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Player Development

Player Development is the WTA's education and resource center, outreaching to WTA players and their support teams. Player Development programs promote and enhance players' career fulfillment, safety and well-being. "How", you might ask? Players access WTA services and gain concrete skills to maximize their performance and mitigate the known environmental stressors.

Player Development programs are scientifically proven to keep female tennis players in and at the top of their game. Programs Include:

MENTOR PROGRAM > PARTNERS FOR SUCCESS
The first mentor program in professional sports, Partners For Success, brings together young players with veteran and retired players who share their dynamic experience to help these protégés make a smooth transition into their careers. Billie Jean King, the program's historian, exemplifies the role of a mentor.

PLAYER ORIENTATION > ROOKIE HOURS
Players learn the on-site realities and responsibilities of being a participant on the WTA. The orientation ("Rookie Hours") helps the players understand the building blocks of the business and her responsibilities and opportunities.

MEDIA TRAINING
Players learn how to be prepared, professional and self-expressive in public speaking opportunities.

PLAYER SUPPORT TEAM
Parents, coaches, agents, fitness trainers are an integral part of each player's career. The WTA is committed to providing information to these Support Team members, ranging from what players will encounter in the professional arena to the rules and expectations that govern all parties in the environment, including adherence to the Code of Conduct and, for credentialed coaches, possession of a qualified coaching certification.

SCHEDULEZONE
ScheduleZone is an interactive, online tool that players and their support teams use to optimize player performance and career longevity, and minimize the risks of injury. Players plan their upcoming tournament season taking critical factors into account as they receive feedback specific to their age, ranking, and individualized scheduling decisions. ScheduleZone is supported with other tennis-specific lessons on Preparation, Performance and Recovery.

TRANSITIONS
'Transitions' is the culmination of the Player Journey and provides sophisticated education, training and career guidance to maximize opportunities, in business and in life, during the tennis career and after. Current and alumnae players have access to a range of programs, from financial planning and investing, gaining coaching certifications, networking and alumnae reunions, and public speaking /business presentations.

AGE ELIGIBILITY
The Age Eligibility Rule progressively allows athletes to play more and at a higher level by phasing them into professional tennis in accordance with their age, their ranking and the skills gained from Player Development. Questions can be referred to Sarka Vitkova by email at svitkova@wtatennis.com or by referencing the 2014 WTA Rulebook.

ALL COURT GAME
Each player is required to complete a physical examination, complete the minimum educational requirements of her country, and participate in related training and educational activities that promote her health, safety and career longevity.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
As part of the WTA's overall committed approach to the well-being and success of its players, Player Development programs have been offered since 1995 to facilitate skill development, promote career fulfillment and longevity, and minimize the physical, psychological and developmental risks of competing in women's professional tennis. In 2004, the WTA marked the ten year anniversary of these model programs by conducting an extensive review, guided by the Player Development Advisory Panel. To see the results of the published 10-Year-Review, click here. The Panel is an independent, volunteer body of leading international sports sciences and medicine professionals with extensive experience with female professional athletes and tennis players. The panel is commissioned annually to advise the WTA on all aspects of its athlete growth and development programs.

SUMMARY AND REVIEW OF FINDINGS
Since their implementation in 1995, the WTA's innovative Player Development programs have been proven successful at addressing the athletes' top stress and performance-related factors, reducing burn-out and increasing career longevity.
SPECIFIC STATISTICS INCLUDE:
• Premature retirements (prior to age 22) dropped from 7% to less than 1%.
• Playing careers are lasting 24% longer and a WTA player was 73% more likely to enjoy a 15-year career in 2004 compared with1994.
• 1994 athlete stressors such as media, loneliness and family are no longer at the top of the list. Performance-based stressors, including
injuries, expectations and competition are of increased concern and while common in pro sports, are importantly addressed through
• Roadmap and other WTA programs.
• Players and the tennis community overwhelmingly (90% overall) support the need for Player Development programs.

PANEL CONCLUSIONS
• The programs and AER have greatly reduced burnout while fostering the health, development and long-term success of young athletes.
• The WTA's Player Development is cutting edge and recognized as a model within the sports community in its approach to helping
athletes anticipate and manage the physical and psychological demands of full-time professional tennis.
• Early exposure to the programs is creating a new generation of athlete who can mitigate the sport's external factors (family,
media, etc.) to focus more on important performance factors (expectations, injuries, etc.) that maximize career potential.

2014 AGE ELIGIBILITY RULE (AER) HIGHLIGHTS:
A 14-year-old
may play up to 8 professional events (WTA & ITF Women's Circuit), no more than 3 of which can have prize money at $50K or greater; plus Fed Cup.
A 15-year-old may play up to 10 professional events (WTA & ITF Women's Circuit), WTA Championships (if she qualifies), plus Fed Cup.
A 16-year-old may play up to 12 professional events (WTA & ITF Women's Circuit), WTA Championships (if she qualifies), plus Fed Cup.
A 17-year-old may play up to 16 professional events (WTA & ITF Women's Circuit), WTA Championships (if she qualifies), plus Fed Cup. In the WTA Year of her 17th birthday a player may be named to the Top 10 and/or Premier Player Lists.
Merited Increases: A player aged 15-17 is allowed up to four (4) merited increases per birth year (i.e., birthday to birthday). Merited increases are in addition to a player's allotted number of Tournaments under the AER, and may be earned as follows:
WTA Premier Mandatory (PM)/Grand Slam (GS) eligibility: A player must be a direct ranking acceptance into the Main Draw or Qualifying of PM/GS events. Players may include up to two (2) Grand Slam events in their total number of four (4) merited increases. However, if a player accepts a Wild Card into a PM or GS event rather than entering through direct ranking acceptance, the tournament shall be included into her total allotment of Tournaments under the AER rather than as a merited increase.
Pro Path: A player who is a Year-end Top 5 ITF Junior and/or has reached the singles final of a Junior Grand Slam tournament may earn up to two merited increases at age 15 and up to three merited increases at ages 16 and 17.
• If a player is eligible under both the WTA Premier Mandatory/Grand Slam and the Pro Path, she may combine opportunities to reach the maximum of four (4) merited increases per birth year. WTA Premier Mandatory/Grand Slam and Pro Path merited increases can be used when a player and her support team have completed all related Player Development requirements to-date. However, if a player has not completed her Player Development requirements prior to taking the merited increase, then participation in what would otherwise be a merited increase event is counted against her total allotment of Tournaments under the AER.

An 18-year-old may play an unlimited number of professional tournaments, Fed Cup and the WTA Championships. The player will remain a full participant in Player Development until notified of graduation.
Mandatory Play: All players, regardless of age, who by ranking (including Special Rankings) qualify for acceptance into the Main Draw of a Premier Mandatory Tournament (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) or the Main Draw of a Grand Slam will be entered automatically. A player who has reached her maximum number of professional tournaments under the Age Eligibility Rule prior to such mandatory Tournaments will not be allowed to play in the Mandatory Tournament and will be assessed a fine and/or receive zero ranking points unless she meets the requirements for it to count in addition to her allotted number of Tournaments.

This serves only as a brief view of the Age Eligibility Rule. Refer to the complete version of the Age Eligibility Rule in the 2014 WTA Rulebook for more details, including wildcards.

Questions can be referred to Player Development: Sarka Vitkova by email at svitkova@wtatennis.com.

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