European-Style Jr Tourney Comes to US with Kriek Cup

Kriek Cup

 

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Two-time Australian Open Champion, Johan Kriek, has been working hard for the past several years to change how we train junior tennis players here in the US. Last year, he moved his academy from Charlotte, NC down to the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL in order to maximize the opportunity for young players to train and learn.

This summer, Johan is partnering with Ten-Pro Global’s Junior Tour to offer the Kriek Cup, an age-group tournament for players age U10 through U16 August 13-19, 2017.

Players can register to compete in their own age group PLUS one age group up to maximize the number of matches played with a minimum of 4 matches guaranteed to each player. On-court coaching is allowed during the set breaks. Johan’s academy is also offering a special training camp the week prior to the tournament to help players adapt to the clay and to the South Florida heat and humidity.

Per the press release from the Johan Kriek Tennis Academy:

All highly talented junior tennis players around the world are invited to participate in the KRIEK CUP USA International Junior Tournament organized by TEN-PRO Global Junior Tour. The tournament which takes place at PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida during school vacation, August 13 through 19, 2017 gives the perfect possibility to combine a holiday with World top junior tournament and also promises participants an enjoyable stay at the beautiful and sunny Florida resort. This tournament is part of a very successful series that is being played at the world’s most prestigious tennis academies such as the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy, Kim Clijsters Academy and the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy. The Johan Kriek Tennis Academy is the first and only academy in the US to host this event.

The tournaments results are counted by UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) and will be played in separate competitions in each age category at the same time (U9), U10, U11, U12, U13, U14, U15, U16. As part of the packages embedded in this great tournament, four matches are guaranteed per person with new coaching on court. Johan Kriek and the Johan Kriek Tennis Academy team will also conduct a Kriek Cup Preparatory Camp right before the tournament. For more information on the camp visit https://www.johankriektennis.com/kriek-cup-tennis-camp

For more information on the Kriek Cup, go to https://www.johankriektennis.com/events/kriek-cup-2017-this-august/

Registration is still open for both Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournaments. For the Atlanta event (July 17-19), go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261/. For the Baltimore event (August 12-13), go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/.

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Why Your Junior Should Be Watching the Aussie Open

The 2017 Australian Open is underway. For fans in the US, it’s one of the tougher Majors to follow due to the massive time difference between Melbourne and pretty much anywhere in the States. Thankfully, both the Tennis Channel and ESPN will provide coverage of the matches (click here for the 10sballs.com article on when and where you can watch), so there are plenty of opportunities to see your favorite players in action. The Australian Open app (click here for Apple and here for Android) is also a great way to stay up to date on matches and results Down Under.

Why should your junior players be watching these matches? What can they learn by seeing the world’s top players compete? I wrote an article on this topic a while back (click here) but figured it was time for an updated view on what juniors can take away from watching the pros.

Says Johan Kriek, 2-time Australian Open Champion and current junior coach, “I always tell kids to look at the footwork: when do they hit open stance and when do they hit closed stance? Watch their body language. Court management – meaning when do they hit hard, when do they hit softer, when do they lob – is also important to note. The stats on winners hit vs unforced errors can help juniors understand that even the world’s best make mistakes which can help young players manage expectations regarding their own play.”

Australia native and current WTA coach Sarah Jane Stone (no relation!) shares, “Most kids don’t watch enough tennis. It’s really important for them to become students of the game. By watching professional matches they can learn so much about tennis. The way players act between points, the routines that they keep, and how they construct points – these are all important lessons that juniors can learn by simply watching the pros compete.”

According to Steve Johnson, father of US player Stevie Johnson and highly-respected developmental coach, “I usually like to tell people to watch one person, especially their footwork, and figure out what they are trying to do to win points. What patterns are successful/not successful. We all tend to just watch the ball. The other advice is to be level headed on court. Easier said than done but what a difference it makes. So far this year, Stevie has been really good about moving on when he has break points and doesn’t win them. That’s a very big step toward reaching his potential.”

So, the takeaway here is that watching the pros on tv is a great way for junior players to improve not only the technical side of their game but also the tactical and mental sides. Encourage your kids to take some time over the next couple of weeks to study the game and to really learn something from their favorite players. It will pay off in future success, both on and off the court.

Johan Kriek on 2015 Roland Garros Men’s Final

Photo courtesy of Roland Garros Twitter account
Photo courtesy of Roland Garros Instagram

The following article originally appeared on Johan Kriek’s website and is re-posted here with Johan’s permission. Be sure to read all the way down for his reasons to have junior players watch this year’s French Open Final. For those of you unfamiliar with Johan’s credentials, he reached the quarterfinals or better in all four Grand Slams, winning the Australian Open titles in 1981 and 1982. He was twice the quarterfinalist and once the semi-finalist at the US Open, reached the semi-finals at the French Open, the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and after winning the Australian Open twice he also reached another semi-final at the Australian Open. He now owns and runs a junior academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Roland Garros men’s final : Stanislas Wawrinka beat Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4,6-3,6-4.

The French Open finals at Roland Garros between Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic was a fantastic match. It had drama, amazing shotmaking, momentum swings with very high quality shots and rallies constantly from both players throughout the match.

As a former pro I “live” through these guys all the same emotions they feel, definitely not as strong but nevertheless we can “feel” those emotions to some degree.

I come away from this match convinced that tennis is at a level now never seen before. For me, an epic match or a “nail biter” does not have to be a score of 7-6 in the fifth set, those do happen from time to time but today I saw a number of things that made me go “WOW”!

It is a one on one sport and in tennis there can be only one winner in the tournament. Today, I saw two fantastic athletes battling it out with honor, respect and great sportsmanship. Both “won” today. Novak won in that he showed class in defeat and congratulated Stan with genuine warmth and respect which won him millions of new fans from around the world. Stan won the match in a fashion that demands respect and awe not only from his opponents but also from casual tennis fans. Stan elevated his game tremendously and I have rarely seen Djokovic beaten from the baseline as today. It was inspiring to see these two guys at the very best of their abilities battle for over 3 hours with such high quality tennis. I salute you guys! It was awesome…

Stan Wawrinka elevated his game to a level I have never seen him able to do. Some day he will watch it and realize his game at this major made a giant leap forward. He now knows he can beat the best in the world, when they are at their peak and actually beat them in every facet of the game! This is a whole new “bar raising” experience for Stan that can only help him in future epic matches.

Novak is a different kind of player from Stan in that Novak is an extremely solid runner / hitter/ outrageous defender and one can find very little if any weakness in his arsenal. Novak has a “complete” game as he can serve big too and his volleys are certainly not a negative. But he prefers to play an aggressive running style of outstanding defender tennis by outlasting and out defending most opponents. Stan on the other hand is a runner/ aggressive baseline hitter that attacks and comes forward as much as possible. Much more so than Novak in today’s match. Every shot Stan has is “big”! I do think today Stan was a tad better in the first serve department, a tad better at the net but a whole lot more impressive off the baseline than we have ever seen him. I have seen him play a lot and at times he looked very mercurial but today he came out firing and by the middle of the second set and all of the third set he absolutely dominated Novak in the baseline slugfest. It was shocking to see what Wawrinka can do with that one handed backhand. Around net posts while full split sliding and ripping it to the corner. No doubt in my book he has the best one handed backhand ever and now it could be the best backhand period! I think he is a legitimate contender for the #1 ranking if this type of tennis can be played!

This is a match I would gladly show to my academy kids. Here are some of the many lessons one can learn from this match.

1. CONSISTENCY:

The quality of the shots and the very high percentages in serving, the absolute focus by both at any crunch time points and the high number of winners by Stan in particular was over the top. Stan kept it up for over 3 hours!

2. CONCENTRATION:

Stan did not let his focus wander and neither did Novak. Even though Novak was clearly “outplayed” in the third set with ridiculous shots from Stan, Novak kept “hanging around” and went up 3-0 in the fourth after Stan went up 2 sets to 1. The quality of the shots, the rallies, the change of directions by both were of the highest standards.

3. STICK TO A WINNING GAME PLAN:

These guys know each other’s games. There are no surprises. But today Stan elevated his quality of his shots off the baseline fourfold from previous matches, he had incredible accuracy, power and variety , especially on his amazing backhand and that most likely surprised Novak. Novak is a brilliant player to “absorb” power due to his speed, agility and defending skills but Stan absolutely bludgeoned and blistered ground strokes from anywhere in the court! It was astounding to see what he did in that third set. Novak could do nothing but stare in disbelief….

But here is what I liked a lot. When Stan served for the match he missed a backhand down the line to go down 0-15. But Stan did not back off, he kept believing in “going” for his shots and even though it was a nerve racking game, was up 40-15 (two match points) and Novak fought back and actually had a breakpoint but at the end that wicked one hander down the line backhand won it for Stan on match point. Stan never gave up on his “game plan” even though he made some errors. Great lesson on how to close it out!

4. RECOGNIZING MOMENTUM AND USING IT EFFECTIVELY:

Stan went on a tear from the middle of the second set onwards all the way to the end of the third set. This is where Novak recognized an “opportunity”. Novak knew Stan cannot keep that high of a quality of tennis up forever. Novak focussed, kept “hanging around” and suddenly there was a little light at the end of the dark tunnel. Stan relaxed a little, got broken and suddenly Novak was up 3-0 in the fourth set. In previous big matches, this is where Novak turns on the “afterburners” as we saw with Murray in the semis and that is what Novak is known for and was looking for. He had finally begun to get a grip on the match. Unfortunately Stan upped his quality once more and ran the set out 6-4 with the quality of tennis and tactics that won him the second and third set. It was impressive to say the least.

5. SPORTSMANSHIP:

Both guys were 100% “there” for this momentous match and gave their all. But once the match was over, Novak was very gracious at the net with a genuine heartfelt congratulations to Stan.
That was an awesome gesture and at the awards ceremony, the crowd made their feelings and appreciation known to Novak. He won many millions of fans more.

I am so proud of these two guys as they are true ambassadors for our sport. Wimbledon and the rest if the season including the U.S. OPEN is going to be an interesting journey! I cannot wait to see what will happen! So much talent out there!

All Things Tennis with Johan Kriek

UR10s NetworkThis week’s podcast with Johan Kriek discussing all things tennis – past, present, & future


 

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Summer Tennis Camps

Tennis Camp

 

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know I’m a big fan of summer tennis camp for junior players.  For younger players, a few intensive days on a college campus or at an academy with a group of amazing guys or gals can be incredibly inspiring and motivating.  For older players, camp can serve as a reminder of what’s around the bend if they stick with tennis throughout high school and decide to play in college.

Since summer is just a few weeks away, I figure now is as good a time as any to put together a list of some of the camps being offered across the country.  This is just a sampling – please post any additional camps in the Comments box below.  I only have direct experience with UGA’s camp – it’s the only one my son has attended – but the rest of the camps listed have been recommended by various coaches, parents, and others.  I’ve included links to the camp websites, so please take a look at the details listed there.

  • Adidas Tennis Camps – Adidas sponsors many camps around the country.  There are day, extended-day, and overnight options for all levels of juniors, from beginners to high-level tournament players.
  • Down The Line & Beyond Summer Camp – Open to high school and college players, this unique camp located in the Philadelphia area also offers a Character Development element in keeping with the DTLB philosophy.
  • Dubrovnic Summer Tennis Camp – Offered July 28–August 4.  Tennis Club “Ragusa” in cooperation with Tennis Centre Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik-neretva County Tennis Association is organizing an international camp for children under the guidance of one of the greatest tennis player of all time and sports role model Goran Ivanišević.
  • Ed Krass College Tennis Exposure Camps – Open to players ages 15-18 and taught by current college head tennis coaches, these camps will give your junior a taste of what’s coming if he/she decides to pursue a college tennis career.
  • Furman Tennis Camp – Run by Furman Head Men’s Coach Kelly Jones, this camp is located on the beautiful Furman campus just outside Greenville, SC.  Campers have access to 19 outdoor and 4 indoor courts.
  • Hightower Summer Tennis Camp – Directed by Ron Hightower, former US Jr Davis Cup Captain and national coach, these one-week camps will be held at Hightower Tennis Academy in Woodland Hills, CA.
  • Holabird Sports Tennis Camp – Holabird in conjunction with the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) is offering a variety of camps this summer on the UMBC campus in Baltimore, including a half-day camp for the youngest players as well as a full-day camp and overnight.  UMBC Head Coach Rob Hubbard will be running the camp – he’s a great guy!  Bonus: save 10% if you register by May 1 and use promo code EARLYBIRD.
  • IMG Summer Camps – Held at the world famous Bollettieri Academy, the multi-week camps are open to players of all ages and abilities.
  • Jamie Stafford Tennis Academy Summer Camp – I received notice of these camps via LinkedIn.  They are set in Ireland and are for players ages 4-17.
  • Johan Kriek Tennis Academy Summer Camp – Available for intermediate to advanced players, these camps run Monday-Friday 11am-3pm.  Each week is limited to 40 players to ensure personal attention and instruction.  Johan’s academy is located in Charlotte, NC.
  • Nike Junior Tennis Camps – Nike offers a variety of day and overnight camps in many cities around the US.  Their camp website will tell you everything you need to know!  For the first time, the University of Georgia is doing its camps through the Nike program this year – I’ll give y’all a report after my son’s week there!
  • Nike Tennis Camp at CSU East Bay – Led by Coach Bill Patton, these camps are offered several times over the summer and are geared toward junior players of all levels.
  • Presbyterian College Summer Tennis Camp – With three one-week sessions beginning the first week of June, PC camps are open to players of all stages ages 5-18.
  • RAMP Tennis Camp – RAMP Tennis camps, directed by former USTA Coach (and May 13 ParentingAces Radio Show guest) Marc Lucero, are open to players of all ages (6-18) and levels and are located at the USTA Training Center-West on the grounds of the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
  • Schwarz Elite Prospect Tennis Camp – Held on the beautiful Brown University campus in Providence, RI, these camps are geared toward those players looking at playing collegiate tennis.  That said, there are a variety of options available at Brown, so please take a look at the website.
  • University of Illinois Summer Tennis Camp – How fun to go to camp at the site of the 2013 NCAA Tournament!  Head coach Brad Dancer and Marcos Asse run the camp together and employ current D1 players to help coach the kids.
  • Van der Meer Summer Tennis Camp – Recommended by a parent on my Facebook page, this gorgeous facility in Hilton Head would be a great spot to spend a week (or two)!
  • Wilson Collegiate Tennis Camps – 17 locations nationwide this summer, from California to Miami, FL to Rhode Island and in between.   In addition, as a camp resource, they are co-blogging a series about tennis camps with the USTA Midwest.  The first two parts of this series can be found at PART I and PART II.

I asked Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes for his opinion on the various camps available. “For 3 and 4 star kids the Brown and Dartmouth camps are very good – they get Division 3 coaches to work the camps so it really helps the kids get seen by coaches.  For 1 and 2 star kids, UCLA and Pepperdine have great camps, as do Florida and Georgia. We tell our clients if they don’t get into clays [National Clay Court Championships] then the Dartmouth Elite Camp and Brown Camp are very good. They are also much better than the Donovan Showcase because the kids get to interact with the coaches and the coaches know exactly what the kids are like on and off the court. The problem with all of the showcases is the coaches never talk to the kids and they don’t get to really know the kids. It is also important the kids get to know the coaches. It is against the rules for the coaches to work the showcases but they get to be on the court with the kids at the summer camps.”

Time is of the essence with many of these camps, so please don’t wait too long to get your child(ren) registered.  If you run a camp and would like me to add it to the list above, please email me at lisa@parentingaces.com with the details and website.

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Notes From 6th Listening Meeting in Atlanta

It was an interesting day yesterday, to say the least!  I had spent the previous several days preparing my talking points for Sunday’s “listening” meeting as well as for my pre-meeting meeting with Lew Brewer and Andrea Norman, the new chair of the Junior Competition Committee (Andrea was a member of the JCC that created the 2014 changes and is now chairing that same group).  Peter Lebedevs, also a member of the current JCC  – and an active USTA volunteer, coach, and tournament director at both the junior and professional level – joined us, too.

The pre-meeting meeting was very informative.  We talked for almost 2 hours about the changes and the impetus for them (I’m still not 100% clear on the “why” behind them other than that USTA is trying to find a better way to develop our junior players), how I would like to see them change, and what USTA can do better.  We spoke at length about USTA coming up with some concrete ways of helping tennis families save money, like discounts on hotels and airlines and the like, rather than telling us that these new schedule changes will accomplish that goal.  I tried to explain to them how fewer opportunities drives up costs – basic supply and demand – but I’m still not sure Andrea understands what I was saying (more on that in a minute).  She told me that the schedule goes from 15 competition blocks to 12, that fewer blocks means families have to spend less money.  I took issue with that statement, explaining that fewer blocks means fewer options, and fewer options means potential additional expense, especially if those remaining options require further travel for families.

On the issue of smaller draw sizes at the 2 remaining national tournaments, Peter said that he is in favor of leaving the draws at 192, that going from 192 to 128 isn’t a significant change in the amount of work for tournament directors and that he feels giving more juniors the opportunity to compete at that level is a good thing.  I hope he sticks to his guns on that point when the JCC has its next meeting.  Andrea brought up the idea of holding a 64-draw qualifier before the Nationals.  I asked if the Qualifier would be “one-and-done” or would there be a backdraw?  And, would players earn ranking points in the Qualifier or would it be like the ITF qualies where no ranking points are awarded.  She said there would be a guarantee of 2 matches in the Qualifier but that a backdraw probably wouldn’t be played out, and, yes, ranking points would be awarded but USTA hasn’t created those point tables yet.

I emphasized how having the opportunity to compete at the national level and to see the country’s top players in action can be a huge motivating force for those players on the bubble.  I have to say, Lew was uncharacteristically quiet during the meeting, only getting involved when I started talking about my son’s ITF experience this past Fall.  He asked me if competing in our section’s top events wouldn’t provide the same motivating force as traveling to an ITF or Nationals.  I explained that, at least in my son’s case, he’s friends with all the boys at the top of our section and that there’s something different about watching your friends play versus watching top kids from the rest of the country (or world, in the case of the ITFs).  I think he understood what I was trying to say.  One thought I had after leaving the meeting is that if USTA is truly concerned about those players who get “rounded” at the National events, then why not use their resources to provide match-play opportunities and/or coaching to those players in hopes that they’ll be motivated to improve before their next tournament?  That way, if the family has had to fly to the tournament, they won’t necessarily have to change their return flight but can stay and receive free coaching for their player(s).

The “big” meeting started at 1:00pm and was led by Dave Haggerty (USTA President), Gordon Smith (USTA Executive Director and COO), and Scott Schultz (USTA Managing Director of Youth Tennis).  Also in attendance were current JCC members Andrea Norman (Chair), Peter Lebedevs (Vice-Chair), and Chuck Kriese, as well as previous JCC member Eddie Gonzalez.  The room was filled with some incredible tennis experience, and those folks didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts.  We heard from Walker Sahag, an incredible junior coach from Mandeville, Louisiana; Jerry Baskin, who has over 40 years of experience developing and coaching players at the junior, collegiate, and professional level; Chuck Kriese, former Clemson coach and current Senior Director of Competition and Coaching at USTA’s Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland; Jessica Amick, Junior Competition Coordinator at USTA Southern; Patricia Hy-Boulais, former collegiate and professional player who now coaches in Hilton Head; Amy Johnson, long-time USTA official; Julie Wrege, former Georgia Tech coach and creator of TennisRecruiting.net; Robert Sasseville, long-time tournament director; and Johan Kriek, former Australian Open champion and current junior coach.  All told, there were over 100 people in the room, including Manny Guillen, who has 40+ years of experience in the tennis world as an endorser and ranker for juniors; Lucy Garvin, past President of USTA; Doug Wrege, co-creator of TennisRecruiting.net; Julie Thiets of High-Tech Tennis; J.P. Weber, junior tennis coach and tournament director; Bill Ozaki, USTA Southern’s Director of Programs & Player Development; and Sam Kennedy, junior tennis coach, among others.

I think the simplest way for me to convey the points made is to do a bulleted list, so here goes . . . For those who were there, please pardon me if I’ve put any of the statements in the incorrect order – I was trying to listen and take notes (and keep those notes organized) all at the same time but may not have been successful.  And, for the record, the statements below are NOT direct quotes but rather paraphrasing or summaries of what I heard during the meeting.  The meeting was recorded by USTA Southern – I will make that recording available to you as soon as I get it.

  • Dave Haggerty: Welcome and thank you all for coming.  [He then introduced those on the stage and the committee members in the audience]  I would like to open the floor to anyone who would like to speak.
  • Walker Sahag: Reducing draws at the national events limits the chance for players to be seen by college coaches.  As the system stands now, if players don’t make the cut in the 12’s, they never catch up.  Grouping sections into larger regions creates additional sacrifices for those who will have to travel further in order to compete.  Particularly in the western part of the Southern Section, including Florida and the Caribbean exacerbates the travel and expense issue and will likely see the best tournaments migrate toward Atlanta.  Regarding international players taking college scholarships from American players, we’re being asked to pay for something [via our tax dollars] but are being excluded from it.
  • Dave Haggerty: College is the rainbow for 99.9% of junior players.  We’ve been hearing all of Walker’s points from others, too.  I understand that if a player doesn’t have visibility, it’s tough to be seen by the college coaches.
  • Lisa Stone: My son aspires to play more national events and needs to know that it is a realistic aspiration, that he can achieve it through hard work, that USTA hasn’t set up road-blocks to keep him away from the big events.  But the new 2014 schedule is extremely restrictive, decreasing the number of national calendar dates from 12 in 2012 (17-24 in 2010) to 7.  Having fewer opportunities for national play is not decreasing the cost of play – it will only make it more expensive.  USTA, why are you doing this?
  • Scott Schultz asked Andrea Norman to address the rationale behind the changes.
  • Andrea Norman:  We had a charge from our previous president (Jon Vegosen) to create a better pathway.  By going from 15 to 12 date blocks, the cost to compete is reduced.  Regarding the smaller draws, some kids don’t belong at that higher level; they should be playing Regionals instead.  The tournament sites are chosen by an application process and awarded to quality sites.  We try to distribute the sites geographically based on the size of the airport, ease of travel, number of courts, etc.  We  are trying to push play back to the Sections like in the “olden” days – the idea is to get back to Sectional play.  At the ITA “listening” meeting, there was concern about going from a 192 draw to 128, and Jon Vegosen brought up the idea of holding a 64 qualifying draw to be held over 2-3 days prior to the National Hardcourts.  The coaches there thought that was a good idea.
  • Jerry Baskin: Andrea, which college coach said he viewed 64 qualifiers on the same level as the 128 main draw players?  At least the USTA is now listening but every point Andrea makes can be debunked by coaches who develop collegiate players.  Memphis and Kalamazoo are the most influential tournaments for college recruiting.  High-level coaches come in now for the round of 16 anyway.  Other coaches are looking at players 96-192.  If you reduce the size of the draw, you reduce the exposure for these players.  Regarding the simultaneously-held Regional events, how can a coach be at 6-8 events at the same time?  They can’t!  So those players at those Regional tournaments won’t get seen.  Bill Ozaki [Director of Programs & Player Development, USTA Southern Section] has developed top players.  If you reduce the draw sizes at these events, you’ll kill college recruiting and will see half the number of coaches attending the tournaments.  The most exciting day of the year for me is sitting with my players on Signing Day and having my picture taken with them as they sign their NLI.  Do you know why the Thanksgiving indoor tournaments have been so important?  It’s because they come right after Signing Day so those coaches who didn’t get the players they thought they would get can go and see the next crop of players.  The top coaches are in panic mode if they didn’t get the players they expected!  And, what’s the purpose here – to develop world class players or to get college scholarships?  And, quotas being based on strength of the section?  That’s too subjective!  Basing them on size is a whole lot more objective.  It’s ridiculous to have people on the Junior Comp Committee who have never coached, never developed a player, making decisions for those of us who know what we’re doing.
  • Gordon Smith: I would like your feedback on the fact that junior competitive tennis hasn’t grown.  How do we change that?  USTA hasn’t been involved with the NCAA Tennis Committee, but I want us to be more active in that aspect.
  • Dave Haggerty: I believe strongly that the rainbow for 99.9% of kids is a college scholarship, but 40% of those scholarships are now going to foreign players.  We need to come up with a robust environment for juniors to aspire to that is better for our players.
  • Jerry Baskin: Thirteen years ago, I made a mistake when I gave a presentation in New York about the point system.  We need to go back to looking at wins and losses.  That would reduce costs because it would cut down on the number of tournaments a junior would need to play.  The last year that we had a group of men’s champions at Kalamazoo (Roddick, Ginepri, Reynolds, and Fish) was the last year before the point system went into effect.  The point system drives up costs because kids have to play so many events.
  • Scott Schultz: The STAR system gave players the opportunity to duck play.  Is it really a bad thing to have a couple of different systems?
  • Jerry Baskin: College coaches only care about TennisRecruiting ratings, not about USTA ranking.  USTA is looking in the wrong direction with PPR.
  • Eddie Gonzalez: I voted against the 2014 calendar because I know you need to talk to your customer before you make a change of this magnitude and we hadn’t done that.  Let’s do a formal survey on TennisLink for players, parents, junior coaches, and college coaches so we can get feedback from our customers!
  • Dave Haggerty: Please use LetUsKnow@USTA.com if you think of something after this meeting.
  • Amy Johnson: Why isn’t USTA establishing corporate relationships to help every single member?  Things like airline, hotel, and rental car discounts?
  • Scott Schwartz: The Sponsorship Department divvies up the money to various other departments within USTA.  Gordon will take that idea back to them to see what we can do better.
  • Julie Wrege: What’s the difference between having a 192 versus a 128 draw plus qualies?  Where would the qualifying spots come from?
  • Andrea Norman: 8 spots would come from the qualies and 8 from reducing the number of wildcards.
  • Julie Wrege: Why do smaller sections award the same number of national points as bigger sections?
  • Chuck Kriese: I never thought having too many opportunities would dumb down achievement, but I don’t think we should have draws bigger than 128 at Nationals.  That said, coaches should be able to coach however they feel is best.  Dave, your 40% number regarding international players receiving college scholarships is wrong – it’s closer to 65-70%.  We have to make college a viable training ground again.  The USTA needs to have an All-American Team made up of Americans and incentivize coaches for recruiting American players.  Title IX wasn’t set up to eliminate men’s sports but that’s what’s happened.  USTA must incentivize 15, 16, 17 year olds by making college a strong option.  By the way, no one has sued over Junior College’s 2-foreign-player limit!
  • Robert Sasseville: When you have an unreliable ranking system to select players into events, you don’t have an accurate predictor of champions.  The JCC should halt and start over.  Get a task force and re-examine.  You need the input of your customers.
  • Dave Haggerty: We don’t have any answers at this point but we have a lot of thoughts.  We’re hearing the same themes at these meetings.  You won’t see the changes as they are now going into effect in 2014.
  • Walker Sahag: When you streamline opportunities, you negatively impact players’ opportunity to develop.
  • Patricia Boulais: I suggest that USTA work some hotel and airline deals if you’re really serious about saving families money.
  • Scott Schultz: The small number of players competing at the national level make it not such a great deal for companies to offer a discount.  They don’t get much bang for their buck.  How many in this room think we need doubles at tournaments?  [Most hands went up] Should we keep the feed-in consolations?  [Most hands went up]
  • Chuck Kriese: If USTA did nothing to train and develop players, the tournaments should help players develop.  Hybrid scoring systems are crippling our children.  We should honor the scoring system of tennis.  Learning how to win 3 points in a row.  Backdraw kids are often the toughest kids!  These are the things that make players.  But backdraws are only valuable at big tournaments.  Experiencing the pain of losing is very important for development.  Playing pro sets in doubles is crap!  Full  doubles matches should take priority over backdraws.  The concept of winning 3 points in a row is sacred.  Those 3-minute or 10-minute set breaks kill momentum in a match.  Just let the kids play.  If a player is too tired, then he’ll lose and the match will be over soon enough.
  • Patricia Boulais: You have new players coming up but you’re streamlining opportunities for them.
  • Dave Haggerty: While there will be fewer national events, there will also be more local events.
  • A Dad: If I choose for my kid to miss school, it’s my choice!  If I choose to spend my money on tournaments, it’s my choice!  I’d like to see a show of hands of how many pros in this room have had a player outside the National Top 100 who got a college scholarship.  [Many, many hands were raised]
  • Jessica Amick: What about creating more sectional tournaments with national points?
  • Andrea Norman: Currently there are 12 sectional events with national points.  In 2014, there will be 2 Level 3s and some Level 4s with national points.  The Committee can discuss this the next time it meets.
  • Jerry Baskin: I’d be a lot happier if the people making these decisions were people who have been in the trenches and who know the pathway to success.
  • Dave Haggerty: A lot of thought and care went into the selection of the JCC.  It’s always difficult to reach perfection.  The Committee wants to do what is right for junior tennis.  One thing the Committee heard at the meetings held during Winter Nationals is that families want events where all the age groups play in the same city.
  • Johan Kriek: USTA is doing well to listen.  I am a former professional player who did pretty well on the tour.  I’m now coaching and learning as I go.  USTA needs to listen to folks like Eddie Gonzalez, Jerry Baskin, and Coach Kriese.
  • Jerry Baskin: If USTA could get together with NCAA and offer prize money to juniors to offset expenses, that would make our system comparable to the foreign system.
  • Chuck Kriese: In the late 1990’s, 86 international college players were ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of prize money they had won.  The NCAA gave them a 3-match penalty which enabled the teams to arrange their schedules so they could “duck” tough opponents while those players were benched.
  • Dave Haggerty: Thank you all for coming.  We are listening and will take back all we’ve heard here today.  Don’t forget to use the email address if you think of anything else after we leave.
  • Lisa Stone: Please, please don’t take away opportunities for our kids!

The opposition to the 2014 changes seemed to be unanimous, and I think the USTA folks recognized that fact.  After the meeting ended, several pow-wows were going on around the room.  I have heard that many of the attendees emailed those JCC members who were unable to attend with their thoughts and suggestions.  For what it’s worth, I left the meeting feeling hopeful.

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 or dates of the meetings, please click on the 2014 Jr Comp Info tab above.