Clay Courts Confusion

 

clay courts

A child ranked over 1000 nationally got selected for the upcoming National Clay Court Championship while another child ranked in the top 50 did not. How is this possible? It’s one of the “unintended consequences” of the 2014 rule changes.

As you may be aware, the player selection lists were just published for next month’s National Clay Court Championships held in various locations for the various age groups and genders. Since my son is in the Boys 18s, his event is being held in Delray Beach, Florida. When making our summer plans, my son asked to include this tournament as a “reach” so that he would have an opportunity to play in front of some of the college coaches that attend for recruiting purposes.

In 2014, for the first time, the Boys 16s and 18s include a qualifying event due to the smaller draw size in the main event. The same will be the case for the National Hardcourts at the end of July/beginning of August. This is all part and parcel of the 2014 Junior Competition changes that were implemented on January 1st. This tournament is the first national level 1 championship tournament to take place since the changes went into effect. Many of the concerns that were discussed at the various face-to-face meetings, via email and phone calls, and during the Listening Tour have come to fruition, unfortunately. Below are just a few. First, though, a primer on how to decipher the selection process and where a particular player falls on the list.

1. Go to TennisLink (click here) then click on National Junior Tournaments under the Shortcuts section. In the “Month” dropdown box, choose “July” then scroll down the results page until you see the tournament for your child’s age and gender and click on the link to go to that event’s TennisLink page.

selection process
Image 1

2. Click on the Selection Process tab which is located underneath the main tournament information about 1/4 of the way down the page (see Image 1 – click to enlarge).

3. Scroll down until you locate your particular section, then click on the blue link listing your section name’s endorsement list.

4. Read the paragraph explaining what each color dot means next to the players’ names to determine if a player is in the main draw, qualifying draw, an alternate, has withdrawn his/her entry, or is not eligible for selection. (If you view the Section Ranking list, and see a ‘green’ dot next to your name, it means you are EITHER in the Main Draw OR Qualifying event. The NSL list will show you which event you are in.)

5. Next, go to the National Standing List (NSL) for your child’s age division and do the same as in Step #4.

6. If a child is an alternate, count how many alternates (yellow dots) are ahead of him/her to determine the likelihood of selection into the tournament. Here’s the tricky part, though. If a player from your section pulls out of the main draw, he/she will be replaced by the next player entered from the same section; that player could come from the qualies selection list or from the section’s alternate list. At the same time. if someone pulls out of the qualies, he/she would be replaced by the next player on the National Standing List (NSL) regardless of section.  So what happens to a player in the qualies if someone from their section drops out? As it was explained to me, the player in the qualies would move into the main draw to replace the sectional player there. However, if a player pulls out of the qualies, he/she would be replaced by the highest alternate on the NSL. Clear as mud, right?

Now, some observations and questions I have for USTA:

  • As predicted and warned against, the combination of using a quota system and sectional rankings for selection into the tournament has resulted in some very strange outcomes.
  • Each section, due to the autonomy awarded by the USTA National office, has different rules in place in terms of which types of tournaments are included in sectional rankings. Southern California, for example, includes any national tournaments played outside the section in its rankings; Florida only includes the three Level 1s and Zonals if played outside the section. The implications of this variance is that players in SoCal are rewarded for playing outside the section when it comes to sectional endorsement to the national events while players in other sections may not be given the same consideration. For example, one of the top-ranked players in the country from one of the smaller sections is in the qualifying draw for the B16s. He played a number of sectional tournaments but because his section doesn’t count national tournaments toward sectional ranking, he missed the quota. The same tournament schedule for a SoCal player would have placed him high on that section’s endorsement list because SoCal counts all national tournaments. Every section seems to have its own methodology, further adding to the confusion and inequity of the current structure.
  • In years past, college coaches have set up tables at the B18s event the day before play began so they could talk to potential recruits about their program. It was a great opportunity for some of the smaller programs, especially, to get their name out to the players and “sell” the benefits of their schools. With the qualies scheduled right before main draw play begins, will the coaches still be able do that? Will NCAA rules allow them to talk to the players if qualies are going on? If anyone has the answer to this one, please chime in! [NOTE: See Comments #12-16 below for clarification on this point]
  • In the B18s you have 5 kids in the top 100 in the nation being forced to play qualies while kids ranked between 400 and 515 are in the main draw, and in the B16s the 45th ranked kid is in the qualies while the 422nd kid is in the main draw. How can we legitimately call this a national championship?
  • The biggest thing I am noticing is that no one is playing Clay Court from So Cal.  Basically about 1/2 of the players eligible even signed up. With this new system of all the points in the level 1s, it is clear that people don’t understand the system or have just lost the desire to care anymore. With this system, if you don’t play Clay Courts, you are simply not going to have a high ranking.  In the old system, you could miss Clays – which a lot of kids did – and still have a strong national ranking because there were so many other ways to earn ranking points.
  • In the 12s it looks like the player ranked 864 in the nation got in on the boys’ side and 677 on the girls’.  It also looks like the first alternate is ranked in the high 200s for both.  This is obviously unfair, but USTA’s argument from the get-go on these 2014 changes has been that it’s irrelevant, that kids in the high 200s shouldn’t be playing anyway.  Of course, the counter argument is that USTA has now created a system that pretty much guarantees kids in the 400s will leapfrog their higher-ranked peers and get to play instead.
  • The selection process for this tournament proves how the NSL and the quotas are an utter mess.  All along, we’ve pointed out that the new system would allow for kids from weaker sections to make it as high as the top 50 in the country without winning a match outside their section. But what I noticed today when asked about something else is something I hadn’t thought of . . . it’s the chain reaction that happens as a result of the “weaker section” advantage.  Here’s one example:John Agassi (not his real name) is ranked in the top 50 in the country.  He is on the young side of the 14s ( he just finished 7th grade).  He has managed his high ranking mostly by doing well against weak competition within his section. He has almost 2000 points, about 70% of which come from sectional play.  The sectional points got him ranked highly enough to get into the Spring Team Championships.  There, he lost three out of four matches, only beating one boy, Bob Sampras (again, not his real name), who was then ranked in the top 75 in the country.  From that one win, Agassi got a total of 325 national points, 275 for the win plus 50 bonus points (the 325 are the majority of his national points). On its face, that wouldn’t seem to be too big a deal.  But the win was over a weak player from a weaker section who also got to play the tournament because of a ranking acquired from points won in his weaker section.  At the spring team tournament, that player, Bob Sampras, went 0-8 between singles and doubles.  He’s ranked just over 200 this week on TRN. Thirty-two (32) kids in Florida are ranked above him in his grade, and I’m sure there are another ten Florida kids in the grade below him who would be ranked higher if TRN combined the grades.  That means there are some 40 kids in Florida who are likely better to much better players than Bob Sampras, but he will sail into the summer level 1s under his section’s quota, while 29 of those better Florida kids will be excluded. Now let’s go back to John Agassi. He won 325 points for his win over a weak player in a tournament neither he nor that weak player should have gotten into to begin with.  To get 325 points in Florida you would have to take third place in the level 3, 64 draw, state championship.  So a Florida kid would have to go 5-1 against very tough competition to get the points Agassi earned by winning just one match against a weak player from another weak section. Aside from how all this is making the NSL irrelevant, the decision to make the 2014 points table completely disproportionate to last year’s points without making the changes retroactive to 2013 has made it even worse.  A kid who made the quarterfinals in 2013 at last year’s level 1s would have earned 350 points, a quarterfinalist at our national championships getting a comparable number of points to a boy who won one match against a weak player.  How does that make any sense? One last thing: bonus points make a system that’s already rigged to favor weak sections even more inequitable.  Why?  Because weak-section kids more easily get a higher ranking, they will have weak kids who get over-ranked from whom they can win bonus points.
  • Girls 16s is even crazier! The player ranked over 1200 in the nation got into the main draw off her sectional ranking while the player ranked in the mid 100s only got into the qualies. Three players ranked in the 1000s got selected into the main draw. Take a look at the chart below for details. The first column shows each age group for each gender. The second column lists the national ranking of the last 5 players accepted into the main draw. The third column lists the national ranking of the last 5 players accepted into the alternates (14s)/qualies (16s and 18s). The fourth column shows how many players were ranked higher nationally than those selected into the main draw but who weren’t chosen because of quotas (between 20-25% of the acceptances overall).

I welcome any feedback and/or comments on what is presented here. If your experience is different from what I’ve reported, please share that with us. If anyone from USTA’s Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee would like to add his/her thoughts, I know we would all appreciate that as well.

 

Age GroupLast Accepted1st Alternate/Qualifier# of displaced players
Boys 145519719/120
493112
476126
438129
429121
Boys 16434320/120
42245
39552
37873
326119
Boys 185576226/120
51868
49680
44696
40899
Girls 1469817617/120
624194
505207
487219
442221
Girls 16148316723/120
1123187
1031199
721200
714226
Girls 188125929/120
79568
73199
640105
588122

 

 

 

151 thoughts on “Clay Courts Confusion”

  1. The system is difficult and confusing. We don’t even bother to try to figure it out, and frankly my daughter doesn’t care. You try the best you can to play in the biggest tournaments in your section and at the national level. And you win. The easiest way to beat this system is to win matches.

  2. The system is rather simple. If you qualify from your section you make the clay courts. Lisa its pretty clear you disagree with this premise (and no doubt the regulars will chime in here) and that is perfectly fine but the system is working as intended. The player ranked over 1000 may have elected to spend less money and more time in school. That decision may have affected the rankings.

  3. Deja vu all over again. “TheFuture” must be the only person in the country who thinks the system is simple. And having player 1000 play our national championships is certainly NOT what was intended by the new system. We were repeatedly told this was about the “best playing the best” and earned “advancement.” In fact, some USTA folks said that kids ranked in the 200s (!!) didn’t have much business playing level 1s. This system not only guarantees that players in the 200s will get to play, as predicted, it’s allowing players in the 1000s to play. That is NOT what was intended by anyone.
    And, “The Future,” are you saying it’s actually a good thing to have player 1000+ get in, but not #3 or #16 (as has happened in this selection process)?

  4. The system is working as intended! That is my favorite line of all! There is no way on earth anyone except maybe parents in the smaller sections can justify this. If the best players are not beating up on each other they will never learn how to play. Now that there is quailed which is great go right down the national standing list!

  5. How many conversations did we have in regards to this, lead by I believe Antonio nailing this one right off the bat?

  6. The reason you have a national tournament circuit is to generate national standings or rankings. The current system renders the NSL irrelevant. This is what you get when you decouple tournament selection from rankings – a discredited national championship.

  7. Dear The Future:

    Huh? “The system is rather simple?” “The system is working as it is intended?” It was intended to have Zeke Clark who is #3 in the US boys 18’s not get into the Clay Courts main draw while a player who is ranked #1483 got into the girls 16 main draw? Zeke was runner up at Easter Bowl, but can’t get in Clays? It was intended to not let the #17 ranked player in the US boys 14’s not get in main draw while #551 in the same age group did?

    Besides the absurdity of the so many glaring disenfranchisings in every age group, how can anyone even understand this system? There are a lot of fairly smart doctors, lawyers and business leaders trying to have their kids play this sport. We are all scratching our heads trying to understand this rubik’s cube of a system. Do you just not want us to play? Would you rather we change sports? Lacrosse would be a whole lot easier and less expensive. That sport is growing and we have teams occupying every field where we live. There are tons of scholarships and every major East Coast school has a team. It is very social and everyone is playing.

    Do you have so many kids playing tennis now, that you feel that changing to a system which virtually everyone playing was opposed to, is the smart thing to do? There was a listening tour that produced results that were overwhelmingly opposed to the changes – yet you did them anyway? Is your strategy of “give the customers what they don’t want” going to continue? Or are you just that much smarter than your customers?

    You preach “earned advancement” but if Lisa’s numbers are accurate here, there are 134 total kids who fell victim to “geographic entitlement” over “earned advancement”. Is that a system that was working as intended?

    How can you have a system with quotas, while all the sections handle their selection processes differently? Does that make any sense? Is that remotely fair that for the same relative accomplishment in Middle States, a player would get in – but that accomplishment would not get them in if they lived in Florida? How can we have quota’s where the generic quota number is used against all 4 age groups in both genders when there is no mathematical way it could ever be uniform in any one section?

    There results of this system are.

    – It is so hard to understand that only a tiny percentage of parents get it.
    – The rankings are very inaccurate and are going to be worse after Clay Courts where the draws will be filled with so many lowly ranked National players. If 134 kids are in the draw who aren’t strong enough, then many kids who play them will be artificially propelled forward. Since we have so few tournaments now, it will be very hard to make up for one bad level 1 draw.
    – Unearned advancement!
    – It is costing us more money. The lack of options of when and where to play is much worse than many of us expected.
    – All those squawking about what would happen were right.

    I think you should spend more time at your tournaments and get to know your parents, players and product. It seems like a bunch of people went in a room and came up with a system that didn’t factor in many of things that are important to the people playing in the system.

    And Mr. or Mrs. Future, you no doubt had something to do with these changes, because there aren’t any people playing these tournaments that feel the way you feel.

  8. Lisa, you asked about players ability to speak with college coaches at the L1s – For the G18 Hardcourts they posted the guidelines on their site under “College Coaches Info”. It reads as follows:

    “Due to the following changes by the NCAA, there will not be a recruiting forum this year.

    Players competing in the qualifier may speak with coaches prior to signing in for the qualifer.
    Qualifier players that play in the main draw are considered signed in for the qualifier and may not speak with coaches between the end of the qualifier and the beginning of the main draw.
    Qualifier players who do not reach the main draw are eligible to speak with coaches only if they are not entered in doubles. Qualifier players who are on the lucky loser list and not in doubles may talk to coaches after there is no possibility of their reaching the main draw. Note that all qualifier players, whether or not they qualified for the singles main draw, are eligible to play doubles.
    Main draw players that have not played in the qualifier may speak with coaches at any time prior to signing in for the main draw.
    On Saturday, August 2nd, there will be an area set aside where coaches can meet with players. We will also assist players with appointments with coaches.

    Also note that PLAYERS CANNOT SPEAK TO ANY COLLEGE COACH AFTER THEY REGISTER FOR THE TOURNAMENT OR AT ANY TIME WHILE THEY ARE STILL IN THE TOURNAMENT. If they do so, you and the player will be violating NCAA rules, and this could affect the player’s eligibility. ”

    I couldn’t find comparable info on the G18 Clay Courts, but I would think they would be the same.

    1. Martyn, parents can talk to coaches any time – the parents aren’t the ones being recruited and aren’t the ones NCAA governs. 🙂 It’s the players who have to be careful. The rule, as Lin described already, is that college coaches CANNOT interact with potential recruits (i.e. ANY player) during a tournament. That’s why there was a forum set up, in previous years, before the Clay Courts matches started. That way, coaches could interact with players, talk to the players about their school and their tennis program, without violating any NCAA rules.

  9. Martyn, yes, but at your peril. I know of lots of players that flagrantly disregard the NCAA prohibition against direct contact at tournaments, and even some that go to schools and are actively coached by the school’s coach. However, the risk is great. If you are found out – or narc’ed out by a jealous player or parent – you could lose your eligibility.

    That being said, outside of the tournament / face-to-face contact, your player may write or call any coach as much at they want, as long as it is the player initiating contact, and not the coach.

    This is encouraged by the coaches as they like to know a player is interested in their program, and also get to evaluate how the player conducts themselves during these communications. A player who comes off as intelligent and pleasant will gain points over a more skilled player with poor communication skills or a bad personality.

  10. Thank you for pointing out the ridiculousness of the new National Championship selection process. Anyone who believes this process is fair or easy to understand is just too dense to understand the realities of what we see before us in terms of who has been selected and who has been excluded. As others have said, the purpose of a national championship should be to get together the top players in the country who have earned a birth into the tournament, not from spending more money, but rather, from demonstrating better performance. There are a couple of points I still don’t understand from looking at the tournament competitors.

    (1) There are only 120 players selected in the B/G 12 and B/G 14 draws. This is because the total of the sectional endorsements adds up to 120. Based on the selection criteria described in the tournament, shouldn’t the other eight entrants come from the national selection list? If that’s true, doesn’t that address the most egregious examples of unfairness in entry, as those players on the NSL who were highly ranked, but did not receive sectional endorsement because of the strength of the section, will ultimately get in?

    (2) What happened to the winner and finalist of the National Selection Tournaments? I thought the USTA changed the name from National Open to National Selection Tournament because the winner and finalist for each of the four draws for each gender and age group (eight per gender/age group) automatically got an entry into the next national championship. Again, that is why they changed the name, isn’t it?

    (3) How can the USTA allow inconsistent rules for each section? How can So. Cal include all National events out of section and Florida not include any outside of the three National Championships plus Zonals? It makes no sense to have subsidiary organizations (that is Sections) have different approaches to rankings, which ultimately affect the overall acceptance to the national championships. This needs to be addressed and made consistent one way or another.

  11. This system is a disgrace. The USTA should just hide under a rock and never come out.
    How many people said this would happen? Hundreds.
    The end result Lisa, is that many great players ARE NOT PLAYING THE USTA ANYMORE.
    How sad is that?
    Our own federation is driving kids to play ITFs.

  12. The future says

    “The system is rather simple. If you qualify from your section you make the clay courts.”

    Really? It is “simple”. How can it be simple when each section has it owns rules?

    Southern California actually likes their players, and all nationals count for sectional ranking.

    Eastern only allows two national tournaments to count for sectional ranking, and ran their Super Six the same time as Easter Bowl for the 18’s forcing their players to choose.

    How is it simple when the sections are all different?

  13. Cindy… the eight “missing” spots are reserved for wild cards.
    The inconsistent rules among sections is an issue the USTA should have dealt with before creating this system. Obviously, kids from sections that count everything have a much greater incentive to play nationals. That will undoubtedly skew an already messed up NSL.
    Selection for the level 1s is all based on quotas, wild cards and, in the 16s and 18s, qualifiers. There was never a rule allowing direct admission from a national selection tournament into the level 1s (I have no idea why they came up with the names). On the other hand, the points you earn in the level 2s are so huge now that if you win one, you’re automatically in the top 100 in most age groups.

  14. Lisa, great job in analyzing this mess. And mess is being kind.

    The USTA devised a system to encourage the boy playing basketball down the street to come and play tennis instead. This no cost, no leave the section was to appeal to the basketball’s family. Tennis is the same price as basketball, just play locally.

    Of course, that’s not true.
    Lessons, group lessons, equipment is a lot more $$$$$
    than showing up with at the courts with your sneakers on.

    But, that was the dream… To get the athletic boy into tennis.

    And the USTA’s own players, the PD players, no problem.
    They don’t play their section ever.
    But, we will take care of them with wildcards for Kalamazoo.

    Two systems here. One to get the minorities into the sport and the other for their players.

    Our players, well this is the fall out.

  15. So, glad that someone else is onto this unfair system.
    Eastern versus California

    California kids had the opportunity to play:
    Claremont – level 3
    Carson ( Spring Internationals ) – Grade 1
    Easter Bowl – Grade 1

    Eastern:
    Claremont ( they ran their super six weekend – big points – only have six of these a year)
    Carson
    Easter Bowl (they ran their super six weekend – big points – only have six of these a year)

    That’s right, Eastern ran two of them, two weeks apart.

    California – counts all ITF tournaments ( grade 3 and grade 1 USTA rankings), and all nationals including Winter Nationals, team Nationals, Clay courts and Hard courts.

    Eastern – only counts two nationals. Period.

  16. Well…..this thread gives more credibility to ITF tournaments and looking at that pathway. All entries are based on the playters ITF ranking…no quotas, no politics, just ranking….(that being said the biggest “hurdle” for the ITF pathway is getting the first ITF point which is a topic for an entire separate thread). People have to ask themselves….after 14s nationals…. What advantages does a USTA National Tournament provide to compared to an ITF tournament? At this point, money is better spent pursuing an ITF pathway rather than messing with USTA National tournaments after 14s.

    Here is a huge problem for the United States regarding ITF tournaments. The USTA controls hosting ITF tournaments in the United States. Unfortunately, these 2 entities are closely related.

  17. I suggest you also take a look at what Collette Lewis wrote on ZooTennis:http://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.com. Here’s a taste from her of the absurdity of the new system: “Alex Rybakov, who is No. 25 in the ITF world junior rankings and was a direct acceptance into the Wimbledon Junior championships, is in the qualifying draw of the Boys 18s Clay Courts, and Zeke Clark, the Easter Bowl 16s finalist, is in the qualifying for the Boys 16s Clay Courts.”
    Sure, the USTA will give some of these folks wild cards, but why create a system that requires wild cards to solve its inequities?

    1. There are not enough WC’s to address the inequities. The acceptances for Kalamazoo will be eye opening. Neither of last years winner or runner up would have gotten in through sectional quotas and it’s not clear either of them would have received a WC. These will be national championships with an asterisk.

  18. It is very late and I am blurry eyed reading all of these comments as well as the ones on facebook and on Zoo Tennis. The funny thing is that 100’s and 100’s of people spoke out against the changes and they did them anyway. They basically said it was a bunch of rich people whining that their kids wont get into National tournaments anymore. I was more or less told that by one of the people involved. Well I’m not rich. My daughter will get in everything with no problem. And I, like every other parent I have ever spoken to who does this junior tennis thing are still confused as to how these changes ever were made.

    One thing that no one seems to have addressed is the fact that play was supposed to be pushed back to the sections. We were told at the listening tour not to worry because there were going to be many sectional tournaments added to make up for the National tournaments being cut. Our head of sectional junior tennis told us that if there are going to be any changes, it will be cutting sectional tournaments as opposed to adding them.

    How can the organization cut National tournaments with the promise of adding sectional tournaments when the sections aren’t obligated to add tournaments? At Easter Bowl, not a one person from any section said they had more sectional opportunities. Has anyone heard of any sections adding tournaments?

    Our system makes no sense whatsoever. The level 2’s and 3’s are now basically a separate junior system. There is no progression from 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. The sectional events to go level 1 and the 2’s and 3’s are just sitting out there independent. How do the quota numbers even get determined? How can a section get a blanket number of acceptances when their 8 divisions that are all differing abilities? We only have one more year of this, but we aren’t likely going to put our younger daughters into tennis as every year, the administration seems to change the rules for the worse as opposed to the better.

  19. “The biggest thing I am noticing is that no one is playing Clay Court from So Cal. Basically about 1/2 of the players eligible even signed up. With this new system of all the points in the level 1s, it is clear that people don’t understand the system or have just lost the desire to care anymore.” – Lisa

    How about the fact that not everyone belongs to a fancy country club that has clay courts to practice on?

  20. I’m saddened to see so many parents and tennis lovers frustrated and upset at the system that is supposed to provide fun and opportunity for their children. I never played nationals, unless they were local, so I don’t really have any knowledge of the prior system or this current one. But I do remember weak players from weak sections making it into a national based on sectional points and then like clock work, they got stomped in the early rounds.

    Maybe the USTA is purposely driving parents to think about playing ITF events instead. If you asked me or a college coach, a global ranking is a lot more impressive than a USTA one.

  21. Here is a bit more clarification on the replacement process for alternates. I emailed Peter Lebedevs (a member of the Jr Comp & Sportsmanship Committee) to try to figure out my son’s chances of getting into the tournament, either into qualies or main draw, based on his position on the alternate list. Peter replied then Lew Brewer followed up with more info:

    “If a quota player in the main draw withdraws before the draw is made, the next quota player who is not already in the main draw will replace that player. Players who fit that description could be in the qualifying. The player who moves in from the qualifying as a quota player would be replaced by the next player on the NSL who is not already in the qualifying.”

    And in a separate email from Lew:

    “Lisa, you are correct that [your son] is the 5th alternate on Southern’s endorsement list. This means that 5 players who were selected from the quota for Southern would have to withdraw in order for [your son] to be placed into the main draw. Players selected from quota who withdraw will be replaced by the next quota player until the draw is made, which is not earlier than 6 days before the start of the event. [Your son] is also the 4th alternate for the qualifying. Four players would have to withdraw or be placed into the main draw in order for [your son] to move into the qualifying. Unlike the quota list qualifying players are replace by players on the National Standing List. At this point it is a more likely scenario that he makes it into the qualifying than main draw.”

    For the record, it would make much more sense for my son to be selected into the qualies than the main draw since this would be his first national L1 tournament. We would be thrilled if that happens and are hoping for a similar outcome at hardcourts.

  22. Antonio- Thanks for your clarifications. As I am sure you know, prior to the change of the US National Opens (formerly the only Level 2’s) to the National Selection Tournaments this year, the finalist and winner of each National Open did receive an automatic entry into the following National Championship. Looking at an old, but still active link to the USTA’s site it states that “The singles finalists at each USTA National Open qualify to compete in the [next National Championship] singles.” Here is the USTA Link: http://www.usta.com/Youth-Tennis/Junior-Competition/NationalTournamentDescrip/ . I believe that was the original thinking the USTA employed to rename these to National Selection tournaments, but then they obviously subsequently removed this as an avenue of qualification to give more slots to the Sections.

    In terms of the Wildcards, I went back to the Selection Criteria defined on the tournament sites. There is absolutely NO mention of 8 wildcards, but rather an explicit note that “Remaining vacancies in the main draw are filled by endorsed registered players from the USTA/National Standing List.” However, I looked elsewhere and did confirm your point that, in fact, despite not being mentioned in the Selection Criteria, the USTA does retain the right to grant up to 8 Wild Cards per draw. Can that be more confusing? If the remaining spots are wild cards, why not call that out in the Selection Criteria? I think/hope that in many instances, rather than selecting other players based on subjective criteria, the USTA will, in fact, chose fewer than 8 wild cards in most draws and permit at least some of the left out but much higher ranked players on the National Selection List to gain entry.

  23. I just wanted to add that there seem to be two distinct issues that we are lumping together surrounding the confusion and unfairness of the selection process. One issue is where there are very highly ranked, highly skilled kids who did not meet Sectional endorsement requirements. That is, they didn’t play enough within Section to get a high enough Sectional Ranking. The second issue is that by virtue of the Sectional quotas, some lower ranked players with lower skill levels (objectively rated by TRN, for example) have been admitted over much higher skilled players in more competitive Sections. These are two distinct issues.

    In terms of the first situation where kids are very skilled, but did not play enough to earn a high enough Sectional ranking, I’d suggest that is fair. These players made a conscious decision not to play whatever amount of Sectional tournaments were required to earn the Sectional endorsement. The need for Sectional endorsement was well known and publicized and these players made a choice not to meet those requirements. What is unfair, I think, is that these Sectional requirements vary Section to Section, but again, these players knew, or should have known, what would be required to gain Sectional endorsement and chose not to play.

    In terms of the second situation where some players who are objectively less skilled gain entry because of the nature of the Sectional quotas, that is unquestionably unfair. I think there is a pretty easy solution. That is, entry through Sectional Quota beyond the first two players (if we’re going to use a quota system, then every Section should be allowed at least two players, regardless of rank) should be limited to players who are ranked 200 or better on the NSL. This encourages a balance of Sectional and National play and removes the most extreme situations where players from Sections with large quotas but little depth get accepted over higher skilled players from more competitive Sections. The remaining players would come from the NSL in order of NSL rank, regardless of Sectional endorsement. I looked at every draw for both genders and this would result in providing NSL-based entry to at least 10 players in every draw. While this approach is also not perfect, I think it would address the major issues we have all been voicing, including the first situation above as these highly skilled players without Sectional endorsement would be admitted as well.

  24. We moved from the Eastern section to Texas. The sections are run completely differently. And, for the record, the Eastern section is more fair to its players. The Texas section doesn’t count ANY nationals in a player’s rank. How can each section be run so differently and yet all sections feed into the same national system? I have asked this repeatedly since we moved to TX and I get NO response other than “that’s the way it is”. Well, I think they should start be making all the sections run equally. That would be a good start.

  25. The USTA likes to dismiss blogs like this and zootennis as irrelevant but there can be no doubt reading the feedback that the customer base is deeply unhappy. Alone that should motivate some action. As an aside the fact that the top PD sponsored players are conspicuously absent from the entry list is an embarrassment for the USTA. These players are not even attempting to follow the USTA’s proscribed pathway. But hey – PMac is one of the good ol boys. Let’s give him another multi million dollar contract extension. You just can’t buy the kind of results he has achieved

  26. Thank god I’ve already signed to play college tennis and I don’t have to worry about getting into Clays or Hards. I have played Clays and Hards since I was in 14s and this is the only year I wouldn’t have gotten in. I feel bad for are the kids trying to get recruited this year. For me, these tournaments were the only way college coaches got to see me play. Last year I was talking to many D1 smaller schools and without playing Clays and Hards I’m not sure how I would have gotten recruited. I play in Texas and it is a hard section. I wasn’t top 5, but I was top 20, and it was my national ranking that got me in. I’m grateful I’m not a grade younger because I would be freaking out if I was.

  27. To LCP and Confused: that’s the problem with sections having different rules and schedules. Players from sections who have already had their two allotted level 3s will have an advantage when it comes to selection for the qualifiers because that’s based on the NSL.

    To Cindy… Your terrific post is dead on. The USTA has created a two-headed monster with the quotas and the tougher sectional requirements (which, as others have pointed out, vary tremendously by section). I agree with you that the unquestionable unfairness is how the quotas allow kids ranked 1000+ to get in, while kids ranked in the top hundred do not.

    The other head of the monster involves the very highly-ranked kids who chose not to complete the requirements to be endorsed or who didn’t play enough in their sections to “make quota.” Again, I agree with you: those players made a choice and they should suffer the consequences.

    I say that reluctantly, because I believe we should have the best possible players competing in our national championships. However, the reality is that they WILL get in, because the USTA will give them wildcards. In fact, in the original proposal for the new system, the USTA tried to hold onto more than the 8 wild cards it now has (for some tournaments). They backtracked on that because of parental outrage.

    And that leads to what bothers me the most. The USTA preached about the importance of pushing play back to the sections and imposed a straight jacket of rules on parents and kids that they almost unanimously opposed. But then, why do those rules that are supposedly so great for the rest of us, not apply to USTA PD kids? Many PD kids rarely (in some cases, never) play in their sections. But they can skirt the rules the rest of us have to follow because they don’t have to worry about missing out on the big tournaments. Why? They will get wild cards.

  28. Cynical… see my comment below. I think many PD players are conspicuously absent from the entry list because they don’t need to be: they and those who did enter but didn’t get endorsed by their sections of qualify under their section’s quota will get wild cards. I may be wrong, but it will be very interesting to see how many of those kids do get in that way.

    Ironically, if they don’t get wild cards and don’t play, it’s arguably even more damning: it will send the message that our own national championships aren’t worth playing.

  29. My son played with PD for 18 months.The following was told to another mother of a PD kid… the USTA coaches told her “don’t worry about playing in your sectionals. We will give you as many wildcards as you need into the Level 1’s.”

  30. Noticed the G18s qualifying draw has 20 players from Florida – almost 1/3 of the draw coming from a single section.

  31. Fla tennis mom… simple reason… many of those girls should have been in the main draw but were relegated to the qualies because of Florida’s too-small quota.

  32. One of the mantras I heard was to keep kids in school? The changes that they made to the level 2’s and 3’s are very bad for the game and I haven’t seen people talk about on this blog. Just recently at a Level 2 my sisters son played a 4 hour match. Then he followed up 90 minutes later with a 3 and a half hour match. After quickly getting some food in him, he had a 90 minute doubles match. I warmed him up for an hour in the morning before these 3 matches. That was 10 hours on the court in one day. That night he had to have an ice bath. Of course the next day he was worthless and could barely move. Two days later he was still a wreck and he had to go to the hospital where they put him on fluids for a few hours. To me this is as big or bigger of a problem. I am not saying that all these problems aren’t bad, but that one seems like an injury in addition to a rankings issue. When someone plays 10 hours in one day, their opponent the next day basically has a walkover into the next round. Because of the rankings not being accurate in the least, 3 of the best 5 kids in that draw were placed in the same bracket of 4. So those three ended up canceling each other out early while much weaker kids moved through the draw. With this new system, draw placement is everything.

    1. Neville – you are absolutely correct. The new structure is messed up on so many levels it hard to know what part to focus on. Having kids play 9 or 10 matches singles and doubles over 3 days in often 100deg heat is borderline abusive. The level 2 and 3 events have become soulless grinds. They replaced the old regional level 3’s which were festivals of junior tennis with upwards of 1000 kids coming together to enjoy the game. All of that has been lost. It’s a damn shame.

  33. When I was Admin of Jr. Comp (1988-2002), I made a proposal to change the quota system to try to accommodate both the sections and strength of field. It was: each section would get a minimum of 2 spots, then the rest of the quota spots would be decided and distributed based of the number of players ranked in the top 200. Of course, that would have required a bit of work each year and all parts, but…….. That would have helped solve some of this issue.

  34. This issue of different or disparate sectional endorsement requirements is a function of the USTA structure and the fact that USTA is actually a union of 17 independent sections who agree to participate in a national competitive environment. Sections are vastly different in geographical size, climate, topography, total population, demographics, tennis-playing population, and population density. A variety of other variables that make a “one size fits all” endorsement process impossible to implement so that it will fair to everyone.

    In the early 80’s all players to National Championships had to be endorsed by their home section, or they didn’t play. There were no Wild Cards. Players who failed to be endorsed, whether by choice or otherwise, such as injury, had no recourse but to wait until next year.

    The National Championship schedule lasted from late June until Thanksgiving ((National Hard Courts, National Clay Courts, “The” Nationals, and National Indoors). Results from the Easter Bowl were given a lot of weight, but it was not a National Championship event. In fact, it was an invitational event.

    National Championship sectional quotas totaled 100. The final 28 players were selected from the remaining sectionally endorsed players, based on player record. The one provision was that each section’s ordered endorsement list was sacred and could not be altered. In other words, the remaining players had to be taken in the order in which they appeared on the sections’ endorsement list. That meant that if alternate #2 deserved to be admitted, but #1 did not, the tournament had to decide if it was better to take an undeserving player (alt #1) to admit a deserving one (alt #2), or just go to another section and not select anyone from that section. At least the tournament got to do the best it could to get the top 100 players in a draw of 128.

    At that time the age control date for Juniors was September 30 and the ranking year was October to September. The age control date was later changed to December 31, and the ranking year became the calendar year. The term “bad birthday” was really bad for players born in September when you had to play the entire year based on your age on September 30 (or December 31, when calendar year became the norm).

    Rankings were done yearly, based on the previous 12 months’ play. Rankings were used for seeding early in the next year, and as a basis for players receiving “free” goods from manufacturers. Rankings were not used as a criteria for admittance to National Championships. Rankings in 1980’s were done manually. By the late 1990’s ranking had been taken over by computer.

    [In 1997 summer National Championship draws were expanded to 192 to assure that the top 128 players were admitted, while allowing the sections to maintain or increase their guaranteed quota.]

    It was these and other perceived inequities that precipitated the development and implementation of the Optimum Schedule, dynamic rolling rankings, and birth-month age control dates.

    In 2000 The Optimum Schedule was implemented. It created a year-round calendar of National events, changed age control dates to birth-month so that players could play within their natural age group until the month they “aged up”, and established monthly national rankings.

    But, the great break that the Optimum Schedule made from the earlier process was allowing admittance to National Championships via National Ranking (NSL) and other National Qualifying events (National Opens). Where previously players could only be admitted via sectional endorsement, National play and National ranking could be used to for admittance and sectional play could be totally bypassed.

    This didn’t sit well with all of the sections, but there was never a challenge to the process, so it remained in place until 2014, with some modifications (e.g. National Open qualifiers initially admitted 24 payers per age division. That number was ultimately reduced to 8.)

    The concept wasn’t necessarily a bad one, except that it hurt sectional play. Sectional events that had traditionally been strong suddenly lost many of the top players because they didn’t need to play.

    National events (Regionals) began to flourish and more cross-sectional play began. Admittance to these National circuit events was based on National ranking.

    However, the great divide occurred when the Points Per Round (PPR) ranking system was adopted.

    The previous head-to-head system used by USTA (STAR) had some idiosyncrasies that created a few anomalous rankings, but was basically predictive of who would win a match between two ranked players, since it compared on-court results with specific opponents.

    When the PPR became the norm, no longer were rankings predictive, so a player ranked 1000 might thrash player #203.

    However, USTA still used the PPR rankings for selection purposes, so the “rich get richer” benefits inured to those who had enough points to be selected to the high-point events.

    This gave rise to the oft-quoted concept of “point chasing” and belief that rankings could be bought and that USTA had to do something about it. Players were spending too much money, missing too much school, and traveling too much in their quest for points, so they decided to go back to the glory days of the 80’s……

    128 draws ….
    All players endorsed by section, or they don’t play …
    Oops …. (well maybe, there should be a few wild cards)

    When this system of player selection is meshed with a PPR ranking system, the best description is CHAOS.

    Players and families have become accustomed to National Championship tournaments being composed, mostly, of the highest nationally ranked players, no matter how flawed the PPR rankings may be.

    Now, because National ranking means little for the Level 1 National Championship admittance, since sectional standing rules, players may rely on their sectional play for going to Kalamazoo, and instead play close-to-home sectional events, ITF’s, or event adult events.

    So, when we look at the admittance lists to National Championships to compare who got in and who was left out, it may be even worse than it looks, or it may not be….. But, we’ll never know, because PPR rankings used locally, sectionally, and nationally can have radically different results, and NONE of them are PREDICTIVE, since strength of individual opponents is not considered in the computations.

    Only a head-to-head ranking system, like TRN’s, can give an accurate assessment of a player’s relative merit compared to others.

    Until such a ranking system is implemented, it is incumbent upon the USTA to offer LARGER draws, not smaller, and offer MORE opportunities, not fewer, to make sure that “the best” actually do get to play “the best”, even if that occurs one or two rounds later in the tournament.

  35. Well. For those that scoff @ ITF’s because of Cost consider ZONALs. ~$450-550 round trip airfare. Rental Car and Hotel for 6 days. Vice a trip to Bermuda/Jamaica/ etc…… Do the math USTA events are not Cheaper. But even if they were 15% is it worth all THIS!

    Yes this is a hot MESS! We just had our Level 3 Florida draws went from 32 to 64, ok so we spend extra days $$$ Near (NOT in) Orland. For a bunch of 0,0…0,1 matches! But yes Florida section seems to do better than others taking care of its players.

    I guess we could transfer to California and immediately move up the rankings since they count EVERY National level event. Or move down the rankings by heading to the BIG APPLE.

    Funny had a friend take the SAME kids results apply to different sections and what a JOKE. Looks like world beater in one section, a Quick Start kid in another.

    OK SO WHAT! What do we do as parents and MEMBERS of this!

    How about if NO ONE showed up for a L1 event! That is the only thing that would change any of this. A Boycott and nothing short of that will matter. Will NOT happen same way they just DECIDED to change rules WE will show up, well not all of us we have decided to skip many events. Just not worth the headache.

  36. Take a look @ Clay Court 12s Selection List for FLORIDA. You’ll see Green and Yellow dots intermixed in our endorsement list. Yes some girls decided to play only the required Florida events, and others played a more national schedule. Thus they get in via National Ranking and those who dedicated themselves to the Section get closed out. Honestly why play the section events if your not going to be in the TOP 11? I wouldn’t waste time money on them just play National Events even if no Florida points associated with them. You will get in.

  37. It is so unbelievably sad that this is happening. Look at the amount of energy, both for and against, that this has zapped from the roles we all play in the development of junior players and future college and professional players. And it continues as we can see from all the comments here along with those expressed on the various sites since last week. I’ve been doing this coaching thing for a long time. I’ve been privileged to have a lot of very talented kids, who went on to be highly ranked within the USTA system and beyond. Interestingly, notwithstanding the route, and I’m not saying it should not be cheaper, more efficient, etc., ultimately the talented ones come out on top and the others fall into the place where they belong. Yes, I do believe the path should be clear, and it is not. I believe the road should be smooth, and it is not. I believe the system should be fair, and it is not. I believe rules and changes were made by people who do not understand the ramifications of their decisions, and that’s not the way it should be. But here is what is the saddest thing. Ultimately, someone will win each division of clays, and each division of hard courts. The value of their titles will be questioned because they are not being challenged by the best players. Believe me, if and when someone wins a title and they know full well the title is not deserved, it does nothing for their confidence. When they attempt to defend that title or move to the next level in our sport the title does them no good. If they didn’t belong there they won’t stay there. We see this all the time in the professional rankings in our sport and it is no different in juniors or anywhere else along the road. I find it all very sad for our great sport.

  38. We got the call this afternoon that my son made it into the qualies. He’s very excited to play his first Level 1 tourney and see how he does even though the field may not be as strong as in years past. It’s still a step forward for him. To clarify, he was the 4th alternate on the NSL so that means either (1) 4 kids pulled out of qualies leaving a spot for him or (2) 4 kids pulled out of the main draw with spots filled from the qualies field or (3) a combination of (1) and (2).

  39. SeminoleG, I must be missing something. If you play only National events, or ITFs, and do well, how would you still get in an L1 without being tops in your Section? Looking at the G18 Clays, the NSL ranked G18 # 16 (last year’s winner), 17, 57, and 86 players did not qualify for the event. The #59, 68 99, 105, 122, 141, 145, 156, 172, 177, 180, 182, 187, and 191 (I stopped at 200) all are relegated to the Qualifying event which leaves another 50 players they also have to compete with for 8 spots. I don’t see how skipping Sectional play will result an an entry unless you are “in” with the old-boys-network and can count on a Wild Card.

  40. SeminoleG makes a valid point about another part of the mess. What’s happened in some categories is that some sections didn’t fill their quotas, so those spots were then filled by the highest-ranked players on the NSL who hadn’t gotten in through their sectional quota.

    For example, in the boys 14s, the player ranked 14th in Florida was the highest-ranked player to miss making quota. But two players ranked lower than him in Florida got in because they were higher on the NSL.

    All of those players deserve to be in the tournament, but this is another example of the confused state of affairs. It is also clear encouragement to “chase points” and play as many national tournaments as you can because it can give you a backdoor into the level 1s.

  41. Lin… I saw your comment after I wrote the note to SeminoleG… I hope that explains how you can get into the level 1s off the NSL alone even if your sectional ranking isn’t high enough to make quota (you still would need to be endorsed).

  42. SeminoleG, it’s not just the cost, it’s the differing time required to play ITFs. They are all during the work-week. Neither my wife nor I are in a position to take full weeks off to attend ITFs and can’t afford to pay a coach to attend. Also difficult to send with another player, as they leave if they lose and I won’t leave my kid on her own in another country.

    Agree fully though with the differing Sectional positioning for the same events played. That is simply wrong. However, every kid in their own Section is subject to the same advantage/disadvantage so there is some parity for Endorsement. Where I find fault is when your player is top 20 level and can only be stretched at National or ITF events and your are penalized for playing them to exclusion of your Section. At least Florida allows endorsement for playing only 1 L3, 4, or 5 event in the three months ahead of the L1’s, and if you are that good, and play just one high-level Sectional event per quarter, you will still be top 20 in the Section. The # 11 player in the G18 Florida Endorsement list has 3,075 points. Just play four Sectional L3/4’s and the two in-state National L2/3’s and 4th place at each and you will have 3,485 points without any doubles being factored in. There are 11 Quota spots for Florida, so you’re in and still have the rest of the year to play whatever level you want.

  43. Thanks Antonio, I did understand the scenario you described, but as I only pay attention to the division in which my player competes, and that didn’t happen in G18, I didn’t address it. Perhaps my bad, but have to believe the number of players who get in through this method is small, so following the National-only theory would still leave a lot of quality players in the cold.

  44. Yes Lin Antonio explains it. NSL ranking hi enough that’s the key. For example Hawaii 2 quotas go unused, back into the pot for highest National Ranked kid not in. Take NY only 2 Nat events counting. Wonder what that kids NAT ranking would be compared to his/her section that counted only all! Take a look @ Florida Girls 12s selection list. Green Yellow intermixed. So you have girls with low section ranking getting in over girls with much higher rankings. BIG separation all because of quota system.

    So California has got it right based on system. They count them all because in the end its a national event and once you prove you’ve earned it. They aren’t going stop you, because you didn’t beat Johnny next door, you beat Joe across the country.

  45. The ITF system is transparent and easy to understand. It is also expensive and more time consuming. The Elite players with means are opting for the ITF system over USTA and so are the PD kids. Take a look at the playet records of the top juniors and seniors. The USTA system is second rate and is now second choice left to those who choose regular school or who can’t afford the expense. Ironic since this is exactly what the USTA was trying to avoid. Tennis for the elite!

  46. Lin the fact we can discuss so many varying scenarios just makes point clearer that the system has major flaws. It shouldn’t be this way considering in 5 years we will be where you are.

  47. Ben you’re absolutely right. Going the ITF route is expensive, so only those with a lot of money or federation sponsorship (USTA PD) can do it well. But more people are making that choice. As you said, tennis for the elite, but also tennis for the home-schooled, because you can’t do ITFs and go to school.

  48. I have been a tennis coach for 40 years. I have seen the USTA embroiled in fight after fight after fight with its tennis community. Look at the success of tennis in the United States. Does this seem to be a tactic that is working? Do we have more players in the top 10 than we used to, or less? Do we have more players in the second week of the US Open or less? Is tennis as cool today as it was in the 70’s and 80’s or is it less cool?

    While I am not a party to this specific problem, the USTA track record of trying to work the domestic tennis industry instead of working with the industry – has had decades of results. Those results are very clear. While I might not know the difference between a level 1 and a level 7, I do know that a lot of people are very unhappy. That unhappiness will lead to one thing; more Spanish and European success and more American failure.

  49. Regarding entry into the tournament via NSL, as Antonio pointed out, there are spots because some sections(mostly western states) didn’t use their full quota. Same will be true at winter nationals where some eastern & southern sections didn’t use the quota they used to have, no chance they will use all of their new, larger quotas.

    I doubt this will be true at Hard courts. Expect very few quota spots, particularly on 16’s and 18’s, to go unused.

  50. George, that’s not my understanding. Parents can talk to coaches three times off campus after July 1 (rising) senior year, including at these national tournaments.

    1. As always, great hearing from you Colette! And thanks for the clarification. The point I was trying to make is that the courtship begins long before July 1 and both players and Mom & Dad should become familiar with what is considered above board in the eyes of the NCAA.

  51. This new system is very ridged and unforgiving. That was not the case when there were a lot of options to choose from. My child is a highly ranked player and for the first time ever, we have been stressed about making it into the clay courts and hard courts. Everyone we speak with feels the same. This new system has made tennis a lot more stressful for the parents and it is so hard to understand that I find myself giving up a few times before I finally dig into scheduling. It didn’t use to be that way. Something should be adjusted.

  52. Hi George – A contact is any time a coach has any face-to-face time with the player or parents off the college campus where kids are competing or practicing – 3 are allowed starting July 1 after the junior year. Yes, “courtship” usually starts before that, but sometimes not. You can call coaches starting Sophomore year and make unlimited “unofficial visits”. Coaches cannot call you until after the July 1 date above. Official visits start opening day of senior year.

    1. “Contact” and all the recruiting definitions are listed and spelled out on that link I posted earlier. It’s a great resource (if current) and clearly communicates permissible behavior by class.

  53. Reading this post and all of the comments is making me more and more angry. If the USTA owes junior tennis anything it owes them fairness and this system is not fair. It’s not fair to Zeke Clark, whom I don’t know, but who in spite of his unbelievable achievement of attaining a national ranking of 3 in the country he is told “bad luck” 17-0 in the MV is just not good enough – you will have to play the qualifying draw – and Zeke is not an exception here – he is almost the rule! We all have our kids playing sport for a variety of reasons – a healthy lifestyle, help with college but I assume most of all to help develop character and if fairness is not part of character then what is…If the USTA is going to devalue fairness then what does it say to the kids… cheating is ok!! And where is the USTA in all this – I have no doubt they are reading this , reading zooennis and reading all the comments. We are all taking the time to weigh in…when will we hear from them. We deserve and explanation. Surely McEnroe can take 5 minutes out of his million dollar day and address the clamor here!!!

  54. My daughter was top 10 ranked in So Cal 12, and 14. Now turned 15. She is unable to get in any of the regional and national open nowadays because of the limited 32 draw and has no national ranking in 16. She plays the small tournaments, won but not challenged at all. Not home school so don’t know how she will be able to play high level tournament.

  55. The complaints about fairness are ironic. We have been immersed in juniors for a while now and the entire system is a joke. Aggressive kids win way more than their share due to taking key points. Point chasers skew the rankings.

    Its hard to worry about these national tournaments when the entire ranking system is an utter joke. Many of top ranked girls can’t even serve yet win and win some more with gamesmanship.

  56. After living through junior USTA life for the past 8 years, I just want OUT! I’m happy my child loves tennis, but boy am I regretting introducing her to a racquet and letting her loose. Had I known that things would only go from bad to worse & back again, she would now be a college-bound lacrosse player instead of a HOPEFULLY college-bound tennis player. Good God. Honestly, the tournaments in this country are supposed to be there to provide a forum for fun, healthy competition, provide developing grounds for the players, and (in the 16s and 18s) provide a forum whereby the college coaches can watch for player styles & personalities they think might fit their schools. Right now, these USTA-controlled tournaments fail on all 3 counts. I can tell you, if I were a college coach, I’d stay put on my campus and just put on prospect camps, I would not traipse all over the country in the HOPES of getting to see my prospective players compete — not with this kind of nonsense. Any D1 college coaches out there willing to share your feelings about all of this?

  57. Here are two ways of looking at the unfairness of quotas:

    1) The fixed quota for all groups in a section is unfair WITHIN a section.
    The one-size-fits-all approach that assigns the same quota to every age and gender category in a section despite the fact that there can be huge disparities inside a section can be extremely unfair. For example, if you look at the top 128 in the country on Tennis Recruiting, you see big variations within the Florida boys’ classes:
    6th grade: 20
    7th grade: 21
    8th grade: 22
    9th grade: 17
    10th grade: 27
    11th grade: 19
    12th grade: 17
    Florida only gets 11 for its quota and there is NO Florida class that has fewer than 17 in the top 128. But look at what happens to the 10th grade boys. They get the same 11 into Kalamazoo as the kids in 9th and 12th who only have about 63% of the depth. How is that fair?

    2) Some sections are unfairly hurt by the quotas, while others get a gift.
    Here’s a look at those same Tennis Recruiting classes for the Midwest and at how many these are in the top 128:
    6th grade: 13
    7th grade: 9
    8th grade: 13
    9th grade: 12
    10th grade: 11
    11th grade: 13
    12th grade: 15
    So Midwest (nothing against the Midwest… there are many other examples) has significantly fewer players than Florida in the top 128, far less than half in two grades. On average, Midwest has only 60% of the kids Florida has in the top 128 across all the age groups. But Midwest has a quota of 14 (15 in the 12s and 14s), while Florida has only 11.

    How is any of this fair? How does that get the “best to play the best”? How much are you hurting better players who don’t get exposure to college coaches?

  58. I’m not sure if this has been proposed already but in order to guarantee the best players show up in National Tournaments and that Sections send their best players in these tournaments, why not make these tournaments ALL EXPENSES PAID?

    Why will I have my daughter work her butt off to earn enough points in her section to earn her way to a tournament where the fee is $150, $1000 for airfare and another $1000 for board and lodging? I think this is really the main reason why SoCal players are not dying to sign up for this tournament. Not all of us have that much disposable income to attend a tournament especially for the younger divisions. There’s just no upside. However, if USTA shoulder’s the cost, then I’m pretty sure I’ll have her play as many Section tournaments to make sure she earns enough points to get 1 of the 13 spots allocated for our section.

    1. Hey New Tennis Dad – I can pretty much guarantee that families aren’t sending their kids to clay in Florida or NC in lieu of the competition that already exist in California. I might add that I see nothing wrong with that as each region of the country has to make choices.

      1. Our problem in CA is that for the most part, only the CA coaches are around watching a very select few tournaments (Sectionals, etc) so if your child wants to get looks from schools in other parts of the country, they have to travel to where the largest collection of eyeballs will be — historically, this has been the Level 1’s. But will these coaches continue to come when it’s a crapshoot as to whether their recruits will even make it in? They have to book flts, hotels etc in advance — (as do we parents, but that’s a whole other Pandora’s Box)….

        1. This is a very important point for juniors aspiring to play college tennis somewhere outside their section. It is exactly why my family is spending the time and money to travel this summer – so my son can meet coaches in other parts of the country and, hopefully, have the opportunity to play in front of them. The ITA Summer Circuit provides a great opportunity for kids to do just that. You can get more info and enter at http://www.itatennis.com/Events/ITA_Summer_Circuit.htm

  59. Mr. Mora: what do they say about this data? This seems pretty black and white to me that this whole mess was a big mistake.

  60. Antonio, I agree with your analysis, and believe you and I are like minded on the way we would like it to be, instead of how it is. For others who haven’t looked into the system, it should be pointed out that one reason the system won’t change is that the Sections with large USTA junior member populations and low % in the top 128 are profit centers for the USTA. If they actually go by talent density in exclusion of membership size, then those sections will experience a decline in membership because fewer of their players will be able to get into the L1, 2, 3 events and motivation will decline.

    Midwest has a USTA junior membership of 37,038 and Florida has 12,269. When every member equates to revenue to USTA National, they have to pay attention to Midwest’s demands.

    I was against the quotas even when my player got in on one. Three years ago I wrote White Plains and stated my position, naively thinking it would carry more weight because I was arguing against a policy that benefited my player. Of course I now know that they don’t actually pay any attention to any opinion that isn’t generated within their confines.

      1. The current structure makes it harder and harder for our kids to sustain a love of tennis, though. That’s one of the biggest issues I see in the 18s – how many kids drop out of the sport, even deciding after devoting 10+ years to it that they will forego tennis altogether for some sense of “normalcy” in college. To me, that’s heart-breaking.

  61. Jennifer, they rarely address the issue of the quota unfairness head on because it’s an institutional problem that leads to a political problem. Robert Sasseville did a good job so looking at the big picture: the USTA is divided into 16 fiefdoms (aka sections) who all want their say but who also want to make nice with the national governing body. Some of the larger sections don’t want to give up the advantage their size gives them, even if it means holding onto an unfair system. And we all know how hard it is for big organizations to make changes, so there’s a built-in reluctance to address this.

    Lin, you set out the politics well, but where I disagree with you is that I can’t imagine that a decline in an overly generous quota would lead to a decline in membership for the Midwest section (again, I don’t want to beat on the Midwest drum, it’s just the example at hand).

    Most important, when a kid picks up a tennis racket at age 5, 6 or 7, shouldn’t he or she have the same shot at making it into our national championships, no matter where they live? Should that child have an easier path because he or she was born in Cincinnati instead of Tampa or Santa Monica?

    Also, the issue of quotas as an incentive or disincentive doesn’t really become an issue unless you become a highly, highly competitive player. We’re talking about a minuscule minority, no more than a few dozen kids, even in the best sections, who have a shot at playing and winning even one match at a level 1. Those are the only kids who legitimately could be said to be discouraged or encouraged by quotas. At those high levels, the evidence proves Florida has a lot more players than the Midwest.

    Separately, if you look at total kids ranked on TRN per class, the proportional gap in size shrinks dramatically. Midwest still has more kids in total, but instead of a 3-1 size ratio, it’s closer to 3-2.

    I’ll end disagreeing with you on one front and with a rare, partial defense of the USTA: they do pay attention to opinions generated outside their confines. In fact, some engage quite actively and positively. The problem is that it’s after the fact. Parental opinions have traditionally not been heard during the decision-making process at the national and sectional levels (parents are often looked down upon and often seen as a bother, so very few parents of current players are anywhere to be found in the power structure). Then, when a decision is made that we all disagree with, it becomes virtually impossible for the USTA behemoth to adjust, no matter how great the unfairness or injustice.

  62. What leaves me and many others confused is the listening tour. At the listening tour, the USTA official clearly stated “we made a mistake” and that the parents and players were overwhelmingly against the changes. There was even an argument about the percentage which they agreed was over 90%. Everyone in the room made it abundantly clear that they didn’t want any cutting of tournaments or opportunity at all. We said we NEEDED MORE. Why did they disregard all of that input? Why did they put us through all that effort? We bought and extra plane ticket and an extra room just to be heard at the listening tour stop. Not a single person in the room was for the changes. Yet they still made the changes with a little bit of a change? We didn’t want the changes period. If the plan was to disregard us, then why make us spend all that time and money?

  63. Antonio, again we agree more than not. I will also freely admit that my suppositions about membership decline are pure speculation and not based on any empirical evidence. My belief is that a reduction in quota would indeed only truly affect the top 0.5% but it’s perception that would dissuade others. If you see that your Section has 15 Quota spots, you may believe you can attain one of them and maintain membership. If you have a more appropriate 7-8 spots maybe it appears unattainable, and you stop believing, and choose another sport where your likelihood of being recognized is greater. Truly, I think a worst-case scenario would only cost them 3% membership, but that’s more than 1,100 lost dues.

    Re the USTA; my experience there is actual, and unpleasant. I believe I put forth well-thought-out and supported arguments, and am willing to admit error when appropriate. However, I have been routinely discounted, demeaned, and ignored by White Plains. It seems to me that the very arguments that have the most supporting evidence are the ones to which they will simply stop replying. That may well be due to their ingrained bias against parents. I don’t have strong enough relationships with them to speak to that. I will also readily admit that I have first-hand knowledge of several prototypical psychotic tennis parents just from my small geography, and if I had to deal with an entire nation’s population of this personality, I would probably have a bias as well. But that doesn’t mean you should discount those who argue a point respectfully, just because others don’t.

    Take us for example: I don’t presume that I will radically alter your current beliefs, but from your replies, I believe you actually considered what I wrote and responded after some thought. If we can dialogue without being rude, why can’t they?

    1. Lin, one issue I see with your membership argument is the relatively few number of parents/players who actually know anything about the quotas and how they work. Heck, most of the coaches are in the dark on this issue, too.

  64. I would prefer to believe it is a fear of losing membership. Otherwise it is just the Sections saying “We have more membership so you have to cater to us.” And they may be right. What would happen to the USTA if Midwest, or Southern withdrew their affiliation with the USTA National and went with one of the fledgling junior tennis associations like Grand Prix Tennis? If one of the big Sections walked out, others would follow and the USTA National would see a steep decline in revenue.

  65. I don’t know why quantity of members has any bearing on how many kids get into a tournament. High level tournaments are supposed to be about quality of players as opposed to quantity. The fact that one section is very aggressive about acquiring memberships while another is not, should not penalize the junior players within the section with the less aggressive leaders. For 40 years, politics has ruled

  66. Agreed, Jerry. Too much politics. We are one country, not some loose European-Union confederacy of sovereign states. The best kids should get to play, period. Where they happen to live should be irrelevant.

    Lin, I really don’t think quotas will affect a section’s broad membership. If my experience is representative, kids fall in love with tennis and focus on it as “their” sport way before they have any notion of what the national tournament structure involves.

    But quotas may discourage some of our best players. Of those 37,000 kids who are USTA members in the Midwest (I haven’t independently confirmed that number), fewer than 2500 boys and girls are even ranked by TRN in the seven grades TRN covers, the grades when kids would be playing nationals. Of those kids, only about 300 or so are high TRN 3-stars or better, the only ones who would legitimately have a shot at playing nationally (I’m actually being generous with that number). Those are the only kids who would care about the quotas.

    The bigger concern is that those kids and their families are the USTA’s biggest customers. They should also be the sport’s greatest ambassadors. But all these problems, including the issues you and others have had with the USTA, have undoubtedly created an atmosphere of negativity. The ambassadors have turned into detractors. That negativity has played out in the frequent comments we’ve seen, on this blog and elsewhere, where some of those people say they’d never have their kids play tennis if they had a chance to do it again. That has to change.

    1. My 18s daughter got into the qualies, which starts on the 10th (read: must fly across country on the 8th) and also into the main draw doubles (all qualies are automatically into the doubles, which is a nice feature, I have to admit). I just calculated the costs, and the RT flight (of course, guessing at a return date of mid-late in the week of the tourney) will run over $1K for two of us. We will need to pay for a hotel from the 8th through (guessing again) the 17th or so, so hotel cost of approx $1K. Car rental for 8 days, guessing upwards of $300 or more. Food for the week, etc. Total of at least $2500 … and the college coaches who have been in touch & said they want to watch her play for potential recruiting purposes have told her they will arrive on the 12th or 13th. Which means, we fork out $2500+ and MAYBE she gets seen by a few coaches for singles (IF she makes it into the main draw) and MAYBE for one (hopefully more, but who knows?) doubles match. Does any of this make sense to anyone, when you pull your head out of this mud long enough to think clearly? I just don’t know any more.

  67. Ignore everything and ask one thing. Do the best playing against the best produce the best athletes? If you believe this than the USTA system has an inherent flaw that affects our “Blue Chippers”. At FSU we had 80+ scholarship athletes, many 5 Star recruits. Well you get ~40 to 55 play so what happens to the other 35 or so? Practice squad players who make those 55 or so better. We finished Top 5 all those years, with countless first round NFL players.

    I don’t have the stats but being there I saw what BEST vs BEST produces.

    So I’ve decided to seek out via whatever means necessary the best for my kid to get better, I just figured for $100+ entry fees, $1000+ travel cost! the governing body would have this as a core competency! Guess not.

  68. There has been a lot of discussion about the NSL rankings of players who were accepted into main draws vs qualifiers. However does NSL really tell us who is “best”? I trust TRN, a head to head based ranking system much more than I do the USTA rankings. I saw two 5 star 18s players that were within one ranking spot of each other on TRN while one player’s USTA ranking was almost 300 ranking spots below the other. Here are two players who are practically even in ability but you would not guess it from the USTA rankings. I am sure the top 100 players are significantly better than 150-500, but there may not be much difference between #150 and #500. Maybe #500 only plays in his section. Maybe he had to take the SAT on one of the weekends his section held tournaments with national level 3 or 4 points or he had an AP test on the Monday of the tournament.. Maybe his parents couldnt afford to travel to national tournaments on the opposite coast. In our section, two high level sectional tournaments (section level 1, national 4s) were held two weeks apart this spring during state tennis championships, state graduation testing, AP testing ,etc. Many top players missed one of the two tournaments which meant they missed out on the national points. I agree that #1000 should not get in a national championship before #150, but the USTA ranking is only accurate as a broad measure. If NSL was the only measure used, the system would favor rich homeschoolers. Having sectional quotas gives top sectional players who either dont travel as much due to schoolwork or finances a chance to qualify to play at a national championship without playing all the Regionals, National Selections, etc. That being said, maybe the quotas should be limited. Someone suggested only 2 per section and then players had to be top 200 on NSL; However players ranked #400-500 NSL have beaten NSL 150-200’s in sectional play. Maybe the girls ranked in the 1000s just aged up and were top 100 in the lower age but have already made it to the top of their current age in sectional tournaments. There is a story behind all those numbers. and we dont know the story. The story might be weak section, easy wins, cheap national points, shouldnt be at national championship or the story could be just aged up, top sectional players, etc.I dont know where the cutoff should be-#1400 sounds ridiculous, but maybe 400 or 500 NSL is not. Maybe if Midwest has a high quota, fill it with players up to 400 or 500 and then dump the rest of the slots into the general NSL pool.

    I dont have a dog in this fight as my son did not apply to play any of the national championships-maybe next year, maybe not as we try to stay within a 7 hour drive. However, I looked at the qualifier and alternate lists and it is not hard to find guys who are better players who are further back on the alternate list because their NSL ranking is not as good due to less travel. Not every good player can afford to spend $1000+ to attend tournaments.

    My hope is with the national cuts that college coaches will attend more of the top level tournaments in their sections, and that players who want to play college tennis in their section will be able to do so even if they have not played in a national championship. There are only 128 spots at the championships; obviously there are more than 128 college scholarships each year. There should be room at 2nd tier Division I and Divsion II schools for the kids who aren’t at Kalamazoo. Sometimes I wonder if kids outside the top 75 would be better playing futures and ITA showcases and forgetting about USTA. ITFs are really not an option for those attending public school.

  69. Antonio, OK I am now in your camp re the effect quota would have on membership. I had not considered that the vast majority of a Section’s membership has no realistic possibility of being accepted into an L1. It’s easy to get myopic and apply my own filter to everyone else’s situation.

    I got the 37,038+ number for Midwest from my local Section office. They sent me a document that delineated each Section’s junior membership and the quota numbers for each event by Section.

  70. As an follow up to Robert’s post above I thought it might be worthwhile to review how the old and much maligned pre-2010 Optimum schedule actually worked..

    The USTA national tournament structure consisted of 5 levels of tournaments. Each section was allowed to “designate” 12 tournaments which would count towards national standing – 8 level 5, 3 level 4 and 1 level 3 event each year. The points associated with these tournaments were relatively low and set at a level that made it impossible to gain a very high national ranking by just playing these events. They were designed to be a stepping stone into the higher level national tournaments and they functioned very well in this regard. Players in smaller sections had an advantage here in the sense that a smaller number of kids were chasing these points but the distortions created were fairly minimal – you couldn’t gain a high national ranking by just playing kids in your own section but you could gain enough points to gain access to one of the many level 3 events that were scheduled during the year.

    Regional level 3 events were scheduled all through out there year – these were the old, very popular bowl events – Copper Bowl, Quicksilver etc. The draws sizes for these events were market driven based on location and time of year. Acceptance into these events was from the NSL but every event reserved a number of places for kids ranked in the top 200 of the younger age group. Level 3 events provided significantly more points than the sectional level 4 and 5’s but again the points were structured in a way that capped your ranking. Doing well in level 3,4 and 5 events might gain you a national ranking in the range of 150-250 but more importantly it gave you the opportunity to gain entry to the level 2 events.

    The level 2 National Opens were held 4 times a year approximately a month before the 4 national championship tournaments. These tournaments carried significantly more points than the level 3’s, draw sized were always 64 players and spots were reserved for highly ranked kids from the lower age group. Additionally the top 3 finishers were guaranteed a spot in the up coming national championships.

    The level 1 national championship tournaments represented the pinnacle of the national tournament structure and carried the most points. These events were held 4 times a year in the Spring, Summer(twice) and Winter. These tournaments used a hybrid selection process. Every section was give a quota based on USTA membership. Roughly 40% of the tournament was selected off of these quotas. The balance of the draw was selected off the NSL , National Open qualifiers and what was then called the National Championship Selection List. The use of quotas created some distortions in terms of lower ranked kids getting into the draw but those distortions were relatively minimal and well worth the price of guaranteed sectional representation and more importantly the fact that any kid in the country could gain access to all of the national championships by playing exclusively in his or her own section. You could stay at home, go to school , travel 4 times a year and if you did well earn enough points to have a very high national ranking!

    The system had a lot going for it… a player gained access to national events through their section or through the aging up opportunities – the system provided a logical progression from level 5 through to level 1 – if you did well in level 4’s you could get into level 3’s and so on and so forth – a high national ranking came from playing national competition – there was a lot of choice with roughly 42 national events spread out over the year allowing families to build a schedule that worked for them and perhaps most importantly and I am going to shout this A PLAYER DID NOT HAVE TO TRAVEL A SINGLE MILE OUT OF THEIR SECTION TO QUALIFY FOR ALL OF OUR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS WHERE THEY COULD GAIN THE #1 RANKING IN THE COUNTRY IF THEY DID WELL!!!!

    So what was the problem — The was some complexity associated with the structure (although nothing compared to what we have now IMO) – you had to understand the aging up process and how the sectional designated events fed into the regional level 3’s etc. The NSL below 150 wasn’t particularly accurate but it co-existed with the TRN rankings quite well.

    However the big problem according to the USTA was the great evil of points chasing forcing kids to travel all over the country seeking out soft tournaments hunting for national points to gain access to national tournaments. The specter of rich kids jumping onto their private jets dashing across the country to the national being held in Alaska loomed large over every discussion. There are a couple of realities about points chasing – 1) you actually have to win a match to gain a point and 2) it just wasn’t possible to gain a high national ranking without doing well in the level 1’s and points chasing was of no help there. And the big reality which was conveniently forgotten by the USTA in all these discussions was the level 1 selection process under which you could CHOOSE to stay in your section, NEVER travel and end up as #1 in the country if you were good enough.

    What has happened here is sad. The US had one of the best national junior tournament structures in the world before 2010 with tournaments the kids loved to play. The NJCC and the USTA has butchered it beyond recognition leaving us with a system that nobody understands and certainly nobody supports. Could the old system be improved? Sure . Is this an improvement???

  71. I personally know kids, girls and boys, that play Open men’s and women’s tennis in California, with national ranking in the 1000’s that would take kids in top 200 to hell and back. They made a contentious or economically forced decision to keep in local. Now, because the kids are only 14-15, the changes will possibly cause a rapid rise in their national ranking because they’re parents have incentive to drive. However, because they’re plan is working as far as they’re TRN California ranking and their UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) they may not need to get a high national ranking to get some college attention. UTR will be the future wildcard in all this also.

    1. Marty – those are great options that every player should have. The USTA should be in the business of expanding those options and opportunities like the Europeans have done and not micro-managing US tennis as they have done. The USTA has more than enough resources to scholarship any player needing help with travel to national events.

    2. To my knowledge, TRN does NOT include men’s and women’s open results in its rankings/ratings. Nor does TRN include ITA Summer Circuit events (another one of my fav USTA alternatives for teens). UTR is still some years away from being all-inclusive in terms of events, so for those players currently in high school, UTR isn’t as useful as TRN. I know UTR has a lot of support in NorCal, but not all sections have bought into it yet. For now, USTA rankings are what drives selection into national L1s so that’s the ranking most kids/families focus on, regardless of whether or not it’s the most accurate or indicative of future success.

  72. We disagree that USTA micro manage junior tennis. I think the sections micro manage local qualifying tournaments and schedules based on tradition, relationships, resources and myriad of other local factors.

    1. By way of comparison – Tennis Europe, the umbrella organization for pan- European junior tennis hosts approximately 175 unique events across the continent each year for each age group compared to the 10 or so we have in the US. Every tournament has a qualifying draw , consolation and some hospitality is provided at each event. Now Europe has roughly twice the population of the US and tennis is a more popular sport but they are running 20x the number of national events and they are running them well. With 90% of the worlds top payers maybe we should take note. I can tell you they are not hung up on points chasers but they are obsessive about proving opportunity to junior tennis players.

  73. Geoff – Thanks for the comparison. Like I said the sections have particular interest; these interests would be devastated by National USTA shifting to offer a similar slate across the states and the regional and local sections. That said, the sections could look at the national schedule, then adapt and adopt the unique events you reference Tennis Europe creates. I can certify that NorCal has and continues to adapt to the National changes in this manner.

  74. Also my reference to Norcal USTA does not mean some here don’t like the changes. I have heard objections to the national schedule and 10 and under, but the rancor is much, much less. I attribute less rancor to how NorCal junior committee adapt the local schedule. The local schedule was total remade to adapt to the national pathway.

  75. Marty… I respect your opinion, but I think you’re way wrong on this. Everything that has been done since 2010 shows exactly how the USTA does micromanage junior tennis, taking sanctions away from all those great level 3s, imposing all sorts of new “boutique” tournaments for the elite (that have mostly failed to attract the number of elite players desired), eliminating national tournaments, creating a point structure that makes the NSL almost worthless, etc.

    Every point Geoff makes in his long post is dead on and everyone should read it. Your kids are too young to have seen the old schedule in operation. It provided many more opportunities for people to play. I don’t recall ever hearing a parent say the 2010 schedule was terrible. The only complaint back then was about the handful of kids who were home schooled and could take private jets to every tournament. But, as Geoff said, those kids still had to win matches to get points.

    The real complaints started when the USTA started micromanaging the system and exploded when they came up with the current schedule.

  76. We are left to disagree Antonio. I just have no energy to re-litigate. We would be in tennis if they took it all away. None of my love or kid’s love of the game is predicated on USTA. You may ask why? I fell in love with tennis despite a lot of rejection from private tennis interests. Real BS. Turned away from joining clubs as a young man for bogus reasons. Talking to you West End Raqcuet Club. Watching the treatment of the Williams from American fans before the took over the sport and carried it for 10 years. My love and the love I have instilled in my kids is too strong to let any schedule deter participation in the game.

    1. As I said in a previous comment, keeping that love alive is a huge challenge. Marty, I hope your son will hold onto his love of the game despite the craziness that is USTA junior tennis. He is young yet, and USTA will hopefully do the right thing by our kids and fix this broken system in time for your son to benefit. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s too late for my son.

  77. Really, Marty? We’re going to bring up race in a discussion of what system is best for junior tennis? And you implicitly question the love for the sport that our kids have? As if virtually all our most-competitive kids are not totally passionate about the game they dedicate enormous amounts of time and effort to? That they sacrifice normal teenage social lives for? That they stay up until midnight doing homework for so they can train? I’m really tired of the implicit and often explicit comments about “obnoxious parents out for their self-interest” and “spoiled kids.”

    This is a discussion about how a system is not working. Much of what has been written here is factually based. Clear numbers showing what the problems are. Geoff wrote a terrific comparison of the old and new systems and you took the discussion to a whole other place. You don’t want “to re-litigate,” then don’t participate in the discussion. Most parents think that is exactly what we should do and that is what we are trying to do here in fact-based way.

  78. Lisa – I hope so too, but I doubt USTA will be a factor. He made Zonals. That is his big trip for the next 3 years. Staying in Cali till he his 15. No clay. Probably no Winter Nats, nor Orange Bowl. His national ranking may stall after the 12s. His development plan calls going after the Easter Bowl goals between 13 and 16. Like I have said before, everybody needs to create the best plan they can.

    1. Marty, you say you doubt USTA will be a factor. You do realize, of course, that all of the events you’ve listed in your son’s plan are USTA events, right? You are not alone there. That’s why it’s crucial that USTA get this right.

  79. Nice try Antonio. I may have implied deterrence from participation, but I did not imply race. I won’t even address the false assumption regarding question anyone’s love of the game. Google me. I know people in tennis love the game. Please do discuss how you think the system doesn’t work. I’ve laid my marker on that point. I think the sections need to adapt to the national schedule. Don’t look for implicitness in anyone’s statements, you find less of it.

  80. till Lisa blocks me, I will comment as I wish. Please do continue to critique, but I don’t need to argue back. My goals are not to win the argument or persuade you or anyone else.

  81. I do realize all of these are USTA events. The kid just plays. He wins, he loses. I will be disappointed in him if he ever blames an organization for him not taking it where he decides he can.

  82. Sorry Marty – just lost a lot of respect for you with that comment – This is not the forum. I won’t dignify it with any more of a response!

  83. Geoff – which comment is beyond the pale? That kids should be less worried about USTA machinations than getting better however they can? I see nothing untoward about expressing this perspective. Perhaps I will earn your respect back in other avenues of contribution in the game as the future unfolds. I’m not going anywhere.

  84. Marty… this is my last comment on this distraction from the main topic. You are being preachy about “kids getting better,” “love of the game,” and how we shouldn’t waste time focusing on USTA machinations.
    This thread IS about the USTA machinations, how they are just plain unfair and hurting the game. Please address the issues on the substance. If you don’t like the discussion and don’t want to “re-litigate,” then please let the rest of us try to address the topic intelligently.
    I’m happy to hear the other side if you want to defend the changes on substance. Should there be large quotas? Should the #3 kid in the country not get in while #500 does? Should sections that have fewer top players get more kids into the level 1s than sections that have more? Should quotas be fixed in a way that even within a section, strong classes get as many players into level 1s as weak classes? Is any of this fair? How exactly is the current system better than what we had in 2010. Shouldn’t sports be about fairness and sportsmanship?

  85. Does anyone know when the Wild Cards for the Clays will be announced? It will be interesting to see who gets one. There are some players I know who were certain of their ability to get in the G18s via a WC, but now that players like last year’s champion, and so many other high-ranking (and deserving) players didn’t make their Sectional Endorsement lists I would bet those WCs will be tough to come by.

    I did ask the TD, but all he said was “not for some time”.

  86. The deadline for applications was the 17th, so it may take a while. There are no regulations that I could find that says how quickly they need to be awarded.

  87. Until the USTA mandates and helps pay for 1 ref for every match, none of it matters. Its not a real sport and the rankings are arbitrary. If the honor system works, why doesn’t youth baseball, soccer, hockey, football, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, and soft ball go with it? Why? Because that would be lunacy. The USTA rankings DO NOT MATTER. Who gets into which USTA tournaments DOES NOT MATTER. I have seen many of the top 20 girls play, all but 3-4 are mediocre and win through gamesmanship.

    We are debating what ranked kid gets into what tournament when the entire foundation is built on nothing but sludge.

  88. I teach a number of unaffected kids right now, but have watched this debate for years as it will likely have an impact on my kids in a couple years. I think it comes down to this. If the new plan was good, right, fair or even defensible, the makers of this new plan would be on sites like this defending it like crazy. That is what you do when someone attacks something; you defend it. If your position is indefensible, then you say things like – I wont dignify that with a response or you say that the person you are arguing with is not worthy of a response. That has not happened here at all. Basically all of these message boards, blogs, Parenting Aces, Hannity, Zoo Tennis and Facebook have been 98% against the changes from very seemingly rational parents. The 2% of the people supporting the changes go off on tangents that showing that they are more likely just counter pointers or kooks. Every once in awhile, one of them will throw something up and the second that gets counter-pointed, then that person never writes again. There was the long letter from the supposed original creator on Hannity and that letter alone probably set their case back substantially. The fact that the creators of this system are not defending the system at all, speaks volumes in my mind.

  89. Good analysis by Geoff. 2010 was paradise compared to this.

    When I complained to my sectional head about the upcoming cuts ( before it happened), I was told the same argument that it wasn’t fair that a few kids couldn’t travel because they didn’t have the money.

    That is really a head scratcher….. The USTA is loaded down with bags and bags of $$$$$, and they wouldn’t have helped a truly talented kid because he or she didn’t have the money.
    Well that’s not true. Because if they were that talented the USTA PD would have stolen them away immediately from their coach.

    So, they were talking about a non talented kid who couldn’t travel.
    Well, then they could stay in their section and get in on their sectional ranking OR the USTA could have funded that kid because they have boatloads of money.

    Oh, and I love the argument, of “Just get better……… Don’t focus on the fact that you don’t have a tournament to play in.” That’s lunacy.

  90. My son is in the boys 16s. He missed by one for Florida Endorsement. He is 15 in the state and 11 go and 11 of the top 14 signed up for clays. He has wins over numbers 16, 65, 84, 89,105 and 108 on the NSL all of whom except one got in by Sectional Endorsement.. He has many wins over NSL main draw admissions behind him. He is 130 on the NSL (the 6th highest out on the NSL before Wild Cards). He did not get a wild card. He is higher than many of the entries on TR for his year. He is in the qualifying and I told him win your three matches and you get to play. The system now is the same as it was when I played the Clays and Kalamazoo in the early 1980’s. I am unhappy about him not getting into the main draw and you all state the reasons that I would if I had the energy to do the quite in depth and impressive analysis I read above my comment. I can say that the USTA, with all its faults, has provided my two sons (and me) with an amazing opportunity to compete as juniors on the way to college tennis locally, state wide, nationally and in team events and we are grateful for that. In any event, he has to go win his matches to qualify.

    1. Matt,

      Your note and story was refreshing on so many fronts – thanks for sharing some sage advice with other tennis parents.

      P.S. All the best to your son with his tennis. I’ve seen him play a few times…nice player.

  91. Matt, You are to be congratulated for the lack of bitterness in your reply. We can all learn something from your situation that, while most of us believe the USTA is doing a very sub-optimal job, they still do provide the basic framework for junior play that all our kids take advantage of. It is really unfortunate that your son doesn’t get direct entry into the draw, since in many sections, based on his level of accomplishment you described, he would be at, or among the top players in that section. That is where the real unfairness comes to play that an outstanding player like your son, needs to spend extra time and money to qualify, while less accomplished players get in simply by virtue of the weakness of their section. Like Antonio, not to pick on the Midwest, but I suspect that your son would be well within the endorsement quota of that section, if you happened to live there. Both because the depth of accepted players (as supported by both USTA rank and TRN rank) as well as the larger allocation would ensure his sectional endorsement would gain him entrance. That is just not fair for a national championship to penalize him for living in a more competitive section. As I suggested before, this could all be addressed by limiting automatic entry thru sectional endorsement to players ranked higher than some level, say over 200 or even 300 in the country on the NSL. Best of luck in the qualies.

  92. Ironically, 5 minutes ago, I received a call that my son was now accepted and was taken off the qualifier list. We are both grateful for this. I do not know why – i.e. someone from our section withdrew, a section could not fill its quota, etc. But we will revisit this issue shortly as only 9 from Florida are endorsed to Kalamazoo. Thank you for your replies.

  93. No offense, but this is incorrect. Parents / Players are considered the same in terms of NCAA rules (i.e. Coach communications, money received, etc) I’ll try to find the specific NCAA By-law, but parents are under the same rules as the child. The parents aren’t penalized per se but the player and coaches could be.

  94. I’m so with Letmeoutnow. I too have been doing this for 8 years, and probably have another 7 to go.its become intolerable. I too regret ever having put a tennis racquet in my kids hands. I played junior tennis and what I see now is hard to believe and inexplicable. I wish I’d chosen to buy a chessboard.

  95. If you let the system eat you up, it definitely will. I have absolutely zero regrets about ever putting a tennis racquet in my kids hand. In fact, I do whatever I can to promote the great game of tennis to other parents that have young kids. I’ve got a “tennis” truck with over 200,000 miles on it and a memory for every mile. And I don’t plan on ever trading it in.

  96. George good for you. It’s a little different juggling 3 kids you have a PD kid. It’s not the same. 2 full time working parents. It’s a struggle. The new 2014 changes have made it almost undo able. That’s a reality.

  97. Pwh- I truly empathize with your family situation and salute your child’s achievements. However, I must attest as a currently single dad (reconciling), I pay all of the expenses and the changes have absolutely made competitive junior tennis possible and more affordable. Affordable being a terrible way to describe, do-able. Congrats on getting that boy of yours on an excellent path. Hope all works out regarding clay’s and hard courts.

    1. Marty – as one of the main advocates for the changes perhaps you could explain why the current structure has made tennis so much more affordable to you. Under the pre 2010 Optimum structure you could play exclusively in you section and still gain access to the 4 national championship events through your sectional quota as well as the zonal competitions.Doing well in thse 5 events would gain you a very high if not top national ranking. There was no need for you to travel out of section if that was your choice or it was unaffordable. I’m curious as to how the current structure with so much less choice and opportunity has improved things for you as many of us believe the current structure has in fact increased expense and it has certainly made life exponentially more difficult for families with more than one kid like Pwh. Do you have more than one child competing at this point. Would love to hear your perspective.

  98. Marty thnx for your kind words.

    Actually for where we live it increases our expenses. Instead of being able to go to Ky or another location that has all 3 age divisions, we have to go all over the place to play in our Section One kid gets sacrificed each tournament. It’s a terrible decision to have to make.

    I’m happy it’s worked out for you!!

  99. I dint mean to be smarmy, but PD parents exalting the beauty of the USTA and tennis, should just be taken with a grain of salt. It accounts for very few kids and families. They have reaped the benefits of training and travel. Meanwhile, the rest of us are funding our own lessons, equipment, travel,. We pay for them to do this as members of the USTA.

    1. I did not mention anything about the beauty of the USTA.

      Anyway, congratulations to your son on committing to Illinois. He’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll have a blast playing college tennis, which in my opinion is the best tennis product on the market today.

  100. Marty, I’d love for you to explain how the system has made it cheaper. Here’s how I think it plays out for different levels of players, starting from the assumption that we are talking about sections that have limited-sized draws for levels 3, 4 and 5 (I confess some of this reflects the Florida experience, but it’s mostly applicable to other sections):

    1) For kids who aren’t ranked highly enough to play sectional 3-5 tournaments and just play locally, the new system has changed nothing.
    2) For kids who occasionally get into sectionals and don’t play much nationally, the new system has changed little. They, however, are less likely to get into sectional 3-5s because higher-ranked kids are forced to stay in their age group longer if they want to “make quota.” So it might be cheaper for this group, but at a big expense: they get to play section-wide competition far less often and may mostly be forced to stay “local.” And, while they might have gotten to play an occasional level 3 national in the old days, they never will now. Developmentally and “inspirationally,” these kids are hurt badly by the new system.
    3) For 5-star and 4-star kids who regularly play sectionally but may not be the “super-elite” (top 5 in a section), the new system has traded one expense for another. They used to play sectional 3-5s when they wanted to and played nationally when they wanted to (if they made their old sectional quota or if they developed a good enough national ranking). Now they are forced to play virtually every sectional 3-5 to keep within quota range. Sectional travel has supplanted national travel and sectional travel can be more expensive. Also, if they’re playing all those sectionals AND want to play nationally, the costs have become even more prohibitive. By limiting their national play, exposure to other players, exposure to other playing styles and exposure to other surfaces, I believe these kids are being hurt developmentally. It will also be much harder for them to age up and get into the sectional 3-5 tournaments, which is another developmental hit.
    4) For the super elite, it’s gotten more expensive. They likely will need to play sectionally more often than in the past to keep their sectional ranking in quota range. And there are more national tournaments for that group than there were in the past (spring team championships, sweet sixteens, etc.).
    5) USTA PD kids aren’t affected because it’s now clear that they will not be forced to follow the requirement to play sectionally.

    All in all, I don’t see how anyone benefits. I’d be happy to hear how I’m wrong.

  101. All,
    Here is the information that I promised regarding coaching contacts. You and your child are considered one in the same in terms of college coaching contacts. (This is why the parents of these high level football players get their kid in trouble when they take money from boosters. It’s just like if the boosters paid the child as far as the NCAA is concerned.)
    You and your child can talk to the coaches at the site up to when they check in for the tournament and up to the day before competition (whichever happens first). Once they have checked into the tournament, you and your child can’t speak with college coaches until they are completely out of the event. This is why college coaches don’t speak to you as a parent at tournaments. They really don’t know your ‘check in status’ and don’t risk it.

    Here is the link to the NCAA DI Bylaws:
    http://www.ncaapublications.com/ (Click the DI link)

    Here are some of the relevant info:
    Recruiting Contacts are defined in NCAA Bylaw 13.02.4:
    13.02.4 Contact. A contact is any face-to-face encounter between a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, relatives or legal guardians and an institutional staff member or athletics representative during which any dialogue occurs in excess of an exchange of a greeting. Any such face-to-face encounter that is prearranged (e.g., staff member positions himself or herself in a location where contact is possible) or that takes place on the grounds of the prospective student-athlete’s educational institution or at the site of organized competition or practice involving the prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s high school, preparatory school, two-year college or all-star team shall be considered a contact, regardless of whether any conversation occurs. However, an institutional staff member or athletics representative who is approached by a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s parents, relatives or legal guardians at any location shall not use a contact, provided the encounter was not prearranged and the staff member or athletics representative does not engage in any dialogue in excess of a greeting and takes appropriate steps to immediately terminate the encounter.

    Bylaw 13.1 has all the information on Contacts and Evaluations but the player and parents are lumped together:
    13.1.1 Contactable Individuals.
    13.1.1.1 Time Period for Off-Campus Contacts—General Rule. Off-campus recruiting contacts shall not be made with an individual (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year in high school (July 7 after the junior year in high school in women’s ice hockey and July 15 after the junior year in high school in women’s gymnastics), or the opening day of classes of his or her senior year in high school (as designated by the high school), whichever is earlier.

    13.1.6.2 Practice or Competition Site. Recruiting contact may not be made with a prospective student-athlete prior to any athletics competition (including a non-institutional, private camp or clinic, but not an institutional camp or clinic) in which the prospective student-athlete is a participant during the day or days of competition, even if the prospective student-athlete is on an official or unofficial visit. Contact includes the passing of notes or verbally relaying information to a prospective student-athlete by a third party on behalf of an institutional staff member and telephone calls. Such contact shall be governed by the following: [D] (Revised: 1/11/89, 1/10/91, 1/11/94, 1/9/96 effective 7/1/96, 4/3/02, 4/24/03, 3/23/06, 12/12/06, 9/18/07, 1/15/14)
    (a) Contact shall not be made with the prospective student-athlete at any site prior to the contest on the day or days of competition;
    (b) Contact shall not be made with the prospective student-athlete from the time he or she reports on call (at the direction of his or her coach or comparable authority) and becomes involved in competition-related activity (e.g., traveling to an away-from-home game) to the end of the competition even if such competition-related activities are initiated prior to the day or days of competition;
    (c) Contact shall not be made after the competition until the prospective student-athlete is released by the appropriate institutional authority and departs the dressing and meeting facility;
    (d) Contact shall not be made with the prospective student-athlete involved in competition that requires participation on consecutive days (e.g., a tournament) until after his or her final contest is completed and he or she is released by the appropriate institutional authority and leaves the dressing and meeting facility. Contact shall not be made with a prospective student-athlete involved in a tournament that is not conducted on consecutive days until after his or her final contest is completed on a day before a break in the days of the tournament and he or she is released by the appropriate institutional authority and leaves the dressing and meeting facility;
    (e) Contact with a prospective student-athlete who is on an extended road trip (e.g., traveling with a team from one contest or event to another), is permitted at the conclusion of a competition and prior to the commencement of travel to the next competition, provided he or she has been released by the appropriate institutional authority and departs the dressing and meeting facility; and
    (f ) Coaching staff members may not send electronic correspondence to a prospective student-athlete while he or she is on call for competition at the competition site (e.g., arena, stadium). Coaching staff members may send general correspondence (including electronic correspondence) to a prospective student-athlete while he or she is on call and not at the competition site or while the prospective student-athlete is at any location once he or she has been released by the appropriate authority, provided the general correspondence is sent directly to a prospective student-athlete (e.g., the front desk of the hotel, the prospective student-athlete’s personal fax machine) and there is no additional party (e.g., camp employee, coach) involved in disseminating

  102. Sorry, PD player ccomments should not apply to the rest of us. They simply don’t apply. We as parents, must make travel arraangements, child care arraangements,(for multiple kids) multiple sites . You have the luxury of showing up, because your kid is with a coach.

    We must make tough choices. It’s not the same.

  103. There are scores of kids that have a coach where the parents have “the luxury of showing up” — I don’t have that luxury but that’s beside the point. This thread isn’t a discussion about me or about PD. It’s about creating solutions for kids so parents won’t regret putting a tennis racket in junior’s hand. That’s the bottom line. And based on what I’ve read on this forum, there is plenty of work to be done.

    Anyone that knows me, including the gracious sponsor of this site knows I’m about growing tennis. With that said, I’ll honor your request and get out of the way.

  104. George. It’s easy to be gracious when you are part of the system. I know you, like you and just wish that’ people in the system could realize the challenges that we parents face. I’m fortunate to havec3 kids in the mix. To say its challenging is an understatement.
    I don’t feel that PD parents should Be a voice for, we the parents and kids in the trenches, that represent the vast majority of the junior tennis community.

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