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College Tennis Weekly Features USTA, ITA

College tennis is getting its chance to shine on the small screen, as College Tennis Weekly continues its run on the Fox College Sports Network.

This week, College Tennis Weekly heads to New York, home of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. Host Tony Minnis, former head coach at LSU, sits down to talk with leaders from both the USTA and ITA - as well as some of the top college tennis players and coaches in the nation.

The show, produced by Harry Cicma Productions, has fantastic imagery and is well-edited, and there is plenty of information that is crucial for junior tennis players and parents. Guests interviewed on the show talk about many aspects of college tennis - including the excitement of the team dual match format, the viability of college tennis as a development pathway for players considering the professional ranks, and how college tennis has a demonstrated track record preparing young adults for success in life.

This week's episode, which premieres Thursday, April 7 at 8pm Eastern on FCS Central, also includes extended segments with Martin Blackman, USTA General Manager of Player Development, and Tim Russell, ITA Chief Executive Officer. The two leaders comment on ongoing initiatives to bolster and enhance college tennis.

We got the chance to talk with Minnis, Russell, and Blackman in advance of the premiere. Check out what they had to say ...


Questions and Answers

Tennis Recruiting (TRN): Congratulations on the new television series. What is the mission of College Tennis Weekly?

Tony Minnis (TM): Thanks. Our mission is to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day operations of college tennis programs - and also to educate potential recruits regarding what to expect when going to college and also the preparation needed to be successful. I often felt while I was coaching that the players came to college with unrealistic expectations - and were sometimes shocked at the commitment required.

We also want players, coaches, and parents to know that they have several options for competing on the college level besides NCAA Division I. I have been extremely impressed with the Divison II, III, NAIA, HBCU and JUCO tennis programs.


TRN: We last saw you on the Tennis Channel hosting a different series. What have you brought from that experience to College Tennis Weekly?

TM: I learned that there is great interest in college tennis - and a lack of knowledge regarding the great players, coaches, and there are stories about collegiate tennis today that need to be told. I have been involved in college tennis for over 25 years, and every time I do a show, I learn several things about universities or tournaments that I had never known. This has been very educational for me - and surely of interest to many viewers of not only college tennis but collegiate sports in general.


TRN: The USTA/ITA episode premieres tomorrow night on Fox College Sports. Talk a little bit about this episode - what does it cover?

Georgia standout Austin Smith is one of the many athletes featured in the USTA/ITA episode
courtesy, College Tennis Weekly
TM: We cover a number of topics in the show. First of all, we discuss the intensity of college duals matches. I have often felt that collegiate dual matches are as exciting a college sporting event as anyone will see, and the coaches and players point that out. We also discuss the partnership between the USTA and ITA - which is a great marriage in helping to develop players and give them opportunities to not only play college tennis but also to improve their skills and get ready for the pro circuit if desired.

We also discuss with newly appointed ITA CEO Tim Russell, who by the way is doing an excellent job, how college tennis helps mold some of the great leaders of today - and how college tennis helps in developing work ethic, leadership, and character for future business and community leaders.


TRN: Where can we find out more about the series?

TM: We are now on Fox College Sports, which goes out to 60 million homes nation wide, and we are also doing sports other than tennis. We also have a Facebook Page which will keep fans informed as to when shows will air and for the schools that will be featured. I encourage fans to go to our College Sports Weekly Page on Facebook and like it - and you will receive updates as to when the show will air. You can also follow me on twitter at @TonyMinnis1.


TRN: Since it was only announced this week, I should probably lead off with the alliance between the ITA and Arizona State. Congratulations! What excites you most about the partnership?

Timothy Russell (TR): There are very few places in the world of higher education where major change is not only possible, but it is the culture and daily way of life. Arizona State University is just such a place. ASU President Michael Crow is an extraordinary visionary leader who has transformed higher education in America and worldwide. Our aspirational goal with the ITA is to be as influential in moving the dial, as we work to ensure the long-term prosperity of college tennis as one of the significant, dominant, forward-thinking, college sports.

The ITA's ultimate purpose is to transform lives through tennis and transform how tennis is served and grown as a sport in America through college campuses as the new tennis eco-system. Ray Anderson, ASU's dynamic Athletic Director, and his astonishing team at Sun Devils Athletics, share our vision for integrating tennis on a college campus with high levels of community engagement. For us at the ITA, moving to Tempe is not just about re-locating our headquarters, but about creating a new American programmatic tennis partnership.

We also want to share in the global impact of ASU, as tennis is a leading global sport. At the ITA, we want to partner with visionary leaders who regularly execute on their change agenda. We are grateful for and excited about this new strategic alliance. The ITA shares a vision match with ASU regarding the future of college tennis. The exciting announcement of the ITA's strategic alliance with ASU is simply the first of what we know will be a series of important announcements over the months ahead.


TRN: Talk about how the ITA and USTA are working together to better promote college tennis. What, in your opinion, is one of the more exciting initiatives?

TR: Erica Perkins Jasper, our insightful and hard-working ITA COO, and I both have long-standing associations with the USTA, the national governing body of our sport. We have great working relationships with our friends at the USTA, both in USTA Player Development and USTA Community Tennis. Erica and I are very excited about working with both Martin Blackman, who is committed to integrating college tennis into the pro tennis pathway, and Tim Cass, a great friend of college tennis. Together we all understand that college tennis is the connective tissue in American tennis, the aspiration goal of many junior tennis players and one possible pathway to professional tennis.

Minnis and Russell chat about the ITA and college tennis
courtesy, College Tennis Weekly
For college tennis to survive and thrive American junior tennis must prosper. American professional tennis will also prosper if college tennis continues to perform at higher and higher levels of excellence. With the opening of The USTA's National Campus, in Lake Nona, Florida (near Orlando), I know that the USTA and the ITA will be discussing how to maximize the National Campus as one location for major ITA events.

TRN: Our community at Tennis Recruiting is predominantly junior tennis players and their parents - many of whom have never attended a college dual match. For someone going to their first college match, what is something they should watch for?

TR: While an accurate representation of the reality of many junior tennis players, your question includes a curious premise to me. For whatever reason - whether the busyness of life with school and training and competing - I continue to be amazed by how many junior tennis players who aspire to play college tennis don't attend college tennis matches.

The first thing that I would say is, "go watch college tennis matches." They are not only fun and exciting in their own right, but also an incredibly important part of the recruiting process, understanding the next phase of your life as a rising collegiate student-athlete. College dual matches celebrate individual performance and teamwork. When you get to the matches, start by appreciating the importance of doubles. When it comes to the singles matches, enjoy the many styles of players and matches that are all transpiring simultaneously. With the new DI format, enjoy the excitement of No-Ad scoring. No matter where you live, find college matches to enjoy. The mission of the ITA is to serve all of college tennis - the astonishing athletes of DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, and JUCO/Community Colleges. We encourage you to support these outstanding student-athletes throughout their careers, as they prepare for being America's leaders of tomorrow.


TRN: As a two-time NCAA champion at Stanford, college tennis is obviously part of your tennis background. How do you see college tennis fitting into the American tennis landscape?

Martin Blackman (MB): One of the greatest institutions that American tennis has is college tennis. The concept of developing athletically, educationally and emotionally as a university student is uniquely American. When we look at the average ages of the top 100 players - 28 on the men's side and 24 for the women - it makes perfect sense that for every great junior player who is not quite ready for the pros, college is the path.


TRN: It has now been a year since you were appointed General Manager of USTA Player Development. Have your views of college tennis changed during this time? What initiatives excite you?

MB: Early on in my tenure, I saw an opportunity to increase our investment in college tennis - working collaboratively with the college coaches of our best American players. Building on the great work that had been done by Stephen Amritraj in building relationships and in facilitating the creation of more Futures and Challengers on college campuses, we designed a strategy and are currently executing it. The four elements of that strategy are coaching, getting events on college campuses, providing wildcards to collegians, and emotional support.

The ITA and USTA have teamed to promote college tennis
courtesy, College Tennis Weekly
More specifically, for coaching support, we added two great coaches to our collegiate group in Brad Stine and Roger Anderson. We worked with our Pro Circuit Department to ensure that Futures and Challenger events on campus get the full support that other events have. We have linked wildcards to the biggest ITA events - to incentivize players to play through the ITA pathway instead of around it. And lastly and most importantly, we are giving more emotional support than ever to our best American collegians - so that when they come out of the spring season they know that their Federation believes in their ability to have great pro results during the summer and beyond.

Set your DVR to record College Tennis Weekly - and catch the USTA/ITA show which premieres this month. Here are the scheduled air times:

  • 4/7 - 8:00pm ET on FCS Central
  • 4/8 - 6:00pm ET on FCS Pacific
  • 4/9 - 11:30pm ET on FCS Atlantic
  • 4/12 - 11:30pm ET on FCS Central
  • 4/16 - 10:30am ET on FCS Central
  • 4/17 - 4:30pm ET on FCS Pacific
  • 4/20 - 11:00pm ET on FCS Central
  • 4/21 - 7:30pm ET on FCS Atlantic
  • 4/25 - 12:30am ET on FCS Atlantic

Old School

Next up on our Countdown - we hear from former Notre Dame standout Kristy Frilling Skelly. The former No. 2 recruit, who was a four-year All-American for the Irish, talks about her tennis career and spirit for travel.

In the meantime, take a gander at anything you might have missed - as Tennis Recruiting heads down the home stretch of its Countdown to Signing Day!


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Colette Lewis has covered topflight junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Read her weekly column, follow her on Twitter, and and find more of her daily commentary at ZooTennis.

Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
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