- Set your business apart, and stay current with racquet and string trends, through USRSA certifications.
By Bob Patterson Executive Director, USRSA
In 1986, the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association launched the Certified Stringer program to provide racquet stringers an opportunity to demonstrate their competency and expertise through a validation process. That program has set the standard for professional racquet service worldwide.
Why is certification important? Think about professionals in other industries. Anyone can call themselves an accountant and provide financial services, but if you want to make sure of a person’s qualifications, you’ll look for a Certified Public Accountant, who has been vetted by an independent body and has proven their qualifications and ability to do the work. The same concept applies to being certified as a stringer or racquet technician.
USRSA certifications are not easy to earn. The certification exams test both the applicant’s skills with a frame and also their knowledge of the subject matter. Over the last three years, half of the applicants taking a USRSA certification exam for the first time didn’t pass. The most common reason, we found, is that applicants come into the test unprepared. Most applicants think that because they have been stringing for a while, they know it all. (For tips on preparing for the exam, see “Test Preparation”.)
Knowing the Details
Our exams don’t just test how to put strings into a racquet or wrap a grip properly. They also test whether applicants are able to provide solid racquet and string advice to their clients. Learning to put strings in a racquet properly is the easy part.
What differentiates a USRSA Professional Racquet Advisor, Certified Stringer or Master Racquet Technician is that they know the details — the differences in racquets and strings and how they interact with players — which helps clients play better and enjoy the game more. That’s what our certification programs ultimately achieve.
Why should you be certified? It’s simple: If you are servicing racquets and charging for those services, then you should be striving to do that to the best of your ability. Being certified proves to your clients and others that you take your work seriously. You have proven your knowledge and skills through an independent, comprehensive examination process. You are a skilled professional.
Certification also provides an invaluable opportunity to promote your skills and knowledge in a way that separates you from your competition. And, even if your competition is also certified, you are at least competing on a level playing field.
USRSA Certifications are recognized worldwide as the highest standards in the racquet sports industry. But we also realize our industry has changed quite a bit since we first established these standards, and that it continues to evolve. So we have changed and updated our certification requirements to remain relevant, and to continue to be the industry standard.
In 1993, seven years after the USRSA created the Certified Stringer (CS) designation, we developed the Master Racquet Technician (MRT) certification, which encompasses the skills and knowledge of the CS, plus much more.
Last year, the USRSA introduced the Professional Racquet Advisor (PRA) certification for individuals who are not technicians, but who sell or give advice about racquets and strings, such as coaches and teaching professionals. Also, for MRTs who want to go a step beyond, we added “Specialist” designations: MRT — Tournament Stringing Specialist and MRT — Racquet Customization Specialist. These changes are all part of this evolving industry, as we constantly assess our programs to make sure we are living up to the high standards that we have set.
Certified Stringer Expansion
This year, we are embarking on the most significant change to the Certified Stringer program since it was introduced.
The USRSA has always represented the four predominant racquet sports — tennis, badminton, squash and racquetball — and we have always provided instruction, information, and guidance on servicing equipment for these sports. Many aspects of stringing and racquet service transcend all four racquet sports.
But tennis has been the dominant sport, and it remains so, which is why our certification exams have focused on tennis. Although other sports were included in the written exams, the vast majority of the material was focused on tennis. All three practical sections of the CS and MRT exams must be performed with a tennis racquet.
Tennis is still by far the predominant racquet sport in the United States, but there are areas of the country where squash, racquetball or badminton have grown and have significant participation — which requires knowledgeable technicians to service these sports. In addition, over the decades, the USRSA has become a truly global organization, and in certain parts of the world other racquet sports compete with tennis and are very popular.
Because of all this, we’ve had increasing requests for certification from technicians who specialize in badminton, squash or racquetball. For years, they’ve loyally taken our certification tests to show their knowledge and skills stringing tennis racquets — yet their main business was not tennis!
So, later this summer our CS certification will change to be sport-specific. All those currently holding the designation of Certified Stringer will automatically become Certified Stringer–Tennis. From that point forward, we will begin to offer Certified Stringer–Badminton and Certified Stringer–Squash. We will also be considering adding a specific certification for racquetball. A committee of our certification testers has been working on this for the past year, to ensure the sport-specific exams are comprehensive and a fair measurement of skill and knowledge.
We’re thrilled to be able to expand and evolve our offerings to meet the needs of a changing industry — and of our members worldwide.