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Universal Tennis (UTR) has been active in high school tennis for about two years, and our best-in-class system has been experiencing explosive growth. Our platform has been adopted to the point where high schools in all 50 states are utilizing UTR's completely free software! UTR is working directly with 13 High School State Associations, including all 10 sections in the California Interscholastic Federation. A new partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has only enhanced UTR's growth in high school tennis.
One of Universal Tennis’ goals is to improve the overall quality of high school tennis by providing free tools and technologies to State High School Associations. The benefits for schools and players of using the platform are much more than only a rating!
Decorated high school tennis coach Bill Shine of the Menlo School on the central coast of California can attest to many of these improvements. Having led two teams to a 1,074-154 record, Shine said: “UTR has completely clarified ability level. It’s more precise. Before it used to be the kids who played the most tournaments who were ranked higher—it wasn’t necessarily that they were better players.” Commenting on the impact that UTR could potentially have in the high school space, Shine said “If players know that matches will count towards their UTRs then this could also attract a higher level of player to high school tennis.”
With the inclusion of UTR in high school tennis, coaches no longer have to rely on word of mouth and scouting trips to assess upcoming opponents —they can simply look up the strength of their rosters through the UTR platform. The integration of high school results also helps solve “stacking” problems, where athletes are placed in different positions on the lineup by coaches looking to score easy points for their teams. By using UTR’s Compare Teams tool, coaches can see where players belong in the lineups for both teams—no guesswork required. Fair and competitive play is at the heart of UTR and bringing this principle to high school tennis is extremely important.
UTR significantly reduces the time of those extended, six-hour seeding meetings. While these meetings have long been a tradition in high school tennis, when results are reported to Universal Tennis’ database, seedings can be based on an objective metric. Speaking on the seeding process, Shine said: “Seeding high school teams is a lot easier now. You can tell how good the team is just by adding all their UTRs. Whether players are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors doesn’t matter.”
So far the UTR platform already has more than 10,000 coaches onboard who use it for everything from running tournaments, scouting opponents, to finding out if an athlete is a good fit for their team.
By partnering with the NFHS, Universal Tennis is excited to bring recognition to the hundreds of thousands of high school competitors who proudly represent their schools and provide them with a creditable, measurable way of assessing their performances.
Universal Tennis has also partnered with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) to provide the same service. The CIF is encouraging all of its 10 sections to use UTR for its high school matches, and their goal within the next few years is to have every California high school tennis player on UTR. The San Diego section of the CIF has been utilizing UTR for the past few years and has immediately seen success accurately seeding postseason play.
Having high school match results counting towards a UTR also assists competitive juniors who want to pursue tennis at the collegiate level. A common misconception is that the UTRs of college tennis players are quite high. While this is true at the Division I level, there are ample college tennis opportunities out there for players at all different skill levels.
Ron Marquez, an Events and Operations Coordinator at CIF San Diego Section, said on the use of UTR in high schools: “UTR has provided a common platform for all teams to use and plan our individual league and CIF Championships, which our section has never had before. UTR allows more high school students to see their potential as tennis players, the possibility of continuing their tennis careers at the collegiate level, and to play for the rest of their lives.”
As we’ve noted before in our blog, “across all divisions, 60% of college women tennis players have a UTR between 2 and 7. For men across all divisions, 56% have a UTR between 3 and 10.” This means that competing in college athletics isn’t only limited to players with elite UTRs; players at a variety of levels can use their UTRs to represent a team in the NCAA, NAIA, or NJCAA.
The Universal Tennis focus in the high school space also benefits young athletes in an unexpected way: research suggests that multi-sport athletes are less prone to burnout, injury, and might have a leg-up with their social development. Universal Tennis supports multi-sport athletes as our algorithm is capable of creating a reliable rating with only five matches. When state associations adopt the platform for high school tennis in their state, players are able to participate in other sports and do not have to dedicate valuable time towards tournament travel. They earn credit for their high school matches and still receive an accurate rating for their current level of play.
Currently, there are high schools in all 50 states using the free platform for their athletes and already 13 state associations encourage or mandate its use - that number will only continue to grow. While not all high school athletes will go on to have collegiate careers, through UTR’s partnership with the NFHS, we hope that their hard work will be more easily recognized—and that the overall level of high school tennis will continue to improve.