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Local athletes encouraged to play USTA

Posted: July 18, 2013 8:32 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2013 8:32 p.m.

High school tennis is a fun way for students to be active and involved in a sport, but for those athletes who want to explore a more competitive spirit in tennis, the United States Tennis Association tournaments take the game to a whole new level.

The USTA promotes and develops the growth of tennis from local communities to the professional game. Local tennis players in the Santa Clarita Valley participate in USTA tournaments all over the country mainly to gain experience, exposure, and to improve their technique.

With tennis tournaments, players are able to practice their technique, test their game strategy and strengthen their mental toughness. Athletes learn to relax and eventually develop a mind set to play their best and not get frustrated. By being able to stay calm, they have more control of the match.

“I think it really helps a lot. Putting yourself in the competition is an excellent thing. They play different players and different games. You put yourself in a pressured situation,” said Valencia varsity tennis head coach Annie Kellogg.

Yet, while tournaments are a great way to gain experience, not many local players participate in them.

High school athletes have other activities going on in their lives with technology and extra-curricular activities they are involved in which gives them less time to play tournaments. And working parents, who need to drive their children to tournaments out of this valley do not always have the time to do so.

Kellogg admits that she has not found the perfect formula on how to keep players in the circuit, but she always encourages her team and other players to sign up with friends and to carpool to make it more fun.

To help many local players get a feel of what tournament play is like, Kellogg has organized team tournaments like “Fall Brawl” for the girls season and “Spring Smash” for the boys to help persuade and engage Foothill League tennis players by entering as a team. These tournaments take place during the school year and involve the entire Foothill League: Hart, West Ranch, Valencia, Canyon, Saugus and Golden Valley.

Besides the two tournaments Kellogg runs, there are many tournaments every month on weekends, especially during the summer, for players to participate. The closest and one of the biggest is the Matador tournament at California State University, Northridge.

After playing tournaments regularly, players get a ranking through USTA, and it helps college coaches get a sense of an athlete’s level and motivation.

“The more tournaments you play, the more developed you are as a player, and it helps build your social and competition skills. USTA tournaments are pretty good and well rounded for players because you get a ton of experience,” said former Valencia tennis player Brigitta Benitez.

The USTA is the largest tennis organization in the world, with 17 geographical sections, more than 770,000 individual members and 8,000 organizational members.

Benitez participated frequently in USTA tournaments and will be attending Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa this fall.

Both Kellogg and Hart head coach Chris Mansfield strongly encourage their players to play such tournaments.

“USTA tournaments allow a player to take their game to the next level. Almost all the top high school singles players play tournaments, and college coaches will come and watch looking for future players for their school. The tournaments allow players to get tougher mentally because the competition is so high,” Mansfield said.


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