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A Look at the Grips Program

Southern California junior development coaches Craig Cignarelli and Aaron Fox recognized a need for more structure and objectivity in their teaching methods, which led them to create the Grips Program. In less than three years the innovative program has proven to be a rousing success in California, and is now aiming at national audience. Colette Lewis explains the reasons for the program's popularity with players, parents and coaches.


It's a scenario that has played out countless times in tennis clubs across the country. Riviera Tennis Club junior development director Craig Cignarelli was approached by the mother of a young player, who asked that her son be included in his class. Cignarelli declined, saying the boy lacked the skills for that level of play. But when the mother accused him of being unfair, Cignarelli didn't simply shrug and return to his existing pupils.

Instead, he took action.

"I told her, you're right. Let me write a skills test for him, and if he can pass, I'll put him in the class," Cignarelli recalls of that 2006 conversation. "Well, the kid failed the test. But six weeks later he came back and retook the test and passed. And his mom said to me, you know that really inspired my child; it's a great idea, and it was totally fair."

Six months later Cignarelli and his partner Aaron Fox, also a teaching professional at the Los Angeles area club, had developed 11 on-court skills tests, each more difficult than the previous one.

Augmented by 11 off-court exams that incorporate history, sportsmanship, rules, strategy and fitness, those tests marked the birth of the Grips Program.

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Page updated on Wednesday, August 10, 2016
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