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Craig Cignarelli Checks in From The “U.S. Tennis Congress” Starting In Arizona For Its 5th Year

Across the prairie they rumble, Nike-covered feet trampling the dusty earth to converge upon the El Conquistador Resort in the arid Arizona desert. There are two-hundred fifty this year, all wielding curious minds and the sort of unadulterated passion one expects from small children at recess – that’s what this feels like – on a playground where adult tennis players come to learn from seventy of the world’s best coaches.


This is the U.S. Tennis Congress, the brainchild of tennis aficionado P.J. Simmons, who started his quest to pursue excellence on a whim and who now boasts an industry innovation award and a fifth iteration of the world’s premiere adult training ground.


Beginning Thursday evening, participants attend an opening night dinner to hear keynote speaker and polar explorer, Sir Robert Swan, and pledge their unanimous consent to have fun and learn. The Congress then covers four days of intense information dissemination. Doubles seminars from grand slam champions, statistical feedback from IBM”s international tennis representative, video analysis from tennis’ technical gurus and fitness fetishing from the tour’s top coaches are all on the agenda.


Attendees here are called “amateur athletes,” and range from 2.5 to 5.0 skill levels. Each day, after the morning’s group warmup led by several ATP and WTA tour trainers, they receive five on-court instructional hours blended with immersive electives covering everything from sport’s psychology to developmental planning for their personal games. Too, Simmons has dialed up the granularity this year, offering course titles including Spotting Opportunities to Attack in Singles, Mastering the Kinetic Chain, and Singles Playbook for Intermediate Players. The specialization is beyond belief.


The recreational tennis world has never seen this level of competence. Simmons’ organizational acumen stems from his corporate day job where he leads Eco-conferences for Fortune 500 companies. At the core of the Congress however, lies a profound sense of spirituality. Simmons’ personal passion for the game flows across his world class coaching staff and circulates downstream to and upstream from the participants.


Now in its fifth year, players and coaches have developed a history, one which sees hugs, photos and tears upon arrival. Groups break off into authentic conversations about their last twelve months of development, about their goals for this year’s Congress, and to relate stories about overcoming obstacles such as cancer and divorce and anxiety-ridden empty nests. The loneliness of the Arizona desert provides an oasis of healing, a watering hole where compassion and empathy merge into a river of unity. With a ninety-six percent retention rate, the success of the Congress is unquestionable.


This is the U.S. Tennis Congress. Tomorrow evening, PJ Simmons will strike the gavel to commemorate the joint session. Stay tuned.

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