While the US Open championships monopolized the tennis spotlight earlier this month, a different kind of tennis event was taking place not far away in Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. Using a court set up in the hotel's ballroom, the US Tennis Association held its 15th annual national teachers conference, a three-day powwow begun with a a lively lecture on the application of aikido, a Japanese system of self-defense, to tennis.
Such fare can seem pretty radical to some participants, but it is just the sort of fresh perspective Eve Kraft likes to slip onto the agenda.
Kraft, a founder of the conference, is no stuffy schoolmarm. She enjoys bringing new ideas to bear on teaching the game, and has been actively doing so for the past 14 years as director of the USTA's Education and Research Center.
Tennis magazine recognized the impact she's made by naming her one of the 20 most influential people in the game over the past 20 years. But it's what the next 20 years hold in store that really excites her.
She envisions a second tennis boom on the horizon, and is busy trying to fulfill her own prophecy on a number of fronts.
The one she anticipates will really start the ball rolling in a big way is the USTA's Schools Program.
The objective, she says, is ``to get tennis into the curriculum so that kids grow up with tennis like they grow up with English.''
For years the American tennis community has tried to crack this nut, but in a somewhat scattershot manner. Now, however, Kraft believes all the pieces of a comprehensive strategy are in place.
The instructional guides have been written, the teaching clinicians hired, and the network of townwide tennis associations established. Throw in the support of the national organization and a local business eager to underwrite some of the costs, and the recipe is complete.