Couple taking a selfie on a tennis court

Let’s Get Younger

By Denny Schackter, USPTA Elite Professional; Palatine, IL

I attended a D1 men’s tennis match. I am always astounded how hard the kids hit the ball and how many balls land on or near the lines. Of course, with how hard the ball is hit, comes the reality for the chair umpire to be able to see whether the ball has struck the line. Needless to say, when players call a close ball out, and if the opponent complains, the call is either sustained or overruled. When it is overruled, there is turmoil. First the player who made the call cannot believe they were overruled and then comes the coach who has not been near the match, but of course, wants to put in his two cents.

Where does that put the chair umpire? In looking down the row of the six matches I was watching, I noticed every umpire was either bald or had grey hair. I say that because I have lost a great deal of hair and what remains is white! I said to myself, “How can these wonderful, passionate umpires see the lines in greater regularity than the players making the calls?” I saw three calls on the match I was watching overruled and they should not have been based on my keen eyesight.

This brings me to the point of the article. The industry has to do a better job of recruiting younger folks to be tennis officials. We cannon expect our grandmas and grandpas to have the seeing ability to do a great job. It’s just not physically possible on a consistent basis. Where can we find some younger individuals? Let’s try Tennis on Campus. There are 36,000 kids with keen eye site playing on 550 campuses. I know the USTA is working hard with this group, but we have to find a way to increase the recruiting effort. With no offense to my fellow senior citizens, the time is now to get current and TOC could be the answer.

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