If This Doesn’t Convince You . . .

Spreadsheet Links

2014 National comparison with 2009 and 2012 -with teams

2014 National comparison with 2009 and 2012 -Individual entries-No Teams

The two spreadsheets above were created by Robert Sasseville, a member of the group that met with the USTA folks in Chicago in October.  Robert has run the Girls 14s Nationals for the past 30 years and has been involved in junior tennis in some way, shape, or form for over 40 years, so he’s seen the evolution of the competition calendar and ranking system over a long enough period of time to understand clearly how the 2014 changes will impact our junior players.

The first link shows a comparison between the 2014 national competition opportunities and those in 2012 and 2009, including the new team events.  The second link shows the same comparison but without including the new team events so there is an “apples to apples, oranges to oranges” comparison.  The spreadsheets are broken down by weeks, so that when viewed, it is obvious how restrictive the current and proposed 2014 schedules are compared to pre-2011.

If, after studying the spreadsheets, you still aren’t convinced that the 2014 calendar will greatly reduce competition opportunities for our juniors, please let me know in the Comments below. I have Robert on stand-by!

The following was written by Robert Sasseville and posted in another article‘s Comments section:

It was today one year ago, December 1, 2011, that I first received a copy of the proposed changes to the National Junior Competition Structure.  It was that night that I composed my first “comparison” of competitive opportunity reductions.  That night I compared 2014 with 2011, 2010, and the 1980’s, our recent “golden age” of junior tennis.  I compared only Level 1 and Level 2 changes.

In the original proposal the Winter and Spring Nationals were eliminated.  Both remaining Level 2 Nationals were reduced to 64 draws, while The Nationals (Hard Courts) were reduced to 128 draws and the National Clay Courts were moved to Memorial Day weekend and reduced to 64 Draws.  Depending on age group the Level 1 reductions from 2010 were 75% for 12’s, 60% for 14’s,  59% for 16’s, and 58% for 18’s.  Sweet Sixteen’s weren’t counted because they were automatically entered into the succeeding Level 1 National.

The Level 2 events were all reduced from 16 events with 64 players each in 2010 to 6 events with 32 players each in 2014.  That was a reduction for all age groups of 81.25%.

The National Junior Competition Schedule that passed in March had some changes, like not moving the Clay Courts to May and adding a 32-draw Spring event for 12’s, 14’s, and 16’s, so our updated numbers have changed as modifications occurred.

To get a picture of how the schedule changes will affect playing opportunities for juniors, I put together a spreadsheet comparing 2009 with 2012 and 2014.  It was not only designed to show percentage decrease in opportunity, but also the event distribution.   Because it was laid out in a 52-week format, the flexibility inherent in the 2009 schedule contrasted with the rigidity of the 2014 schedule was readily apparent.

The original comparisons were based on National “developmental” opportunities, which meant that a single player could enter a  tournament with the opportunity to play another player from anywhere in the United States.  (A player from College Park, Maryland could possibly have opponents from Spokane, WA, Houston, TX, and San Juan, PR, or any other location within the United States.)  In our original computation we included the proposed 2014 Winter Team Championships, although they are really not individual events.

We did not include 2014 Regionals in the computation, because they are “National” in respect to “point opportunities” only, as opposed to the current events labeled “Regional” which currently have no geographic restrictions, and are truly “National”.

In this document we expanded the spreadsheets and looked at both the individual events, the team events, as well as the new ‘Regional’ events and computed percentages based on individual and team events, separately and together, as well as, including the new  “Regionals”.

It all depends on one’s definition of “National”.

If “National” means you have the possibility of playing anyone from anywhere …..

  • The range of reduction percentages from 2009 to 2014 for Individual events is 82.47% to 86.75%.
  • The range of reduction percentages from 2009 to 2014 for Individual and team events combined is 71.00% to 80.75%.

If “National” means the tournament has “National” or “Regional” in the title, and you will receive National points  …….

  • The range of reduction percentages from 2009 to 2014 for Individual events is 60.73% to 65.90%.
  • The range of reduction percentages from 2009 to 2014 for Individual and team events combined is 51.24% to 61.65%.

Another reduction, for those defining “National” opportunities using the criteria that National Points are available, is the fact that the number of Sectional events offering “National” points has been reduced by 50%.   Each section’s number of events carrying National points has been reduced from 12 to 6.  Even though the events eliminated were Level 5, elimination of 6 events spread throughout the year reduces opportunities for players whose schedules are restricted by school or other commitments.

If you are defining “National” by the opportunity to acquire National Points, you might want to consider exactly what National Points and National Rankings will do for you in 2014.

Already, National Rankings are basically a tool used by the USTA online entry system for player selection and seeding.   Having a “National” ranking has devolved to the point where its only real value is in the selection process for “National” events.

Seldom does one hear people talk about National ranking, particularly as a player reaches college age.  Now people mention, or aspire to be, “Blue Chips”, “5 Stars”, “4 Stars”, etc.  USTA Rankings have become irrelevant for college recruiting purposes because they don’t take into account the quality of play.    Once USTA moved away from a merit-based head-to-head ranking system, the value of the ranking secured by point acquisition is merely the value granted to it by USTA.  The value is that if you have more points, you will be admitted ahead of someone who has fewer.

Additionally, the number of events accepting entrants based on a player’s National ranking shows a staggering decrease. The events per age group admitting players via National ranking in 2014 compared to 2009 and 2013 are:

  • 12’s    28 in  2009  vs. 12 in 2013 and 3 in 2014
    •  [2 National Selection tournaments (96 players each) and the Spring National event (32 players)]   Reduction: 89.3% (2009); 75% (2013)
  • 14’s    29 in  2009  vs. 12 in 2013 and 6 in 2014
    • [2 National Selection tournaments (96 players each), 2 Sweet 16 (16 players each), Winter Team event (64 players), and the Spring National event (32 players)]   Reduction: 79.3% (2009); 50% (2013)
  • 16’s    31 in  2009  vs. 12 in 2013 and 6 in 2014
    • [2 National Selection tournaments (96 players each), 2 Sweet 16 (16 players each), Winter Team event (64 players), and the Spring National event (32 players)]  Reduction: 80.6% (2009); 50% (2013)
  • 18’s    32 in  2009  vs. 12 in 2013 and 3 in 2014
    • [2 National Selection tournaments (96 players each), Winter Team event (64 players)]  Reduction: 89.3% (2009); 75% (2013)

Imagine being a rising 17- or 18-year-old and having your National Ranking used for admittance to only 3 National level events for all of 2014, when in 2013 there had been 12 events played in 10 different months that admitted you via your National Ranking.

So, one thing is certain.  National individual opportunities for all will be reduced anywhere from 51% to 86%, depending on your age group and your definition of “National”.

The numbers of events where your National Ranking will have any significance at all will drop by 79.3% to 89.3%, or 50% to 75%, depending on which year you choose as a comparison.

Severely reducing the number of events making selections based on USTA National standing serves to diminish the value of a USTA National ranking, and therefore the value of events that carry National points, but no National developmental opportunities (e.g., 2014 Level 3 and Level 4 Regionals).

While there may be argument over the exact percentages, there is no argument that the operative word for 2014 is REDUCTION.

Notes from 2nd USTA Town Hall Listening Meeting Nov 24, 2012

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, letusknow@usta.com, to communicate your concerns to USTA.

Notes from First USTA Town Hall Listening Meeting Nov 17, 2012

The following information was emailed to me by a parent who was in attendance at the Reston, VA, “listening” meeting held by USTA.  I am reprinting it exactly as it was sent to me.  Please read and share with other tennis parents and coaches so our voices will be heard.  Thank you.

USTA Town Hall Meeting

11/17/2012

Mid-Atlantic Annual Meeting — Reston, VA

Representing the USTA:       Lew Brewer, Director Junior Competition

Scott Schultz, Managing Director, Youth Tennis

Scott Schultz (SS):            Introduction

wants to really listen and wants participants to leave feeling like they have listened

This is 1st town hall meeting

This is not about kids going pro.  These proposed changes affect critical group of kids:  those who devote the most time, energy, and money, and those with lots at stake — college, scholarships, etc.

Lew Brewer (LB):             effort is to serve vast majority of players competing

it is NOT about trying to make great players

the tournament structure is there:  if it works for you use it, if not, don’t

the junior tennis competition committee was asked to look at changes that would increase player development, increase affordability, and decrease missed school (and missed work for parents)

the vast majority of players are better served by playing locally

only changes that will happen in 2013:  new nat’l doubles tournament (to be played at us open series event) and new national grand masters tournament

in 2014 draw sizes for hard courts and clay courts will be reduced (assuming USTA approves committee’s recommendation to postpone this change for 2013)

Q (audience member):  why reduce draw size?

LB:          it used to be 128

the purpose of these tournaments is to crown a national champion and therefore they need the best players

Coach Chuck Kriese (CK):              I agree with the reduction.  The field at Kalamazoo has been diluted.  Recently, there were 51 defaults in the backdraw.  Lots of kids cramp the first day because they are not prepared to win, they are there just to have shown up.  But maybe there can be a qualifying tournament.

Q:           If there were 51 kids pulling out of the backdraw, the majority was actually those kids who came expecting to win and wanted only to be part of main draw.  It was not kids who were so excited just to get in.

Q:           There are amazing kids who are between 128 and 192, or even alternates who get in and have phenomenal tournaments.

It is also much better for college coaches to have larger draws.

If a parent doesn’t want to travel, they always have that option.

LB:          We could debate this issue all day and would still disagree.

Q:           Have you studied the impact of those kids between 128 and 192?

LB:          Yes, we studied players who lost 1st round to see how they did in backdraw but I don’t have the results with me.  There have been kids who have done very well, even a kid who made it to quarters of Kalamazoo.

But players will now qualify solely based on results in section and this will greatly change the complexion of who makes it.

Q:           But mid-atlantic is so strong, it will be impossible for all of the great players to get in.  Our number 8 kid could be top 100 in the country and not get in.

LB:          they will have to work hard and train hard and win.

Q:           There are other very valid reason for tournament besides crowing a national champion.  These tournaments give kids an incredible opportunity to learn and grow and improve.

Q:           Could you make some change so older kids don’t lose their last chance to play?

SS:          maybe  we could look at phasing it in with 12s first.

Q:           The proposed quota/endorsement system does not work for a section like the mid-atlantic.  Why is size relevant?  The 8th player in the 14s in the midatlantic is in the top 100 nationally but would not be allowed to play.  There are 16 midatlantic players in the 14s in the top 200 nationally.  Meanwhile, the top kids on different sections would get spots even though they could be in the 600s nationally.

LB:          Many people have argued it should just be the best players but the structure of the USTA demands that every section is represented.

SS:          There will never be traction on this issue.  Midatlantic has to make a proposal and fight that fight.

Bonnie Vona, mid-atlantic:          under the current structure these issues are addressed.  Every section gets endorsements, and others can get in off of the NSL.

Q:           much better for college coaches to have larger draw sizes.

If player is injured in summer out of luck unless they have Easter Bowl or winter nationals.

Q:           at NCAA division 1 tournament, only 22 of 128 players were american.

CK:         Very big and serious issue.

Only Americans in top 50 or 60 can easily play — otherwise competing against all international players.

$63 million in scholarships given to foreign players.

Q:           So can’t the uSTA address this issue and help US kids play tennis for US colleges?

SS:          this issue is incredibly upsetting and we have to do something.

Q:           If we are not competing well internationally, how do we improve kids beyond top 50?

LB:          Most kids better served by competing locally

CK:         kids should play with people of all different ages.  See universal tennis.com ratings.  Play should not be so age specific.

 Q:           Keeping kids playing in their sections limits playing styles and chance to play different types of players.

LB:          Lots of different playing styles in mid-atlantic.

SS:          88,000 kids play tournaments.  370,000 play in high school.  Tournaments don’t work for all kids.  It is very impt for kids to compete against different ages.

Q:           there are many reasons to compete in a national championship besides crowning the one national champion.

it is very important to college recruiting to have larger draw sizes.

The quotas are horrible.

LB:          explains how quotas will work.

Q:           in mid-atlantic, the top players don’t play sectionals — only nationals and ITF’s.  Won’t the quotas force them back into sectional play?

LB:          yes.

Q:           The quotas are the most disturbing proposal.  Will take away a kid’s chance to play and that will squash all enthusiasm.

LB:          quotas are good or bad depending on how you look at it.

Q:           There needs to be two means of entry:  quotas and NSL.  ANd no player should get in off of a quota unless they have a minimum ranking on the NSL.

SS:          New email address for comments:  letusknow@usta.com.  We are absolutely open to making adjustments.  We won’t be going back to the system as it is but we can make the changes better.

The proposed dates for the remaining “listening” meetings are as follows:

November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
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

Okay, this is Lisa “talking” again.  It is crucial that parents and coaches take the time to educate themselves on the issues and attend these meetings.  If you can’t attend a meeting, then please use the new email address, letusknow@usta.com, to communicate your concerns.  I propose that we identify one or two parents in each USTA section to act as the voices for the section.  If you are interested in serving in that capacity, please contact me ASAP so we can get to work on compiling a list of speaking points.  Your ideas are welcome in the Comments section below.  If we present a united front to the USTA, letting them know that parents and coaches are on the same page and are only interested in what’s best for our junior players, I believe we stand a decent chance of being heard.  The onus is on us now.  USTA is providing the forum – we must seize the opportunity!

Reblog from ZooTennis.com: First USTA Town Hall Listening Meeting

The following is copied directly from today’s ZooTennis.com’s post – clicking on the link will take you to the complete post.

The first USTA Junior Competition Town Hall Listening meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, November 17, at the Sheraton Hotel in Reston Virginia. Lew Brewer is scheduled to speak at the Mid-Atlantic section’s annual meeting and awards luncheon with the topic “Understanding the Upcoming Changes to the Junior Tournament Structure.” This gives the impression that the changes are a done deal, which was not my understanding from the statement after the October Tennis Industry meeting in Chicago, but I could be misinterpreting the above title or the statement. For more, see this post from Parenting Aces.

There have been some tentative plans formulated for additional Town Hall meetings, but I must emphasize that these are not final, nor are they likely to be the only meetings the USTA will be conducting on this topic. However, in case one of these is near you, you might want to save the date, and double check for details in the upcoming days and weeks, when I expect to have a more formal announcement from the USTA.

November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
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

Obviously, there are some major markets that can be expected to be have their own Town Hall meetings, including Florida, Southern California and the Midwest sections.

URGENT: USTA 2014 Jr Comp Update

I got word from a parent in the Mid-Atlantic section of a meeting being held this Saturday (November 17th) at which Lew Brewer of USTA will be discussing the proposed changes to the junior competition schedule.  This may be THE “listening meeting” for that section, so I urge all parents and coaches in the area to attend and report any significant news to the rest of us via the Comments section on this post or via our Facebook page.

Wayne Bryan Hits the Nail on the Head

I urge you all to read Steve Bellamy’s Open Letter to the US Tennis Industry published online at http://tennisinsiders.com/?post_type=featured_story&p=1323

Below is Wayne Bryan’s comment on the Letter . . .

Preamble:

a) The most important aspect of this is to get lots of input and opinions from all over the country – – – from experienced club pros and public park coaches and college coaches and high school coaches and academy coaches and veteran ‘n passionate parents from Florida to New York to Georgia to Texas to Nebraska to North Dakota to California to Oregon and everywhere in between.

b) Study the history of the National Schedule and Rankings over the past 30 years.

c) Remember that when the USTA asked my pal and great coach and mega junior champion producer Jack Sharpe how to improve Player Development and the National Tournament Schedule he told them to “Go back to 1987 and just do what worked!! Simple!!”

Goals of a National Schedule:

a) Fairness to all.

b) Simple and understandable.

c) A clear pathway from bottom to top.

d) Bringing the best juniors from all over the country together to create friendships and improve their tennis.

e) Various surfaces, times of the year, and locations.

f) No meddling by USTA PD.

Back in the Day:

a) I never heard one single word of criticism about the Sectional or National Tournament Schedule.

b) Rankings were so accurate that when our SoCal juniors flew back from Kalamazoo at the end of the Summer, I would give the kids each a piece of paper and I had them write down what they thought the top 20 in the SoCal rankings would be and what the top 50 in the National rankings would be. I was always astonished to see that each ranking list was almost exactly the same and lo and behold when the rankings came out the were the same as the kids had predicted. The rankings were fair and there was unanimity and agreement on the rankings. They were spot on.

Now:

a) I have never heard so much rancor across this country about the National Schedule and Rankings and the Green Ball U10 Mandate and USTA Player Development and the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis and not enough doubles tournaments and doubles rankings.

b) The USTA is seen as heavy handed and top down and non responsive to the membership they are employed to serve.

c) The USTA is also seen as even attacking clubs and pros and players and the USPTA that do not follow their party line. I have a computer full of e mails complaining about their tactics. There is fear and there is anger everywhere. Witness the harassing letter from the USTA to the great and venerable Little Mo Tournaments and volunteer organization.

The Way SoCal Tournament Schedules Used to Be:

a) I walked the junior tennis trails as a coach for decades with thousands of players and even my own two twin sons. I knew those paths like the back of my hand. I believed in playing tournaments each and every weekend of the year. You wanna be a player you play. Players play. Soccer has schedules. Baseball and Football and Basketball have schedules. Players at our club had junior tournament schedules. I have always felt that scheduling is as important as coaching. You can make a player with a great schedule. And you can ruin a player with a bad schedule. It’s like riding a big wave in Hawaii – – – if you get too far out in front on your surfboard you get crushed by the wave, if you get too far behind the wave, you sink down in the dead calm waters – – – but if you get right in the middle of the tube, you get maximum speed and thrills and you can take that baby all the way to shore. Mike ‘n Bob usually played about 100 competitve matches each year in the juniors. Same at Stanford. And, interestingly, they play aobut 100 matches on the tour each year.

b) Some of our 85 juniors would play our local Ventura County Junior Tennis Assn. (VCJTA) Tournaments. Some would play Southern California (SCTA) Tournaments. Some would play a hybridized schedule of both. Some would play SCTA and National Tournaments. Some would play only National and International Junior Tournaments.

c) During the school year, tournaments were always two weekends and there was always singles and doubles. Typically, the juniors played two singles and a doubles each day. Perhaps one singles and two doubles. During the three Summer months, most tournaments were week long events.

d) In SoCal I served on the Junior Tennis Council for many, many years and we would make changes and adjustments very slowly and we had the many of the top pros and parents in our group. We never made knee jerk reactions or massive pendulum swings. Players and coaches and parents could count on and trust the system.

e) To get a ranking and to qualify for Nationals, players had to play three of the six designated tournaments – – – our largest and best tournaments (including, if memory serves, Santa Barbara, Whittier, Long Beach, Downey, and San Diego) – – – plus two other tournaments and, of course, the Sectional, which was held in June right after school was out. The idea, of course, was to get all the top players together several times during the first six months of the year.

f) In those days, SoCal was allowed 8 players into the National Tournaments Clays, Indoors, Grass, and The Nationals. and, of course, more into the tournaments on the National Schedule like Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, the Westerns, and the Texas Open. All of those events were 128 draws and all had doubles.

History of Pedulum Swings as it pertains to the National Schedule and Rankings:

a) Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, rankings were based on the Star Computer System. It was the quality of your wins and losses that mattered on the computer. If you beat #7 in your Section it was given much more weight than if you beat the #83 player in your Section. If you beat a player that was #4 in the Nation, it was given more weight than if you beat a player that was #63. College Football has a very similar system. The rankings were very, very accurate that way.

b) There were singles and doubles rankings.

c) Then, for some reason, there was a massive pendulum swing and they went to points and they offered all kinds of regional and national tournaments all over the place. Regional Tournaments sprang up like weeds. Kids started avoiding their sectional tournaments to go and find weak regional events that they could do well and scoop up points. I could go on and on about this, but it knocked me in the head a few years ago when I learned that of the top twenty U18s players in SoCal, only one played the Sectional!! Back in the day, every single one of the top twenty 18s played our SoCal Sectional.

d) The rankings became so inaccurate that college coaches no longer relied on them for recruiting. Players that were 60s often were much better than a player that was 30s.

e) There were tournaments that had only singles and back draw singles and they did not offer doubles.

f) The USTA removed doubles rankings. Huh? As I say in all my talks: If we had more doubles programming, promotion, and coaching we could quadruple the number of kids playing tennis. Doubles gives our sport more width and breadth. Doubles is fun for juniors and it really rounds out skills and teaches additional life lessons – – – and some youngsters just love the “team thing”. Plus, it gives them a second chance if they lose their singles match at a tournament. And don’t forget Mixed Doubles – – – boys and girls truly love that and there are also great life lessons inherent in Mixed.

And now the Pendulum Swings Radically Again:

a) Now in the past few months a small USTA committee takes out the meat cleaver and cuts down many of our old growth Redwood Junior Tournaments along with the too many regional and national events.

b) They only just a few National Tournaments? Some National Tournaments with just 32 draws?! Lots and lots of WCs to be abused by the USTA PD.

c) They have only one 64 draw for the National 12s?

d) Their explanations are many pages long.

What does Coach B suggest?

a) Ha. Yeah, go back to the Preamble c) above and do what Jack Sharpe suggested. Good back to 1987 before the system got ruined.

b) Simple: For each age group from 12-18s, four USTA nationals with 128 draws.

c) Keep all the great Redwood Junior Tournaments on the so called national schedule. Restore (somehow) those that have been cut down and ruined. Make sure there is a Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Texas Open, Western, Southern Open, Easter Bowl, Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl. And others.

d) Cut back on some of the Regionals, but keep those that are thriving and doing well and liked by the juniors, coaches and parents.

e) Immediately return to the Star Computer System that weights the quality of your wins and losses.

f) Let each Section determine their requirements for Sectional Rankings and who qualifies for nationals. They can specify how many tournaments their juniors have to play in Section to get a ranking and to go to nationals.

g) Yes, tweak how many players each Section gets into the Nationals. Do not base it on membership, but base it on the quality of the play of the various Sections. If SoCal has four top ten players on average in all their divisions, and nine top twenty players and 36 top 100 players, give them many more spots in the nationals than a Section that has only 3 players in the top 100. This can all be worked out by fair minded people. But, strength of play in a section should lead to more spots in the nationals. And this can be organic and ever changing each season.

h) Tweak the weight of the various tournaments. For example, in SoCal, weight the regular tournaments a 1, the designated tournaments a 1.1, the Sectional a 1.2, a regional a 1.3, a tournament on the National Schedule a 1.4, and one of the four Surface Nationals a 1.5, and The Nationals and 1.6. I have no pride of authorship here, and this could be worked out by mathematicians and those much smarter than I am. It should be fair and equitable to all – – – and it should lead to accurate Sectional and National Rankings. And it should all be integrated – – – sectinally and nationally.

Addendums:

a) Get rid of USTA Player Development altogether. I am all for those folks coaching, but not from the top down. They need to get out in the trenches with the rest of us and coach. National Federations do not create champions. Ask England. Spain. Canada. Switzerland. Sweden. They harm the growth of tennis in their countries. I, and many others, have written extensively on this and I will leave it at that.

b) Take those $18 million dollars and give it to the Sections to help juniors players as they see fit. Perhaps the money would be spent by the Sections on club memberships; free entry fees; rackets; shoes; balls; string; coaching; trips to national tournaments; trips to watch the US Open for deserving juniors; trips to Davis and FED Cup Matches; trips to college matches’ trips to the NCAAs. Surely local Sections know how to help their juniors much better than White Plains coming to Ventura County to tell us how to do it – – – all the while we have 3 of the 4 Davis Cup Players from our little area and they have zero. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

c) Give money to our top junior developers and tell them to bring five more kids into their program that are deserving and, perhaps, can’t afford to be in their club or program. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

d) Put more money into Junior Team Tennis. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

e) Value our great American Coaches!! If I want to talk tennis I may or may not call Patrick McEnroe. I do write or call or talk in person through the years with Billie Jean King or Jim Courier or Larry Stefanki or Rick Macci or Stan Smith or Vic Braden or Robert Lansdorf or Dick Gould or Brad Gilbert or Paul Annacone or Tom Gullikson or Nick Bolletteiri or Zina Garrison or Larry Mousouris or Jack Sharpe or Jay Berger or Brad Pearce or Martin Blackman or Greg the General Patton or David MacPherson or Billy Pate or Benny Simms or Pankie Salazar or Lori McNeil or Marty Davis or Tim Mayotte or Manny Diaz or Taylor Dent or David Roditi or Dennis Rizza or John Roddick or Doug King or Steve Clark or Bob Hochstadter or Tim Heckler or Steve Stefanki or Mark Bey or Lynne Rolley or Billy Martin or Will Hoag or Scott Kooper or Ron Woods or Luke Jensen or Rodney Harmon or Phil Dent or Nick Saviano or Allen Fox or Peter Smith or Rich Gallien or John Whitlinger or Chuck Kriese or Bobby Bayliss or Mark Weil or BJ Stearns or Mike Kernodle or Bill Tym or Doug Pielet or Brian Giffin or Hank Pfister or Mark Speardog Spearman or Randy Mattingley or Chris Bovett or Billy Stearns or Jeff Tarango or Chuck Waldron or Murphy Jensen or JP Weber or Chuckie Adams or Cici Louie or Mark McCampbell or Cornelius Jordan or Craig Bell or Cheryl Shrum or John McCampbell or Chris Bradley or Susan Evans or Dave McKinney or Steve Loft or Traci Curry or – – – I’ve got several hundred more, but I’m running out of ink and I profusely apologize to those many great coaches I am leaving out.

f) Take money from those truly outrageous USTA salaries and use $1 million dollars and have the best Junior WEB Site in the world! Pattern it after the ATP WEB Site. Have current National Rankings at the flip of a switch; Sectional Rankings; Tournament Results immediately from the previous weekend; pictures; articles; schedules from each section; national schedules; and each players record. Doubles Rankings for teams and individuals. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

g) Take a stand on the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis. Millions upon millions are going to foreign tennis playing juniors whose parents do not pay dollar one in US educational taxes, while we are in the midst of our toughest economic crisis since the great depression. That is criminal it seems to me.

h) Get rid of the ludicrous and laughable U10 Green Ball Mandate that most every pro and parent and kid in this country is against. Again I say, have all the Green Ball and Soft Ball and Nerf Ball and Polka Dot Ball tournaments you want, just don’t tear down regular tennis for U10s that want to compete against their peers. Soft balls are a tool and not an end unto itself. Soft balls from age 6 to 10 may be fine for some, but man oh man, certainly not for ALL our best young players.

i) Stop attacking pros and clubs and parents and players that don’t play ball with USTA PD. Stop threatening and bullying Little Mo and everyone else. Stop it immediately. And, in fact, write letters of apology. Ya know, I have this down here at the bottom, but really this is issue number one for me.

j) Fire all foreign coaches that are funded by the USTA. Again, we have thousands of incredible US coaches and in these harsh economic times you are going overseas to hire coaches that are not as good as the ones within these borders. Huh?

And in Conclusion:

a) Ha. You may use some and probably none of these ideas.

b) But do build consensus and get everyone under the same tennis tent.

I wish you good luck, Steve, with your meeting in Chicago. Ha. Send me one of those USTA first class tickets ‘n a limo and buy me a Chicago Pizza and I’ll go with you . . . thanks for all you do for tennis each day and thanks for coming out to support our Tennis Fest at Spanish Hills last Friday Night and thanks for helping promote the event and pack the place to overflowing.

Best,

Wayne

USTA 2014 Jr Comp Update, Part 2

ZooTennis.com posted the following email sent from the outgoing and incoming USTA presidents to Tim Russell and others involved in the Junior Competition Committee and Player Development – it confirms my wariness (click here for the link to the full email):