CELEBRATE NET GENERATION COACH ELLEN MILLER
Ellen Miller is the Director of Coaching Education and Player Development for the Houston Tennis Association (HTA) NJTL in Houston, Texas. In this role, she provides training and coaching education for nearly 60 coaches at local Houston Parks and Recreation sites and also directs the Tournament Player Group (TPG) for motivated junior players. The idea behind the TPG is to provide a pathway for players who otherwise might not have access to high performance training and tournament exposure.
The Net Generation team asked Ellen to share more about her experience with tennis and Net Generation. Here are her thoughts:
Net Generation has impacted not only my own coaching but also my ability to coach our instructors at our sites. This summer, we implemented the Net Generation Community Curriculum at all 30-plus sites. The curriculum was well received, and the kids really enjoyed the fun activities and games. The well-described and clearly depicted activities made it easy for even our newest staff members to get started right away. Our TPG utilized the Net Generation Coach Curriculum with great success. Our ratios are lower in this group, so we were able to use the curriculum red through green. The coaches found it easy to implement, and the kids had a blast. Our kids know all the Net Generation games. All we need to say is, “We are going to play Gladiator” and I hear, “Yaayy! We love that game!”
I love coaching young players because I see such tremendous progress, not only in their hitting ability, but in their development as people. While we work hard to develop technically sound strokes and competitive players, kids learn skills they’ll use in all aspects of life. Character development is a big part of our NJTL and TPG training, and I love the fact that Net Generation has a character theme in every lesson.
The best part about Net Generation is that it is the result of a culmination of years of hard work to improve junior tennis in this country. It’s funny. From time to time, I hear allegations that “this and that program came on the scene, but then later it was scrapped because it didn’t work.” I look back at “Quickstart” and “10 and Under Tennis” not as programs scrapped, but rather as programs that were improved upon over time and ultimately absorbed into the larger, more encompassing Net Generation. The way I look at it is we have been on the path of trial and error. There was no blueprint, rather just ideas, and we added to them as we went along.
Under this new youth tennis “umbrella,” we now have corresponding youth tournaments, school programs and community offerings. Net Generation has given us more than just curriculum books; there are also videos, tools for marketing tennis programs and even a mobile app to use on court. Youth tennis is more accessible for players, their parents and especially their coaches.
My favorite part of Net Generation is that there is a curriculum to meet every need, from beginning to advanced players. As mentioned, my job spans community to high performance, and I can easily switch between the two curricula. Many of the activities are the same, but they are adapted to fit the diverse needs of each program. This leads me to another aspect I love – the ability to progress and regress lessons to meet the needs of the kids. Any coach who can teach this curriculum will be able to adapt and coach any level player and any size group.
I see Net Generation continuing to change the way we deliver youth tennis. There has been so much progress already to benefit our young players, such as getting them away from hitting high-bouncing yellow balls that are heavy on the racquet and hard to control. We now have courts sized to the players with the full complement of appropriately sized equipment. Tournaments now match ball designations and provide opportunities for more young players to be successful in our sport.
Our next step will be getting coaches across the country on board with Net Generation. There is so much to gain. Coaching in this country is lopsided. We have some outstanding coaches and then others who resist adapting to our changing sport. We need to get more coaches trained, even re-trained, and certified to provide quality programming. Net Generation will help with free background checks and opportunities for coaches to receive additional training.
With so much focus in sports these days on topics like safe coaching, obesity, over-use injuries and bullying, there is a need for a sport that addresses these issues. Net Generation offers us that platform to provide a safe sport with kid-sized equipment in a kid-friendly environment with qualified coaches. Plus, tennis is fun! Once kids get the right start, they quickly realize that. What more do we need?