The following information was emailed to me by Jason Lampione – tennis coach, mentor, and writer – who was in attendance at the Rocky Hill, CT, “listening” meeting held by USTA. These are simply Jason’s notes taken during the meeting – he will be compiling his own analysis of them over the next day or so which I will then post on ParentingAces for you to read.
This second meeting was led by incoming USTA President Dave Haggerty and USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis Kurt Kamperman and was attended by 30-40 (exact number unknown) parents and coaches. I have inserted my comments in italics at the end of certain bullet points below.
USTA released a statement via email to some key people after the meeting – that statement is posted in its entirety on the ParentingAces Facebook page. Please read and share all of this information with other tennis parents and coaches so our voices will be heard. Thank you.
NOTE: I have edited the article based on comments shared by Bill Mountford of USTA – my edits are in ALL CAPS below.
- In two years, we would like to see the USTA go from an 800 pound gorilla to a more balanced 400 pounds. (D. Haggerty)
- Communication and structure are problematic within the USTA. (parent) This is an issue that I’ve been discussing with various USTA committee members and staff. They have to do a better job of communicating with the membership. USTA has a Facebook page, is on Twitter, and sends out regular emails – the tools are in place. There is no excuse for the lack of communication on these proposed changes and other relevant issues.
- We’re going to reduce the cost of travel within each section of the USTA. (D. Haggerty) How is USTA going to accomplish this feat? They’re proposing to CREATE REGIONS now, potentially increasing the cost of travelling to tournaments. Is USTA going to develop relationships with gasoline companies and airlines and hotel chains to give discounts to members? If so, I’m in full support!
- Kids at every level have better competition through earned attainment. (K. Kamperman) I agree with this statement as it applies WITHIN sections. However, we all realize that the strength between sections varies enormously, so if a player emerges as the best in a weak section then goes to a national event to compete against the best player in a strong section, I’m not sure how that’s better competition for the strong-section player.
- Our children are playing each other at least 5, 6 and even 7 times within the tournament format within our section. (parent) That’s why it’s good to have the option to play OUTSIDE your section. Why would USTA want to limit or eliminate that option? I still don’t understand the reasoning here.
- The regional format is pretty good. (parent) I would question whether or not this parent has looked at the new region map and how much travel it could potentially involve.
- Playing other regions gives better competition. (parent) I agree. Kids love the chance to play against new opponents. That’s why we need to increase the opportunities to play nationally and increase the draws at those national events.
- Playing within only one region doesn’t allow for proper player development. (parent) I think it depends upon the region. But, generally speaking, yes, I would agree with this statement. Playing a wider variety of opponents gives a developing player the opportunity to learn how to deal with a variety of tactics, making him/her into a more complete player.
- The consensus is that variety is good! (K. Kamperman) Yes, it is!
- It is terrible that players cannot get on-court coaching. (parent) That’s an issue for another day.
- I spend all this money, and our players have very limited options. (parent)
- The pressure to perform and accumulate points in each round is incredible and very costly to us parents. (parent) Pressure to perform is a big part of tennis, of any sport really. If that pressure is harming your child, then maybe it’s time to find a different activity that is better-suited to the child’s temperament. High-level competition is NOT for everybody!
- You cannot limit a player’s potential just by their ranking or age. (parent) I’m not exactly sure what this parent is saying. I think we all agree that the current PPR ranking system could use some work.
- Distance and travel, financially, is troublesome for certain parents, especially outside our region! (parent)
- In the Eastern section, I am being charged 25 dollars per each tournament main draw entry along with traveling expenses. This is becoming too much for me and my husband to handle, financially speaking! (parent) I think we can all agree that tennis is an expensive sport, especially if you’re trying to develop a player to the top echelons. However, I must say I’m surprised by the $25 entry fee – we pay much higher fees ($45 and up) in our section, even at local tournaments.
- International players are heavily marketed here in the United States, and our American counterparts are being singled out! (parent) I’m not sure I understand this statement. If someone could clarify for me, that would be helpful.
- From experience, most USTA coaches only support players here in the United States who are highly ranked! (parent) That’s a problem inherent in the Player ID and Player Development departments of USTA. Those departments are charged with identifying players who have the potential to become our next American champions. The question becomes: would the dollars allocated to paying the salaries of those coaches be better spent supporting local coaches who are developing top-level players in their own backyards?
- The entire ‘talent id’ for pre-adolescents is a complete crap shoot. (K. Kamperman) Amen, Mr. Kamperman! I’m hoping to see USTA do away with this piece of the puzzle entirely and paint with a broader brush when using its financial resources for player development.
- The Mid-Atlantic region converts every parent into a cash machine and is ultra selective as per the ability of the player they choose to work with. (parent)
- I feel that I should homeschool my child just so he/she can get ahead and attend a better school! (parent) I still don’t understand how the proposed changes are going to reduce missed school days. Can someone please explain that one to me? Is homeschooling going to become the necessary norm for those wanting to achieve the highest levels in junior tennis? Is it already the norm?
- By expanding the participation base here in the United States, we have a wider audience to draw from, player-wise! (K. Kamperman) Agree.
- When my child is being coached at a club, I have no idea how to measure the quality of the program with regard to the training environment! (parent) This is where USTA could really step in and prove to be a valuable resource to parents. I hope the parent quoted here finds my blog and reads my series on Choosing A Coach!
- I am in favor of increased draw sizes at the national level, tournament wise! (parent) Me, too!
- You [the USTA] need to make the draws more backended! (parent) What does that mean?
- We have to look at the structure, with regard to the rankings. (K. Kamperman) I’m not sure what Mr. Kamperman is saying here. Is he concerned about the current PPR ranking system? If so, I’m very glad to hear that and hope that it is re-evaluated to include head-to-head competition.
- There isn’t any other ranking system in any other sport that doesn’t come under heavy scrutiny! (K. Kamperman)
- I’d like to see more American players get more scholarships. (D. Haggerty) Me, too, Mr. Haggerty! How is USTA going to make that happen? Is it going to take a firmer stand with NCAA and college coaches and athletic directors? We need USTA to advocate for our kids in this regard.
- I think it is good for both the American and International players to compete with one another. (D. Haggerty) That is why the ITF circuit is such a great option for many players.
- The USTA is not in the driver’s seat for college scholarships. (K. Kamperman) Right. Those rules are established by NCAA. USTA could, however, take a stronger position and advocate for increased scholarships on the men’s side and for limiting the number of scholarships that go to international players. The NJCAA has already paved the way.
- The parents’ feedback and recommendations have no value with regard to influencing change within the USTA. (parent) I think these listening meetings prove otherwise. At the very least, USTA is making an effort to get feedback directly from those of us affected by these proposed changes. Whether or not it acts on that feedback is yet to be seen. I’m trying to remain hopeful.
- The players from Florida and California are complaining that other sections have weaker competition. (parent) The statistics confirm that fact. I looked at the November 2012 National Standing List for the Boys 18s – the sections with the most players in the top 100 are (in order) Southern California (17), Texas & Southern (tied with 12), Florida & Eastern (tied with 10), and Midwest (9).
- If I was running the USTA like a business, I don’t know why I would limit American players’ options! (parent)
- I think it is good business if the USTA supports the passion of players here in the US. (parent)
- The emotional rollercoaster that my child suffers, because of the extreme pressure in performing, is hampering his passion to wanna compete. (parent) High-level competition isn’t for everyone. Parents have to look at each child to determine what’s in his/her best interest. One thing I will say is that, at least in the Southern section, there are many levels of competition from which to choose. For a player who doesn’t thrive under the pressure of high-level play, there are other options to still compete but at a lower stress level.
- Parents aren’t seeing developmental plans from USTA coaches. (parent) Again, I feel like USTA could really be a positive force if it would become more of a guide for parents trying to navigate the complicated tournament and development system.
- We’re gonna look at all recommended proposals and pass them on to section leaders. (K. Kamperman) A question that was posed on the ParentingAces Facebook page: “What will compel USTA to change anything as a result of holding these ‘listening’ meetings?” I would really like to hear USTA’s answer to this question as I think it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle.
- A VOTE FROM THE USTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGARDING A PAUSE TO THE CHANGES FOR 2013 WILL TAKE PLACE IN DECEMBER 2012. USTA LEADERSHIP WILL REVIEW FEEDBACK FROM THESE “LISTENING” MEETINGS DURING THE ANNUAL MEETING IN MARCH AFTER WHICH A VOTE WILL BE TAKEN ON HOW TO PROCEED IN 2014. (K. Kamperman) This is why we need to communicate NOW with our section presidents and let them know our thoughts on these proposed changes. Time is of the essence.
- Currently, 88,000 kids play at all levels here in the US. (K. Kamperman)
- Increasing participation at the high school level will help increase the USTA bottom line, player-wise! (coach) I have to disagree with this statement, at least insofar as high school tennis in Georgia is currently structured. Our state high school association has passed an eligibility rule which will effectively eliminate all high-performance players from their high school teams. The level of competition in our state’s high schools has become on par with recreational league tennis.
- I travel from Rochester to NYC seven times a year and it is VERY costly and time-consuming. (parent)
- I wonder if the USTA is willing to pick up the traveling expenses for players who travel outside of their respective region. (parent) I know my section (Southern) does have need-based scholarship funds available to help offset some of the costs of junior tennis. I’m guessing other sections have something similar.
- I’m on the board of player development for the New England section and am concerned about these new rule changes. (coach)
- There is no guarantee for our children, especially when we have to spend so much money for travel and tournament fees that I am beginning to think the investment isn’t worth it anymore! (parent) That is a decision each family has to make for itself. With my three kids, only one of whom is a tennis player, I’ve found that pursuing an interest to the point of mastery is expensive, whether it’s a sport or an art form.
The proposed dates for the remaining “listening” meetings are as follows:
December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX
Let me say again that it is crucial that parents and coaches take the time to educate themselves on the issues and attend these meetings. To read the proposed changes, click here. If you can’t attend a meeting, then please use the new email address, email@example.com, to communicate your concerns to USTA.