- Are you ready for the USRSA certification exams? A tester offers tips to help you score big.
By Diane Hamm-Vida, MRT
“Ready for the customer?”
I vividly remember the moment my USRSA tester asked me that just as I was about to hand him my racquet after the stringing portion of my certification exam. My future as a racquet services professional depended on how well I would answer that question with my performance.
Testing for stringing certification may seem intimidating, but what’s worse is not being truly ready for the test. Now that I have become a USRSA tester, I realize that being adequately prepared for the certification test is about more than just practicing and studying the manual. Equally skilled candidates can have very different outcomes based solely on who is prepared — that is, how much attention they pay to what I’ll call logistics.
What are the logistics one must master to be ready to take the USRSA certification test? Here are some tips that can help prepare you.
Read all registration materials carefully and be sure to register on time.
- You want to ensure receipt of materials well in advance of the test. If you are working individually with a USRSA tester, he or she can help you manage the process. Even though you will both receive an email confirmation, it is a good idea to save or print a copy as well.
- If you are taking the test as part of a conference or symposium, be sure you understand what part of the registration is for the conference and what is required for testing. Print out proof of your test registration and bring it with you to the test.
Know what you are being tested on, what is included in each section, and how much time you have.
- Each certification has specific instructions on what you can expect during the test(s) and what you need in order to be successful.
- All exams are timed, and you must know how much time is allowed. When time is up, any questions not completed on written exams are deducted from your final score. Failing to finish a practical section almost always results in the need to retest that section.
- For the CS or MRT practical tests, bring your own racquet, tools, and supplies (e.g. grommet/bumper guard sets, Goo Off ). If you arrive without them, you will have to use what’s available, or may even have to reschedule. Be sure your racquet is on the “approved” list. If you are not sure, contact the USRSA in advance to find out.
You may already have a lot of stringing experience and feel confident in your ability to successfully complete the test within the allotted time. But there are still many factors you need to consider in order to be fully prepared.
- Tools: Have the right ones, and line them up for use before you start. You don’t want to waste time looking for scissors or replacing a knife blade (which you should make sure is brand new). You also don’t want to rely on tools that may (or may not) be available, especially if you are used to a certain brand or style. Try to familiarize yourself with the machines at the test site, and if possible, string some racquets on them beforehand.
- Equipment: Don’t simply decide that you are going to use a certain racquet for your test, throw it and the grommets in your bag, and feel ready. Regardless of your level of experience, have more than one set of replacement grommets for your test racquet, and be sure to have practiced with them in advance. The same holds true for heat sleeves: buy lots of them (they are inexpensive), and practice in advance. Importantly, before you arrive for the test, make sure the racquet is clean, and this includes the handle! You don’t want to waste 15 or 20 minutes of test time cleaning off all the dirt, glue or old replacement grip slime.
- Timing: Even in my short time as a tester, I’ve seen too many competent stringers run out of time and not finish parts of the exam. Why? Either they didn’t read the instructions and know how much time they had, or they failed to time themselves in advance. Timing yourself may sound silly if you are an experienced stringer, but no matter how relaxed you are when you work on racquets, you will be nervous on test day. If you don’t know where you usually are in a string job at 6 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, etc., how will you know if you’re getting close to your time being up?
Here’s a great strategy: Practice stringing, gripping/build up, and grommet/bumper guard replacement by using the timer on your microwave or a similar timer. That way, it always feels like time is running out. But wait for that “ding” enough times and that feeling will go away. You will know exactly where you are at any moment, even though you can’t see the clock.
If you are consistent and using proper technique, the time left after each string job, or grommet or grip job will be about the same. For the certification test, factor in a new environment, a different machine or tools, a stranger watching you intently, a bunch of noise — and it’s easy to see that all this can cause you to lose time.
You’ve studied the manual, practiced in your shop and are ready — at least you think so. But take a little more time to be really ready, and you can sail through the USRSA exam!
Diane Hamm-Vida is a Master Racquet Technician based in Shallotte, N.C.