With the various changes that USTA is implementing throughout the junior competition calendar, several forward-thinking individuals and companies are stepping in to offer players and their families alternative ways to maximize their tournament experiences. The Holabird Sports-Adidas All-In Junior Tennis Challenge is one such event. I had the opportunity to speak with the tournament’s creator, Sol Schwartz, and to ask him a few questions:
ParentingAces: Why did you decide to create this tournament?
Sol Schwartz: The tournament was created for a few different reasons, the main one being that it will create an atmosphere that is going to be totally unique for the junior tennis player. Our event has a variety of rules components that players very well may face as they move on to the collegiate and maybe professional levels. It is also a contradiction to many of the new rules that are being, or have been, instituted into junior tennis. First difference will be that all third sets will be played out. No tie breakers. A second difference is that all net cords will be in play. A third difference is that coaching on changeovers will be allowed. A fourth difference is that there is only one draw for the boys and one for the girls – all ages will be put together and will compete against each other. Finally, and most importantly, is that the winner of each of the draws will receive an Adidas footwear and apparel sponsorship package. Details of the package can be found in the link for the event. We also have a runner-up package for the 2nd place finisher in each event.
PA: What are the specifics of registering for the tournament?
SS: Registration for the tournament can be done directly through the link that is on the Holabird Sports website, www.holabirdsports.com. The cost of entry is $100, and the deadline to enter is August 16th at 11:59pm. Entry will be limited to the top 32 boys and girls that enter each of the events. The criteria for entry acceptance and seeding information is online. It can also be found on the USTA website in their list of non-sanctioned events. There is no housing provided for the event, but special event rates have been secured at hotels that are within 5 minutes of the host site, McDonogh School.
PA: How did you decide on Adidas as the sponsor? What’s in it for them?
SS: There are several reasons that Adidas was chosen to be the lead co-sponsor with Holabird Sports in this event. Going with a prize package that included shoes and clothing immediately brought them to mind. Right now, there is really no bigger company in that side of the business than Adidas. On a bigger picture front, there is going to be a huge blow out for the weekend of the tennis event at McDonogh. On the Sunday of the final, August 26th, Holabird Sports and Adidas will also be holding The Coach Jerry Martin Memorial XC Run. This race is a tribute to a legendary track and field coach from the Baltimore County School System whom I also had the honor of having as part of my retail staff at Holabird for many years. Several of the people that are with Adidas in the tennis and running divisions have a great relationship with us, and many have had the experience of knowing Coach Martin. It just made this a perfect match. These events will enable Adidas to get a lot of exposure in more of a grassroots type of setting. They will be blowing out their brand there throughout the whole weekend. They will have products on display. They will have their Mi Cell and Mi Coach training systems out there for the players to experiment with as well.
PA: What do you say to the players and parents who ask why they should play if it won’t help their ranking?
SS: My reasons for keeping this tournament unsanctioned, at least for the first year, are kind of selfish. I did not want any outside influences coming in and trying to dictate how I should run the event. I wanted this to be a different type of experience for the kids that gain entry, and I didn’t need or want any outside organizations getting in our way, or for that matter, capitalizing on my vision for what this event can and hopefully will be. Being able to expose your child to the type of atmosphere that this tournament will create – along with the rules of play that are being implemented – should be exciting for all that enter. These kids are used to playing under sets of rules that are contrary to what the game of tennis should be about. Our event bucks that trend. Why should they play if it won’t help their ranking? From the kid’s view, it is to compete in a totally different atmosphere than at any event they play. To get a good taste of what it is like to compete at the next levels of the game. As a parent, I simply look at the prize package. A lot of these players will have some sort of racket sponsorship, but they often can’t attain footwear and clothing. The package that is being awarded to the winners of the event will help offset some of the largest expenses that add up throughout the course of the tennis calendar.
PA: Do you think this type of non-sanctioned tourney will survive and thrive when facing the competition from USTA/ITF events? What can the tennis community do to ensure the survival of these alternative events?
SS: When I sit back and look at this event, I wouldn’t necessarily say it is in competition with any USTA or ITF events. What it is is a totally different type of event than those put on by other organizations. Just because the event is not a sanctioned event does not mean that it never will be. This event is designed to be different. It is designed to create an atmosphere that is a celebration of what is great about different areas of our sport. This event is a model of a vision that I have as to what could potentially grow into a larger series of events down the road. There is a ton of negativity that exists in the tennis community across our country. This negativity comes at every single level and a lot has to do with the overall structure of the junior tennis tournaments and changes that have been made or are going to be made in the near future. Everybody has a view on the issues from the coaches to the parents to the kids themselves. I listen to these conversations and engage myself in a lot of them because both myself and my company have a vested interest in the success of the game of tennis. We at Holabird Sports, in conjunction with Adidas, have put this event out there to create some new excitement in the junior tennis world. The Holabird Sports- adidas “all-in” Junior Tennis Challenge will take place the weekend of August 24th-26th. Hopefully it provides a bit of a positive kick back to tennis and creates some excitement. When that happens, who knows where we may take this in the years to come? It’s in the hands of the tennis community to promote these types of events and bring non-tennis people in. There needs to be an all-out attack by players, coaches, parents, and supporters to bring more people to the game. We need to show others that tennis is a great game to be enjoyed by anyone who can hold a racket.
My son and I will be in Baltimore for this exciting tournament – hope to see you there!