Random Thoughts on Hannity vs. USTA

I’m guessing you’ve all read Sean Hannity’s blog post regarding the changes to the national junior comp schedule that will become effective in 2014.  I’m guessing you’ve all read Patrick McEnroe’s and Tim Russell’s replies, too, as well as Mr. Hannity’s rebuttal.  I’ve read endless commentary on this heated debate on the various blogs and Facebook groups and message boards I frequent and tried to process everything written – it’s a lot to take in!

Given that my son isn’t yet playing at the national level and, therefore, isn’t immediately affected by these changes, I’m not sure anyone really cares what I have to say on the subject.  However, in the name of research, I did have two rather lengthy phone conversations with Tim Russell and also reached out to Sean Hannity via a comment on his blog that included my contact information – I haven’t gotten a response from him yet.

Here are some of my thoughts – take them for what they’re worth!

  • I do feel that USTA is trying to grow the game of tennis via its 10-and-Under initiative.  While I don’t agree with the mandated tournament rules for this age group, I do think it’s a great learning tool for beginning players of any age.
  • I think there’s a big difference between “growing the game” and “developing world champions” and one may have very little to do with the other.  Finding another Agassi or Capriati or Sampras or Williams is one of those things that will (or will not) just happen – I don’t believe it’s system-related.  Yes, I agree that introducing more kids to tennis is a key to identifying champion-caliber players, but if you look at the paths that the players mentioned above took to reach #1, you’ll see that they’re all very different.  That’s the thing about tennis – there are so many options available and so many ways to find success in the game that it’s difficult to say that one system is better than another.
  • Not every child needs to play top-level national tournaments.  I whole-heartedly agree with Tim Russell when he says that players need to work and earn their way into the Easter Bowl or Kalamazoo or the National Clay Court Championships.  Just because your child wants to play at that level – and just because you can afford to travel all over the place – doesn’t mean he or she necessarily deserves to.  The top tournaments should be reserved for the top players.  If a kid wants to play in them, then he needs to work hard to develop his game to a point where he can play with the Big Boys.  Talk to your child’s coach.  Take Tim Russell up on his offer to speak with him (I have, twice!).  Call your section’s head of junior competition.  If your child truly wants to get to the top level, then work with his coach and your section to help him devise a plan to get there.  There are incredible resources available to all of us tennis parents – my advice is to use as many of them as it takes to help your child reach his goals.
  • When I spoke with Tim Russell, I told him that I’ve heard lots of grumbling among tournament parents about the fact that USTA doesn’t seem to reach out to those of us in the trenches before it makes sweeping changes that affect our kids.  I also told him that USTA does a very poor job of communicating those changes to its constituency and that there’s no excuse for poor communication in this age of email, texting, Twitter, and Facebook.  He agreed.  He said they need to do better and will do better.  Let’s hold them accountable for that statement.  If you feel that you’re not being informed in a timely manner about changes that affect your child, contact your section head and/or Tim – his email address is Timothy.Russell@asu.edu.
  • I also suggested that USTA include a sampling of parents on the panel of its national meeting next month during the US Open.  I think it’s important that the higher-ups at USTA hear directly from us regarding our concerns and past experiences.  We need to have a voice at the national level.  We need to be included in the discussions of policies that will impact our children.  USTA needs to know, first-hand, what’s happening at the grassroots level from those of us who live and breathe there.  Tim agreed and said he’d pass along my suggestion.  I’ll keep you posted!

Your thoughts???

8 Comments on “Random Thoughts on Hannity vs. USTA”

  1. Finding another Agassi or Capriati or Sampras or Williams those players were not found…. they were all developed FAR away from any USTA involvement!

    1. exactly my point, tim! a “system” isn’t the answer. champions emerge from various places and have taken various paths to the top. whether or not USTA changes its national tourney structure will probably have very little to do with how many American players make it to the 2nd week of the Majors. frankly, i would love to see the discussion shift to American College Tennis and what our governing organization can do to ensure that our kids have programs available to them. another Hot Button issue, to be sure!

  2. This is about “the future of American Junior Tennis development”..Could we be a little more general please??? What does that phrase really mean? Does it mean producing great tennis playing kids or producing great kids who happen to play tenis?

    Both sides in this argument are criminally negligent in their lack of any supporting statistical hard evidence to support their cases…These whole debates are being conducted in the abstract…Tennis is played on the court by tennis players..one point at a time..one shot at a time…If anyone believes that tweaking the junior tennis schedule a little more this way or that way..by adding more opportunities for play on a national level versus providing less is failing horribly in the critical thinking department…None of this back and forth matters..None..Take the politics out of this..take the personalities out of this..The argument being proffered here is that somehow changing the tournament schedule is going to have some decided effect on the production of American junior tennis..We are talking about kids who are not even playing at the college level yet..that somehow, starting two years from now in 2014, that if they played a couple more big tournaments or a couple less big tournaments, like that is going to make the difference in American junior tennis development..

    .People, we are just not thinking clearly..both arguments are horrible slippery slopes..that when extrapolated out to their absurd lengths teeter toward the insane…If more is better, hell have one every week..if less is better why have any at all…Like somehow there is some magic number that is going to make everything work out just right..I’m sorry, but as someone with a background iin critical thinking….and that is what this is all about..this is problem solving..troubleshooting..we are trying to amend a system in the hopes of better future results..This abstract not factual non quantitative bluster by both sides of this is a complete and utter waste of time and energy..Lets try to stick to the issue at hand…”the future of American junior tennis development”…In statistics it’s called correlation is not causation…The schedule is just so far from being the issue here as to why people believe “AJTD” is sputtering right now..a term nobody can truly define..Seriously..Everyone needs to take a deep breath, get your kids to practice on time, keep them healthy happy and motivated, encourage them to work their asses off, and let the chips fall where they may…The Usta is not the problem…aspiring tennis players will make it or not on the court, not via the decisions made in a board room..and Hannitty is not the solution…he’s a concerned tennis parent like so many before him that is all in with his kids tennis and thats a great thing..but the emotions involved in having a child playing high level competitive tennis has been shown to cloud judgment at times..this is another of those examples..the solution??? work hard, you won’t get screwed I promise you…Just keep working hard and what will be will be..peace

  3. In the second paragraph you wrote “Not every child needs to play top-level national tournaments. I whole-heartedly agree with Tim Russell when he says that players need to work and earn their way into the Easter Bowl or Kalamazoo or the National Clay Court Championships”

    You just have easily could have written “Not every child needs to play top-level national tournaments. I whole-heartedly agree with Sena Hannity when he says that players need to work and earn their way into the Easter Bowl or Kalamazoo or the National Clay Court Championships”

    That’s the way the current system works. You even say your son is not playing at the national level, yet, probably becuase he hasn’t earned it, yet.

    Nobody disagrees with the concept of “only the top level players should play national competition”, we are only really disagreeing over how many should be considered the top. 16, 64, 128, 256 ?? How often should they play ?

    The side that wants it smaller calls the other side “entitled”, the side that want it the same calls the other side “elitist”.

    But the fact of the matter is it is USTA/Russel that made the change by royal fiat, with no proof it will actually work other than the say so of a person with a Ph/ D in Music. So, sorry, I have to say Hannity is right.

  4. The problem with the USTA is making these decisions without consulting the people that it affects. You already have to qualify for national tournaments. I currently coach two top 100 juniors and they don’t qualify for every national tournament they want to get in to. They already reduced the field in half a few years ago by going to a 32 draw and now they are going to reduce the tournament opportunities by 75%? That’s just insane. If I were in charge of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) I would hammer the US with tournaments and take over where the USTA is failing, providing opportunities for kids to play.

  5. I’m not even really a williams fan…

    But Richard Williams developed not one, but two of the all time greats completely outside the USTA or any system.

    They played no USTA tourneys other than when they first started. After that, they just spent all that time that they could have been jetting around doing what? OUTWORKING EVERYBODY. There is so much wasted time involved in participating in national tourneys. Travel, playing weak matches, hanging out with the other players etc. Yes, that’s all fun…but real development uses time/resource much more wisely than running around the country.

  6. Lisa i appreciate your efforts to provide a balanced message.

    As a parent of 1national tennis players, and 2 regional players, there is a big difference. All 3 work equally as hard at the sport. The national player just has more natural talent.

    That said, they also have alot more pressure and expectation for the national players. I cannot emphasize enough the difference between regional and national competition….on so many levels. I am awed that the USTA would limit the opportunity for our players to play at the national level. It is mind boggling and down right wrong.

    I agree, they shouldnreach out to parents and past players with actual experience in this area. I have just recently been to 3 national tournaments( ntl open, segment, and clays) and not 1 parent agreed with changes. In fact, the USTA was the laughing stock of the tourneys. While we parents don’t always see eye to eye, the loathing and and bewilderment surrounding the USTA, was the one thing we could agree on. Where were they? Come on. If you really want to know how your membership, then talk to them. They were no where to be found, even at National Clays…unless it was a coach watching one of their kids. Disgraceful.

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