Twelve Days in LA

We’re back at home after almost a month of straight travel – it’s been an amazing summer, one that is ending too soon since my son goes back to school on Monday.

I know I haven’t written much about our time in Florida, and I promise to get to that, too, but I want to share with y’all our experiences in SoCal while they’re still fresh in my memory (those of you who know me, know that is a very big deal, lol).

The planning for our SoCal excursion really began back in April when Craig Cignarelli and Lester Cook spoke to my son about spending time with them over the summer. My son was really excited about working with them and some of the college players they train, so we devised a summer tournament schedule that would allow for him to have plenty of time with them. However, things don’t always work out as planned, and our 12 days in SoCal wound up looking very different that what we envisioned.

We arrived at LAX early afternoon on a Thursday. My son had reached out to Craig and Lester to arrange time on the court, but neither of them were available until the following Monday. Okay. Time for Plan B.

Steve Bellamy, creator of the Tennis Channel and owner of the Palisades Tennis Center, came to my son’s rescue! He invited my son over to the tennis center to hit with one of his sons and some of the other kids training there. It was the perfect way for my son to jump-start the trip and to make some new tennis friends (and collect their phone numbers for future hits) in the area. The next day, the Bellamys invited us to their house for my son to hit with their son again. The boys played a couple of sets while the parents chatted – it was great! Afterward, we headed back to my mother-in-law’s house for a quick shower before heading down to Venice Beach to walk around and grab some lunch to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday. Of course, the weather was absolutely spectacular, and we had a ball people-watching down there!

Saturday morning was my son’s first taste of LiveBall at the Palisades Tennis Center (click here to read my post about that experience). He wound up spending the rest of the day hanging out with his cousin, Ethan, at the Third Street Promenade, walking around and doing whatever it is teenage boys like to do (I’ve learned NOT to ask too many questions!).

The next day, it was back to Pacific Palisades and the Bellamys for my son to hit with their oldest, Robbie, who plays for USC. My son later admitted that he was a little nervous about whether or not he would be able to hang with Robbie, but after a couple of minutes, both boys got into a groove and were smacking balls back and forth, running each other like crazy. While the boys played, the parents talked, and both Steve and his wife, Beth, shared some very valuable insights with us about the college recruiting process. Basically, as I’ve said before, these kids have to be proactive with the college coaches in order to get and stay on their radar. It’s a lesson my son seems to be learning pretty well so far, thankfully.

We found out later that afternoon that neither Craig nor Lester were going to be able to work with my son while we were there. It was okay, though, because they gave my son the phone numbers for several college players who were available to hit with him each day, so my son started texting them to set up his schedule for the week.

On Monday, we drove up the coast to Santa Barbara to see the UCSB campus and to meet with the head coach, Marty Davis. Omigosh, what a gorgeous place! Coach Davis spent almost two hours with us, taking us around the campus, showing us the tennis facilities, and explaining how he runs his program. It was a very productive day since it was the first of the California schools outside of LA that my son had visited. We were all very impressed.

We decided to sleep in Tuesday morning then headed to Playa del Rey for a quick visit to the Loyola Marymount University campus. The coach was running tennis camp so wasn’t available to meet, but we saw the courts and the gorgeous campus. Afterward, we drove to Marina del Rey to walk around before heading back to the Palisades Tennis Center for a quick hit with the kids preparing for National Hardcourts. Then it was a short drive to UCLA and the LA Tennis Center for my son to hit with team member Ryoto Tachi. Ryoto is one of the hardest working young men I’ve ever met! His parents live in Moscow, but the family is originally from Japan, and Ryoto moved to California by himself while in high school to train and prepare for college. He and my son spent a lot of time together over the next few days, hitting and talking about college and tennis and life in SoCal. Ryoto’s mom was in town visiting, so we all had dinner together Tuesday night at Sugarfish, a sushi restaurant highly recommended by UCLA Assistant Coach Grant Chen – it was delicious!

In keeping with our theme of college campus visits, Wednesday found us on the Pepperdine campus for my son to hit with team member Alex “Sasha” Solonin. Every time I step foot on that campus, I’m in awe of its beauty. It’s situated atop a hillside in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Because summer tennis camp was in session, the boys wound up playing on the lower courts while we sat on the steps staring at the water in the background. Wow! I actually left for a bit and went for a walk on the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ocean-sides of some of the Malibu beach houses, but there’s a giant fence blocking access. Oh well. Late that afternoon, my son met Ryoto on the UCLA campus to work out at the gym while I visited with head coach Billy Martin back at the tennis center.

Thursday was another hit with Ryoto at UCLA. The boys started on the main courts but wound up moving to another set of courts near the dorms, so it was a great opportunity for my son to see another area of the campus. They played a couple of sets while Ryoto’s mom and I chatted about the challenges of having your child on the other side of the world. She comes to the States at least twice a year to visit him, and Ryoto gets home to Moscow and Tokyo once a year, but still – it’s a long way from home! I asked her how Ryoto decided to move to California to train and go to school, and she told me that it’s very difficult for athletes in Japan to develop in their sport while achieving academically – they typically have to choose between their sport or their education. The American college system offers a great opportunity to do both.

We headed back to the UCLA courts on Friday morning for one last hitting session with Ryoto. While the boys were on court, my husband and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for a long walk around our alma mater. There have definitely been some changes on campus over the past 29 years! That night, we met up with Steve Bellamy for a late dinner in Malibu at Nobu and enjoyed some amazing food while overlooking the ocean – heaven!

The ITA Summer Circuit tournament at Cal State LA started on Saturday morning. Since my son didn’t really know anyone playing in the tourney, he was struggling to find a warm-up partner, but Steve came through for him and set up an early morning hit at his courts with Katie LaFrance who was there from Arkansas training at the tennis center. Apparently, Katie did a great job of getting my son ready for his match because he pulled out a tight one over the 7 seed in the first round then went on to win his second match 0 & 0! All the practice matches he had played during the week prepared him so well for his tournament opponents. He was definitely in Fight Mode out there! Those first two matches were played at Azusa Pacific University, about an hour northeast of where we were staying. The weather in the desert is much different than what we had been experiencing all week – it was incredibly hot (over 100 degrees on court) and dry with very little breeze and zero shade on the courts.

One of the highlights of Saturday was the fact that my son had a sizeable cheering section for his first match. My Facebook (and, now, real life) friend, Karl Rosenstock, was there to shoot some photos and videos of the tournament. Another Facebook friend and fellow tennis parent, Bobby Chacoin, brought his daughter Izzy out to watch, too. And my brother brought his two kids out as well. It was great to see everyone and for my son to hear their support throughout a tough first round.

The next day, my son had an early warmup at Cal State for his 3rd round match against the middle son of USC head coach Peter Smith. Unfortunately, Riley got the better of my kid that morning, but there were some very valuable take-aways from the match. Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes was at the tournament and watched my son play. Afterward, he and my son went out for lunch to discuss the match, some things my son can work on over the next few months, and the progress my son is making with his tennis and his college recruiting.

We were scheduled to fly home Monday afternoon but still had a couple of things to accomplish before we headed to the airport. We made one last drive up PCH to Malibu for my son to check in with Craig Cignarelli. We then hopped over to Pepperdine for my son to meet with newly-appointed head coach Marcelo Ferreira. Did I mention how gorgeous that campus is?!?!? Then, off to LAX for our flight home.

It was an incredible trip, one in which my son learned and grew as a player and a man. Each time we take one of these excursions, I realize how much tennis is giving him and how much it is helping him learn the lessons that will serve him so well the rest of his life.

Enjoy the photos!

 

No Regrets

Sometimes we make decisions then immediately regret them. Sometimes we make decisions then begin to doubt them. Sometimes, though, we make decisions and never look back. The decision leading my son and me to spend the last week in Los Angeles shifted through all three of those scenarios.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, my son decided against entering the Closed Regional (L4) or National Selection (L2) tournaments because, based on his current ranking, he didn’t think he would be selected for either one. Instead, we made the choice to spend the time and money traveling back to Los Angeles for an intensive week of training.

Once the competitor lists were posted for both the L2 and L4, my son and I realized he would have definitely gotten into the L4 with a shot at the L2 as well. That’s when regret set in. Think of all the potential ranking points he could’ve gotten! Think of what this could’ve done for his TRN ranking and rating! How’s he possibly going to get that additional star during this rating period now?

As the date for our trip got closer, I started second-guessing our choice. There were openings in the B18 draw in Mobile. Should we change our plans and head down there instead? Would the impending snow/ice keep us from getting to LA anyway? How important is that extra star on TRN?

But then the stars aligned. My son’s school got proactive for the storm (our second in 2 weeks) and announced on Monday that school would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday in addition to the 4 days already allocated for the February break. I called Delta to find out if we could change our out-bound flight to LA and leave Tuesday morning before the storm was due to hit. Turns out, Delta was being proactive, too! They not only changed our flights, giving us the last 2 seats on the Tuesday morning flight, but also waived all change fees and fare increases, allowing us to get out of Atlanta – at no additional cost – well before the weather hit. By that point, we weren’t looking back at all at the decision to forego the L4!

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Cruising down the 405

The stars continued to stay in alignment as we arrived at LAX Tuesday morning. We had reserved a rental car, just your typical 4-door sedan, so we could shuttle ourselves around the city. When the rental agent took us out to the lot to choose a car, my son spotted a line of convertible Camaros and asked, jokingly, if we could get one of those. I immediately said no, but the agent told me they were running a special on the Camaro and that it would add a very minimal amount to my weekly rental if we wanted one. Um, YES! There’s nothing quite like driving around LA, up PCH, down to Irvine, or just to the grocery store with the top down and sun shining all around you, especially if you’re escaping the second of back-to-back snow storms at home. We promptly signed the paperwork, put the top down, and headed to Santa Monica to unpack and settle in for our adventure.

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Entrance to Palisades Tennis Center

That first afternoon took us into the Pacific Palisades for my son to join a drill group at the Palisades Tennis Center, owned by Tennis Channel founder and fellow Tennis Parent Steve Bellamy. It was a great way to get on the court and work out some of the kinks after the long flight. Steve stopped by to say hello, and we caught up a bit while the kids hit. It was the perfect start to a week of training!

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My son with Pete Sampras

The next day, my son was scheduled to hit with Lester Cook at the Los Angeles Tennis Center which is situated on the UCLA campus in Westwood. We arrived at the courts just as Pete Sampras was getting there for his own hitting session – I’m sure you can imagine how excited we were to see Pete and say hello to this incredible legend. He was very gracious and posed for a quick photo before heading onto the court. As it turns out, my son was hitting on the court right next to him. We walked through the gate and there was Redfoo – son of Motown great Barry Gordy – of the music group LMFAO (“Party Rock Anthem”) just finishing his lesson with Lester. While he was packing up his gear, Victoria Azarenka walked onto the court, too – it was a star-studded day at UCLA! Lester had my son hit with another one of his students, Jake, who will be playing at Washington University in St. Louis starting next Fall. After hitting some forehands and backhands, Lester told my son to come up to the net and take some volleys. His response: “You want me to take volleys while Pete Sampras is taking volleys right next to me???” He did great, though, and he and Jake played a practice set with Lester coaching between points.

Day Three found us driving up PCH to the Malibu Racquet Club for a session with Craig Cignarelli, followed by a campus tour at Pepperdine, followed by a second session with Craig. Before we got there, Craig had sent me a message warning me that my son’s brain might be a little fried after the day’s sessions. That was an understatement! I’ve never witnessed a coach require a player to think and explain so much during a lesson. For every ball my son hit, Craig wanted to know why he hit to that part of the court with that particular spin and pace. If my son couldn’t provide an answer, Craig plied him with questions, helping him deduce the why and how behind each shot. That continued for 90 minutes with my son eventually able to give a running commentary for each ball he hit. Craig worked with him on patterns, explained the difference between mental and technical errors, and pushed him to new limits. It was a joy to watch. After the campus tour, my son couldn’t wait to get back to the court for more time with Craig. He was fired up over the new things he was learning and was ready for more!

Day Four was again spent with Craig. Even though my son had developed a really nasty blister on his right palm (think Rafa at this year’s Australian Open), Craig found ways to challenge him on the court for another 90 minute session. He asked my son if he had a racquet in his bag with broken strings. Craig then took the racquet, cut the strings to form a hole a little bigger than tennis ball size, and fed balls to my son to practice hitting the “sweet spot” with each swing. At the beginning, my son’s contact point was either above or below the sweet spot on most shots. However, after a couple of minutes, he was consistently causing the ball to swish through the opening, improving his accuracy tremendously. Then Craig asked one of the other coaches, Tina Steinmetz (who just so happened to play at UGA a few years ago), to do a volley drill with my son. They worked on footspeed around the ball as well as placement – Tina’s got some of the quickest hands I’ve ever seen! It was another great day on the court.

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My son with Tommy Shubert

Saturday took us down to Irvine for a hitting session with one of my favorite young pros, Thomas Shubert. I had met Tommy at the US Open last August and knew I wanted my son to meet him, too. We had tried to get together in December, but it just never worked out. This trip, though, Tommy was around and arranged a court at the Woodbridge Tennis Club where Chris Lewis and Chuck Brymer run the show. What a beautiful facility! The guys hopped on a court, and I set up my video camera to capture the moment for posterity. Tommy took my son through some of his favorite drills, pushing him to his limits, giving him a feel for how a player on tour has to train. They went at it pretty intensely for over 2 hours while I soaked up some Southern California sunshine. Afterward, Tommy led us to one of his favorite spots for a late lunch, and my son got to hear first-hand what life on tour is really like. It was a great learning experience for both of us.

On Sunday, we had a lazy morning since my son wasn’t scheduled to hit until 3pm with Craig. We took full advantage – my son took his grandma out to brunch while I met my daughter, Emma, at the Beverly Hills Farmers Market for a little shopping. When we finally arrived in Malibu that afternoon, Craig immediately put my son to work, running patterns and analyzing his own shot selection in order to open up a certain spot on the court. Craig would tell him something like, “I can only hit crosscourt. You hit 4 balls, then the 5th one needs to be a backhand. Figure out how to get there.” They continued in this way for about 20 minutes. By the end of it, MY brain was hurting! I was amazed at how quickly my son worked through the shots in his head, like planning 5 moves ahead in a Chess game, and was able to come up with the proper shot at the proper time. Very impressive to watch. After their on-court work, Craig took us to dinner at one of his favorite local spots and continued the training over pasta and seafood. He discussed with my son how to take this new knowledge home and apply it to his training and match play. He discussed with my son how to manage the inevitable frustration that will crop up while this new information gets integrated into his brain. He discussed with my son a game plan for getting himself ready to play in front of college coaches during the summer tournament season. My son listened, asked questions, absorbed, asked additional questions, and listened some more. Proof positive that as much tennis learning can happen OFF the court as ON it.

Monday was our last full day on the West coast. My son had a morning session with Craig, working on serves and serve returns to set up the patterns he’d been learning all week. They worked solidly for about 2 hours before we took a lunch break then came back for more in the afternoon. My son was determined to take full advantage of every minute Craig could give him. They talked and worked while I videotaped. We were dead-set on capturing as much as we could of Craig’s wisdom on film so my son could review it as needed once we returned home to Atlanta.

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Lester Cook, Redfoo, & my son

Our flight home on Tuesday was scheduled to leave LAX at 2:50pm, so we had to head to the airport no later than 12:30 to have ample time to return the Camaro, check our luggage, and get through security. My son had one last 8am hitting session with Lester at the UCLA courts. It turned out that we got there just as the UCLA men’s tennis team was heading to the gym for their morning workout, so they invited my son to walk over with them and meet the guys and trainers. When he got back to the courts, Lester was ready for him. They hit for about an hour then Lester’s next lesson showed up . . . Redfoo! Lester asked my son to play a set against Redfoo while Lester coached from the baseline on Redfoo’s side of the court. The first set went rather quickly, so they played a second set which I, of course, captured on video. What a blast! My son was in absolute heaven, putting all the lessons he’d learned over the past several days into practice, seeing a positive result, and gaining confidence with every shot. It was a beautiful thing for a Tennis Parent to watch.

After the requisite thank-you’s and photos, we rushed off for a quick meeting with my daughter and Steve Bellamy before heading back to Santa Monica to pack. We made it to the airport in plenty of time (despite the fact that I had forgotten to allocate time to stop for gas!) and had an uneventful flight home.

So, does my son have any regrets about missing the L2/L4 tournament? Not a single one! In fact, he’s already trying to figure out how to get himself back out to LA (and to Craig and Lester) for more training this summer. Honestly, this might be the best tennis decision our family has made in the 10+ years we’ve been doing the junior tennis thing. That’s not to say that my son isn’t getting top-notch coaching at home – he absolutely is – but sometimes a change of scenery and a change of voice are in order. My son just so happened to get both last week, and I think his brain and body were finally in sync enough to take full advantage.

 

 

“If You Don’t Like Us, Find A Way To Get Rid Of Us!”

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“If you don’t like us, find a way to get rid of us!”  That was Patrick McEnroe’s response to a parent’s question regarding the 2014 Junior Competition Changes at last summer’s Girls 12 Nationals in Atlanta, and it was really the beginning of my extensive coverage of the new calendar that USTA was planning to implement beginning January 1, 2014.

Now that the calendar changes have been finalized and approved at the National Board level, I figured I should do a sort-of recap of the process around the changes and how they came to be . . .

  • Some time in 2011: Jon Vegosen, then president of USTA, charged his Junior Competition Committee (JCC) to devise a new national tournament schedule.  Please note that the JCC was chaired by Tim Russell, a former tennis parent who was currently a music professor at Arizona State University, and his assistant chair was Andrea Norman who had very limited experience with junior tennis.  The JCC created the new calendar, some of which was to go into effect January 1, 2013, and some of which was to go into effect January 1, 2014Tom Walker found out about the changes and organized several meetings as well as wrote several opinion pieces that were published on various websites.  The news spread at junior tournaments, and parents were terrified that the rumors were true – who in their right mind would want these changes, especially after investing years and thousands of dollars in a system only to have it changed mid-stream and, for some, right when their children were trying to get into college?  Harsh warnings were issued to people within USTA to keep all information about the changes under wraps until after the March vote.  A woman in the Midwest Section was purportedly fired because she was stirring the pot about the changes.  Sean Hannity published an op-ed on his website that was seen by millions of his readers; he offered personally to fund a survey of the USTA membership to gauge support of or opposition to the changes.  Tim Russell responded to Mr. Hannity’s article with a 17-page memorandum [Note: the link to the memo that was posted on USTA’s website seems to have been deleted] that was hung on tennis club bulletin boards all across the country.
  • March 2012: At the USTA Annual Meeting, the 17 USTA sections approved the new Junior Competition Calendar with a vote of 16-1.  The Southern Section was the only one opposed.
  • Late Summer 2012:  Patrick McEnroe and other USTA staff members traveled to the various National Championships across the US to “hold court” with parents and coaches on the new calendar. These meetings were basically a disaster for USTA and really got parents riled up anew over the changes.  USTA’s stated goals of saving families money and reducing missed school days were proven to be completely bogus – the new system is going to be far more expensive for most families.  And, the new system pretty much guarantees the need to homeschool in order to play at the national level.  Immediately following this “tour,” an online petition was launched by a tennis parent to oppose the changes, and it eventually garnered close to 1000 signatures.
  • September 2012: After getting bombarded at tournaments by parents and players who were against the changes, Sean Hannity (national talk show host with 2 nationally-ranked children), Steve Bellamy (founder of The Tennis Channel with 4 nationally-ranked children), Robert Sasseville (one of the US’s longest-working tournament directors), Kevin Kempin (CEO of Head with 3 nationally-ranked children), and Antonio Mora (broadcast journalist with 1 nationally-ranked child) met with USTA leadership in Northern California and then again in Chicago to discuss their concerns about the calendar changes.  The “Fab Five” were able to get the leadership to agree to a pause for 2013 as well as to hold a “listening tour” across the country with parents and coaches.
  • November 2012:  The “listening tour” kicked off in Reston, VA.  Turnout was extremely low due to the late notice of the meeting.  The meetings clearly demonstrated that virtually no one who was part of the junior tennis world and who understood the changes were in favor them.  With little to no publicity, USTA announced the creation of the LetUsKnow@usta.com email address for folks who were unable to attend one of the “listening meetings” to express their feelings about the changes.  I published the first of many controversial blog posts on the changes, and ParentingAces’ readership began to increase dramatically.  USTA began issuing public statements regarding the changes via its website which were emailed to various media outlets including ParentingAces.  By now, every conversation at every tournament was focused around whether the pause for 2013 was going to be sustainable or whether USTA would forge ahead with the changes in 2014.  College coaches expressed concern about having the ability to see players outside the very top of the rankings.  Tennis pros and facilities were concerned about losing business as parents and players spoke of abandoning the game altogether. One parent went so far as to say, “We just spent nearly $400 thousand on our daughter’s tennis over 5 years, and right as she is about ready to be in a position to be seen by coaches, she won’t be able to play in any of the tournaments where coaches go.”
  • December 2012:  Robert Sasseville created two spreadsheets comparing the tournament opportunities under the pre-2012, current, and proposed calendars which I published on this blog.  That post garnered many comments, some of which were posted under aliases that were USTA volunteers and/or staff members.  The USTA PR machine went to work again, getting an article published on The Examiner about the changes and the listening tour.  Former professional player and current junior coach, Johan Kriek, spoke out against the changes in an interview on TennisNow.com.  The 2013-2014 JCC members were announced – Steve Bellamy and Kevin Kempin were among the new members.  TennisRecruiting.net announced its National Showcase Series of tournaments as an alternative to limited national play under the new USTA calendar.
  • January 2013:  The “listening tour” continued, and I had the opportunity to attend the one in Atlanta.  Tom Walker created a Facebook page to oppose the changes, which quickly gained over 3500 members.  As a point of comparison, USTA’s Junior Comp Facebook page had only 170 members after a full year.
  • February 2013:  The “listening tour” concluded in Grapevine, TX.  I had several phone and email exchanges with Bill Mountford who encouraged me to remain hopeful.  I worked with several other tennis parents and coaches to mount a campaign to contact local USTA leaders and board members in hopes of convincing them to vote down the changes at the March 2013 Annual Meeting.  At the Scottsdale listening meeting, USTA President Dave Haggerty acknowledged that about 90% of the tennis community was opposed to these changes.
  • March 2013:  Lew Brewer informed me that the JCC made some amendments to the junior comp changes at its committee meeting.  At the 2013 USTA Annual Meeting, those changes were approved but still needed Board approval.  Rumors started circulating that Jon Vegosen had made a deal with Dave Haggerty prior to his taking office as President that if any changes were going to be made, Dave had to insure that they didn’t scrap the entire plan and start from scratch with the calendar.
  • April 2013:  The USTA Board approved the modified junior competition calendar to go into effect January 1, 2014.

So, to summarize, here’s where we stand . . . we have a national junior competition schedule that:

1.  Was created by a music professor who didn’t spend any substantive time at junior tournaments and who was subsequently removed from his position;

2.  Was adjusted by Player Development which was then promptly removed from the process;

3.  Was passed by a Junior Competition Committee with only one active junior tennis parent out of the 20 members, and that one active parent was opposed to the schedule.  It is interesting to note that half of the 2011-2012 JCC members were removed when Dave Haggerty took office in 2013;

4.  Was passed by a Board comprised of voters, many of whom admitted after the fact that they were pressured to vote for it and that they really didn’t understand the implications of the changes at all.  Then, the changes were exposed to a 9-city “listening tour” after which USTA executives were told by Dave Haggerty’s own admission that over 90% of the tennis community were opposed to them;

5.  Was then put into the hands of a new Junior Comp Committee with only 2 parents (out of the 20 members) with kids currently competing at the national level, both of whom pushed heavily for a pause.  Please note that it was this new Committee which added back some of the competition opportunities in March 2013;

6.  Was pushed through via the most non-transparent process USTA could’ve possibly utilized.

Never once was the membership polled or asked for its opinion in a meaningful way.  Geoff Grant, a fellow tennis parent, offered to fund a study or any type of mechanism in order to “get it right” – USTA did not take him up on his offer.  And, even though the listening tour comments, Facebook posts, and (admitted by President Dave Haggerty, himself) the majority of consumers were against them, the changes with some opportunity added back were passed.

So, I have to ask USTA one more time:  If the overwhelming majority of your customers, the overwhelming majority of tennis pros, all industry dignitaries who have spoken out (Robert Landsdorp, Wayne Bryan, Jack Sharpe, among others), the brands themselves (Head, Inc. published a letter on its website, and Athletic DNA provided the video footage posted on the USTA-Stop 2014 National Junior Tennis Tournament Changes Facebook page), the college coaches who have commented – with all of the opposition, why would you go forward with these changes?

The only group of people who are in favor of them are the USTA folks themselves, most of whom are NOT parents of current national junior players.

The US tennis community has spoken.  We do not want any of these changes.  We want the 2010 system back in place.  We want experts – not volunteers – to make these decisions on behalf of our junior players, and we want them to make the decisions via a transparent process.

Social Media In Action

Tom Walker (you’ll recognize his name as the one who wrote the Call to Action on the Junior Competition changes in March 2012) has created a Facebook page entitled USTA – Stop 2014 National Junior Tennis Tournament Changes (click here to see it).  His mission is reprinted in its entirety below.  I encourage you to visit the page, “like” it, then share it with your tennis friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other means you have available.  There is definitely strength in numbers, and Tom’s goal is to show USTA in no uncertain terms that a critical mass of its constituents are opposed to these changes and want to see the Junior Competition Committee go back to the drawing board:

This page is dedicated to spotlighting the insane 2014 changes to the USTA National Junior Tournament Calendar and hopefully to motivate Dave Haggerty, Kurt Kamperman, the new Junior Tournament Competition Committee, the 17 Sections and the new USTA Board of Directors to permanently pause these changes and devise a new plan that is thoroughly vetted, transparent, and agreed upon by the tennis industry at large.

Background:

Last year the USTA sections passed a sweeping new National Junior Tournament Plan that was to take effect in 2013 and 2014. This plan involved shrinking the opportunities to play National tournaments for US juniors by a significant margin.

The goal of the changes as stated by the USTA was to address three major concerns:

• The rising costs of competing at the national level for juniors and their families;
• The desire to reduce the amount of time juniors would be absent from school;
• The creation of a logical progression of earned advancement from local play to sectionals to nationals to ensure that the best players move on to nationals (the best have earned the right to play) – not the players from families with more economic flexibility.

While those stated goals are noble on the surface, many in the industry question if those were the actual goals and anyone with the slightest knowledge of junior tournament tennis quickly realized that the 2014 plan did exactly opposite of these stated goals for the overwhelming majority of players.

Cost – under the 2014 plan, players will have 9 chances to play National tournaments during the course of the year. If a player was going to play 9 national events in the year, they would now be completely wed to this schedule. You could likely poll first graders and realize that if a player had 9 chances to 9 events, it is going to cost more than if they had 30 or 40 chances to play 9 events.

School – school breaks and testing schedules have never been more fragmented. Again when choice is taken away, the homeschooled kids with flexible schedules or the lucky kids whose breaks and test schedules match up with the USTA schedule will be fine while the rest of the kids will be left missing more school and will have more balancing of tests and tournaments.

Earned Advancement – this is nothing more than propaganda to pretend like there are a bunch of rich kids flying around in private jets chasing points and unfairly advantaging themselves against the kids of lesser financial means. There has always been earned advancement. The 2014 plan doesn’t change any of the earned advancement for the rank and file junior tennis player, but it does give the USTA more wild cards so that their own players are not subject to have to play in their sections. So this plan of earned advancement not only doesn’t fix a problem that doesn’t exist, it creates a pathway for a few of the chosen ones to completely avoid earning their advancement.

So on all three stated goals, these changes completely fail any reasonable smell test.

The 2014 plan has been universally panned by an overwhelming majority of parents, coaches, junior players, college players, professional players, famous ex-pro players and virtually every person of significance in the tennis industry.

To the credit of some of the USTA brass in October of 2012, a group: Jon Vegosen (past USTA President,) Kurt Kamperman (USTA CEO of Community Tennis,) Dave Haggerty (USTA President,) Gordon Smith (USTA GM) and Bill Mountford (USTA rep) met with a resistance group of tennis parents and industry figures including: Antonio Mora (father of a junior,) Robert Sasseville (tournament director,) Steve Bellamy (father of 4 juniors and founder of Tennis Channel,) Sean Hannity (father of 2 juniors) and Kevin Kempin (father of 2 juniors and the CEO of Head.) From that meeting, the USTA agreed to “pause” the 2013 changes and have a “listening tour” in various parts of the country.

Right now as stated by the USTA President Dave Haggerty in the Atlanta meeting, “the 2014 changes will not go forward as they are now and there will likely be some sort of a compromise that puts some opportunity back on the table.”

The history of the changes are that Jon Vegosen (former President) enlisted Tim Russell (music professor no longer involved with the junior comp committee) and his committee of 20 (of whom virtually none were parents or coaches of junior players and 1/2 of whom are no longer on the committee) to come up with a new plan. That plan was then given to player development (which is no longer involved in the process) who supposedly were the ones who cut all the opportunity and gave themselves more wildcards.

This plan was then pushed around the USTA sections under the guise of cutting costs, upping school attendance, criminalizing the supposed points chasers and giving the sections back all their talent who were now playing Nationally. Although the plan was passed by a margin of 16 to 1, rampant were reports of anyone speaking out against the changes being ostracized, bullied to get on board and even fired. Many section leaders who voted for the changes now say that they would not have voted the way they did had they understood what they were voting for. Others have said they received substantial political pressure to vote for the changes. Basically an election in a country with a dictator took place to slam the changes through while Vegosen’s administration was in place.

Virtually no parent, coach, college coach or person in tennis was apprised of these changes prior to them being passed and there were specific directives from USTA managers not to let the tennis industry know about the changes until after they had passed.

Additionally, little foresight was given to the impact of the changes to college coaches. The changes will directly push a large portion of college coaches out of using their recruiting travel budgets for USTA events and move them to ITF events, therefore creating even fewer US players getting seen by college coaches which is the driving reason that many US kids play junior tennis.

We believe that these changes are going to be some of the most detrimental in the history of the sport and will basically do the following:

· Make junior tennis cost more

· Significantly detract from some kids’ school

· Overly benefit kids who can get wildcarded in

· Push more foreign players into college tennis by more exposure to college coaches

· Make kids quit tennis because so many kids will be playing the same kids week after week in their same section

There are many other negatives as well.

The goal of this page is to mobilize the tennis industry to push the USTA to get this process permanently paused and a new plan put in place that is transparent, smart and vetted by all the parties impacted in junior tennis.

In lay terms, WE DON’T WANT A COMPROMISE BY ADDING BACK OPPORTUNITY TO AN UNVETTED, BROKEN PLAN. WE WANT A NEW PLAN AND THE ABILITY TO WORK WITH THE USTA TO GET THE PLAN THAT IS BEST FOR U.S. JUNIOR TENNIS.

I again 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.

4th & 5th Listening Meetings at Winter Nationals

Two listening meetings were held over the past two days during the Winter Nationals in Arizona, a tournament that will, ironically, disappear from the schedule if the 2014 changes remain as is.

I received emails from attendees at both meetings, each of which had 40-50 people in attendance.  It seems that the parents, players, and industry folks (Brad Stine, Jack Sharpe, Mark Bey, Steve Bellamy, Kevin Kempin, Gordon Bellis, Timon Corwin, Tim Mayotte, Antonio Mora) who were in attendance were well-versed in the changes and had no qualms about speaking their minds to Tim Russell, Kurt Kamperman, and Dave Haggerty.  Several parents and players spoke out about how they would NOT have gotten a college scholarship under the new system.  One mother told the room that although her first son will be playing Division 1 tennis next year, she has pulled her other two sons out of tennis because she doesn’t subscribe to the format.   Russell responded with a comment that was akin to “OK.”   Kevin Kempin, CEO of Head and a member of the 2013 Junior Competition Committee, said, “I have yet to hear a single compelling argument for any of these changes and I have been listening for a long time.”

The theme of the first meeting on Wednesday night seemed to be parents pleading to not have any cuts.  Those in the know seemed to be preaching a longer pause on the changes and a fresh look at the tournament calendar.  Parents complained of just playing the same kids over and over in their section and made it clear that if that was going to be what tennis was, then they were out.  One parent said “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and if there is anything that is consistent, it is that the USTA is always changing and always frustrating players and parents.”  She continued, “You should do this right and do it once and for all.”

Tennis Channel founder Steve Bellamy and Tim Russell certainly had their issues in the room.  The situation climaxed when Bellamy asked Russell if he thought that 90% or more of the players, parents and coaches were against the changes.  Russell said no, and the room started to get angry.  Then Bellamy asked Russell, “If the majority of the tennis industry were against the changes, would you still be a proponent of keeping them?”  Bellamy repeatedly asked, and it was clear that Russell wasn’t going to answer the question.  One father from NorCal, Gordon Bellis, aggressively challenged Russell to answer and the evening reached a new climax.  When Bellis asked Russell what he was supposed to do with his daughter (she is 13 and won the 18 NorCal Sectionals this year) for competition now that the National schedule was slashed so deeply, Russell responded that maybe she should start playing with adults.   The room went into an uproar.

At Thursday’s meeting, led by Kurt Kamperman and Dave Haggerty, USTA finally acknowledged that parents are overwhelmingly opposed to the changes.  One gentleman who had been at Wednesday’s meeting asked for a show of hands of who was opposed, and every single hand went up.  Kamperman and Haggerty made no attempt to argue otherwise.  The same question was asked the night before in Tempe and every hand went up there as well.

Haggerty and Kamperman made it clear that they were not responsible for the changes and people were respectful, although one exclaimed, to applause and laughter, that they wished Patrick McEnroe and the people who were responsible could be there to face the fire.

Antonio Mora asked Haggerty, who was once CEO of Head, Inc., what he would do if 90% of his best customers hated a new line of products.  At that point, another  parent spoke out and said that she wanted them to say they were committed to fully restarting the process. Haggerty then said there would be substantial changes. Kamperman tried to back away from that a bit, saying that the sections needed to be on board and that we needed to get with our section presidents to vote in favor of what we want. At that point, he was interrupted and and politely told that was a bunch of bologna, that the process of approving the changes had been very political, that arms were twisted (acknowledged by them), that section presidents had ignored their constituents, that the vice-chair of the old committee who is the chair of the new one has said there will only be tweaks, and that they were now in the position to be the arm-twisters and needed to take control.

Those who attended expressed their appreciation to Haggerty and Kamperman for listening and taking the time out of their busy schedules to meet with the parents.  The attendees also made it clear that they hoped the listening would lead to action.

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.

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.