Saving & Growing College Tennis with Tim Russell

college tennisThis week’s podcast:

Tim Russell, the head honcho at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), discusses how his organization is working with colleges, coaches, and communities to save and grow college tennis across the US.

The ITA has developed a self-assessment tool, the Program Health Index, for college tennis programs to use in order to determine whether their team is “safe” or at risk of being cut. The assessment includes items such as the team GPA, how much community outreach the players do, and how often the college president attends matches. Tim and his staff hope this will help prevent program cuts by helping coaches learn what’s important to university administrators. Tim stresses that the ITA is committed to telling the stories of college tennis, not just to the community, but also to college presidents and other decision-makers at the school. It is a tough sell since tennis is a non-revenue sport, but the Program Health Index and other tools are helping the ITA to make its case effectively.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a college tennis discussion without addressing the subject of international players! Tim and I delve into that topic as well. You can learn more about the ITA and its initiatives at www.itatennis.com.

Just a reminder that entries are still open for the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In tournament in Baltimore August 12-13. You can enter at http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/.

Check out our latest podcast!

College Tennis Operating Budget

budgetI’ve written and discussed the differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in college tennis quite a bit over the past several months. My reason for doing so is two-fold:

  1. I think it’s important for junior players and their families to have an understanding of what to expect in terms of facilities, equipment, support, travel, etc. when they visit and commit to a college tennis program; and
  2. I think it’s important as a community that we understand why some programs have all the latest bells and whistles while others don’t even have crack-free courts or scoreboards.

So, in keeping with this topic, I found it extremely interesting to look at Darryl Cummings‘s chart listing the operating budget of hundreds of college tennis programs across all divisions. These numbers are from 2014, so they are a bit dated, but I suspect things haven’t changed all that much in three years.

University of South Carolina in the SEC has the largest overall budget at $1,244,834.00 on the men’s side and $1,422,750.00 on the women’s side. That’s a far cry from the $2841.00 budget at Ulster County Community College and even top D3 contender Emory University at $449,836.00!

The CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Tim Russell, is my guest on next week’s podcast, and we talk about this issue in addition to many others. I hope you’ll tune in starting Tuesday at 11amET – you can find the ParentingAces podcast on iTunes, the Podcast App, Stitcher, and on this website as well.

Please click on the link below, take a look at the numbers, and share your thoughts in the Comments area below.

2014 College Tennis Operating Budgets

 

A Look at the Inaugural USTA All-American Combine

I’ve posted 2 articles and devoted an episode of the ParentingAces podcast to USTA’s first college combine, so it’s only fitting that I do a follow-up piece on the event.

Players checked into the National Tennis Center at Lake Nona in Orlando on Wednesday, June 14th 4-7pm. Match play and fitness testing conducted by Mark Kovacs (click here for a video of Mark and Stephen Amritraj during the event) began the following morning at 8am. All play and fitness testing was finished on Friday by 1:30pm giving players and their families time to travel back home or stay and explore all the offerings in the Orlando area for the weekend.

USTA should be very pleased with the number and diversity of participants for its first combine. When I looked at the player list on the Match!Tennis App, I saw the 122 competitors ranged in UTR from 3 to 13, quite a large span of experience and expertise. Looking at the actual draws on the TennisLink page, it seems it was a challenge to provide competitive matches for many of the players, with several of the kids posting 6-0, 6-1, and 6-2 scores for the majority of the rounds in the main draw and more of the same in the consolation brackets.

To get the inside scoop on the combine since I couldn’t be there myself, I reached out to a junior coach who took several players to Orlando for the event as well as a parent who traveled there with her son (who, it turns out, won the boys draw). Interestingly, they had very different answers to my questions.

ParentingAces (PA): Why did you decide to travel to the Combine? What did you hope to get out of it?

Coach: When I saw the advertising for it, I contacted the event director to find out more details about it. I thought it might be a great chance for players to play in front of coaches and get a chance to talk with those coaches as well. Plus, we got to vacation in Orlando also.

Parent: We decided to travel to the Combine because my son was injured and out for over 2 years, and this was a quick way to get remembered and noticed by college coaches before regaining points and a ranking, etc.

PA: What is the most valuable thing you took away from the experience?

Coach: I really got nothing of value from the event other than seeing the USTA National Campus for the first time.

Parent: For us, the most valuable thing was touching base with college coaches and also getting another data point indicating that he is right up there with his peers again.

PA: How did the match play competition compare to other junior tourney experiences?

Coach: It was not good. The main draw played one 6 game no-ad set and the consolation played one 4 game no-ad set. I had 2 issues with the scoring format they used. 1. Playing a 4 game short set means that it will not count for UTR rating for the players. So only the players that stayed in the main draw will have their matches count for UTR. 2. Because they used a tournament format, the NCAA coaches were not allowed to talk with the players in the tournament about recruiting. So you put on an event that is advertised to bring players together with coaches and they can’t talk with each other about recruiting. Not thought through very well at all.

Parent: It was a little spottier in the beginning rounds because the UTRs ranged from around 6 to 13+.

PA: Did you have a chance to interact personally with college coaches? If so, what did you learn from those experiences?

Coach: I was able to learn that most college coaches were only there for the ITA college coaches workshop and not the combine. Some came to see a player or two that they had already been talking to, but for a majority of players at the combine, they still went unseen.

Parent: Yes, there was ample opportunity for that as the college coaches were easy to identify. I learned a bit about different programs and how players are supported and developed.

PA: Was there a parent education component? If so, what was the most valuable part and what would you like to see improved for next year?

Coach: There was nothing to educate the parents. They split the kids up into 3 groups that they rotated between the 1. fitness testing; 2. college info session; 3. how to talk one-on-one with a coach session. I will talk about fitness testing later. The college info session had the potential to be great, but they didn’t have any college coaches there. They brought in 2 of the USTA player development coaches to talk with the kids, one of which admitted that he did not go to college and didn’t really know anything about the process. They put a list of 10 things to do in recruiting on a TV monitor but gave no details on how to execute them and did not give a handout to the players with the list on it. They spent a majority of the time telling about and selling the USTA PTM Professional Tennis Management program to all the kids. The how to talk to a coach session was for players only and they wouldn’t let the parents into it.

Parent: No there was no parent education component. The event was just 1 1/2 days and was jam packed with 6 one set matches and fitness. I think the parents would have had a hard time not watching the tennis because it was exciting with all the sudden death points, etc.

PA: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience? Maybe the fitness testing component and its value?

Coach: The fitness testing was the only somewhat highlight of the event. I say somewhat because if they don’t send all the testing info to the players to use for recruiting purposes then it was a waste of time also. I will say the kids had a lot of fun doing the testing but I don’t think the organizers did a good job of telling the players how important it was to give 100% during the testing because a lot of players just coasted through it. But I understand why also, because they did the testing at the end of the day after the players had been playing tennis all day and most were exhausted.

I have to question the motives, other than money, for having the event. It cost each player $350 to play, they received a T shirt and a lunch voucher for the Net Post Grill on site. Of the 4 players that I had participate, 2 played one 6 game set & five 4 game sets, 1 played two 6 game sets & two 4 game sets, 1 played one 6 game set & three 4 game sets. And there was no award for winning the consolation draw.

In my opinion this event started off as potentially a great idea to bring players and coaches together, but the details were not thought through well at all. I grade the event an F and will not recommend this to my players in the future, unless major changes are made.

Parent: It was great!! It was the first time we saw the USTA national campus and it is beyond expectations! The fitness testing results will be emailed to participants in a week or so and will be helpful to identify strengths and weaknesses to work on.

I followed up with the parent once I learned her son had won the event. As the winner, he received a Wild Card into an upcoming USTA Pro Circuit tournament. I asked what it means to her son to win the combine and if he will approach the pro circuit event any differently than other tournaments he’s played? She responded, “In general this win is meaningful because it gets the attention of college coaches by letting his racket do the talking! It also shows them RJ is good at the fast-paced college format. Personally it is another great data point for RJ showing that although he was out of tennis for over 2 years, he is right up there with his peers and then some… He is psyched about getting a Futures wildcard too! He won’t approach it any differently from any other tournament though because he works hard any time he steps out on the court and gives 100% in any matches or tournaments he plays regardless of what it is or it’s perceived importance.” For those interested in watching the Combine Finals, you can do so below.

It sounds like there were many positive aspects of the USTA’s first combine and many areas in which they can improve moving forward. From my perspective, adding a parent education piece is critical to the future success of these events. I love the fitness testing component and look forward to hearing from those of you who were there how you’re using the information gleaned from the report.

Congratulations to RJ Fresen (age 16) and Anika Yarlagadda (age 15) for winning the event and earning the Wild Card! A big thank you to photographer Bill Kallenberg of Captured in Action and Kathleen Horvath for the photos in the slideshow. For more information on the combine, click here to read USTA’s article. If any of you were at the Combine and would like to share your experience, please do so in the Comments.

 

The Luke Siegel Story

SiegelAs I referenced in my earlier article on Team Luke (click here), former college coach Tony Minnis produced a documentary telling more fully the story of Luke Siegel and his father, former Texas Tech coach Tim Siegel’s, work to turn tragedy into service.

After airing several times on Fox Sports, the documentary is now available for viewing on YouTube. I hope you will take the time to watch the video then listen to my podcast with Tim. Then go hug your kids. Extra tight.

Documentary (click on PLAYLIST in top left corner then scroll down to Pray for Luke Documentary and click on it to start watching)

 

Podcast

For more information on the Team Luke Foundation and/or to make a donation, click here.

#theSol Year 2

#theSol

It’s hard to believe that almost a whole year has gone by since our inaugural Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All In Tournament. Last year’s event (click here to read all about it) was a tremendous success by all measures, and we hope to do even better this year.

As in 2016, this year’s #theSols will be run through the Universal Tennis Rating tournament platform which gives our tournament directors great flexibility in terms of scheduling, communication, and draws. Unlike last year, we are hosting TWO events in 2017, one in Atlanta July 17-19 and one in Baltimore August 12-13. A huge thank-you to our presenting sponsor, 10sballs.com, and our title sponsor, Holabird Sports! Registration is now open for both tournaments. Click here for Atlanta. Click here for Baltimore.

Why should you add these tournaments to your junior player’s summer schedule? Well, let me tell you why!

  1. This is like no other junior tournament your child will play!
  2. Players are guaranteed at least 3 matches.
  3. On-court coaching. Players can receive assistance during the side changes.
  4. Where else can your child play matches that will count toward their UTR plus be coached on court during side changes?
  5. And, speaking of UTR, all matches will count toward your child’s rating.
  6. Players will get an amazing player goody bag and we have an incredible prize package for the overall winner.
  7. Players will have official player credentials.#theSol credential
  8. Players will get a full-color player book.
  9. Complimentary lunch for players and parents.
  10. Full-color high quality dri-fit tournament shirts.

I heard from the coach of last year’s #theSol winner that it was the best tournament she’s ever played. Not just because she won it, but also because of the atmosphere created by our incredible volunteers and committee. Don’t you want your junior player to have this type of positive tournament experience?

NOTE: We’ve just added another great perk to this year’s tournaments! We will be using the Match Tennis App for all tournament updates and communications. Why should you care? Because that means that, once you register to play, you get a FREE 30-day trial of the app! For more information on the Match Tennis App (plus a nice discount to use after your trial expires!), listen to our podcast here.

Enter the Atlanta #theSol here
Enter the Baltimore #theSol here

In case you’re wondering why we’re going to all this trouble to put on junior tournaments, it’s because of Sol Schwartz and the legacy he left behind in the Tennis World. He was a man devoted to preserving the sanctity of the sport, especially when it came to college tennis. The tournament committee is committed to continuing Sol’s legacy. All of the net proceeds from these events are going into a non-profit fund that will eventually be used to provide grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut. For reference, from 2010-2015 twenty-two (22) men’s programs were cut with an additional nineteen (19) women’s programs. That does not bode well for the future of our sport.

NOTE: Per data from the ITA, four (4) men’s tennis programs were dropped during the 2016-17 academic year, and five (5) women’s programs were dropped. At the same time, five (5) men’s and four (4) women’s tennis programs were added. For more information, see the document below.

I hope to see you in Atlanta or Baltimore or both (!) this summer! If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to email me at lisa@parentingaces.com.

We all have to band together to #SaveCollegeTennis!

2017 NCAA Championships Slideshow

I had a ball covering the 2017 NCAA Tennis Championships! In addition to the slideshow below, click here to read my post on the Championships, and here and here to listen to my podcasts recorded during the Championships.

The NCAAs Are Where They Belong

NCAAs

For the past two days – and for the next 10 – I have been in Athens, Georgia at the NCAAs at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. My Happy Place.

I’ve missed attending the NCAA Championships the past two years. For some reason, the Powers That Be thought there was a better place than UGA to host this premier college tennis event. Imagine that! And, after next Monday, Athens won’t see the Championships again until at least 2023. It’s at Wake Forest next year followed by UCF (i.e. the new USTA mega complex in Lake Nona), Oklahoma State, UCF again, then University of Illinois in 2022. Word on the street is that Lake Nona could become the permanent home of the Championships if all goes as planned in terms of attendance and the growth of the UCF tennis program under John Roddick’s guidance. I absolutely wish UCF all the best, but I hate to think of the NCAAs anywhere but Athens.

Driving onto the UGA campus brings back so many fond memories for me. My son attended Bulldog Tennis Camp starting at age 9. My middle daughter spent her Collegiate Tennis Hall of Famecollege years on that campus. And the energy it exudes during the Jewel in the College Tennis crown is unmatched. To top it off, this campus is the home of the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. If that doesn’t make you believe the Championships belong here, well . . .

Just walking around the tennis complex is like Old Home Week. I run into friends made at junior tournaments around the country. I runNCAAs

Maria Cercone

into coaches I’ve interviewed. I run into industry people I’ve gotten to know over the past several years. I run into fellow tennis fans that I’ve met on the court myself. It’s just an amazing atmosphere.

Today, I’ll be back out there for four more men’s matches. My alma mater – UCLA – faces my daughter’s alma mater and the host team – UGA – this afternoon. It should be a great match, filled with all the elements that make college tennis so great. And it will be enhanced by the fact that the home team does such a bang-up job at getting its fans out en force to create an energy that rivals any football game.

I’m going to soak up everything about this year’s NCAA Championships because who knows when it will return to its rightful place: the University of Georgia Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

For everything you need to know about this year’s NCAAs, click here to go to the official website. For updates on scores and results during the matches, be sure to follow Bobby Knight @College10s2day on Twitter. I’m tweeting updates and posting on Instagram as well (@ParentingAces).

Today’s schedule: Men’s Quarterfinals

Noon:
#10 Texas vs. #2 Virginia
#6 TCU vs. #6 Ohio State

4pm:
#13 UGA vs. #5 UCLA
#9 UNC vs. #1 Wake Forest

Tomorrow’s schedule: Women’s Quarterfinals

Noon:
#6 Texas Tech vs. #3 Ohio State
#7 Stanford vs. #2 UNC

4pm:
#9 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Florida
#12 Pepperdine vs. #4 Vanderbilt

Note from Lisa: I seem to be having trouble formatting the photos so that they appear right side up on both computers and mobile devices. Please bear with me as I try to sort this out!