PTR + PDW + Orlando = “An Amazing Educational Experience”

For those of you who were not able to attend the PTR’s Professional Development Weekend, you missed out on an amazing conference and venue!

The Professional Development Weekend (PDW) was held for the first time outside of Hilton Head at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, located in Orlando, Florida (next to Walt Disney World!). To say that the hotel was amazing does not do it justice! The hotel just completed a $45 million dollar renovation project and it’s breathtaking.

I flew in Wednesday evening from Boston, where we had been experiencing a rainy period, so I was hoping for some sunshine to dry me out. The flight out on JetBlue was perfect: no turbulence to speak of and arrived a couple of minutes early. It does not get better than that when you are flying.

When I arrived at the Hyatt to check-in, we were greeted with warmth and champagne by the front desk staff, starting the conference off on a high note! After a quick run to check out the rooms, which were spectacular, it was off to Hemmingway’s for dinner. I was hoping to savor the Mahi Mahi but they had sold out for the evening so instead it was the Florida Rock Shrimp Chowder & Sottish Salmon, both of which were excellent. I finished the evening with their Key Lime pie and a cappuccino and then was ready to call it a night.

Thursday started with enjoying breakfast at Cascade’s and then off to explore the resort prior to the start of the PDW. The Racquet Club was a brief 5-10 minute walk from the hotel, a perfect way to start to work off breakfast. The Racquet Club is very nice with a stadium court and a total of 8 clay and 4 hard Deco Turf II courts overlooking Lake Windsong. Julie was kind enough to allow me to check in early and I was off to do a little more exploring prior to the start of the conference.

Before the official start of the conference, the PTR had arranged for Beach Tennis for those who are interested. I played spectator for this, watching Hans Romer and John McDonald team up as a formidable Beach Tennis team, taking on anyone who dared!


Hans Romer and John McDonald: Kings Of the Court!

From Beach Tennis, it was off to meet Michele Krause and Jorge Capestany for a quick lunch and to plan for all of the Cardio Tennis sessions and activities for the PDW.

Finally, it was time for the start of the PDW. Dan Santorum welcomed everyone to the conference. Up first was Rodney Harmon, whose topic was “Integrate Technique, Tactics & Strategy into Your Teaching.” Rodney’s presentation was entertaining and informative. We were all introduced to our new friend “Super” Mario Cobo, who volunteered to hit in for Rodney. Mario’s warm personality and Rodney’s charm made this a great way to jump start the PDW.


Rodney Harmon and Gabe Kotto

Next was Dr. Sophie Woorons-Johnston, who presented on “Components of an Expert Lesson.” Sophie gave all of us a lot of great ideas on how we can improve our lessons when we get back home. Once again, it was “Super” Mario who stepped in to be Sophie’s demo partner. Mario certainly worked hard and was smiling all of the time; you could not have asked for a better person to help demo.

Michele Krause and Jorge Capestany then helped everyone to become better feeders with their presentation “Feeding Techniques to Take it to the Next Level.” The attendees learned the benefits of the “grab and feed” technique, speciality feeds, and the importance of practice in order to become a better feeder. After the presentation, it was time for everyone to try and apply all of the great tips from Michele and Jorge in the Cardio Tennis Feeding Contest. We had a great turnout for the event, with close to 25 entrants in the contest who all gained a new respect for feeding (as it is not as easy as it looks). Congrats to Hans Romer and Maria Lopez for being the overall winners of the contest.

Fast Feed Winners

Michele Krause, Hans Romer, Jorge Capestany, Maria Lopez

Day one of the PDW ended with a welcome reception next to the club house, where we were also joined by the PTR members who are the part of the inaugural class of the PTR Master of Tennis(Performance) training program. I could not think of a better way to end the first day of the PDW than with great food and a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.


A group photo at the reception with some of the PDW attendees

Now off to dinner at Hemmingway’s with Michele to catch up and so I could try the Mahi Mahi. It was definitely worth the wait! Off to call it a night as we start Cardio Tennis early Friday!

Friday starts with not only my alarm going off, but a wake-up call so I do not oversleep so that I would be on time to set up for our Cardio Tennis morning workout. Michele, Jorge, and I met at 6:30am to head up to the prepare the courts for the clinic. It was still pitch black out but the courts we had were lit. We had two courts rocking at 7am led by Michele and Jorge with Jason Gilbert, Sophie, and I helping out. It was so picturesque by the courts, which overlooked the lake, as you could see the mist burning off as the sun was rising.


Michele gives the guys their marching orders during the morning Cardio Tennis workout!


Jorge setting the stage during the morning Cardio Tennis Workout

The first presentation on Friday was Daniel Spatz on “How to Take Advanced Juniors to the Highest Level.” Daniel brought his son Danny to assist him. I really enjoyed Daniel and came away with some great insight to apply in our Tournament Training Program.


Taking in the presentations on the stadium court!

Jorge Capestany followed Daniel with his popular “Top 20 Drills & Games” session. If you have never had the chance to see Jorge present, you are missing out. Jorge’s sessions are always fun and enlightening. You are sure to leave with a smile and a few new drills to use at your club.   

Pat Etcheberry was next with the presentation “Fundamentals of Movement Training & Conditioning for Advanced Players.” Pat always is a “must-see” and I strongly encourage you to attend the Etcheberry Experience certification for tennis when you have a chance.


Pat Etcheberry instructing “Super” Mario Cobo on the Etch Swing

After Pat, Dorian Adam gave us a chance to try out the TRX System.

We were then treated to an amazing lunch at Hemmingway’s by the PTR.

With lunch now behind us, the day was split into two different tracks:

Anne Pankhurst with “Coaching Programs for PTR Kids Tennis,” which I was not able to attend but I am sure was fantastic.

The other track started with Hans Romer enlightening us with his session on “Accelerating Your Professional Career – Developing and Utilizing Off Court Skills.” You can see Han’s presentation on YouTube. Hans provided the attendees with a lot of great info to help you grow into a “Tennis Professional.” I was up next with my “Embracing Social Media and Technology as a Tennis Professional,” which I felt went very well and was well received, including a lot of great questions to help stimulate discussion.

Next, I had to do my best “Clark Kent” impression by quickly heading to my room to change into my Cardio Tennis clothes and then running up to the Racquet Club to help out with our first afternoon Cardio Tennis Workout that we have done at a conference. Of course, due to having to change and walk up there from the hotel, I was fashionably late. Michele and Jason had their hands full with about 21 participants for the Cardio Tennis workout, including many returning from the morning session. Once I arrived, we quickly split the participants up and I ran a third court. Everyone worked hard and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of calories that they burned.

After the Cardio Tennis clinic, it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Hans, his wife Kristen, and I decided we would head over to Downtown Disney and eat at Gloria Estafan’s restaurant Bongos Cuban Cafe. When we arrived at Bongos, we ran into Julie Jilly, Nancy Powell, and Monica Androsko, who were kind enough to join us for dinner. After a couple of mojitos and a great meal, we enjoyed a variety of Cuban Flans (and I had a great cappuccino to enjoy the dessert with) and we were treated to some great Cuban music!


Julie enjoying her first Cuban Flan!


Nancy, Kristen, Julie, and Monica

After walking dinner off, it was back to the hotel for a little more conversation and then it was time to call it a night.

Saturday morning, we were treated to a tasty Continental Breakfast along with brief presentations by some of the sponsors of the PDW, which were quite informative.   

Doug Cash was then up and did an excellent job with his talk on “Growing Your Tennis Business.” Doug’s presentation was extremely educational. If you have not had an opportunity to hear Doug speak on this topic, I highly recommend that you do.

Following Doug was Ed Montecalvo of Lee Tennis Products and Tom Magner of Deco Turf with a session on “Life Cycle of a Tennis Court,” an important topic for all of us. The group had many questions for this team of experts on court surfacing, liability and repair.

From there, I was off to meet with Michele, Jorge Capestany, Marti Capestany, and Jorge Andrew for a quick lunch at Cascades (if you ever have a chance, try the Pad Thai – it was amazing!) and to prepare for our “Cardio Tennis Kids in Action” on-court session. From here, the fun started! Michele was next to present the classroom session “Cardio Tennis Kids 101,” which set the stage for the on court presentation. My first task was to meet Jorge, Jorge, and Marti and drive them and the equipment to the Racquet Club, where we would meet Sophie to set up. Once we got everything ready, Jorge, Jorge, and Sophie met with the local kids that Steve Keller had arranged to participate to prepare them for all of the fun as well as to get them into their “Cardio Tennis Kids” t-shirt and set up with a pedometer. While this was happening, I left to get Michele and bring her back to the Racquet Club. This all went like clockwork. I arrived right on time to get Michele and when we arrived back at the Racquet Club, all of the kids where there and we were able to get started on time! Michele led the on court session with Sophie, Jorge, Jorge, and I assisting the kids through different segments of the presentation. I thought Michele and team did a fantastic job (and yes I am biased 😉 ). The kids we had were an absolute delight to work and be with. We had no time to rehearse with the kids. It was meet, greet, and off we went. Until you have tried this, you cannot appreciate how challenging this could be.


Cardio Tennis Kids in Action!

While we were on court, Larry Karageanes presented a session on “Creative Programming,” followed by John McDonald’s talk, “How to Build Your Own Website Quickly and Easily.” I wish I could have seen these sessions as I am sure that they were very revealing.

Jorge Andrew followed “Cardio Tennis Kids” with his talk on “Coaching League Doubles,” which was very enlightening. Marti Capestany and three local players helped Jorge with his demos. They all seemed to enjoy the drills that Jorge took them through.

The day ended with an additional opportunity to try out the  TRX System.


Dan Santorum and Jorge Andrew getting a workout using the TRX System

Tonight was dinner on my own and I decided I still had a craving for more Cuban food, so I hopped a cab back to Downtown Disney and headed once again to Bongos Cuban Cafe. You just cannot find a lot of Cuban food in Boston! After another great dinner, a little more walking around Downtown Disney, and enjoying the sites, it was time to head back to the hotel and get some well deserved rest.

After another great night of sleep (did I tell you how comfortable the beds where?), it was time to pack and then off to  Cascade’s one last time for breakfast.

Anne Pankhurst started the last day of the conference with “Working with Parents”, an important and often challenging topic for all of us. This gave us a taste of the  PTR Master of Tennis(Performance) training program, as this is one of the off court presentations (now I only have 20 hours off court to complete 🙂 ). I really enjoyed this session as it was very thought provoking. I have had the pleasure of hearing Anne speak on many occasions and I always come away with something new.

Following Anne was Doug Booth and Andrew McFarland with the session “QuickStart: The New Way to Play for Kids 10 and Under”. One of the focal points was to make sure everyone was aware of the ITF and USTA rule change for 10 and under that goes into effect in 2012.

From here it was a quick jaunt back to the Racquet Club for our last two on court presentations. First up was Anne Davis with “QuickStart Tennis in Action: Large Groups on One Court.” This gave attendees an idea of how to handle a large number of kids on one court. This included station teaching and play days.

The PDW finished with John MacDonald and Phil Girardi leading the attendees in a “36’/60′ Court QuickStart Tennis Tournament.” You can find the handouts from John and Phil here.

Then it was time to say goodbye to old and new friends, check out and head to the airport. My JetBlue return flight was great. It was only 3/4 full allowing me to have an entire exit row to myself and was on time getting me back home.

I felt the PTR Professional Development Weekend was a huge success! The venue was spectacular, the speakers were top notch, and the weather was absolutely amazing ( no humidity and temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s). The PTR did a phenomenal job with their first PDW outside of Hilton Head. We were also asked if we would like to see some of the future conferences held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. This is not to replace going to Hilton Head, but to do so occasionally. I know I would love to come back to Orlando. If you attended the PDW, please let the PTR know if you enjoyed the venue and would like to come back here again some time soon.

I would like to thank Dan, Julie, and Steve for putting together a fantastic event and for the opportunity to be part of the faculty. For those of you who were not able to join us, I hope you consider arranging your schedule so that you can attend the 2011 PTR International Tennis Symposium in Hilton Head.

For additional photos from the PDW, please check them out on the PTR Facebook page.

P.S. Here is one more view that you missed by not joining us in Orlando!


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