BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships

State Team Championships
Image courtesy of Scott Colson

A few days ago, I received an email from fellow Tennis Parent, Scott Colson, telling me about a new 10-and-under team event – the BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships – that was taking place in Atlanta as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open and asking if I could possibly come out to see the kids in action. Of course, that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

Yesterday, I drove up to Lifetime Athletic & Tennis Club, a facility I have been to a million times to see my son play. It’s a gorgeous club with indoor and outdoor courts, including pickle ball courts, a pool, fitness center, cafe, and even classrooms for those academy kids wanting to participate in the virtual school program offered by certified teachers on site.

I was curious about this new U10 event being run by experienced Tournament Director Turhan Berne. When I looked on the TennisLink site, here’s what I found:

  • Mandatory check-in for the tournament will take place Friday, July 28, at 1:00 p.m. at Lifetime Athletic, 6350 Courtside Drive, Norcross, GA 30092. Players will receive a gift bag with their VIP credential, complimentary tickets, a jumbo-sized ball for autographs, and tournament information. Players must have a signed release and player conduct agreement form.
  • Friday July 28th:
  • 1:00 Check-in meet team mates and coaches
    1:30-5:30 EDC Camp Training
    7:00 Watch matches at the BB&T tournament
    Saturday July 29th:
    9:00 Team Singles matches begin
    12:00 Lunch
    1:30 Team Doubles matches begin
    4:30 Break for day
    6:00 Watch matches at BB&T tournament
    Sunday July 30th:
    10:00 Team Playoff singles matches begin
    12:30 Lunch
    2:00 Doubles matches begin
    3:30 Conclusion of Play and awards presented
    5:00 Watch Singles final of BB&T Atlanta Open
  • PARTICIPATING STATES
    Alabama
    Georgia
    Mississippi
    South Carolina
    Tennessee
  • MATCH FORMAT
  • Each team match will consist of the following:
    3 boys singles matches
    3 girls singles matches
    1 boys doubles match
    1 girls doubles match
    1 mixed doubles match
  • SCORING FORMAT
    For singles, scoring shall be the best of two short sets (first to four (4) and win by two), with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 4-4 in each set, and a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) for the third set. Doubles matches for 10 and under tournament play shall consist of a regular six (6) game set, with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 6-6. No-ad scoring will be used during all matches.

Some of the players also had the opportunity to come in a day early and meet with Dr. Neeru Jayanthi for evaluation. Dr. J works closely with the junior tennis program at Lifetime and is in the midst of a long-term study of injury in junior tennis players. He put the State Team Championships players through an extensive evaluation that tested their flexibility, agility, and stroke analysis. He also spent time with the parents to identify points of concern for future injury and will be sharing that information with the individual coaches. Dr. J even came back out to the event yesterday afternoon to watch the kids compete and offer further insights. According to Tennis Parent Scott Colson, “We plan to continue checking in with Dr. J periodically to monitor [our son’s] progress. Dr. J runs an amazing program and is highly recommended.”

Back to the event itself . . . I love the idea of bringing our youngest players from neighboring states together to train and compete with their own coaches as well as other USTA coaches on hand to help. I also love the idea of pairing the event with a pro tournament so the kids can, as Wayne Bryan loves to say, “take it in through their eyes and ears.” Y’all know how I feel about short sets and no-ad scoring, so I won’t comment on that again. The cherry on top of this particular team event was that BB&T Atlanta Open Quarterfinalist and Georgia Tech rising senior Chris Eubanks came out to visit with the kids yesterday morning, giving them a chance to ask him questions and take photos. How cool!

But, instead of just hearing my take on the State Team Championships, watch my Facebook Live video and hear from some of the parents themselves (click on the Full Screen option to enable the audio):

 

BB&T ATLANTA OPEN RESULTS – JULY 29, 2017

Men’s Singles – Semifinals

[2] J. Isner (USA) d [3] G. Muller (LUX) 6-4 6-2
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [5] K. Edmund (GBR) 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals

[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) 6-2 6-3
W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL) d [4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) 7-6(3) 6-4

ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 5:00 pm

[4] R. Harrison (USA) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) or [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com

More Changes in NorCal

JDP_Graphic

I was just informed today that the NorCal section has once again amended its rules regarding 12-and-under play (see my Vote On ROG article from a few weeks ago).

According to Summer Verhoeven, R.O.G. Development Coordinator for USTA NorCal, if a child does not want to play with the colored balls, they can now go directly to yellow ball tournaments by completing an online form no later than August 31, 2013 indicating their chosen “development pathway”.  Details about choosing a pathway are on the USTA NorCal website at http://www.norcal.usta.com/Juniors/determine_your_level/.

Basically, the player has to be a current USTA member and can then go to his/her player page on the USTA NorCal site to indicate which development pathway he/she would like to follow.

Before this latest change, the player/parent/coach had no say about which pathway to follow – it was based on the age of the player, period.  However, wisdom has prevailed and NorCal has amended the rule to allow for flexibility based on the player’s experience and readiness to play with a yellow ball.  This is a very good change, in my opinion.

Vote on ROG in USTA NorCal Section

ROG balls

I recently read the following letter from coach Bill Patton addressed to the Board of Directors of USTA NorCal before their May 15 vote on whether to expand ROG competition to 12-and-under players:

Dear NorCal Board of Directors,

I have been coaching for 25 years, have 200+ continuing education units with USPTA, and completed coursework and a thesis in Education. I am running the first ever NIKE Tennis Camps that use compression Tennis Balls. I have used compression balls since 1999.

The mandate that all 12 under players must play in a certain format with regression equipment is misguided and heavy handed, for many reasons, but please allow me to cite my top 7 reasons:
1. There is a wide variability of the playability and quality of progression Tennis balls, some being nearly useless.
2. There is a wide variation in the individual developmental differences between children, especially through Grade 2, anyone with children, or who works with an Elementary School knows this.
3. The narrow population band of highly gifted children will grow extremely bored if held back below their ability to perform.
4. The mandate was enforced before the infrastructure was in place, now there is a rapid effort to put programs in place, which nearly always means a huge learning curve and leads to considerable inefficiencies.
5. My experience is that the use of the balls should have much more to do with the ability of the players to show best form while competing prior to moving to the next level, rather than using age constraints. Best coaches will have players who perform better much earlier, while less talented players or players taught poor fundamentals will lag behind. Do not slow the better players down, by forcing them to play at a competency far below their ability and training.
6. The mandate restricts trade and the creativity in the marketplace, opening up the possibility of class action lawsuit, by forcing coaches to coach a system in which they have no belief. Many of these same coaches have a great track record of producing many highly competitive players.
7. It has created a considerable amount of division nationwide, and as Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided cannot stand”

Thank you for opening this up for discussion, and I trust you will do what is best for everyone in Tennis. I am with Wayne Bryan, “Add programs, don’t subtract”.

Sincerely,
Bill Patton

[Note: I received the following from Coach Patton: “I stand corrected in presenting myself as the first to offer a 10 and under option with NIKE Tennis Camps, that is not true, and I apologize for not having checked that fact prior to presentation.   I salute my fellow professionals who have already made this move.  Sincerely, Bill Patton”]

The fact that ROG is now infiltrating the 12s is ridiculous in my opinion.  As a training method, maybe.  As the sole means of competition, no way.

Coach Patton is now hosting a radio show on Saturday mornings at 11am ET on BlogTalkRadio’s UR10s Network (the same network that hosts my show), and his guest this week is Dick Gould, 8 time NCAA Champion Coach and Director of Tennis at Stanford University.  Coach Gould was recently quoted by Racquet Sports International (RSI) as saying, “I thought your ‘Our Serve’ editorial on 10 and Under Tennis (‘Take a Second Look at 10U Tennis’) in the April issue was right on, well-stated and needed! Change is always difficult, and if this were not mandated, it would never have a chance—just like the old days of Pee Wee tennis. It does make it difficult on the ‘transition’ kids, and I empathize with them, but somewhere it must be given a fair chance, and I doubt this transition will hurt anyone in terms of overall development in the long run.”  I’m hoping Bill will ask Coach Gould about his statement during tomorrow’s show.  [Click here to listen to Bill’s show with Coach Gould – for the discussion on ROG, skip to the 30-minute mark]

Of course RSI is in favor of the ROG program and is promoting it heavily – it is generating millions of dollars in equipment sales which directly benefits RSI members.  And, that’s not a bad thing – anything that boosts the revenue of our great sport is okay by me!  But, when we read statements like Dick Gould’s above, we need to read with a critical eye and recognize the why behind it.  RSI is in the business of selling – racquets, balls, shoes, clothing, etc.  The spread of ROG means increased sales of foam balls, smaller racquets, portable nets, removable lines, and all the other accoutrements that go along with this newest wrinkle.  The more ROG programs that sprout up around the country, the better it is for RSI members’ bottom lines.  And, with USTA now mandating ROG in the 12s, just imagine what that will do to sales.  Should bottom-line numbers be the determining factor for this next generation of players, despite the lack of scientific evidence that ROG is the most effective way to develop all  children under the age of 13 and despite the many experienced developmental coaches who argue against it?

RSI Metrics

Click on the image above to go directly to RSI’s website showing the metrics for the various sales categories.

Let me re-state that I’m not opposed to ROG as a way to introduce new players to tennis and as a way to train.  I am opposed to ROG as the sole means of competing for every single 10-and-under (and now many 12-and-under) player, regardless of his/her ability, size, and stage of development.  If you’re looking for yellow-ball tournaments for your young player, be sure to take a look at my 10-and-Under Tourneys page above.  And, let me just reiterate that I’m very grateful that my son is old enough to have avoided this latest experiment in the name of player development and finding the next American champion.

Your thoughts?

Alternatives to USTA Tournaments

alternatives-logo

I was having a phone conversation with another tennis parent yesterday – we were discussing all the stuff going on with USTA (2014 changes, 10-and-under mandate, cost of competition, issues with wildcards, cheating, etc.) and what we could do as parents of junior players to get away from it all. We both agreed that our goal as Tennis Parents is to keep our kids playing as long as possible while maintaining their love of the game (and not going broke in the process!) – a huge challenge, to be sure.

Then, this morning, I read an article on 11-year-old Florida player, Adam Neff, and the resources that his parents have provided for him at their home – 3 tennis courts in the backyard, one with imported Italian red clay, a hyperbaric chamber, a full-time coach – and I had to wonder if that’s what it takes to develop a successful tennis player . . .

Then it occurred to me that, for (I’m guessing here – no stats to back this up!) a majority of junior players who are playing in tournaments now, success is gauged by their eventual opportunities to play in college at some level.  Of course, many kids dream of turning pro, but, at some point, they realize that’s a huge stretch and that life will probably take them in a different direction, one in which tennis will always play a part we hope.  So, in terms of college-playing opportunities, what’s the difference between being ranked #50 or #100 or #150 in the juniors?  Does the #50 player get that many more scholarship offers than #100?  Is it really worth playing the Rankings Race Game or is your time (and money) better spent finding good opponents and good matches so you get better at competing?  If college tennis is the goal, then shouldn’t the aim of training during the junior years be to develop into the strongest competitor possible so coaches will want you on their team?  And, aren’t there ways other than playing gobs and gobs of USTA junior tournaments to achieve that aim?

Let’s look at some of the options . . .

  • League tennis: Playing on a team with your friends, boys and girls, is fun.  You get to cheer for each other, you have that team spirit thing going for you, you learn what it’s like to play for something bigger than just yourself.  Isn’t that a big part of college tennis, too?  Typically, league tennis, at least where I live, tends to be more recreational in nature and not really geared toward competitive players, but it is still a great way to learn how to be part of a team.
  • High School tennis: See “League tennis” above but add to that a nice way to develop an identity at school, especially if you go to a big high school where kids tend to get lost in the shuffle if they don’t do something to stand out, either in academics, sports, the arts, or some other way.
  • Little Mo: Open to US players ages 8-11, these yellow ball, full court tournaments are held nationwide with regional winners competing for the national title.  Little Mo recently added international competition, too, open to any player worldwide ages 8-12.
  • Adult “Open” tournaments: For a kid with little or no competition nearby in his/her own age group, adult tournaments are always an option.  These events pose their own challenges for junior players (what adult wants to be beaten by a 12 year old?), but they can be a great developmental tool for kids who are looking to take their game to a higher level.
  • ITF tournaments: This is a tough route to take, especially if you want to attend traditional school, since the tournaments run during the week and since we have very few ITFs in the US during the summer when kids are usually out of school [see my How ITF Junior Tournaments Work post for more info].  But, if you’re homeschooled and have the financial resources to travel, ITFs will expose you to players from all over the world, showing you what you’ll face at the collegiate or even professional level.
  • Tennis Recruiting’s National Showcase Series: While these are USTA-sponsored tournaments, they’re not all sanctioned for all players (it depends on whether or not you play within your own section).  With all the craziness and limitations around national play coming in 2014, the TRN events are a great way to play kids outside your section and still impact your TRN star rating, even if they don’t affect your USTA ranking.
  • ITA Summer Circuit: I love these events!  They’re held on college campuses across the country during the summer, and the winners of the regional events go on to play for a national title.  The tournaments are open to any ITA member, so juniors are welcome to join and compete.

Am I missing anything?  If so, please let me know so I can add to the list.  The point is that, for those who are frustrated or fed up with all the rule changes and schedule changes from USTA, there are some excellent alternatives out there.  We can all still keep our kids developing and playing at the appropriate level, regardless of what’s happening with our national governing body.

New Rules in GA for U10s & U12s

gasquetaschild

Why, you might ask, is there a French magazine cover pictured at the top of this post?  Well, 2 reasons . . . first of all, because I want everyone to notice that it features French pro, Richard Gasquet, at the age of 9, playing tennis using a yellow ball.  Second of all, because in just a few weeks I’ll be at Roland Garros watching a couple of days of phenomenal tennis at the French Open and am pretty darn excited!  (P.S. Anyone who wants to hook me up with courtside seats, you know how to reach me!)

Some of you may have gotten wind of the changes happening across the country with 10-and-under tennis and the mandated use of the ROG balls in tournament play.  What you may not know is that ROG is now infiltrating the 12s, too.

The state of Georgia implemented a new competition structure for the 12-and-under crowd this year, and more changes are coming in 2014.  I spent some time on the phone with Rick Davison, USTA Georgia’s Director of Junior & Adult Competition, to find out what’s new, what’s coming, and the reason behind the changes.

As of today, all Georgia sanctioned 10-and-under tournaments use an orange ball on a 60 foot court.  For the 12s, in local Georgia sanctioned tournament levels 4 and 5 only, players use the Stage 1 green ball on a full-size court; at the higher level local tournaments, the 12s use a yellow ball.

What does that mean?  It means that a child who is under the age of 13 who wants to compete in a local tournament on a full-size court with yellow balls must play in the 14-and-under age division.  So, if your child is 9 years old (or 10 or 11 or 12), practicing each day with a yellow ball on a regular court because you and the coach feel the child is ready, and wants to compete under those same conditions, you must put him or her in the 14s in order to play a local event.

Take a close look at this photo:

IMG_0026

The player on the left is my son, age 11, playing at a local Georgia tournament in the 12-and-under division.  The player on the right is his opponent, also age 11.  Please note the physical size difference between the 2 boys.  Now, imagine that, in order to play with regular balls on a regular court, my son had to play in the 14s . . . and my son was already 11 in this picture!  He would’ve gotten crushed!

I asked Rick why Georgia decided to implement these new rules for the 12s.  He told me that the talented 12-and-under players have historically always played up in the 14s anyway at the local events, so this change won’t impact them.  The target audience for this change is the 10-and-under player who is transitioning from the orange ball.  Georgia felt that it would make an easier transition for the players if they have a stint with the green ball on the way to the yellow ball.  So far, Rick says, the Georgia kids are transitioning well in the Southern section, and the level of play in the 12s is getting better.

One other change that happened in the 10s this year was the shift to 4-game sets.  Rick says that he was initially opposed to this change but quickly realized that the parents were in favor due to the much longer rallies with the orange balls – matches that were 2 out of 3 6-game sets were lasting much too long.

For 2014, Georgia is making some additional changes in terms of the match and tournament format.  For the 10-and-unders only, since matches are the best of 3 4-game sets, tournament fees will be reduced and tournaments will most likely be compressed into one-day events.  Rick acknowledged the fact that parents are unhappy about traveling to a tournament, having to spend money on a hotel and restaurant meals, for their child to play these short sets.  Georgia’s answer is to shorten the tournament for these young players so parents can avoid most of the travel expenses.

In case you were wondering, Georgia isn’t the only place seeing these types of changes.  Texas has been under an even more-complicated system for the last year with more changes going into effect this month (click here to read the new rules).  The NorCal section recently introduced its Junior Development Pathway illustrating the progression of a young player from the red to the orange to the green and, finally, to the yellow ball.  Please note that in both Texas and NorCal, progression from one level to the next is absolutely mandated by the section itself – a player may not jump to the appropriate level based on their own personal development but rather must go through each painstaking step in order to move to the yellow ball in competition.  I’ve recently heard that the Midwest section is looking to adopt similar mandates for its 10s and 12s, too.  To hear more about what’s going on around the US, listen to the podcast of my radio show with Lawrence Roddick and others by clicking on this link: ParentingAces Radio Show

If your child is ready to move on, developmentally-speaking, be assured that alternative opportunities are popping up across the country.  Take a look at the events I have listed on our 10-and-Under Tourneys page above – I will continue to add to the list as more events are created so please check back regularly for updates.

I also want to direct you to the complaint that Ray Brown filed with the US Olympic Committee regarding the 10-and-under initiative.  You can click here to read the complaint and all subsequent responses on Ray’s website.

And for those who missed my recent Facebook post/Tweet, proof positive that kids younger than 13 can train and play with a yellow ball:

Pete Sampras Age 10

 

Tweet

Now What?

The 2014 changes to the junior competition calendar are all but a done deal.  The Powers That Be at USTA, despite our best efforts, have decided they (not parents, not coaches, not the players themselves) know what’s best for our young players and have slashed competitive opportunities at the national level by a huge margin.  So, now what?

Add to the mix the fact that several USTA sections have also adopted a rather Draconian policy for the 10-and-unders and 12-and-unders, forcing them onto the ROG path, making it so they have to play all the way up in the 14s if they want to play with a yellow ball on a full-size court.  If you haven’t already, be sure to listen to the free podcast of my radio show with Lawrence Roddick (Andy’s older brother) about what’s happening in the Texas section and what’s coming in Southern and Midwest and NorCal.  Later this week, I’ll post the changes coming in Georgia in 2014.

What’s a tennis parent to do???

I think many of us are frustrated and stumped and just plain angry over all these changes – I know I am.  I feel like decisions are being made by executives who are so far removed from our World of Junior Tennis that they just plain don’t get it.  They still don’t acknowledge how many parents and coaches and players are opposed to what they’re mandating out of White Plains.  When asked about how they can still say that the opposition is small, they throw out the fact that only 160 some odd people emailed the LetUsKnow@usta.com address even though almost 4000 joined a Facebook group in opposition and almost 1000 signed a petition to stop the 2014 changes.  How do those numbers NOT make you sit up and take notice???

I would love to hear from y’all about how you’re planning to navigate starting in 2014.  What changes will you make to your child’s tournament schedule?  Will you add more ITF events, more non-sanctioned events, or have them play adult events instead?  What’s your plan?  I’m still working with my son’s coaches on figuring out the best path for him, but you can be sure I’ll report back once we come up with something concrete.

Tweet