The IART Training Symposium

In 2007, IART Executive Director Tim Strawn surveyed the tennis industry landscape and noticed something was missing. “At the time, I was traveling and working on various tour-stringing teams, so I had some real insight into what it takes to work at that level. Every tournament has an official stringing service that contracts with the event to service racquets for the players, and team members are some of the best racquet technicians in the world, so I had several questions. First and foremost, I wanted to know about their background and where they learned to do what they did. How did they rise to that level”? Second, how did they get here? What was the process they went through to get selected for the team? I would eventually discover that they came from various backgrounds and that virtually none worked full-time, stringing for professional tournaments. This was not a full-time job, and if you thought you were going to make a decent living doing this kind of work, you’d better think again.

Earlier in my career, I served as a certified teaching pro with the USPTA and the PTR, and I knew both organizations hosted annual training events. So I asked myself why. Why was there no annual training event for the stringers? After all, these people in the trenches are working their tails off at major events, yet you never heard anything about them. I contacted the USRSA, of which I had been a member for over 20 years, and suggested that the opportunity existed for them to organize and host an annual event for the stringers. I thought this was a respectable approach because the USRSA was where I got my start, so I felt the first step should be to contact them. They were the right organization to host and organize such an event and had the staff to make it happen. But to my dismay, the response was not what I expected. I was told there was no interest in such an event, and they had no plans to pursue it.

I couldn’t get the question of why out of my mind. Why was this not happening? It seemed natural that since the teaching professionals hosted annual training events, there was no reason at all why the racquet stringers around the world shouldn’t have a training event of their own, so I began to brainstorm about the possibility of taking on the risk and organizing an event on my own. I already had an organization, Grand Slam Stringers, with a very active message forum, so a partial foundation already existed, but I knew this was going to be a huge challenge. I started by contacting other stringers I knew who had either worked on tour-stringing teams or had several years of experience in the tennis industry. I posed the idea of an event for stringers and shared my vision. Who might be involved in the industry, and what types of training could be offered? Then I asked the obvious question. Do you think an event like this is a good idea? If I organized it and put it all together, would you be interested in becoming a part of it by serving as an instructor? The overwhelming answer was yes. Not one person thought it was a bad idea, and they all seemed quite excited about the prospects of seeing this idea come to fruition. After all, I was not asking any of these people to take a risk; the risk was mine alone to bear. After hearing their responses, I began to formulate a plan to make it happen, and as a result, the GSS Symposium was born, which later became the IART Training Symposium. The first symposium was held in Texas in 2007, and although the attendance was not very big, the event received a lot of buzz and positive reviews. With that in mind, I knew the event needed a new home, so the following year, I moved it to Orlando, where it was held from 2008 to 2010 and hosted by local hotels. Orlando was fine, but there was a problem. The lack of enough tennis courts that the event needed was holding us back, so one last move was needed. In 2011, I moved it to the Saddlebrook Resort near Tampa, Florida, where it remained for the next five years.


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