A Globalized USRSA Is Welcome News
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
As we begin the millennium, the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA) has ambitious plans to expand its reach by globalizing membership, fielding greater numbers of certified racquet stringers, and making its substantial information resources more available to members and players via the world wide web. This should be welcome news to the squash community.
The USRSA is a for-profit association of dues-paying racquet stringers with 6,500 members worldwide. Goals of the organization include: certification of members' competency in and knowledge of racquet strings, stringing equipment, and stringing technique; conducting research to stay on the cutting edge; and disseminating information to interested players.
I had an opportunity to talk with the new president of the USRSA, Pat Curry, who recently sold his own software firm to renew his love affair with racquet sports. Pat is very enthusiastic about the growing popularity of "lifestyle sports" in the age of the internet, which he sees as a tool for getting more out of our squash experience. According to Pat, the internet will play an important role in improving the quickness and flexibility of the USRSA. As the USRSA grows to an organization with 50% of its membership outside of the U.S., the internet will also provide a window on developments from thriving squash communities in Europe and Asia.
The organization's plans to expand and redesign its web site will provide members with more rapid access to archived information, as well as give players themselves information on new string test results, recommended string tensions, etc. At the same time, the association is increasing its research staff, so the quality and quantity of information available should be even better. (The association will still continue to publish its member magazine, Racquet Tech, but much of the information germane to squash players will also be retrievable on the web site.) .
One of the broadest areas the USRSA has targeted for improvement is its certification program. There are currently two levels of certification-Certified Stringer and Certified Racquet Technician (CRT). Certified Stringer is a one-time only certification that assures the stringer is familiar with the materials and best stringing practices at the time of certification. Certified Racquet Technician is a stricter standard that requires yearly retesting to ensure consumers that the CRT is up to date on the latest techniques and technology. Currently there are about 2,000 certified stringers and 500 CRTs.
The USRSA is replacing CRT certification with a new, higher level of certification called Master Racquet Technician (MRT). To make it easier to obtain MRT certification, the association will provide members with more user-friendly preparatory material and hopes to triple the number of testers over the next two years, with one located in each major city. The new certification will allow MRTs to operate independently of retail stores, if they choose.
Pat stressed the importance of the USRSA as an educational organization. He said, "As far as advice on what machine to buy or how to teach yourself stringing, we have all the materials anyone would ever need."
He added, "I am enthusiastic about the future of racquet sports, here and internationally, or I wouldn't have jumped into this endeavor. I am focused on the association side and making sure we continue to deliver the highest quality of independent observation."
So, with all of these exciting plans, the USRSA bears watching. We squash players would certainly benefit from better and more readily accessible information and higher levels of service from the organizations that serve us. Good luck, Pat.
This article previously appeared in Squash Magazine.