Problem with USPTA instructor

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by tkoziol, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Hello everyone,

    I been visiting this forum for several years, though never actually registered. I recently encountered an uncomfortable situation that prompted me to make an account and get feedback from the masses.

    Backstory: I am a 5.0 player, received scholarship at D3 school, became tennis instructor (have been teaching for past 5 years). Received recreational coach certification from USPTA, as well as high school coaching certification. Found the certification process to be interesting but mostly useless. Most of the drills and techniques I already knew, and there was some outdated content.

    Situation: Returning a demo to local pro shop and discussed a former ATP player who is a new instructor in the area. The shop worker (also an instructor) did not like this person at all! Said that he needs USPTA certification, doesn't know how to teach. I mentioned that his students seem very talented and his teaching methods are similar to mine (big mistake). Instantly I was questioned about my certification history, which wasn't good enough apparently. Although I had several students who went all-state, received scholarships, or greatly improved their NTRP rating, I had no clue what I was doing because I haven't got "official certification". I've seen this individual play tennis and I would guess late 40's and 3.5 at best. Trying to polite, I remained calm and simply agreed that I should get more certification (then promptly left the shop).

    Am I crazy?!?! Despite my results as a player and instructor, I have serious doubts about myself now. A good friend of mine is certified by PTR. Is this just like high school with "cliques" and I'm not part of the USPTA club, or is this person mad that I am teaching the same thing (perhaps a bit more modern) without all the red tape of certification and yearly dues? Almost all of the drills that I have seen instructors do I have found online watching youtube videos (or already done the drills myself). FYB does a great job with this. I have yet to see a magical skill that USPTA or PTR instructors have that has impressed me. If anything, I am disappointed in seeing some instructors teaching all students the same regardless of age or skill level (almost like they had it planned out before even meeting the individual).

    I respect my fellow instructors whether they are PTR, USPTA, ITF, MTM, former ATP pro, or simply a high level player teaching. I do not believe that this respect is mutual. Is it wrong to think that tennis is constantly evolving and is therefore difficult to certify? I can't help but feel that the USPTA is trying to strictly certify something that is not certifiable to make money. Do ATP coaches have certificates? Different sport, but a legitimate question, does anyone know if college or NFL football coaches have certificates? It makes me think of tennis pros who said Rafael Nadal would never succeed with his lasso reverse forehand, or Roddick's unorthodox serve motion would never succeed.

    Perhaps I'm inadvertently portraying myself as "better" than the USPTA? I really hope that I am not.

    So many questions! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Especially from USPTA pros

    Thank you everyone! Sorry for giant block of text!
     
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  2. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    But you are USPTA certified, so what is the problem?
     
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  3. JW10S

    JW10S Hall of Fame

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    Basically anyone can get the recreational coach certification so it by itself is practically useless. Getting certified Professional 1 is much more involved and therefore carries more weight. Many clubs and facilities won't even consider hiring a pro who is not Certified Professional 1--which is several levels above rec. coach. And yes, some coaches on the ATP tour are certified by either the USPTA, PTR or ITF--or sometimes by all 3. Since you seem to have stopped your certification process, and therefore the continuing education that goes with it I think you're off base, and frankly a bit naive, with your attitudes about the USPTA and what pro certification really means.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
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  4. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Reality is that it is a bit of both. Certification is really needed only in professions where safety or large amounts of money or public interest is an issue. Otherwise, it is just a union by a different name, whose members try to exclude others from competing in their line of work. Having said that, it does give clubs and customers a little more confidence in a guy, even if it only is for the most basic safety reasons, like allowing him to work with a girl. It give a feeling of traceability and accountability.

    In this very forum, you will find ordinary rec players providing superior tips and insights into the game compared to several coaches.
     
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  5. goober

    goober Legend

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    Certifications are only important to the people that hiring you. If you want to work for a tennis center or facility then it is important. If you are independent, it is less so.

    Almost all the players I know that are looking for instructors don't know or don't care about certifications. It is all word of mouth of who is good at teaching and who gets results.

    I know plenty of instructors that are certified at the highest levels but are not good instructors and some are surprisingly marginal players.
     
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  6. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    This person you encountered sounds like a lot of the posters on here. Heck, he might even be a member! Wouldn't surprise me.

    I wouldn't worry about it. People who talk crap like that about others and give unsolicited advice have issues.
     
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  7. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    ==========================
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
    #7
  8. julian

    julian Hall of Fame

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    A combo of business and technical decisions

    Possible areas to improve:
    1.under 10 students
    2.tactics/strategy
    3.specifically tactics/strategy for doubles

    #1,#2,#3 worth investing if you have CORRESPONDING students
    If you do NOT try to see whether you will such in a year or so
    Think about marketing
    Read the title of my post as well
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
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  9. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Actually, I learn more and more about tennis everyday. I still consider myself a student of the game. Most of my education comes from looking at the ATP and WTA as well as collegiate tennis for new techniques, drills, and trends.

    As I mentioned, the ex-ATP player who teaches has many instruction methods similar to mine. Comparing us to USPTA instructors, we certainly seem much more modern. I have never seen the lasso forehand (reverse forehand) taught, I've seen almost every professional player use this. The windshield wiper forehand is taught very rarely, and in my opinion incorrectly. Strategy is almost non-existent. Another odd difference is the obsession with moving into the net. Lots of approach shots and put aways at the net. I'm waiting to see wooden racquets and serve and volley!

    You mentioned a continuation in USPTA certification... What does this entail? Weekly updates, newsletters, and study materials? Or does it entail strict re-testing every several months/years. Is it possible for a pro to receive certification in 1989 and still be teaching under the P1 title while ignoring any of the updates provided by the USPTA? I really hope this isn't the case.

    Any USPTA or PTR instructors that can shed some light on these questions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you JW10S, for your insight, are you PTR or USPTA?
     
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  10. JoeR

    JoeR New User

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    If I had to guess, you live in northern California, don't you?
     
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  11. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    All the juniors I see use reverse FHs, WW FHs, and prefer baseline play, so I am not sure who is not teaching this stuff.
     
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  12. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Heartland actually... Northern California would be nice weather though :)

    I only know of one USPTA instructor here who teaches reverse FH, but he hates WW FH. He also doesn't teach slice to students under the age of 16. :confused:

    I guess what confuses me the most is how different USPTA instructors teach. Aside from the basic fundamentals of tennis, there are almost no similarities. It does seem that most of their education occurs after the certification process, evident by wildly different teaching philosophies, teaching tools being used, and results with students.
     
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  13. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    So Cal has better weather :)

    What I have observed is that coaches have great difficulty getting their students to come to the net or to slice, which probably creates the impression of them emphasizing it too much. I have watched and been a roving official for several junior tournaments, and the players, especially the girls, are loathe to slice or come to the net. Big TS forehands seem to come naturally to them, with the boys having more TS than the girls. Perhaps they end up learning the RFH by themselves? That is how I did it - just happened without thinking.
     
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  14. DavaiMarat

    DavaiMarat Professional

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    Personally I don't listen to anyone unless they have a mustache like John Newcombe.

    True Story.
     
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  15. 10s talk

    10s talk Semi-Pro

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    D3 schools don't have tennis scholarships
     
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  16. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    They do have academic ones, right?
     
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  17. mxmx

    mxmx Semi-Pro

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    I feel your pain. I am not close to being qualified myself.

    I have however been spending a lot of time investing in a couple of younger players than myself who cannot afford coaching. I spend more time and effort than some coaches who ask money would ever do. Thankfully I have seen improvement in their game and its very self fulfilling knowing you can help someone. The problem comes that people imply that you teach them wrong techniques just to bring you down....or due to being jealous for taking a potential student away. I have seen some very good, qualified coaches with worse technique than myself. There isn't a perfect coach, and some are better teaching this and other that. Sometimes I just want to get the papers so people will get off my back. Or maybe this feeling of judgement is self inflicted :p
     
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  18. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    You want to hear a story? My pro shop guy offers stringing. So does a guy affiliated with a nearby club, who is a stringer at pro tourneys, and also a teaching pro. So there is competition between them for customers.

    A teenage kid is hired to work part-time at the pro shop. He also happens to take lessons from the stringer/pro at the club. The pro learns about his job, and stops the lessons, telling the teenager: "Your employer is snatching food from the mouths of my kids." The teenager leaves in a state of shock.

    I used the pro/stringer once, but don't plan to go to him again. The reason I used him is also a story by itself. I am hitting with somebody when a junior tournament is in progress on the other courts. This guy had set up a mobile stringing van in the parking lot. As I finish and walk to my car, he calls me and says I play very smoothly. Then he asks me about the strings I use (Shockshield) and the number of frames I have (2). He gives me his card, then asks me where I live. I tell him.

    A couple of weeks later, a neighbor catches me in the parking lot. He says that guy is his stringer and he had complained to him that I ordered the guy to buy 2 packs of Shockshield and I would be bringing my frames over, but never showed up! Finally I decided to use him once to make my neighbor happy.
     
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  19. goober

    goober Legend

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    You know some pyscho tennis people. Yah I bought my own stringer, so I am sure I am taking food from the mouths of a bunch kids:p I also got about half my team into stringing their own racquets once they saw how easy it was and how much money it saved. Sorry about the Happy meals kids. Looks like ramen noodles tonight!
     
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  20. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I always get a kick when reading sentences like that (interpret it as a person).
     
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  21. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Perhaps your thinking of a full ride? I was offered half tuition, and academics covered the other half. I was told that they did not offer full tuition for athletics. My D3 school was a private institution, perhaps its different....:confused:
     
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  22. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    I think qualified is the wrong word choice. I prefer to use the term certified in a sport that is non-certifiable :)

    I got my low level certifications just to have the "papers" like you are talking about. I almost never get asked about my certification (except from other instructors of course). Typically I just let my results speak for themselves.

    I don't think anyone is a perfect instructor. I do think that instructors should be judged by their knowledge, their methods of instruction, and the results of their students, NOT a piece of paper.
     
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  23. Mongolmike

    Mongolmike Professional

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    Well yeah... do you think I string them myself? Mine was hand-delivered by this little Filipino man named Felix. He took the stringer into the basement where I showed him to take it, he set it up, then got to work stringing.

    Of course I have to provide the strings, and I threw him a blanket and a pillow, but its all good. When ever I go down there he is standing there ready to start stringing. Nice fellow. Doesn't talk much either.
     
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  24. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    About half the men I play with are Filipinos. Never met an unfriendly Filipino.

    RSI mag is a good source of jokes if you interpret stringer as a person. For example, Get yourself a new stringer - they are cheaper and better than the old ones.

    Or, My stringer has stopped working. There is a piece of string lodged in a crevice and I cannot pull it out.
     
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  25. 10s talk

    10s talk Semi-Pro

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    I have been a NCAA certified D3 coach, and any athletic scholarship money is a major violation.
     
    #25
  26. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Totally correct. It was division II, NAIA My fault :oops:
     
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  27. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    OP, I would say you probably should get the highest certifications you can.

    I am not a teaching pro, but I have hired teaching pros to help me. I go with word of mouth, of course. But I probably would not consider anyone who was not affiliated with one of the tennis clubs.

    The reason is not snobbery or anything. It is just that if the person is with a club, I know that they have been checked out at least a little bit and I am probably not going to find myself chained in someone's basement. And if you aren't certified, you aren't going to be hired by a club.

    Also, it is cold or raining here quite often. I need someone with indoor privileges. Again, that means someone who is certified and can teach at a facility.

    That said, I do not know or ask or care whether any pro I have used is certified. In fact, if a pro used certification as a selling point, I would immediately be suspicious given that I consider it meaningless. If someone doesn't know how to feed or drill or play, I will notice this quickly regardless of certification status.
     
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  28. tkoziol

    tkoziol Rookie

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    Well don't worry you won't find yourself chained up in my basement. There's no room with my stringer being down there :wink:

    I do hear ya with the weather though. I am looking to relocate so I can teach year-round outdoors.
     
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  29. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    i agree with your points.
    the questions to ask yourself are this though.
    am i the best coach that i can be, and what can i do to improve myself

    when i took my certification course, i had some of the best coaches in my country as instructors. people who developed pro players. don´t think for a moment, that you can´t learn from their experience.
    i had fellow students often with years of coaching experience, and we shared stories and learned from each other as well.
    after my certification i made sure to attend seminars and conferences on a regular basis to stay on top of developments. because as you pointed out, the sport is changing constantly, and we have to adapt or be left behind.

    so you see, that´s my reality. and if you declare a certification just a piece of paper, you might deprive yourself of a lot of knowledge
     
    #29
  30. BaboFan

    BaboFan Rookie

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    best post
    10 chars
     
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  31. comeback

    comeback Professional

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    I am certified for 18 years and it was a good move for me.
    PLUSES
    The information,monthly magazine,conferences, videos made available
    Insurance was cheaper
    Makes getting jobs easier
    I was able to get free tennis working vacations in Caribbean

    NEGATIVES
    cost money to get certified, and each level up, yearly dues

    You are 100% correct about certain certified teachers. Many didn't play at a high level and went the academic route thus explaining their elitist attitude and lack of real life teaching skills.
     
    #31
  32. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    The local USTA chapter annual report lists the USPTA certified coaches in the area. The new one arrived, and as every year, I got a kick finding Rod Laver listed along with the others, in the same font and hidden in the clutter.
     
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  33. dennis10is

    dennis10is Banned

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    Tell them you are TW forum certified, and that will impressed them. Forum members here are more knowledgeable than those coaches you see on TV, coaching those tennis actor, performing on ESPN/2.
     
    #33
  34. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    TW is the real proving ground.
     
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  35. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    FWIW, the certification thing is probably a good thing to do if you plan on making a career of teaching tennis. People like the pieces of paper. It does show at least a certain level of knowledge. I'd treat it as a necessary but not sufficient condition.

    You also have to be a student of this game. It's constantly changing and good teachers keep up with the change. Good teachers have methods of teaching as well. It's one thing to know what the final stroke should look like, it's another thing to know how to bring someone along in steps so that they can get there.

    It's also important to know the variations that you'll come across. What's the difference between teaching a high level Western forehand verses a high level strong Eastern forehand? Weak teachers just try to force everyone into the same mold. Strong teachers understand the differences in the game and work with their student's preferences. A good teacher also knows when to push a student to change something that won't work (a high level player that wants to volley with baseline grips for instance).

    The certifications will help you get jobs and send a message of professionalism. The lifetime of knowledge are what's going to help you be successful at your job.
     
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  36. chico9166

    chico9166 Guest

    You have to understand, that the certification process is just taking a test, that most just "cram" for......It really has nothing to do with abilities to develop games..That comes from experience. In fact, what I've found is that there is a relationship between and emphasis on certification and poor instruction. Most of us in the business, find the whole process laughable.
     
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  37. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    You give the impression that it is some kind of online written test only. I don't think so.

    http://tennis.about.com/od/jobsandtennisindustry/a/beteachpro2_2.htm

    To gain USPTA certification, you must pass an exam that includes:

    demonstrating your own proficiency at executing various strokes
    teaching a group and a private lesson
    analyzing stroke errors
    demonstrating grips
    passing a written exam that covers a wide range of tennis topics, including teaching, playing, equipment, and history
     
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  38. chico9166

    chico9166 Guest

    Uhh, I've done it.. Many of my lessons have done it over the years. Again, passing the test, or even doing well on the test certainly does not prove much in terms of developing games. Suresh, do you work for the USTA? You seem like the prototype, which is a middle aged hack who has never actually been on the court, but seems to think they have all the answers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2013
    #38
  39. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    That is called a stereotype not a prototype.

    No I don't work for the USTA. My point is that the debate about whether degrees/diplomas/certificates mean anything has raged for centuries, with no resolution. Other than in matters of public safety, there should be a trade-off between requiring some skills and imposing high costs and bureaucracy and stifling creative people. To me, a written exam combined with an actual lesson and play demonstration is a very reasonable compromise for a relatively safe recreational sport like tennis.
     
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  40. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    That's because you give advice without actually knowing the person or often not even seeing a video. That makes you a really good teacher.
     
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  41. chico9166

    chico9166 Guest

    Yeah, well it's really not a learning experience for most that do this for a living. Just something one must do..Again, it has very little to do with actually understanding how to build games.
     
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  42. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    And that is why there are multiple levels of certification. A P1 certification requires a NTRP of 4.5 and 3 years of full-time teaching.

    In my profession too, there a bunch of old farts whose constant refrain is that a degree in their field means nothing. One must acknowledge their seniority and real world experience, and listen to their condescending comments about fresh grads with degrees. Unless the courses in the degree exactly match the "experience" the old fart has for the last 20 years, he declares the degree worthless. If you add up all their claims, no one would ever get a degree in a lifetime, because each one is so narrow-minded that he thinks his skills are the only ones of any value.

    But thankfully at least in the private sector, these guys all get laid off eventually when senior management realizes they are being taken for a ride. The fresh new grads are usually far superior to those that they replaced, and come without the attitude issues.
     
    #42

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