No More Negativity

Last week, I shared a post from another blog on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. It was yet another attempt to explain what’s wrong with American tennis. The article generated some interesting comments from parents and coaches alike, each blaming the other for what ails us all. [Note: Like and Follow ParentingAces on Facebook and Twitter to see the comments]

It’s the same old story. Coaches blame lazy players and overbearing parents. Parents blame unmotivated and under-trained coaches. Players blame governing bodies. Governing bodies blame everyone.

What if we all stopped blaming and just started focusing on what we can each do to be better? What if we all stopped assuming the worst about others and just started focusing on how we can work together to be better as a whole? What if, instead of viewing each other as opponents we just started viewing each other as allies working toward a common goal? Wouldn’t that be a giant step in the right direction?

I realize the only person I can control in all this is myself, so I’m going to start with a personal mind-shift. I’m going to focus my efforts with ParentingAces on finding the good stuff going on in the Junior Tennis World. I’m going to write about and talk about those people and events that are making our sport better, that are making our kids better human beings, and that are making us better sports parents. I’m going to assume less and question more. I’m going to look for ways to shine a light on the people and organizations and programs that are making a positive difference for us all. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.


27 Comments on “No More Negativity”

  1. One of the positives has to be passion. From a coaching perspective I Ieverage my own passion for the sport into 10U lessons, JTT, and as much match play opportunity as we can come up with. This all in a very rural area…which doesn’t have to be a negative either. We don’t talk to the kids about Tennis Link, how far away tournaments are, etc. We focus on the possibilities of a sport for life, character, fun, education and more fun.

  2. Good plan. We’re focusing on whats on our side of the net only as we move through tournaments season. It’s all good when you play this sport if you love it.

  3. Great post Lisa. We are in SE FL. and I watch weekend after weekend kids doing things I could not even think about at their age. Last weekend was 87 degrees and very humid. Kids at the tournament from age 8-14 were battling the heat, humidity, rain delays. Calling their own lines, keeping the score, standing up for their calls. Some matches had set and match tiebreakers, 2 plus hours out in that weather.

    Junior tennis kids work HARD and play hard. No matter what they end up doing as far as college or pros or just playing rec tennis, they are some of the toughest and most amazing kids I have ever seen! The fact is global competition increases year after year so naturally less and less of our hard working kids can get D-1 scholarships or have pro success. But that does not change the fact that they some of the hardest working kids on earth.

  4. Lisa, it would be great to be positive if we were in control of our own destiny with the amount of $ being spent.

    But, we are being run by a board at the USTA that doesn’t care about 99% of the juniors in this country. Their eyes are only on the 1%, the Player Development kids, that they “train” ( steal from other coaches that develop them) and JUSTIFY their ridiculous salaries ons.
    Salaries or $$$$$ that could be spent on tournament fees or refs.

    Even the Easter Bowl ITF was a sham this year, no ref till the QF?
    Let me repeat that, no chair ref until the QF.
    For a B1 level event?
    Why? Oh, $$$$.

    If you look at Kalamazoo coming up with the huge cuts, it’s hard to be positive. So many juniors will not be there this year. And I hate to say, the field will be weak. Many players are not playing their sectionals and there are now too many kids to get wildcards. BTW, I am not a fan of the WC.

    So, sorry I will be negative about the USTA until the tournament sizes are restored.

    1. I totally get your points, Tennis5, and don’t disagree. And while I’ll continue to write about and fight for the best junior competitive structure for our American kids, I’m also going to do my best to highlight those players and coaches and parents who have found a way to collaborate and excel in spite of the limitations imposed by the current USTA tournament system. By encouraging those alternative systems to keep plugging away and providing competition for USTA, I feel like it forces USTA to do better. Look at the New Balance High School Tennis Championships as an example of USTA partnering with New Balance to provide a national tournament that DOESN’T require USTA membership, DOESN’T use USTA rankings for selection, and is thinking outside the box to be a unique experience for the players.

  5. Lisa, I hear you. But, it feels like a band aid.
    The slashed tournaments and crazy point tables have made the system unrecognizable. And this strange bonus table that didn’t work and now works seems mighty suspicious.

    Either the USTA needs to go back to the old way or someone needs to come up with a new tennis organization ( that actually communicates with it’s paying membership). Also, TRN is slowly becoming out of whack as the kids are just not playing enough cross play anymore.

    It’s just a head scratcher that Europe can have so much match play for juniors and we are decreasing match play.

    Not my comment below, but am reprinting it without the author’s permission ( sorry).


    TennisFan2Day said…

    When you make draws smaller and limit where players can play you are not “growing the game” you are stiffling it.

    In the meantime the United States Golf Association (USGA) is adding more qualifying tournaments for the Jr Amateur Championship. In the early 80s there were 16 qualifying sites of 96 players. Last year there were 61 qualifying sites of 96 players. The total number of entries trying to qualify for the Junior Amateur is up to 4,500. The reason they keep adding more, is because more people want to play and the USGA knows that if you are good enough you will make it and the rest won’t. The difference is that the USGA isn’t in the business of trying to build a champion by being arrogant enough to take 8 kids in each age group to a private course everyday and thinking that they know everything. They don’t travel them all around the country burning up millions of dollars. Instead they build a model structure that grows the game despite a downfall in the economy.

    One thing that will kill tennis is when a player is out for 6 months in the current system because of an arm or ankle injury and then gives up because there is no chance of working their way back up, unless you are a friend of the program.

    Why would players who have 5 hours a day to train with the best coaches in the country and not have to worry about how much it costs, not be able to qualify for tournaments on their own accord? The reason for the wildcards is very transparent with the new proposals. Since the USTA PD players will not be participating in their sectional events, then there had to be a way to get them into the big events. In the meantime, turning their backs on the very system that the rest of the players are supposed to adhere to. The truth is that Jay Berger and Patrick McEnroe are doing anything they can to make the USTA Player Development look like it is a success.

    Lets look at the Boys 16 & 18 National Champions for the past 5 years:

    18 Singles: Jack Sock – Coached by Mike Wolf
    16 Singles: Ronnie Schneider – Coached by Bryan Smith
    18 Singles: Jack Sock – Coached by Mike Wolf
    16 Singles: Michael Redlicki – Coached by Sylvain Guichard (The USTA PD was not interested in him until he won)
    18 Singles: Chase Buchanan – Coached by Al Matthews then the USTA
    16 Singles: Gonzales Austin – Coached by his father
    18 Singles: Austin Krajicek – Coached by Steve Smith and IMG Bollettieri
    16 Singles: Jordan Cox – Coached by IMG Bollettieri
    18 Singles: Michael McClune – Coached by Nick Fustar
    16 Singles: Tennys Sandgren – Coached by his parents

    Do I need to say any more when it comes to this?

    College tennis isn’t exactly booming at the moment. Every couple of years you see another team getting dropped. Next year it is Maryland’s Men’s team. Who will be next?

  6. First step: working together
    Second step: understand tennis is a game not your life
    Third step: Have Fun

  7. Lisa – agree the blame game is old, BUT until the problem is acknowledged and framed correctly NO solution works.

    So what we have decided (few parents) we are taking our kids on road this summer. We will travel to academies throughout the state and play Academy style match play. We will do some during weekdays and slip in Busch Gardens, Wet n Wild, Universal etc… As we get good quality play. Coaching only on changeovers, and emphasize friend of court principles. We have several experienced national players taking part, and with ZONALs/Clay court in July, Hard courts in August this will fill the gap.

    10 and under Tennis has made the 12s a joke, so those kids that never played it are left with few alternatives. Very few 12s provide competitive matches mad top Level 14s have a slightly different schedule, so this road show will be a nice stop gap.

    Yes I’d like to rely on section/regional play but it’s not enough and honestly a waste of $$$$

    Coupled with Easter Bowl (not played @ IW, lack of officials etc.) the framework for the current model is just not ideal for US!

    So rather than complain this is what several of us decided to do.

  8. I am always positive with my son about his matches, and always say do you best, it is just a game etc… He is the one that cares so he is hard on himself. I don’t know what USTA is doing right or wrong, I know that my child’s chances to improve his national ranking are now looking pretty bad due to these changes. There were several L2 in our section, that gave a few national points, now they give no national points, and when you just age up getting into L1(now L3 or L4 I think?) that happen maybe three times a year is practically impossible as it is a 32 draw. Most tournaments here are SE, even these former L2. Can a section decide on its own to make FIC L2? I am also not sure about how now you get into tournaments based on a sectional ranking, it seems to me those are only for regional tournaments( and they are not offered as much as last year), and national selection is made on national ranking? Am I understanding this right? In the last few tournaments my son played same players over and over again, and this weekend he will play them again! So now even playing tournaments is a bit of a waste as it doesn’t really give him new competition, he either wins really easy or loses to the same player in the final rounds as he did last week. I am thinking for our summer vacation that we might go to Europe and there we know a great coach who charges 20 Euros per lesson and for sparring with him(he is fantastic player as well)and he will benefit more from hitting with this coach then hours of lessons and tournaments here.

  9. USTA Florida is doing a GREAT thing. If you make finals of a Level 3,4,5 (Florida section events with national points) you get direct entry into the next Level 3,4,5 @ the higher age group. Usually happens within 60 days. This is tremendous in aiding kids aging up, AND ensuring you get 2-3 top ranked kids in their age group competing.

    This is by far the best of ANY section @ emphasizing section play with a true REWARD, and aiding kids in the transition to the next age group.

    So no complaints. I’d like more DBLS but this solution is a good one for Florida.

  10. SeminoleG, I wish the same would happen in our section. But even finding a local L5 is impossible these days. L6 or L7 all the time, and less and less tournaments offered by far this year.

  11. Some very positive things are happening in Maryland at the JCC and in Las Vegas with the No Quit Academy and the Marty Hennessy Foundation. Good material to start with.

  12. Hey Em,

    You talk about your son playing the last few tournaments
    “played same players over and over again, and this weekend he will play them again! So now even playing tournaments is a bit of a waste as it doesn’t really give him new competition, he either wins really easy or loses to the same player in the final rounds as he did last week”, yeah, I hear you, that was everyone’s complaint before hand bout the kids having to play the same guys again and again. For my daughter, its much worse. The girls are constantly fighting over all this crap of bad calls and then they have to do it all over again. Really not much fun.
    Richard, thanks for the suggestions, we live on the East coast, but I can’t afford the JCC. Plus, heard there’s a bit of drinking down there anyway at that academy.

  13. What’s wrong with tennis? Too expensive compared to other sports and no return in value on the scholarship level for the boys.

    My older son plays baseball and that is $450 for the season, that includes the baseball field, the two umpires, uniform, and the balls. We buy a new bat each season, same glove from last year, and same cleats. No lessons involved. Practice is 3x a week and two games a weekend. If I don’t like my son’s baseball league, I can switch. The competition among leagues makes every league try hard to make their tournaments successful and fun and in areas that don’t cost us a fortune. Practice and the games are included in the $450. Potential for D1 scholarship – maybe. Getting letters from coaches, but no mention of how much $ for school.

    My younger son plays tennis. Low 5 star. Racquets ( need more than one), stringing, balls, tennis clothes, socks, sneakers, court time, private lessons, group lessons, tournament fees ( over $100 a tournament ) travel, flight, car rental, ridiculous hotel fees at EB oh and about two refs too, but they cover ten courts.. Potential D1 scholarship – doubtful. Only 4.5 per team and tend to go to the foreigners.

    What could make this tennis a more positive experience?
    Well, I could ignore all the bad stuff
    or the USTA could pump some $$$$$ into the tournament structures.

    Lisa, do you know that the USTA pays zero for the tournaments.
    ASk any TD if they receive any $ to put on a tournament? The answer is no.
    That’s why these events have nothing to them, and no refs.

    Maybe, the USTA could put some pressure on the NCAA to put a two man foreigner cap in place so our state universities which we support with state $ are not all foreign.

    I hear you about control.. I am doing that with my youngest son, he is not going to play tennis. Can’t afford it anyway, but there is more opportunity for the younger one in baseball to get some scholarship $.

  14. Actually don’t look at my post as negative, but more of a future warning to young parents who are looking for scholarship $ for boys.
    Jim, you might be playing for the love of the game or have a daughter, but most American parents in tennis are not rich and don’t want to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars and then get to college, and realize there is no payback. Sorry, in this economy, it’s the ugly truth.

  15. I thought what was interesting about Lisa’s link to the other article is that it high lights that coaches, well many of them, are in a conflict of interest.

    Imagine if you are a coach with expenses beyond the rent ( like supporting a family), and your clients are really the parents ( of the young kids you might train). Do you say to them, your kid is not athletic…. That they are stumbling across their own feet or worse, they just don’t want to bust it and run around the court. Well, you could, but then it’s bye -bye part of your mortgage payment.

    So, instead, we have these coaches that basically say… yeah, Johnny can get a scholarship at so-so college, charge a bunch of lessons, kid doesn’t improve much, and then parents thinking their kid has talent, but just a bad coach, move the poor kid to another coach.

    Unless, you are a tennis parent yourself ( D1 player, not rec), it’s hard for you to distinguish when you are throwing away your money. And the problem is that to play rec tennis or country club tennis, you don’t need that much skill level
    ( or the parents paying for a ton of lessons).

    I don’t think we see this conflict in team sports bc when the player is not good, they don’t get on the team or they sit on a bench. And if benched, then they don’t get invited back on to the travel team.

    But, in tennis, there is no benching by the coach. It’s just keep on taking lessons.

    1. Frustrated, you bring up several interesting points about what differentiates junior tennis from other youth sports. “But, in tennis, there is no benching by the coach” – that one, especially, is making my wheels turn . . .

  16. It is hard for an anonymous website/blogsite that essentially built its reputation and followers on negativity towards the USTA to some sort of mea culpa and try to change its stripes. Still to be honest I admire the honest effort to do so. It is time to move on.

    1. Anonymous? Really? Just click on the About Lisa tab at the top of this page to read all about me and my family and why I started ParentingAces. And, TheFuture (I’m guessing that’s not your real name), asking questions and demanding accountability is very different than negativity. I’m sorry you felt the need to go down that path. This post is in no way a mea culpa but rather an attempt on my part to find a way to bring back the joy for my son’s last year of junior tennis.

  17. Lisa’s site is chock fill of information and was around before the big changes happened….

    Should she have just ignored mainstream junior news because the news wasn’t positive for 99.9% of the juniors in the United States? ( The few kids in PD don’t have to follow the new changes/cuts because they get the wildcards).

    Or reported the cuts in a good light when every single coach/junior/parent thinks its the worst thing for junior tennis?

    If anything, Lisa is very politically correct and never gets involved in the real dirty secrets of junior tennis like how much a NOT FOR PROFIT
    good old boy USTA junior development guys ( its who you know here)
    get paid for a job they don’t seem to actually do.

  18. SeminoleG; Florida is trying a new format for L6 events at the Sanlando L6 in May where they are having 1st round consolation, doubles, and 1st round doubles consolation. They have figured out they can save a lot of time by waterfalling them in by “first off”, so as players lose they start in the back-draw from the top down right away instead of waiting for all matches to end and then placing them in by the position they were in main draw. If it works, it’s a huge benefit. Kudos to USTA FL for giving it a try.

  19. Lin – Great. Seems Florida looking for solutions, and to get DBLS back is a good thing. I’d like if we added a Round Robin type event. 16 kids 4 groups. Group play Saturday 3 matches, Group winners Semi/Final day two (sun) 2 matches. All kids get @ least 3 matches. Schedule set two day event. Have one a quarter in each area, North Fla, South, west, central. Water fall kids into groups.

    Allows lower ranked kids 1/2 matches against stronger kids, and forces stronger kids to continue raise the bar

  20. JIM – K. You stop by Del Ray Beach? Great Festival good food. Rick Macci showed up, and there was some quality play, AND some better CHEATING! Gotta Love the Juniors. Never saw cheating in front of an official to the point there were so many overruled calls felt like I was in Federal Court. BUT $4 Tall Icy Beers is ALL POSITIVE.

  21. I missed it SeminoleG. Sounds like a great time. Yes, I have noticed the cheating is accelerating down here and the ‘new thing’ I see is they will do it in front of the officials and then try to argue with them! Wild, wild west in SE FL.

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