The Curtis Consolation Draw

It is mid-April, and I have just become aware of a change to the junior competition protocol for the Southern section that I want to share with the rest of you. Historically, the Southern section has been a testing ground for several rule changes in junior tennis, so even if your junior doesn’t live or compete in the South, you should familiarize yourself with this latest tweak. It’s probably coming to your section very soon!

The change I’m referring to is in the way the consolation draw is handled in Southern Level 2 events, specifically the addition of a second backdraw called the Curtis Draw. Here’s how it works . . .

If a player loses in the first or second round of a Southern L2 tournament (these tournaments use a 64-player draw), then they feed into the regular consolation draw. However, if a player loses in the Round of 16 or Quarterfinals, then they feed into the Curtis Draw. Neither of these two draws plays the Finals match though both draws do have matches on the final day of the tournament, typically Monday, requiring players to miss a day of school.

So why do the L2s need two separate consolation draws? According to USTA Southern, previously the Round of 16 losers on Sunday morning did not play again until Monday thus having only one match on Sunday.  Use of the Curtis consolation where the Round of 16 losers and Quarterfinal losers are in one draw provides for a consolation match on Sunday afternoon for the Round of 16 losers (the Quarterfinal losers will have played that Quarters match on Sunday afternoon) and then two more matches in that draw on Monday.

In theory, the Curtis draw looks good since it allows the regular consolation draw to continue moving without having to wait for R16 and QF players to feed in on Sunday. Ideally it will allow for faster play overall and not hamper the tournament director with timing challenges.

However, I am hearing some concern about the point tables for the L2 regular consolation draws in terms of the maximum number of ranking points available. If a player loses in either the first or 2nd round in the main draw, then the maximum number of points possible is either 100 or 135 depending on in which round the loss occurs. The small number of ranking points may not be worth the cost of sticking around the tournament – both in terms of money and missed school – for some families. USTA Southern assured me that they are evaluating the point table for the consolation draw to see if some adjustments are warranted.

NOTE from Maria Cercone at USTA Southern (April 20, 2017): Just wanted to let you know that the committee approved a point change for the Curtis Level 2 tournament. The 1st and 2nd rd losers (1st Consolation) will receive 40 points per win , instead of 25. We saw an issue and we fixed it! It will be retroactive for all the players that played last week.

In the most recent L2 held in Alabama, there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 14s and three in the Girls 14s while there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 18s and seven in the Girls 18s which would be expected in the older age group due to the fact that these players are typically in high school and missing school is much more significant at that age. (Whew! That was a long sentence – sorry!) Out of 32 players in a backdraw these are not huge numbers but still worth the USTA looking into moving forward.

In contrast to the regular consolation draw, the Curtis draw offers much more significant ranking points, 60 points for each match won in the Curtis draw versus 25 for each match won in the regular consies, again with neither draw playing out the Final round. In real terms, that means a player who loses in the R16 of the main draw still has the potential to earn a total of 324 ranking points, 360 if they lose in the Quarters. Again, to compare, a player who loses in the first round of the main draw then feeds into the regular backdraw has the potential to earn 100 ranking points, 135 points if they lose in the 2nd round. Just to reiterate, that means a player in the regular backdraw has the potential to earn only 50 additional ranking points by staying through Monday and missing an extra day of school (not to mention paying for an additional night in a hotel) while a player in the Curtis draw could earn 120 additional ranking points. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you look at the ranking lists and study the point spreads between the players.

Interestingly, this past weekend’s L2 was the first of 2017 to utilize the Curtis Draw even though there have already been two L2s this year. One parent told me they had no idea the new backdraw was being used until they arrived at the tournament. I looked at the tournament website on TennisLink, and there is no mention of the Curtis Draw in the Important Info area (click here).

I asked the folks at USTA Southern why they decided to change things mid-year and how they notified participants of the change. They told me that the changes had been discussed earlier but weren’t finalized until right before this latest L2. Participants were not notified directly (still one of my pet peeves since the tournament director collects email addresses for participants when they register for the tournament!) but the information was posted on the USTA Southern website (see links in the next paragraph). I think it was also supposed to be included on the tournament website as well though, as I mentioned above, I can’t find any mention of it there.

I do think the Curtis Draw has the potential to be a positive addition to the L2s and even some of the other higher-level tournaments. That said, there needs to be some tweaking, especially in the area of available points for each backdraw. It looks like USTA may agree and may be making those tweaks before the next Southern L2.

To read more about the Curtis Draw on the USTA Southern website click here and here.

Please let me know what you think of this latest change. If you were at the Southern L2 in Alabama, I would love to hear how it went for your player.

NOTE: I have added a page to this website with links and contact information for USTA staff and departments that are relevant to the Junior Tennis Journey. Click here or on the link in the menu bar on the left side of the page.

More Ranking Info

JR_Tourney_Web_Page_cut1

Our Southern section is unique in that (1) it is comprised of 9 different states (and part of a 10th, Texas) and (2) each state has its own local USTA office with its own USTA state ranking.

It is now the end of the first week of February. Until today, USTA Georgia had not released its 2014 Points Per Round table due to the confusion over what’s going on at the national level.

In Georgia, players are required to play a minimum of 6 Georgia-based tournaments in order to be eligible to play in the Georgia Qualifier to be endorsed into our Southern Closed tournament that is a requirement for the National Hard Courts in August each year – did you follow that? Most of the states in our section have this same requirement. So, even top players in our Southern Section must go back to their local state events before late May/early June, spending time and money competing in lower-level events, in order to be endorsed by the section for Nationals. I’m sure you can understand why the lack of a PPR table until today was troubling for many Georgia players and their families.

This morning, I emailed Barbara Berman who is in charge of junior rankings for Georgia to find out what was happening. She replied promptly, pointing me to the 2014 Points Per Round table and explaining the delay. Barbara said that the USTA Georgia Annual Meeting was held last weekend wherein they discussed the ranking issues with USTA Southern and USTA National and approved a PPR table that is in line with both the section and national tables. The committee waited to update the Georgia ranking lists until those tables were set. Everything should be up to date as of today. Please note that the PPR Tables are retroactive for the 12-month rolling Standings Lists.

For more information, you can go to www.ustageorgia.com. Below is a comparison of the 2013 and 2014 PPR tables just for your information. Again, this is just for the state of Georgia within the Southern section; your state or section may have something that looks very different so please check with your own head of junior competition.

Champion2013 PPR2014 PPR
GA Level 16601000
GA Level 2440670
GA Level 3330500
GA Level 4220330
GA Level 5110170
Finalist
GA Level 1540820
GA Level 2360549
GA Level 3270410
GA Level 4180271
GA Level 590139
3rd Place
GA Level 1480730
GA Level 2320489
GA Level 3240365
GA Level 4160241
GA Level 580124
4th Place
GA Level 1420640
GA Level 2280429
GA Level 3210320
GA Level 4140211
GA Level 570109
FIC Champ
GA Level 1390590
GA Level 2260395
GA Level 3195295
GA Level 4130195
GA Level 565100
FIC Finalist
GA Level 1360550
GA Level 2240369
GA Level 3180275
GA Level 4120182
GA Level 56094
FIC Semi-Finalist
GA Level 1330500
GA Level 2220335
GA Level 3165250
GA Level 4110165
GA Level 55585
FIC QF
GA Level 1300450
GA Level 2200302
GA Level 3150225
GA Level 4100149
GA Level 55077
FIC QF Qualifying
GA Level 1270410
GA Level 2180275
GA Level 3135205
GA Level 490135
GA Level 54570
FIC Rd of 16
GA Level 1240360
GA Level 2160241
GA Level 3120180
GA Level 480191
GA Level 54061
FIC Rd of 16 Qual
GA Level 1210320
GA Level 2140214
GA Level 3105160
GA Level 470106
GA Level 53554
FIC Rd of 32
GA Level 1180270
GA Level 2120181
GA Level 390135
GA Level 46089
GA Level 53046
FIC Rd of 32 Qual
GA Level 1150230
GA Level 2100154
GA Level 375115
GA Level 45076
GA Level 52539
FIC Rd of 64
GA Level 1120180
GA Level 280121
GA Level 36090
GA Level 44059
GA Level 52031
FIC Rd of 64 Qual
GA Level 190140
GA Level 26094
GA Level 34570
GA Level 43046
GA Level 51524
FIC Rd of 128
GA Level 16090
GA Level 24060
GA Level 33045
GA Level 42030
GA Level 51015

USTA Online Sportsmanship Guide

USTA Southern

I just received the following email from USTA South Carolina due to the fact that my son will be playing in a tournament there this weekend:

Prior to your child’s participation in an the upcoming Bullfrog Designated tournament, please take the time to view the Sportsmanship Guide linked below.  Please note that this is being sent to all entrants of the upcoming tournament via blind-copy on this e-mail. Junior tennis should be a fun and rewarding experience for our children. Character building lessons such as hard work, discipline, good sportsmanship, and endurance of adversity are regularly on display. Parents of junior players should also enjoy the time spent with their children, watching them develop not just into better tennis players but into good citizens. 

Regrettably, verbal abuse by some parents, coaches, and spectators directed at tournament referees, officials, and even other junior players and their parents is becoming more commonplace. These incidents adversely impact the players’ and parents’ tournament experience and create a negative and distressing atmosphere for all participants, parents and officials. Such abusive and improper conduct by a few is in violation of the governing rules and shall not be tolerated.

This guide was created to make all parties aware of sportsmanship expectations at USTA Sanctioned Tournaments.  It also offers excellent information on how to be a successful tennis parent. At the conclusion of the presentation, you will be redirected to a form confirming completion.  This only has to be done once, and you can input multiple children using the webpage by clicking “back” on your browser after getting notice of completion to input additional players.  Players from out of the Southern Section are encouraged to view the presentation, but are not required to complete the registration form.

USTA Southern Sportsmanship Presentation-click to view

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding USTA South Carolina tournament play, and I hope you have an enjoyable experience at the event this weekend!

Please take a few minutes to watch the online guide.  Then, if you’re so inclined, share your thoughts in the Comment box below.  Given yesterday’s post on generalizations of tennis behavior, I thought the timing on this email was pretty interesting!

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.

Notes From 6th Listening Meeting in Atlanta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge everyone to attend one of the remaining “listening” meetings and/or to email LetUsKnow@usta.com with your thoughts regarding the 2014 Junior Competition changes.  If you need a refresher on the exact changes or dates of the meetings, please click on the 2014 Jr Comp Info tab above.

USTA Will Hold 6th Listening Meeting on Sunday

This coming Sunday I will be attending, finally(!), a USTA “listening” meeting.  I’ve been working on my talking points for the past several days and hope I have the opportunity to share them live and in person during the meeting.

Earlier this week, I received an email from USTA’s Bill Mountford putting me in touch with Andrea Norman, the new Chair of the Junior Competition Committee.  Andrea and I, along with Lew Brewer, will be sitting down together Sunday morning before the “listening” meeting, presumably to get to know one another a bit and to discuss what’s in store for our junior players.  I will of course be reporting on the outcomes of Sunday’s meetings, so please check back early next week for any updates.

Below is the information I received from USTA Southern about this next “listening” meeting. Please forward it to any tennis parents or coaches in the Atlanta area and encourage them to attend.  It’s important that our voices be heard!

Southern_town_hall_meeting_011313

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.

Growth & Development

My son is at an interesting place in terms of his tennis development.  As I’ve mentioned, he’s now playing up in the 18s even though he could still play another year in the 16s.  But, because of his July birthday, and because of his goal to play at Kalamazoo (which is the first week of August) next summer, he had to start working on his 18s ranking a year early.  That means he is often 2 years younger than his opponent, 2 years behind developmentally-speaking, 2 years behind growth-wise, and 2 years behind in the maturation process.

His goal during tournaments is still to win matches, of course, because he needs to get his 18s ranking to a place where he has a chance of getting into the National Hardcourts.  And, to that end, we look for tournaments for him to play where (A) he can get in and (B) he can, hopefully, win a few matches.

However, he also has another, equally (more?) important, goal:  to gauge his skill on the court against boys who are already playing the big national events and who are heading off to top college programs next year.  He needs to be able to see in black and white how his game holds up against more experienced players.  He needs to see where his strengths lie and where he still needs work.  He needs to see what specific developmental steps he has to take over the next 2+ years.

We were at a Southern Level 3 tournament in Hilton Head this past weekend.  First round, my son had the opportunity to play the 1 seed, a young man who recently committed to play at Clemson next Fall.  After the match, which my son lost 1 and 4, we all went to lunch together – my son, his opponent, his opponent’s dad, my husband, and me – and the boys talked about their match and about playing college tennis.  My son asked the young man for an honest evaluation of the match, and the young man told him that he made him work much harder than he anticipated and that my son is way ahead of where he was as a 10th grader.  I could see the smile peeking out from behind my son’s eyes!  Then, much to my surprise, my son asked his opponent if he would mention my son to the Clemson coach in hopes that the coach would take a look at him.  The boys went on to discuss the recruiting process and the things my son needs to be doing this year to get the ball rolling.  Mind you, it wasn’t anything that I haven’t been telling him for the past several months, but you know how it is with teenagers – they often don’t hear it until it comes from a peer!

The next morning, my son played another high school senior in his 2nd backdraw match and won.  It was a great boost confidence-wise for him to see that he had the goods to claim a victory over a solid player two years older and 124 ranking spots ahead of him.

Even though my son wasn’t playing his best tennis during the tournament, he found a way to eke out strong victories over two very experienced players and earn those precious ranking points.  He had the privilege of playing against someone heading off to the same post-junior-tennis life my son hopes to have and of putting his skills to a real test.  Developmentally, my son is still two years behind these guys – he still has two years to figure it out – but he needs to keep testing himself against these older players to monitor his progress.  As he has more opportunities to play these high-level guys at USTA, ITF, and ITA events, he’ll be able to keep a running tally of where he’s making strides and where he still needs work.  He and his coach will keep tweaking the training plan to help my son get where he wants to go.  And my husband and I will keep being the supportive Tennis Parents.