Earlier this week, I received an email from Bill Mountford, currently USTA’s Market Development Specialist and one of the guys present at the 2nd listening meeting in Rocky Hill, CT. He was coming to town for the USPTA’s 10-and-under coaching workshop and wanted to meet me. He said he had no proposed agenda for this meeting but simply wanted to sit down and chat. I figured it would be a great opportunity to ask him some very pointed questions about the 2014 junior comp changes and where things were heading. I was right.
The main point that came out of our 2 1/2+ hour conversation is that many of the parents and coaches who came to the first two listening meetings seemed either uninformed or confused over exactly what the 2014 junior competition changes entail. Some came into the meetings not even knowing that these changes had been proposed and approved. So, those of us who ARE familiar with the changes need to do a much better job of talking to our fellow tennis parents and coaches about exactly what the changes are and how they will impact our junior players. To that end, I am working with a group to put together a one-sheeter that very clearly lays out the changes along with their intended and unintended consequences. Once that document is ready for public consumption, I will post it here in hopes that all of you reading my blog will share it early and often!
Another major point is the need for those attending the listening meetings to understand the purpose of the listening meetings. According to Bill, the meetings are not designed as Q&A sessions where parents and coaches ask questions and USTA folks give answers defending the changes. They are designed as an opportunity for the stakeholders in junior tennis – players, parents, and coaches – to tell USTA exactly what works and what doesn’t work in the 2014 schedule and to give specific personal examples as evidence. For example, regarding the elimination of Winter Nationals in December, perhaps you could tell USTA that because of your child’s school schedule and obligations, traveling to national events during the school year is not an option for you. But, Winter Nationals is the one national tournament your child is able to play (not counting the summer tourneys) because she is on break from school. It is her opportunity to gauge how her hard work on and off the courts during the Fall is paying off. By eliminating that event, USTA is making it so she will only have the Summer national events to play IF the new quota system even allows her a spot in the shrunken draws.
Bill asked me to remind you that if you are unable to attend one of the listening meetings, USTA has set up an email address, Letusknow@usta.com, for you to voice your concerns. He assured me that he is personally reading every single email that comes in and has even called several folks for clarification on their messages. Your email won’t fall on deaf ears. Please take the time to write, keeping in mind the need to be very specific and to include personal stories to underline your concerns. Refer to USTA’s document outlining the changes (the link is at the end of this post) in your email so Bill knows that you’ve read the changes and understand them.
Toward the end of our time together, I asked Bill what the status is, moving forward, on the 2014 changes. He told me that the USTA Board will be voting in December (probably this weekend) on the pause put forth by the current Junior Comp Committee relative to the 2013 national junior tournament schedule – to change the draw sizes for the Boys’ and Girls’ 18s & 16s USTA National Clay Courts and the USTA National Championships (hard courts) from 128 to 192, reversing the reduction in draw size previously approved by the USTA Executive Committee on March 19, 2012. Basically, votes will be counted concerning the short-term pause that was agreed upon at the October meeting in Chicago with Steve Bellamy, Antonio Mora, Robert Sasseville, Sean Hannity, and Kevin Kempin. Bill went on to say that at the Annual Meeting in March 2013, USTA leadership will likely review any proposed refinements/changes to the approved 2014 national junior tournament schedule and any feedback from the listening sessions, after which a vote will be taken on how to proceed in 2014; mid- or long-term changes to the 2014 schedule could be voted upon at that time.
You may wonder why USTA is continuing to hold listening meetings even after the December vote takes place. It’s because USTA needs to hear from all of us about what tweaks and refinements we want to see to the already-approved changes to the 2014 schedule before its Annual Meeting in March.
Shortly after our meeting, I received a follow-up email from Bill that included the names and affiliations of the members of the 2013-14 Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee – included on that list are Steve Bellamy and Kevin Kempin, among others (see complete list below). Please look carefully at the names and make note of any members from your Section. Reach out to them and express your concerns. It is crucial that they hear from you now so they can go into the new year and their first meetings understanding the level of discontent with the 2014 changes.
I want to publicly thank Bill for reaching out to me and being so candid. I left our meeting feeling confident that USTA finally understands the need to communicate more effectively with its stakeholders and to be more transparent in its procedures. In this age of social media, one misstep can lead to a PR nightmare, as it has with these 2014 changes. Based on what Bill told me, I feel much better about where things are headed. There are several members on the new committee who are parents and who understand what’s at stake here. I trust they’ll do the right thing by our kids.
USTA 2013-2014 Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee Members
|Committee Chair||Andrea||Norman||Northern California|
|ED Liaison||Mary||Buschmann||Missouri Valley|