/10,  they released an annual code "WFANDANGOin the morning which has seats available for $12 for both the 1st week and the 2nd week.

These codes were last available back in 2011, but google "Tennis Bargains" to get other US Open promo codes.

There are also 2-for-1 (buy one get one free) tickets that are around $25-$35 each that are for the Upper and Lower Promenade, which is a bit closer.
You can always sell your extra ticket here.

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*

USPTA References

If you decide to apply for an USPTA membership - please consider putting me as your referral.
It is found in the "References" section of the USPTA Online Application Form when you sign up.

Hopefully, you find my tips and helpful below in this article. If you do mention my name, I will be very grateful as it will save me $50 on next year's dues!

I will be happy to answer of your questions and also try to reply to any in the comments section below. The goal is to get more Tennis Education out there in the USA for aspiring coaches of tomorrow*

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 and here's why...

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.

USPTA Certification Paths: One-day vs Two-day Options

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.

Selecting an Exam Date - USPTA Exam Calendar

Benefits for USPTA Membership

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. You also receive a subscription to their "Tennis Industry" magazine that is also a top-notch publication and even better than Tennis Magazine. You can also buy on-court liability insurance for an added fee.

The USPTA and USPTR certs are the most widely recognized tennis credentials in the USA - Basically, it helps you land a job in the tennis industry. Any full-time professional you consider hiring for tennis lessons should be able to produce this. For test takers, if you can get the test fees and dues paid for by your club, that's even better! They offer an ADD discount program for "economically challenged" pros starting out as well.

Receiving your Test Preparation and Online Study 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.

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