New Rules in GA for U10s & U12s

gasquetaschild

Why, you might ask, is there a French magazine cover pictured at the top of this post?  Well, 2 reasons . . . first of all, because I want everyone to notice that it features French pro, Richard Gasquet, at the age of 9, playing tennis using a yellow ball.  Second of all, because in just a few weeks I’ll be at Roland Garros watching a couple of days of phenomenal tennis at the French Open and am pretty darn excited!  (P.S. Anyone who wants to hook me up with courtside seats, you know how to reach me!)

Some of you may have gotten wind of the changes happening across the country with 10-and-under tennis and the mandated use of the ROG balls in tournament play.  What you may not know is that ROG is now infiltrating the 12s, too.

The state of Georgia implemented a new competition structure for the 12-and-under crowd this year, and more changes are coming in 2014.  I spent some time on the phone with Rick Davison, USTA Georgia’s Director of Junior & Adult Competition, to find out what’s new, what’s coming, and the reason behind the changes.

As of today, all Georgia sanctioned 10-and-under tournaments use an orange ball on a 60 foot court.  For the 12s, in local Georgia sanctioned tournament levels 4 and 5 only, players use the Stage 1 green ball on a full-size court; at the higher level local tournaments, the 12s use a yellow ball.

What does that mean?  It means that a child who is under the age of 13 who wants to compete in a local tournament on a full-size court with yellow balls must play in the 14-and-under age division.  So, if your child is 9 years old (or 10 or 11 or 12), practicing each day with a yellow ball on a regular court because you and the coach feel the child is ready, and wants to compete under those same conditions, you must put him or her in the 14s in order to play a local event.

Take a close look at this photo:

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The player on the left is my son, age 11, playing at a local Georgia tournament in the 12-and-under division.  The player on the right is his opponent, also age 11.  Please note the physical size difference between the 2 boys.  Now, imagine that, in order to play with regular balls on a regular court, my son had to play in the 14s . . . and my son was already 11 in this picture!  He would’ve gotten crushed!

I asked Rick why Georgia decided to implement these new rules for the 12s.  He told me that the talented 12-and-under players have historically always played up in the 14s anyway at the local events, so this change won’t impact them.  The target audience for this change is the 10-and-under player who is transitioning from the orange ball.  Georgia felt that it would make an easier transition for the players if they have a stint with the green ball on the way to the yellow ball.  So far, Rick says, the Georgia kids are transitioning well in the Southern section, and the level of play in the 12s is getting better.

One other change that happened in the 10s this year was the shift to 4-game sets.  Rick says that he was initially opposed to this change but quickly realized that the parents were in favor due to the much longer rallies with the orange balls – matches that were 2 out of 3 6-game sets were lasting much too long.

For 2014, Georgia is making some additional changes in terms of the match and tournament format.  For the 10-and-unders only, since matches are the best of 3 4-game sets, tournament fees will be reduced and tournaments will most likely be compressed into one-day events.  Rick acknowledged the fact that parents are unhappy about traveling to a tournament, having to spend money on a hotel and restaurant meals, for their child to play these short sets.  Georgia’s answer is to shorten the tournament for these young players so parents can avoid most of the travel expenses.

In case you were wondering, Georgia isn’t the only place seeing these types of changes.  Texas has been under an even more-complicated system for the last year with more changes going into effect this month (click here to read the new rules).  The NorCal section recently introduced its Junior Development Pathway illustrating the progression of a young player from the red to the orange to the green and, finally, to the yellow ball.  Please note that in both Texas and NorCal, progression from one level to the next is absolutely mandated by the section itself – a player may not jump to the appropriate level based on their own personal development but rather must go through each painstaking step in order to move to the yellow ball in competition.  I’ve recently heard that the Midwest section is looking to adopt similar mandates for its 10s and 12s, too.  To hear more about what’s going on around the US, listen to the podcast of my radio show with Lawrence Roddick and others by clicking on this link: ParentingAces Radio Show

If your child is ready to move on, developmentally-speaking, be assured that alternative opportunities are popping up across the country.  Take a look at the events I have listed on our 10-and-Under Tourneys page above – I will continue to add to the list as more events are created so please check back regularly for updates.

I also want to direct you to the complaint that Ray Brown filed with the US Olympic Committee regarding the 10-and-under initiative.  You can click here to read the complaint and all subsequent responses on Ray’s website.

And for those who missed my recent Facebook post/Tweet, proof positive that kids younger than 13 can train and play with a yellow ball:

Pete Sampras Age 10

 

Tweet

If This Doesn’t Convince You . . .

Spreadsheet Links

2014 National comparison with 2009 and 2012 -with teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following information was emailed to me by Jason Lampione – tennis coach, mentor, and writer – who was in attendance at the Rocky Hill, CT, “listening” meeting held by USTA.  These are simply Jason’s notes taken during the meeting – he will be compiling his own analysis of them over the next day or so which I will then post on ParentingAces for you to read.  

This second meeting was led by incoming USTA President Dave Haggerty and USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis Kurt Kamperman and was attended by 30-40 (exact number unknown) parents and coaches.  I have inserted my comments in italics at the end of certain bullet points below.  

USTA released a statement via email to some key people after the meeting – that statement is posted in its entirety on the ParentingAces Facebook page.  Please read and share all of this information with other tennis parents and coaches so our voices will be heard.  Thank you.

NOTE:  I have edited the article based on comments shared by Bill Mountford of USTA – my edits are in ALL CAPS below.

  • In two years, we would like to see the USTA go from an 800 pound gorilla to a more balanced 400 pounds.  (D. Haggerty)
  • Communication and structure are problematic within the USTA.  (parent)  This is an issue that I’ve been discussing with various USTA committee members and staff.  They have to do a better job of communicating with the membership.  USTA has a Facebook page, is on Twitter, and sends out regular emails – the tools are in place.  There is no excuse for the lack of communication on these proposed changes and other relevant issues.
  • We’re going to reduce the cost of travel within each section of the USTA.  (D. Haggerty) How is USTA going to accomplish this feat?  They’re proposing to CREATE REGIONS now, potentially increasing the cost of travelling to tournaments.  Is USTA going to develop relationships with gasoline companies and airlines and hotel chains to give discounts to members?  If so, I’m in full support!
  • Kids at every level have better competition through earned attainment.  (K. Kamperman) I agree with this statement as it applies WITHIN sections.  However, we all realize that the strength between sections varies enormously, so if a player emerges as the best in a weak section then goes to a national event to compete against the best player in a strong section, I’m not sure how that’s better competition for the strong-section player. 
  • Our children are playing each other at least 5, 6 and even 7 times within the tournament format within our section.  (parent) That’s why it’s good to have the option to play OUTSIDE your section.  Why would USTA want to limit or eliminate that option?  I still don’t understand the reasoning here.
  • The regional format is pretty good.  (parent) I would question whether or not this parent has looked at the new region map and how much travel it could potentially involve.
  • Playing other regions gives better competition.  (parent) I agree.  Kids love the chance to play against new opponents.  That’s why we need to increase the opportunities to play nationally and increase the draws at those national events. 
  • Playing within only one region doesn’t allow for proper player development.  (parent) I think it depends upon the region.  But, generally speaking, yes, I would agree with this statement.  Playing a wider variety of opponents gives a developing player the opportunity to learn how to deal with a variety of tactics, making him/her into a more complete player.
  • The consensus is that variety is good!  (K. Kamperman) Yes, it is!
  • It is terrible that players cannot get on-court coaching.  (parent) That’s an issue for another day.
  • I spend all this money, and our players have very limited options.  (parent)
  • The pressure to perform and accumulate points in each round is incredible and very costly to us parents.  (parent) Pressure to perform is a big part of tennis, of any sport really.  If that pressure is harming your child, then maybe it’s time to find a different activity that is better-suited to the child’s temperament.  High-level competition is NOT for everybody!
  • You cannot limit a player’s potential just by their ranking or age.  (parent) I’m not exactly sure what this parent is saying.  I think we all agree that the current PPR ranking system could use some work.
  • Distance and travel, financially, is troublesome for certain parents, especially outside our region!  (parent)
  • In the Eastern section, I am being charged 25 dollars per each tournament main draw entry along with traveling expenses.  This is becoming too much for me and my husband to handle, financially speaking!  (parent) I think we can all agree that tennis is an expensive sport, especially if you’re trying to develop a player to the top echelons.  However, I must say I’m surprised by the $25 entry fee – we pay much higher fees ($45 and up) in our section, even at local tournaments.
  • International players are heavily marketed here in the United States, and our American counterparts are being singled out!  (parent) I’m not sure I understand this statement.  If someone could clarify for me, that would be helpful.
  • From experience, most USTA coaches only support players here in the United States who are highly ranked!  (parent) That’s a problem inherent in the Player ID and Player Development departments of USTA.  Those departments are charged with identifying players who have the potential to become our next American champions.  The question becomes: would the dollars allocated to paying the salaries of those coaches be better spent supporting local coaches who are developing top-level players in their own backyards?
  • The entire ‘talent id’ for pre-adolescents is a complete crap shoot.  (K. Kamperman) Amen, Mr. Kamperman!  I’m hoping to see USTA do away with this piece of the puzzle entirely and paint with a broader brush when using its financial resources for player development.
  • The Mid-Atlantic region converts every parent into a cash machine and is ultra selective as per the ability of the player they choose to work with.  (parent)
  • I feel that I should homeschool my child just so he/she can get ahead and attend a better school!  (parent) I still don’t understand how the proposed changes are going to reduce missed school days.  Can someone please explain that one to me?  Is homeschooling going to become the necessary norm for those wanting to achieve the highest levels in junior tennis?  Is it already the norm?
  • By expanding the participation base here in the United States, we have a wider audience to draw from, player-wise!  (K. Kamperman) Agree.
  • When my child is being coached at a club, I have no idea how to measure the quality of the program with regard to the training environment!  (parent) This is where USTA could really step in and prove to be a valuable resource to parents.  I hope the parent quoted here finds my blog and reads my series on Choosing A Coach!
  • I am in favor of increased draw sizes at the national level, tournament wise!  (parent) Me, too!
  • You [the USTA] need to make the draws more backended!  (parent) What does that mean?
  • We have to look at the structure, with regard to the rankings.  (K. Kamperman) I’m not sure what Mr. Kamperman is saying here.  Is he concerned about the current PPR ranking system?  If so, I’m very glad to hear that and hope that it is re-evaluated to include head-to-head competition.
  • There isn’t any other ranking system in any other sport that doesn’t come under heavy scrutiny!  (K. Kamperman)
  • I’d like to see more American players get more scholarships.  (D. Haggerty) Me, too, Mr. Haggerty!  How is USTA going to make that happen?  Is it going to take a firmer stand with NCAA and college coaches and athletic directors?  We need USTA to advocate for our kids in this regard.
  • I think it is good for both the American and International players to compete with one another.  (D. Haggerty) That is why the ITF circuit is such a great option for many players.
  • The USTA is not in the driver’s seat for college scholarships.  (K. Kamperman) Right.  Those rules are established by NCAA.  USTA could, however, take a stronger position and advocate for increased scholarships on the men’s side and for limiting the number of scholarships that go to international players.  The NJCAA has already paved the way.
  • The parents’ feedback and recommendations have no value with regard to influencing change within the USTA.  (parent) I think these listening meetings prove otherwise.  At the very least, USTA is making an effort to get feedback directly from those of us affected by these proposed changes.  Whether or not it acts on that feedback is yet to be seen.  I’m trying to remain hopeful.
  • The players from Florida and California are complaining that other sections have weaker competition.  (parent) The statistics confirm that fact.  I looked at the November 2012 National Standing List for the Boys 18s – the sections with the most players in the top 100 are (in order) Southern California (17), Texas & Southern (tied with 12), Florida & Eastern (tied with 10), and Midwest (9).
  • If I was running the USTA like a business, I don’t know why I would limit American players’ options!  (parent)
  • I think it is good business if the USTA supports the passion of players here in the US.  (parent)
  • The emotional rollercoaster that my child suffers, because of the extreme pressure in performing, is hampering his passion to wanna compete.  (parent) High-level competition isn’t for everyone.  Parents have to look at each child to determine what’s in his/her best interest.  One thing I will say is that, at least in the Southern section, there are many levels of competition from which to choose.  For a player who doesn’t thrive under the pressure of high-level play, there are other options to still compete but at a lower stress level.
  • Parents aren’t seeing developmental plans from USTA coaches.  (parent) Again, I feel like USTA could really be a positive force if it would become more of a guide for parents trying to navigate the complicated tournament and development system.
  • We’re gonna look at all recommended proposals and pass them on to section leaders.  (K. Kamperman) A question that was posed on the ParentingAces Facebook page: “What will compel USTA to change anything as a result of holding these ‘listening’ meetings?”  I would really like to hear USTA’s answer to this question as I think it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle.
  • A VOTE FROM THE USTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGARDING A PAUSE TO THE CHANGES FOR 2013 WILL TAKE PLACE IN DECEMBER 2012.  USTA LEADERSHIP WILL REVIEW FEEDBACK FROM THESE “LISTENING” MEETINGS DURING THE ANNUAL MEETING IN MARCH AFTER WHICH A VOTE WILL BE TAKEN ON HOW TO PROCEED IN 2014.   (K. Kamperman) This is why we need to communicate NOW with our section presidents and let them know our thoughts on these proposed changes.  Time is of the essence.
  • Currently, 88,000 kids play at all levels here in the US.  (K. Kamperman)
  • Increasing participation at the high school level will help increase the USTA bottom line, player-wise!  (coach) I have to disagree with this statement, at least insofar as high school tennis in Georgia is currently structured.  Our state high school association has passed an eligibility rule which will effectively eliminate all high-performance players from their high school teams.  The level of competition in our state’s high schools has become on par with recreational league tennis.
  • I travel from Rochester to NYC seven times a year and it is VERY costly and time-consuming.  (parent)
  • I wonder if the USTA is willing to pick up the traveling expenses for players who travel outside of their respective region.  (parent) I know my section (Southern) does have need-based scholarship funds available to help offset some of the costs of junior tennis.  I’m guessing other sections have something similar.
  • I’m on the board of player development for the New England section and am concerned about these new rule changes.  (coach)
  • There is no guarantee for our children, especially when we have to spend so much money for travel and tournament fees that I am beginning to think the investment isn’t worth it anymore!  (parent) That is a decision each family has to make for itself.  With my three kids, only one of whom is a tennis player, I’ve found that pursuing an interest to the point of mastery is expensive, whether it’s a sport or an art form.

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

December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX

Let me say again that it is crucial that parents and coaches take the time to educate themselves on the issues and attend these meetings.  To read the proposed changes, click here.  If you can’t attend a meeting, then please use the new email address, letusknow@usta.com, to communicate your concerns to USTA.

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

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

USTA Town Hall Meeting

11/17/2012

Mid-Atlantic Annual Meeting — Reston, VA

Representing the USTA:       Lew Brewer, Director Junior Competition

Scott Schultz, Managing Director, Youth Tennis

Scott Schultz (SS):            Introduction

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

This is 1st town hall meeting

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

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

it is NOT about trying to make great players

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

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

the vast majority of players are better served by playing locally

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

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

Q (audience member):  why reduce draw size?

LB:          it used to be 128

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CK:         Very big and serious issue.

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

$63 million in scholarships given to foreign players.

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

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

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

LB:          Most kids better served by competing locally

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

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

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

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

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

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

The quotas are horrible.

LB:          explains how quotas will work.

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

LB:          yes.

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

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

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

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

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

November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX

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

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

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

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

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

November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX

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

URGENT: USTA 2014 Jr Comp Update

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

A Great Fix

I recently met with Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes to talk about various aspects of junior and college tennis.  Ross grew up playing junior tennis and went on to play at the University of Florida.  He now works with junior players and their families to navigate the college recruiting process, so I trust him as a reliable resource on matters having to do with junior tennis and college.

He asked me to give him the down-and-dirty rundown on what’s going on with the USTA’s proposed changes to the junior competition schedule and the feedback I’ve been hearing from other parents as well as coaches.  Then, he shared with me what I consider a brilliant solution . . .

Instead of making the draws smaller at the big national tournaments (Winter Nationals, National Clay Courts, and National Hard Courts), taking away the opportunity for many junior players to have the experience of playing at these events, why not have 2 equal-sized draws of 128 each where the players ranked 1-128 play in one draw and the players ranked 129-256 play in the other?  There would be a modified feed-in consolation for each draw, so players would either be guaranteed 2 or 3 matches (that detail can be worked out later).  The two separate draws could have a staggered start-date so that court availability wouldn’t be an issue, and play would continue on a daily basis so no player would have a day off, needlessly spending money on a hotel and meals and rental car.

What made Ross come up with such a format?  He says, “I was looking at how many matches are uncompetitive at our national events.  I looked at Hard Courts and Clay Courts in the 18’s for boys and girls this summer, and over 20% of all main draws matches are not competitive.  I would define that as one of the players not getting even 3 games in either set.  6-2, 6-2 is not competitive.”

From the tournament directors’ perspective, this approach is a win-win.  More players means more income from entry fees.  More players also means more revenue for the host community in terms of hotel rooms, restaurants, rental cars, shopping, etc. which makes the event an easier “sell” to potential sponsors.

From the college coaches’ perspective, it’s a win-win.  The coaches from the top D1 schools could focus their time watching Players 1-128, those most likely to be candidates for their programs.  The coaches from the 2nd tier D1 and the D2 and D3 schools could focus their time watching Players 129-256, those most likely to be candidates for their programs.  This format would attract more coaches from a variety of schools, which would give the players and their families a chance to speak to those coaches face-to-face and learn more about the individual programs.

I asked University of Georgia’s Men’s Head Coach, Manny Diaz, what he thought of the proposal.  He says, “I like the idea. In the context of keeping more kids involved in the highest levels of our sport, I would also think having a 64 qualifying draw with 8 qualifiers into a 128 draw would be a good consideration.”  Not a bad addition to the plan, Coach!

From the players’ perspective, it’s a win-win.  More kids get to play in the most prestigious American junior tennis tournaments.  They have the opportunity to play more competitive matches from the get-go since the draws will be separated by ranking, which should avoid that dreaded 0&0 “triple crown” effect that Lew Brewer alluded to when I spoke to him about the smaller draw sizes.  More players have the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with coaches who will be interested in, and have the possibility of, recruiting them.  For those players in the 129-256 draw who aspire to play at a higher-level D1 school, getting their ranking into that top 128 so those coaches will watch them play gives them a concrete goal to work toward for the next year.  For those who say it’s too expensive to travel to these national events, this proposed format would reduce the amount of time you would have to stay at the event by ensuring play (barring weather delays) on consecutive days.  Of course, whether or not a family chooses to travel for a child’s tennis is completely their own decision, but if the child’s goal is to compete on the national level and eventually play college tennis, why not provide a scenario that gives them the best chance of getting into the tournament and playing some good competitive matches while there, not to mention the best chance of being seen by the appropriate college coaches?

And, unlike the “waterfall draws” of our current Southern Level 3 tournaments, under this proposed format the top kids would get the chance to compete against one another, driving each other to get better.  Ross told me the story of a player he worked with a few years ago.  He asked me, “Do you remember when Federer was #1, Nadal was #2, and Djokovic was #3?  Do you know how many times Djokovic played Federer and Nadal that year?  Thirteen times!”  Ross talked about how much Djokovic improved that year, how playing the top two guys drove him to work harder to figure out how to beat them.  He then went on to tell me about his player, ranked #3 in the country, a very strong recruit.  “Do you know how many times my player got to play the #1 and #2 players during his junior year?  Zero!”  That is one of the often-overlooked flaws in our current tournament system.  We need rivalries at the top.  That’s what fuels hard work, ambition, and a hunger to get better.  And it’s one of the reasons we see many college players at the top programs develop to the next level – that daily competition against their peers.

To summarize . . .
Benefits:
  • Better match play for all participants
  • Better for athletes and parents in the recruiting process
  • Better for college coaches in the recruiting process
  • Better for the host city and the tournament director
  • Gives more kids a chance to play the big national events
  • Gives kids concrete goals to shoot for
Negatives:
  • I just don’t see any.  Do you?  If so, please share in the Comments below.