Asics Easter Bowl, Martin Blackman, & TRN Profile

asics_logo_popupAs y’all know, I’m back in the Coachella Valley at the Asics Easter Bowl this week, helping out with some of the media stuff, doing a little commentating for the livestream (you can watch at EasterBowl.com), and just helping out wherever I’m needed. If you’d like to keep up with results throughout the day, I suggest you follow @zootennis on Twitter – Colette is doing her usual amazing job of following all the action and reporting it quickly! It’s a bit bizarre to be at a junior tournament without a junior in tow, but it does offer me a very different perspective and allows me the opportunity to tune into other families’ experiences. If your child is competing in the California Desert this week, please let me know so we can connect. I would love to hear your thoughts on what the tournament is doing well and where it can make improvements for the future.

Yesterday, I had the chance to participate in a conference call hosted by USTA to hear from newly-appointed General Manager of Player Development, Martin Blackman. While I’ve already posted the information that came from USTA, it was really nice to hear from Blackman himself on what he has planned in his new role. There were a variety of media folks on the call, including Colette Lewis from ZooTennis and Pam Shriver representing ESPN. You can read the complete transcript of the call here (and, by the way, the question about college tennis came from Yours Truly!).

Last but not least, I have to do a little Mom Brag here. My son is featured in this article on TennisRecruiting.net, and I’m just a bit proud! This Junior Tennis thing is such a long haul with lots of bumps along the way. To see your child reach his destination is a wonderful thing. There were times we doubted whether he would be able to – or even still wanted to – achieve his goal of playing Division I tennis. He persevered and pushed himself beyond his comfort zone to get there, and I’m so excited for him. As we have done with each of our kids, we will become die-hard Broncos fans and proudly wear our red-and-white as we cheer on the team. Go Broncos!

 

Patrick McEnroe Leaves USTA PD

press conference

I was sitting in Arthur Ashe stadium yesterday afternoon when I saw the tweet from the NY Times: Patrick McEnroe Out As USTA Player Development Head. A little while later, I received an email from USTA’s communications department alerting all media on site of the press conference to explain in more detail exactly what was going on. Of course, I was there amid some very powerful media representatives, including the author of the original NY Times piece as well as folks from ESPN, Inside Tennis, and others.

Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com has written a detailed account of what went on yesterday – click here to read it along with links to several other related resources. Rather than restate what Colette has already presented so well, instead I’ve included below the audio from the press conference. I’m sure I will be writing more about this latest USTA development once I’ve had time to process it fully (and get some sleep – it was a very late night at the Open last night!), so please check back over the next few days. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on who should succeed Patrick and why you feel that person is qualified for the job – please share your ideas in the Comments section below.

 

 

NCAA Championships: #SaveCollegeTennis

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As I might have mentioned (!), I’ll be covering the 2014 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships at the University of Georgia in Athens over the next 10 days. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t post as regularly as you’re used to, but I’m hoping to have a great summary of my experience to share with you after it’s all over. The radio show will air as scheduled on Monday at noon, and, of course, I’ll be Tweeting and Instagramming up a storm, I’m sure, so be sure you’re following me on both outlets.

In the meantime, if you’re going to be in Athens during the Championships, I hope you’ll reach out and say hello. If you’re the parent of a college player, I’d love to interview you for a future article. If you’re a player and have a few minutes to chat, I’d love to interview you, too! To the college coaches out there, you know I’d love to pick your brain as well.

And, a quick reminder that USTA and ITA will be hosting a college information session this Sunday (click here for more info) that is a must-attend for high school players and their parents.

If you can’t be in Athens, be sure to follow @NCAATennis2014 and Colette Lewis of ZooTennis on Twitter (@zootennis) as they’ll have the most up-to-date information on scheduling, scores, and outcomes.

Looking forward to a great 10 days in Athens!

 

 

Things I Learned at the Open

USOpen2013

I know, I know. Y’all are sick to death of hearing about my week at the 2013 US Open. This will be my last article about it, PROMISE! So, please indulge me one more time as I share with you (and record for my own purposes) the things I learned at the Open.

First and foremost, I learned that Tennis Parents are Tennis Parents, whether our children are playing a tournament at the local public park for a plastic trophy or in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for a $2.6 million paycheck. We all have a hard time not showing emotion while our child is battling on the tennis court. We all do our best to stay focused on the process and not the result, and we all know a win is much more fun for everyone involved than is a loss. It’s that way in the juniors; it’s that way in college; and it’s that way at the highest level of the professional game. We all strive to show our children that we love them no matter the outcome. We all strive to instill a love and passion in them for this sport they’ve chosen to pursue. We all strive to surround them with knowledgeable, smart, caring coaches who can help them reach their potential.

Secondly, I learned that it truly does take a deep-seated love of the game in order to reach the highest levels in our sport. Achievements in tennis, for most, come slowly and over a very long period of time. They take incredibly hard work and dedication. If the love isn’t there, the success is unlikely to be there regardless of the talent level of the individual player.

I learned that tv commentators aren’t as unbiased as they may seem. Spending time in the CBS booth on Ashe, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the announcers between matches. Turns out, just like us, they have their favorite players and secretly root for them to win. Who knew?

I learned that having media credentials at an event like the US Open opens doors. Big doors. Fun doors. Doors that allow you to walk next to your favorite athletes and their parents and their coaches. Doors that allow you to go up and start a conversation with these folks and makes them want to engage with you in that conversation. However, the bolts on those doors shut tight when you just want to take a photo with the guy who will likely win  – who won – the tournament. Just sayin’.

I learned that every top-level player grew up hitting against a backboard. They used that time to practice various shots and styles, pretending to be their favorite pros as they honed their skills. They created games to play with their peers, using the wall as an impartial 3rd player. They have fond memories of those hours spent hitting against their toughest opponent, the one that always got one more ball back.

I learned that it’s really nice to make friends early in the tournament so you have people to sit with during meals and hang out with during rain delays or bum a ride “home” from late at night. I learned that the folks who hang out in the media room are all pretty nice and willing to help out a fledgling newbie trying to learn the ropes.

I learned that riding the train out to Larchmont at 2am is really pretty safe, and that there are taxis waiting at the station even at that ungodly hour. I also learned that chivalry still exists in the world as evidenced by the young man who gave up his seat in said taxi so I wouldn’t have to wait alone at the station so late at night (early in the morning?).

I learned that a $20 food allowance can go a long way, even at the US Open. It takes some creativity and willingness to adjust your eating habits, but it can be done! I also learned that coffee is free in Media Dining. All day and all night. That helped a lot.

I learned that I want to see my son succeed in tennis, NOT because I care about rankings or where he goes to college or whether he turns pro so much as because I’ve met some incredible people through my own association to the sport, and I want him to get to spend time around those same folks. This sport is chock-full of junior coaches who know their stuff, of college coaches who embrace the challenge of taking 18 year old children and helping them grow into 22 or 23 year old incredible adults, of journalists who take a personal interest in the players they follow, of former top players who want to give back to the game that gave them so much. Who wouldn’t want their child to be in the company of these amazing human beings?

I learned that I really and truly love the game of tennis. I love being around the players and the coaches and the parents and the photographers and the writers and the commentators and the statisticians and the manufacturers and the stringers and the fans. I love being able to see behind the proverbial curtain into the inner-workings of this sport and learn what makes everything tick. I hope to have many more opportunities to see more, to learn more, and to share it with those of you patient enough to get all the way through my ramblings.

Before I close, I absolutely have to give a huge shout-out to Melanie Rubin, Meredith Corsillo, Colette Lewis, Sandra Hewitt, Marcia Frost, Pat Mitsch and, most of all, Sol Schwartz who suggested I apply for media credentials in the first place. All of these people taught me and supported me through my very first foray into sports reporting, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude! And, to my husband, of course, who supports me every single day in everything I do.

Okay, that sounded a little like an Oscar acceptance speech – sorry!

I hope you enjoyed my reports from Flushing Meadows as much as I enjoyed preparing them for you. Now, as they say on tv, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

 

 

3rd Listening Meeting at ITA Coaches Convention

ITA Coaches Convention handout

The link above is to the handout given to attendees at yesterday’s “listening” meeting at the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida.  The pages are reversed – my apologies for not being able to figure out how to edit them in Adobe – so be sure to scroll to Page 2 for the details.  NOTE: Lew Brewer just emailed me a cleaner version of the handout which I’ve linked to above.

The meeting was led by outgoing USTA president, Jon Vegosen, and incoming USTA staff liaison to the Junior Competition Committee, Bill Mountford.  Lew Brewer was also in attendance.  For more information on the meeting, please see today’s ZooTennis post by clicking here – Colette was there and gives a very thorough analysis.

One thing I still don’t understand is how USTA can say one of the goals of these 2014 changes is to push competition back into the sections while it makes NO PROVISIONS for the sections to add tournaments to their schedules.  Can someone at USTA please explain that one to me?  It’s a question I plan to ask at the “listening” meeting in Atlanta next month.

I urge everyone to attend one of the remaining “listening” meetings and/or to email LetUsKnow@usta.com with your thoughts regarding the 2014 Junior Competition changes.  If you need a refresher on the exact changes, please click on the 2014 Jr Comp Info tab above.

How ITF Junior Tournaments Work

Just when I thought I had the USTA tournament thing finally figured out, my kid decided he wanted to try playing some ITF events.  And, after reading the current ITF Junior Regulations and searching all over the Web for information and coming up pretty much empty-handed, I started asking questions of those with way more knowledge than I have so I could understand how the ITF process works.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far about ITF events held in the US:

  • You must be between the ages of 13-18 to play in an ITF Junior tournament. You may enter a tournament starting at age 12 years 11 months, however.  Unlike USTA which uses the player’s birth month to determine age and eligibility, the ITF uses the calendar year.  For the 2012 ITF season, for example, players must be born between January 1, 1994, and December 31, 1999.
  • Before you can sign up for an ITF Junior Tournament, you have to get an iPin number.  Plan ahead as it can take a day or two for you to get the actual number.  All requests are authorized within 24 hours Monday-Friday.  You cannot enter a tournament without this number.
  • Most ITF Junior events have a qualifying draw that plays the Saturday and Sunday before the Main Draw starts on Monday.  Usually, a player has to win 3 rounds in Qualies to get into the Main Draw, but that can vary according to draw size.  The Main Draw is typically scheduled to play Monday through Sunday.
  • There are Singles and Doubles events in all tournaments.  You can sign up for the Doubles once you arrive.  Even if you don’t get through the Qualies, there may still be an opening for you to play Doubles – you’ll need to check with the tournament officials.
  • It is very important that players and parents check the tournament Fact Sheet for information regarding sign-in dates, locations, and times.  There is a do-or-die sign in deadline for the Qualies and the Main Draw, typically 6pm the Friday before matches start for Qualies and 6pm the Sunday before matches start for the Main.  In order to sign in, you must bring a passport or other photo ID.  You must also know your iPin number and USTA number.  A parent or coach has to sign the Medical Release, just like in USTA tournaments.  Without any one piece of the aforementioned information, you could be denied the opportunity to check-in and play!
  • For those who don’t get into the Main Draw or Qualifying Draw, there are on-site alternates.  It’s important to note that even alternates must have an iPin number, so if your child is even thinking about playing one of these events, you might as well go ahead and apply now.  Check the specific tournament’s website for details on how to alert the tournament officials that you want to be considered as an alternate in case of an opening.
  • After check-in on Friday night, the Qualifying Draws are created and posted online along with first match times.  Often, it is after 10pm before the draws and times are available.  Also, the draws and times may be posted on the ITF Junior website OR the tournament site OR the USTA site – you may have to do some digging before you find your first match time.  Be persistent!  And, be sure you know when you play BEFORE you go to sleep on Friday night – it could be 8am!
  • Only those who are in the Main Draw are given a tournament t-shirt.  Those who don’t make it through the Qualies may be able to purchase a shirt if they want.  I know, this isn’t all that important to some of you, but for others, the t-shirt is key!
  • All singles matches play out a full third set – no 10-point tiebreakers here!  And, just so you know, there is NO COACHING and NO BREAK between the 2nd and 3rd set.  Doubles play two tie-break sets and a 10-point tiebreaker in lieu of a 3rd set with no-ad scoring.  In the case of bad weather, alternative scoring options may be used in accordance with the ITF 2012 Rules of Tennis (see page 22).
  • If your child has dual citizenship, please refer to Page 36 of the Rules for information as to how to determine which passport your child should use in these events.
  • The time an entry is submitted is not significant; it does not matter if a player is first or last to enter a tournament.  Waco ITF Referee, Ken McCain, told me, “A common comment I receive is that ‘my child has a higher ranking than some players placed higher on the Acceptance List.’  The Federations can send a ranking list to the ITF, usually once a Quarter, to determine the Acceptance List Order (non ITF-ranked players).  One tournament may be using an old list and the following week an updated list is used.  This does occur and this is my best explanation.”  Read Section 45 (starting on page 13) of the rules for details on how selection into the tournaments works.  I’ve read it, and I’m still a bit confused, so if you understand the process, please enlighten the rest of us in the Comments box below!
  • There is a “freeze deadline” which occurs at 14:00 GMT on the Wednesday preceding the tournament week.  At this point, iPIN closes, and it is no longer possible to withdraw online. Instead, withdrawals must be made using the official withdrawal form and sent to the ITF and Referee before the close of sign-in. The published acceptance lists will not update with any withdrawals. The reason for this is that this is the moment the tournament information is sent to the Referee to prepare for the tournament. The acceptance list is sent to the Referee, who now manages the withdrawals. Any questions about the acceptance list from this point on should be directed to the Referee.  Any player who withdraws from a tournament Main Draw or Qualifying Draw after the Freeze Deadline without using the official withdrawal form, sent to the ITF and ITF Tournament Referee, will be subject to a No Show penalty.
  • Wild cards are decided by the host nation.  If players wish to apply for a wildcard they should get in touch with the host National Association (i.e. USTA) and/or Tournament Director.  ITF does not give out wild cards.  Numbers of wild cards available is based on the size of the draw.  For example, a 64 Main Draw will have 8 Wild Cards available.  For US tournaments, a player can apply for a wild card at www.usta.com/itftournaments.  The application deadline is typically right after the regular entry deadline – check the individual tournament’s website for details.  Refer to page 20 of the Junior Circuit Regulations for more information.
  • Lucky losers almost always come from those losing in the final round of qualifying.  If more Lucky Losers are required for substitutions, those players who have lost in the previous qualifying rounds are considered.  Lucky Losers must sign the Lucky Loser list that the Referee will open. It closes 30 minutes before play begins.  Colette Lewis told me that she watched all this take place last year at the US Open juniors. If you don’t have an ITF junior ranking, you go to the bottom of the list, in a similar number assignment with any others without an ITF ranking.  There can be zero lucky losers or as many as seven or eight, which happens at some sparsely attended events in less desirable locations. I think at this week’s Atlanta ITF four boys made it in as lucky losers. Late withdrawals or no shows are the most frequent reason for lucky losers getting in, but an injury or illness can also lead to a last-minute vacated spot.  See page 23 of the rules for more information.

A big thank-you to Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com for her willingness to share her vast knowledge with me and, by extension, you!  If you have any questions or need more clarification on any point above, I urge you to contact the ITF directly at:

International Tennis Federation, Bank Lane, Roehampton, London, SW15 5XZ
ph: +44 20 8878 6464 | fax: +44 20 8392 4735
email: juniors@itftennis.com   www.itftennis.com/juniors

For the complete rules of Junior ITF play as well as the ranking points table, click here.

NOTE (added December 2, 2012):

APPENDIX G: ITF JUNIOR CIRCUIT AGE ELIGIBILITY RULE
1. ITF Junior Age Eligibility Chart

Age/Number of tournaments permitted

18/Unrestricted
17/Unrestricted
16/25
15/16 (unless player achieves a top 20 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
14/14 (unless player achieves a top 20 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
13/10 (unless player achieves a top 50 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
11-12/0
NOTES
1. The number of tournaments permitted is counted between the date of a player’s birthday and the day before their next birthday, not between 1st January and 31st December.
2. Participation in an ITF Junior Circuit tournament includes singles and/or doubles and/or qualifying.
3. Minors under the age of thirteen (13) shall not be eligible for entry. For the
purposes of this Rule, the player’s age as of the first day of the tournament Main Draw shall be used.
4. The number of tournaments permitted by the ITF Junior Age Eligibility Rule is in addition to the number of professional tournaments permitted by the Age
Eligibility Rule (please refer to ITF Professional Circuit Regulations, and WTA
Regulations for details on the Age Eligibility Rule.)

Student of the Sport

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a USTA College Information Session for high school players and their parents held during the NCAA Championships in Athens, Georgia.

The panel, led by USTA’s Senior Manager of Junior and Collegiate Competition, Erica Perkins Jasper, included the following heavy-hitters from the tennis world:

  • Bobby Bayliss – Head Men’s Coach at Notre Dame University
  • Christine Bader – Head Women’s Coach at Ball State University
  • Maria Cercone – junior coach in Florida whose daughter plays #3 doubles and #5 singles for the University of Florida
  • Rick Davison – Director of Competition at USTA Georgia
  • Steve Johnson, Sr. – Father of top-ranked D1 player, Steve Johnson, of USC and top junior coach in Southern California
  • Colette Lewis – Creator of zootennis.com and renowned junior/college tennis journalist

Here’s what I learned . . .

Before your child even starts thinking about which colleges he might be interested in, have his tennis skills evaluated by – as Steve Johnson put it – “someone you’re not writing a check to” in order to get an honest opinion of which college programs might be a good fit.  The panelists repeatedly told us that there is a program for everyone; sometimes you have to do a little more digging to find the right one(s), but it IS out there.  You and your child need to be honest about his level of play, though, and make sure you are looking at schools that have open spots in their lineups that match your child’s skill set.

During the college recruiting process – which, by the way, your player should begin thinking about as early as the summer following his freshman year of high school – it is crucial for both the player and the parents to ask a lot of questions.  Ask the coaches.  Ask the current team members.  Ask people familiar with the program.  Just ask . . . a lot!  What questions should you ask?  Well, that depends on what type of college tennis experience your child seeks.  But, all of the panelists agreed that coaches would rather you ask the tough questions up front so your player can cross off the schools that don’t have what he’s looking for and so the coaches don’t waste precious time and resources recruiting if your kid is dead set against their program.  It is important that each player find his fit, and be assured that there is a right fit for everyone out there, whether it be D1, D2, D3, or a Junior College program.

To the players, it is important to start visiting the various colleges as early as you can.  Yes, you can email the coaches, but it’s just not as personal as a face-to-face visit.  You’re allowed as many unofficial visits (i.e. visits that you arrange and pay for yourself) as you would like to take.  On those visits, meet the coaches, meet the players, ask if you can attend the team practice and workout, and get a feel for the team environment.  If possible, go look at the dorms and see where the players live and eat.  Take advantage of your junior tournament travel and visit colleges in the cities and towns where you’re playing.  Figure out if you have a preference in terms of school size (big or small) and location (urban campus or college town) – that will help you narrow down your list of target colleges once you’re ready to start the official recruiting and application process at the end of your junior year.

Familiarize yourself with the NCAA Division 1 recruiting rules as early as possible so your child doesn’t risk his eligibility.  The D1 rules are the strictest, so, even if your child is looking at D2, D3, or Junior Colleges, following the D1 rules is your safest bet.  Then, before the end of your child’s junior year, make sure he registers with the NCAA Eligibility Center so all his ducks are in a row before the official recruiting begins.

After coming up with a list of potential colleges, have your child write down the 5 most important reasons he wants to attend each school.  Some examples might be playing tennis, a high level of academics, a particular academic major, the tennis coach, or scholarship availability.  He should ask himself, “What happens if one of those things disappears?”  For instance, what if he gets injured and can no longer play tennis or what if the coach retires or goes to another school or what if he fails to earn the necessary grades to keep his scholarship – will he still be happy at that school?  If the answer is NO, then cross it off the list.

Once your child does start communicating with coaches via email, make sure he includes a link to his tennisrecruiting.net bio (which he should first make sure is up to date!), his high school graduation year, and his upcoming tournament schedule.  Your child should not be afraid to ask coaches if they’re even interested in him as a potential team member – no need to waste anyone’s time here!  Also, he should ask how many scholarships (if it’s a D1 or D2 program) and roster spots are available and if there’s an opportunity for an official visit during his senior year.

Also (please forgive me, High-Tech Tennis, but I’m just sharing what the panelists told us!), before you spend money having a fancy recruiting video made for your child, make sure your child asks the coaches if they would even like a video and what they want included on it.  In most cases, a 10-minute home-made video, uploaded to YouTube, of some match play will suffice.  The coaches are busy.  They don’t have time to sift through the fluff.  So, keep to the basics – forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, overheads, and footwork.  And, by all means, make sure you only show your child’s best behavior on the video!  [One panelist confessed that several of the coaches have compiled a Top 10 Worst Recruiting Videos list on YouTube!]

During his senior year of high school, your child will probably begin taking official (i.e. paid for by the university) visits to one or more colleges.  This is the time to ask the more pointed questions such as whether or not he can walk on the team if no scholarships are available and whether walk-ons ever get to play in the lineup.  He can also ask about the coach’s influence with the admissions department in case his academics are borderline.  In many cases, the tennis coach does have some pull and will be willing to use it if your child is a desirable candidate for the team.  And, your child should absolutely let the coach know if he doesn’t NEED scholarship money from the Athletics Department – either because he has other scholarship money coming from academic or other resources OR because you have stockpiled money to pay for his college education yourself – it’s a definite plus to coaches to know that they can use their limited funds elsewhere.

I know this is a bit long-winded, but USTA really did share a ton of great info with us!  If you have a chance to attend one of these sessions, I highly encourage you to do so.  Even though my son sort-of fought me about going (it required waking up pretty early on a Sunday morning to make the drive to Athens), I think he got a lot out of it and now has a clearer picture of the work he needs to do.  Besides which, a perk of the program was that we got to watch an incredible day of tennis at the NCAA Championships afterward!