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By Ed Krass

College tennis, as great as it is, needs to move its stature up in the world of college athletics.  It's no secret, in today's poor economic times, that athletic departments are being forced to cut their budgets.
College tennis, a non-revenue sport, seems a likely choice for budget cuts.  In December 2008, several coaching friends of mine were not able to attend the annual ITA National Coaches Convention due to budget cuts.
The fear of having more tennis programs cut is always lingering.  One of the inherent problems the sport of college tennis has is the length of time it takes to complete a dual match.  With the current format of three doubles matches (8-game pro-sets), followed by a team meeting and six singles matches (2 our of 3 sets), many dual matches are lasting over 5 hours!  Are long dual matches in the best interest of preserving the sport of college tennis?
Most college dual matches are sparsely attended.  Most of the fans are friends of the players and their families.  College tennis has become too self absorbed.  How can college tennis matches attract more outside fans to increase visibility and gain recognition?  How can college coaches directly affect the presentation of the dual match?
At this year's ITA convention, I spoke about some solutions and concepts we can immediately implement to promote college tennis to the community and campus.  My proposal is to integrate rock and blues music and to shorten the dual match format.  The new "Rock N' Roll College Tennis Dual Format" becomes an entertainment event for both the college campus and community.
Let's discuss the shorter format before talking about the music.  The variety of formats available for dual match competition were discussed by ITA members at the December convention. Some coaches were not aware that they had the authority to make a change in their dual match format.  If both coaches agree to a specific format, it can be played.  No other authorization is necessary.  There are three shorter dual match formats available for consideration, but others options may also be considered.
The first format is simultaneous four singles and one doubles match, where the matches are two out of three sets with a super-tiebreaker (first to win 10 points) determining the third set.  The second format is the simultaneous five singles and one doubles match, where the doubles match counts for two points.  This match is also played like the first format, two out of three sets with a super-tiebreaker determining the third set.  The third format is the current format of three doubles matches followed by six singles matches, all matches are 8-game pro sets.
One idea proposed at the ITA Convention as a promotion to draw crowds was to provide free pizza at the matches.  The host coach could coordinate this promotion with a local pizza store.  In exchange for free pizza, the pizza store could hang a banner courtside during the match and distribute advertising coupons to local fans attending the match.  Based on the success level of the first promotion, the pizza store could choose to sponsor free pizza at the next home match, or sell pizza at a discounted price.  This is just one feasible idea to increase attendance.
Coaches could create inexpensive flyers to promote the college match and distribute the flyers around campus.  Advance promotion, through distribution of flyers and press releases in the college newspaper, is paramount to the match's attendance.
Now, to the music part.  Coaches that play music at their practices will agree how much their players enjoy it.  I have been playing rock and blues CDs at my College Tennis Exposure Camps (www.collegetennis.com) for the past three summers. We play the music over the court's PA system so our campers can hear the music during drills and matches.  Our coaching staff has found that the junior players compete longer and harder -- to the very end -- with the music on.  The players are working the process in more of a "competitive comfort zone."  The benefits of playing and competing while listening to music are multifold.
The combination of playing music (chosen by the host coach) during the dual match creates an exciting atmosphere for everyone in attendance.  The dual match coaches need to agree to the music concept a few weeks before the match.  This allows the host coach and team to promote the "Rock N' Roll College Tennis" match throughout the community.  Beside bringing in new fans, adding music will allow players to compete in a more relaxed environment.  Players will give more of an all-out mental, emotional and physical performance regardless of the score. 
Rob Polishook, Sports Psychology and Performance Coach for Inside the Zone Performance Group says, "The idea of playing fun, rhythmic, motivating music can take a player to another level, an experience that is beyond thinking to a place of natural instinctual feel. This "inside the zone" state leads to improved play and learning how to trust your game."
The USTA, with the help from the TIA, has successfully created a tennis and music workout program called "Cardio Tennis". After a four year push, there are now over 1800 official Cardio Tennis sites in the U.S. About 80% of those sites are using music in their Cardio Tennis classes to energize and motivate the players.
"Music is a standard in the fitness industry , so to stay competitive in attracting new players and fans to our sport, we need to break from tradition and continue to educate the tennis professionals and coaches on the benefits of using music with Tennis.  Music is proving to be so popular on the Tennis court", states Michele Kraus, National Cardio Tennis Program Manager.
There are now Tennis facilities that have put speakers on all their courts and play music throughout the day. The Crooked Creek Tennis Club in Alpharetta, Ga. has installed speakers around the clubhouse of their outdoor facility and plays music throughout the day. David Oom, Tennis Director at the MVP Sportsplex in Grand Rapids, Mi. did the same thing on his 6 indoor courts. "The combination of music and tennis has become part of the norm here at our Tennis complex. If given the choice, most of our membership would probably choose to have the music playing during USTA matches. I think the addition of music to the tennis clubs is a phenomenal way to lure more people to our sport", states Oom.
Several college tennis coaches have committed to the Rock N' Roll Dual Match Format.  On the men's side, Brown University vs Boston University will host a dual match using the new format on January 24 at Brown University.  On the women's side, Colgate vs Binghamton University will use the format on April 15 in a dual match at Binghamton..  With the implementation of this new format, college tennis matches no longer have to be dull and drawn-out.  The Rock N' Roll Dual Match Format will usher in a new era of college tennis.
Whoever said that a tennis match needed complete silence? Probably some French guy in 1870s when the game started.  Fans at matches won't have to worry about the game's "Quiet Please" etiquette of the sport.  College tennis can finally be fan-friendly.  Given the state of the economy and college tennis' weak position in the college sports world, the game could use a boost.  College coaches have the power to bring the entertainment value of college tennis to the masses with the new Rock N' Roll Dual Match Format.
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Ed Krass is the Founder and Director of the College Tennis Exposure Camp, the World's only tennis camp taught exclusively by head college coaches. He is the founder of One-On-One Doubles Tennis, the first, new alternative game to Singles and Doubles since the inception of the game in the 1870s.
Ed is also the founder of the "Rock N' Roll College Tennis" match concept.