"The Grassroots Approach"
By: Charles Mosley
I believe that the "Grassroots" approach to tennis development among young tennis players is widely underrated. My experience working at a club or resort really did not allow me to find and develop kids at a high level of competitive play, so I started training kids at the grassroots level. My experience teaching at clubs or resorts was that many kids were , for the most part, being dropped off for daycare and many had no desire to be there. What many parents did not know was; many highly skilled players were being recruited away from their personal coaches and being used as marketing tools to bring in new players to "Club" training programs. This did not sit to well with me because it falsely gave the impression to the parents that kids were being developed at that facility. Second, this approach lacked the integrity needed in establishing a credible program, so I shyed away from such programs. In reality, most of these kids were being developed by "Grassroots" coaches. Lesson learned: Check the track record of a coach when seeking a coach for your child. Find out by asking where a highly skilled player developed his or her skills. This will save you time and money.
I was determined to find kids who actually had the desire and passion to develop into good players and did not mind the hard work it would take. Also, to provide accessibility to the sport regardless ,of economic background. My objective was to use this great sport of tennis to develop character, work ethic, sportsmanship, and confidence. Having worked in a grassroots tennis program in Akron, OH., I saw the impact this approach had on so many kids and the community that these kids lived in. It was a "Win" "Win" situation. Kids went on to schools like Ohio State, Wright State, Hiram College, University of Dayton, University of Akron, and other neighboring schools on athletic & academic scholarships. These successes from the grassroots level motivated me to take the same approach. I have to admit, it was tough at first. I attempted to get a seed grant from the USTA to help with rackets and balls, but found out later that the USTA would only fund the same programs every year regardless of productivity. So I stayed focused and determined so I took it upon myself and rounded up rackets from people who wanted to help, bought as many balls as possible, and found some courts and got busy. Little did I know, at the time, all the politics invovled in starting a tennis program. Other coaches in the area did all they could do to prevent the program from getting off the ground. One went as far as to take out a permit on courts that were never being used just to keep the program from developing. However, we eventually found a home, renovated the courts and surrounding areas from ground up, and continued to grow and develop players. Not just your average players either, nationally ranked players. As we are in our 8th year of existence, we now have the most successful grassroots tennis program in the Inland Empire. Some of our successes include a National Champion (Govind Nanda) in both singles & doubles, 4 Southern California Team Tennis Championships and 2 runner-ups, A National Junior "Finalist", nationally ranked players, high school players, and kids who have now transitioned to college teams.