The Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament

Sol Schwartz

Listen to this week’s podcast here:

My dear friend, Sol Schwartz, passed away suddenly in March 2016, and a group of us decided to honor his legacy and try to continue his life’s work by creating a very special junior tennis tournament. The inaugural tournament was held in Sol’s hometown of Baltimore in August of 2016. This year, we are excited to expand the tournament to two cities: Atlanta July 17-19 and Baltimore August 12-13.

In this week’s podcast, we hear from others affiliated with the tournament as well as from Sol’s wife, Ilene. My hope is that you’ll feel compelled to sign your junior players up for these tournaments after hearing from them! After all, in what other junior tennis tournament is your child guaranteed 3 matches all for the low cost of $15 per day?

A huge thank you to the tournament sponsors:

10sballs.com
Holabird Sports
The Intensivist Team
Kassimir Physical Therapy
Match Tennis App
Maller Wealth Advisors
Solinco
Dunlop
Tennis Trunk
Universal Tennis Rating
Universal Tennis Academy
Voss Water
Melanie Rubin
Michael Sellman
Ilene, Dori, and Evan Schwartz

For more information on the tournaments, you can visit the following links:
#theSol Atlanta: http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261/
#theSol Baltimore: http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/
More info on this year’s tournaments: http://parentingaces.com/thesol-year-2/
Info on last year’s tourney: http://parentingaces.com/sol-schwartz-savecollegetennis-all-in-tournament/
Info on Sol: http://parentingaces.com/tribute-to-a-gentle-man/

Check out our latest podcast!

 

Tennis Parent Re-Education

Tennis Parents

Navigating the world of junior tennis is tough – we can all agree on that, I think. And, once we Tennis Parents figure out a system that works for us, we tend to get comfortable and poo-poo any suggestions to change how we’re doing things.

I’m here to tell you, though, that the world of junior tennis is changing, and we Tennis Parents have to change, too, if we hope to keep up. There are a couple of specific changes that I want to address in this article in hopes of helping you shift your mindset just a teeny tiny bit.

The first thing is the way you search for tournaments for your junior player(s). Most parents start with TennisLink to find tournaments of a certain level or in a certain time period or area of the country. You go to the Find A Tournament page, select the gender, age group, USTA section, and date then click the Search button to see what comes up.

Others of you may also use the ITF Juniors website to search for events. You may use the UTR Events site, too. And these are all great resources to find junior tournaments. But, I’m sure you see that this is a bit problematic in that you have to go to all these different websites to find the available events for your players. What if you could find every single junior tournament in one place?

Well, good news! You can!

The Match!Tennis app (click here to listen to my podcast with its creators) now contains not only every USTA tournament but also all ITF (coming soon!) and UTR events, including the ITA Summer Circuit. You can go to one place and search for tournaments to your heart’s content. You can search by type of tournament, age group, geographic area, and date. You can flag the tournaments to add them to your personal calendar and to send you an email reminder when the entry deadline is approaching. You can also use the app to find a doubles partner which definitely makes life easier. And, bonus: the ParentingAces community gets a free 30-day trial plus a 20% discount if you sign up by July 15th. Just click here to try it out for FREE.

The second change I’d love to see Tennis Parents make is the way you sign up for tournaments.

The typical MO is to decide you want your child to play in a specific tournament then go to the Applicants list to see who has already entered, do a little mental rankings calculation, then wait until one minute before the entry deadline to sign up your player. Hey, I’m not judging – I did the exact same thing when my son was in the Juniors. I wanted to see who else was signed up so I could figure out if he would make it into the tournament or have any opportunity to go far enough in the draw to impact his USTA ranking.

Now, with UTR making such big inroads into the junior tournament landscape, and with more and more college coaches explicitly saying they rely on UTR for recruiting purposes, the most important thing you can do for your child is simply to make sure he or she is playing matches on a regular basis, whether it’s tournament matches, high school matches, or league matches. They all count equally toward a player’s UTR.

So, once you decide a tournament is a good fit for your player and your family in terms of level, date, and location, just go ahead and register.

With UTR Events and many other events using UTR for selection and seeding there is no need to shop for tournaments looking for a strong draw, weak draw, points per round considerations, etc. There is no rationale in waiting to sign up and find out who else may decide to play. Your placement in a level-based draw will be based on your UTR. You will get a set number of matches in a draw that will increase the likelihood that you have matches both good for your development and good for your opportunity to improve your UTR. In the event that there are not enough players within a near enough UTR range for this to be possible, then the Tournament Director will not place you in a draw that isn’t good for you. If it’s a UTR event, your fees will be refunded. If everyone is waiting on the sideline to see who else enters then nobody ends up entering.

I know. This is a new way of thinking.

If you want your junior to play in a specific tournament, then register with confidence and without regard for who else is playing. Again, the Tournament Director – if he/she follows the guidelines suggested by UTR – will not allow players to be placed in draws that are not beneficial for the player.

So, Tennis Parents, let’s practice what we preach to our kids. Let’s have a growth mindset when it comes to our kids’ competition.

For years our only choice for junior competition was USTA tournaments but now there are several options available. Let’s embrace a new way of doing business now that we have the option to do so. Our children will benefit and so will we.

 

#theSol Year 2

#theSol

It’s hard to believe that almost a whole year has gone by since our inaugural Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All In Tournament. Last year’s event (click here to read all about it) was a tremendous success by all measures, and we hope to do even better this year.

As in 2016, this year’s #theSols will be run through the Universal Tennis Rating tournament platform which gives our tournament directors great flexibility in terms of scheduling, communication, and draws. Unlike last year, we are hosting TWO events in 2017, one in Atlanta July 17-19 and one in Baltimore August 12-13. A huge thank-you to our presenting sponsor, 10sballs.com, and our title sponsor, Holabird Sports! Registration is now open for both tournaments. Click here for Atlanta. Click here for Baltimore.

Why should you add these tournaments to your junior player’s summer schedule? Well, let me tell you why!

  1. This is like no other junior tournament your child will play!
  2. Players are guaranteed at least 3 matches.
  3. On-court coaching. Players can receive assistance during the side changes.
  4. Where else can your child play matches that will count toward their UTR plus be coached on court during side changes?
  5. And, speaking of UTR, all matches will count toward your child’s rating.
  6. Players will get an amazing player goody bag and we have an incredible prize package for the overall winner.
  7. Players will have official player credentials.#theSol credential
  8. Players will get a full-color player book.
  9. Complimentary lunch for players and parents.
  10. Full-color high quality dri-fit tournament shirts.

I heard from the coach of last year’s #theSol winner that it was the best tournament she’s ever played. Not just because she won it, but also because of the atmosphere created by our incredible volunteers and committee. Don’t you want your junior player to have this type of positive tournament experience?

NOTE: We’ve just added another great perk to this year’s tournaments! We will be using the Match Tennis App for all tournament updates and communications. Why should you care? Because that means that, once you register to play, you get a FREE 30-day trial of the app! For more information on the Match Tennis App (plus a nice discount to use after your trial expires!), listen to our podcast here.

Enter the Atlanta #theSol here
Enter the Baltimore #theSol here

In case you’re wondering why we’re going to all this trouble to put on junior tournaments, it’s because of Sol Schwartz and the legacy he left behind in the Tennis World. He was a man devoted to preserving the sanctity of the sport, especially when it came to college tennis. The tournament committee is committed to continuing Sol’s legacy. All of the net proceeds from these events are going into a non-profit fund that will eventually be used to provide grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut. For reference, from 2010-2015 twenty-two (22) men’s programs were cut with an additional nineteen (19) women’s programs. That does not bode well for the future of our sport.

NOTE: Per data from the ITA, four (4) men’s tennis programs were dropped during the 2016-17 academic year, and five (5) women’s programs were dropped. At the same time, five (5) men’s and four (4) women’s tennis programs were added. For more information, see the document below.

I hope to see you in Atlanta or Baltimore or both (!) this summer! If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to email me at lisa@parentingaces.com.

We all have to band together to #SaveCollegeTennis!

Nation’s Top High School Tennis Teams Compete for National Championship

The DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships is a national invitational high school tennis tournament hosted annually in Chattanooga, TN. The event, which originated in 2008 in Louisville, KY, has hosted thousands of student-athletes from more than 170 different high schools over the last nine years including 100 Team State Champions, 96 Individual State Champions, 59 High School All-Americans and over 150 players that have signed to play NCAA Division I tennis. I will be attending for the second year and will have the opportunity to interview players, parents, coaches, and others involved with this incredible event. Stay tuned for an update early next week!

The 2017 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships returns to Chattanooga, TN for its 10th Anniversary beginning this Friday. The national high school invitational tournament will feature its largest field in tournament history hosting 64 teams from 13 states. The event will host more than 1,000 matches at various facilities throughout Chattanooga on March 24-25th. The 2017 tournament field includes some of the nation’s top high school tennis programs with 16 defending team state champions and 12 defending state finalists participating in the event. The field also features three former high school tennis All-Americans and more than 30 seniors that have already committed to play collegiate tennis.

The Girls A Division features six defending state champions and a pair of former tournament champions. The field is led by top seed Walton, the 2015 Girls A Division Champions, which is coming off a Georgia Class 6A State Championship. The Raiders are led by 5-star recruit and James Madison University signee Liz Norman and sisters Emily and Grace Gaskins.. Defending Girls A Division Champion Baylor, the second seed in the event, is seeking their fifth tournament championship. The Red Raiders, defending Tennessee Division II Class AA State Champions, return five of their top six players from last season’s team including 2016 Tournament MVP Drew Hawkins, a Belmont signee. The third seed in the event is defending Tennessee Division II Class A State Champion Webb School of Knoxville. The Spartans are led by a trio of 3-star recruits in Lauren Yoon, Carina Dagotto and Audrey Yoon. The fourth seed is Jackson Academy, defending Mississippi Independent School Class 4A State Champions, led by TCU signee Meredith Roberts and 4-star junior Faatimah Bashir. Top players will include 5-star rated freshman Elizabet Verizova (North Gwinnett), 4-star recruit and Indiana signee Michelle McKamey (McCracken County) and Alabama signee and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Mallory Gilmer (Etowah).

The Girls B Division features the top three finishers from last year’s Girls B Division. The top seed will be defending Girls B Division Champion, Milton. The Eagles are led by 3-star freshman Juliana Mascagni. The second seed is Tennessee High which is led by 5-star junior Chloe Hamlin. The third seed is Starr’s Mill, 2016 Girls B Division Consolation Winner, led by junior Elena Wernecke. The fourth seed is Riverwood which is led by 4-star junior transfer Elizabeth Goines.

The Boys A Division features a loaded field with eight defending state champions and three former tournament champions. The top overall seed is Spartanburg, defending Boys A Division Champion and South Carolina Class 4A State Champions. The Vikings feature a loaded roster that includes Clemson commit and 2016 Tournament MVP Chambers Easterling and 4-star recruits Spencer Brown and Bryce Keim. The second overall seed is defending Georgia Class 6A State Champion Northview. Senior Jeremy Yuan, a Chicago signee, and high-rated sophomore Gavin Segraves lead the way for the Titans. The third seed is 2016 Boys A Division runner-up Saint Xavier. The defending Kentucky State Champions are led by the duo of Furman signee Drew Singerman and junior Alex Wesbrooks. The fourth seed is Southlake Carroll. The Dragons, led by junior 5-star recruit Arman Dave, finished the fall season ranked 4th in Class 6A in the Lone Star State. Top players will include 5-star junior Nicholas Watson (Catholic), Vanderbilt signee George Harwell (Montgomery Bell), 4-star junior Antonio Mora (Ransom Everglades), 5-star freshman Presley Thieneman (Trinity) and 2016 Hannah Belsinger Spirit of Tennis Award recipient Zachary Elliott (Hinsdale Central).

The Boys B Division is led by Georgia powerhouse Etowah. The Eagles are led by freshman blue-chip recruit Josh Raab and Appalachian State signee Cole Heller. The second seed is Milton led by the duo of juniors Justin Neibert and Benjamin Falk. The third seed is Georgia Class 4A state finalist Carrollton. The Trojans are led by 3-star senior Carver Arant. The fourth seed is Brookwood. The Broncos are led by senior Brooks Berry and sophomore Reuben Dayal. Top Players include 4-star junior Jefferson Hobbs (Niceville), 4-star senior Ryan Olps (North Gwinnett) and 4-star sophomore Cole Brainard (Dunwoody).

The Boys C Division is led by top seed and defending Boys C Division Champions George Washington. The Patriots are led by sophomore Anthony McIntosh. The second seed is DuPont Manual led by senior Erich Endres. Top players include 4-star junior Brooks Green (McGill-Toolen), sophomore Hussain Alzubaidi (Siegel) and 4-star 8th grader Walker Stearns (Saint George’s).

For more information visit the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships website at www.hstennischampionships.com.

UTR Adds New Recruiting Aid

The folks at Universal Tennis Rating are making it even easier to find the right fit when it comes to college recruiting.

UTR Fit is a new feature added this week – you can quickly search for all college teams where a college-bound junior’s UTR is above the college team’s number 6 player. You can further filter the search by Gender, State, Division, Conference, and Public vs. Private universities.

NOTE: Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this article for a very special offer from UTR for ParentingAces readers!

While the Universal Tennis site shows the ratings of all players on a team’s roster, college coaches don’t necessarily field their lineups in order of UTR, so Fit isn’t a perfect tool in terms of determining where a junior might play in the actual lineup. Also, as recruiting consultant Oscar Miranda points out, most college coaches aren’t looking to recruit a #6 player; rather, they are looking to recruit players for the middle to top of their lineup. In that sense, juniors are better off looking for colleges where their own UTR falls somewhere toward the middle of a team’s top 6 players. So, while the current UTR Fit tool doesn’t specifically allow you to search for the average playing roster’s UTR – just as the UTR Fit doesn’t specifically return teams where a junior’s UTR would project them potentially in the top/number 1 position (though wouldn’t that be a great feature for future iterations?!?!), the Fit tool can narrow the field for junior players and help them target the best schools based on their own playing ability and that of the existing team members. Take it from me, with over 1000 college tennis programs out there, having the ability to narrow the field is a huge advantage during the recruiting process!

I asked Bruce Waschuk, CEO of Universal Tennis, a few questions to help clarify how the new Fit feature can best be used:

Lisa: What was the impetus behind adding the Fit feature to the UTR website?

Bruce: Our Team at Universal Tennis is always looking to improve our services and the functionality of the UTR system in an effort to promote level-based play. We believe that if event organizers can improve their ability to group similar levels of tennis players together, that the participants will more likely enjoy their matches, and improve their tennis skills faster.

Although the UTR system was not designed to be a college recruiting system, we understand that hundreds of college coaches use UTRs to determine if a prospective student-athlete is at the appropriate playing level for their team. And in turn, thousands of juniors, and their parents, use the UTR as a measuring stick to determine if college tennis is for them, and which teams a recruit would be a good playing level fit.

Our developers just added a new UTR Fit feature to our system, that allows someone to see within seconds, if their UTR would be at a high enough level to make the starting lineup of a college roster. The College Search report allows UTR Premium Plus subscribers the ability to see all the schools where their UTR is above the level of the sixth highest UTR roster player. From here, the subscriber can filter the school listing by state, public/private, conference and division.

Each college coach will have their own criteria for what they are looking for in a recruit, as well as the UTR level the prospect should be. We believe the UTR Fit tool provides a very quick reality check when setting level of play expectations a junior may have when starting to plan for college tennis.

Lisa: At what point in their junior careers do you recommend players begin relying on this feature to help them with their college search?

Bruce: We’re not in the position to say when a junior should start planning for college tennis, as our Team isn’t focused on the college recruiting process. This is one of the reasons we enjoy reading the many articles on this subject that get posted on your ParentingAces.com website. However, we would recommend the following article to help juniors better understand what type of college tennis experience best suits their interests: “Right Team, but Wrong Guy—How making the starting lineup can backfire” by Eric Butorac

Lisa: What tools do you see UTR adding in the future to make the college search easier and more reliable for juniors?

Bruce: We are working on a variety of tools and services that should help juniors enjoy tennis more through level-based play, chart their development, and show off their game to college coaches.

A few of these include:

UTR Events: Expect many more events in 2017 where juniors can play against current college players within a level-based event.

UTR Doubles: Our new individual rating based on doubles results will be released within weeks. Doubles is kind of important for college tennis.

Player Profiles: We just introduced the ability for UTR subscribers to claim their player profile. Lots of new profile features are planned, which will provide notifications, alerts, and communication among other UTR profiles, including college teams.

Video: The online world is embracing video at a rapid pace. The UTR system is planning to accommodate links to matches for parents to watch their kids, coaches to provide match play feedback, and college coaches to be able to quickly view prospective recruits.

College recruiting is difficult and complicated with rules that seem to change every year. The more tools junior players have at their fingertips to help avoid making a bad choice, the better. UTR Fit is a great addition to a player’s recruiting arsenal.

Now, as promised, here is a great offer for y’all from UTR (just click on the graphic below to go directly to the offer). Be sure to take advantage quickly as it expires the end of February!

College Masters Day 1

img_7684I arrived in Los Angeles late Wednesday night (thanks, Southwest, for the delay!) and pretty much crashed as soon as I got to my mother-in-law’s house. Of course, with the 3-hour time difference, I was up super early Thursday morning with plenty of time to get organized before making the drive up to Malibu for the start of the Oracle/ITA Masters.

The ITA is truly committed to producing some out-of-the-box events for college – and junior – players, and this tournament is just one step forward.

For those of you who have visited the Pepperdine campus and seen its tennis facility, you know what a gorgeous setting it is. I wasn’t sad to spend the entire day there!

Yesterday’s action was all about the college players. The day started with mixed doubles, a unique opportunity for these young men and women to pair off with a partner from within their NCAA conference and have some fun on the court. I didn’t make it out in time for the first round matches (they started at 8am), but I did get to see some amazing women’s singles, men’s singles, and the second round of mixed dubs.

I spent a lot of my time speaking with college coaches, from both the Big 5 conferences and from some of the smaller schools, about the challenges they face in terms of funding, recruiting, scheduling, and promoting their teams. I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on those conversations once this event is done, but suffice it to say that most of the concerns addressed in the last guest post (click here to read it) are on the minds of the coaches, too.

img_7688
Tim Russell, CEO of ITA

I also had the opportunity to speak at length with the CEO of the ITA, Tim Russell, about the challenges college tennis faces and what we can do to overcome them. Tim and his staff have some very creative ideas in the works which I’m also planning to share in a later piece and/or in a podcast.

img_7690
Lisa, Tim Russell, Bob & Sally Grabham, Randy Jenks

One of the ways the ITA is thinking out of the box with this particular event is by hosting a player party. But not your typical player party in a hotel banquet room. No! This one was held atimg_7689 Duke’s Malibu, an ocean-front restaurant down the road from Pepperdine. As the players and other guests arrived, waiters served delicious appetizers while the waves were crashing against the massive windows of the private dining room. It was great to see the athletes interacting with each other and making the effort to meet new people from outside their own conferences. Even the juniors were there, and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to get together in a stress-free environment.

I’m getting ready to head back out for some more college matches as well as Day 1 of the Junior Masters at the Malibu Racquet Club. For yesterday’s complete results, check out this link. To follow along with today’s action, you can watch livescoring here and/or sign up for an account with FloTennis to watch the livestream here.

Update on the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters

The regional events are complete for qualifying to play in this year’s Oracle/ITA Junior Masters Championship. Sixteen boys and 16 girls, including qualifying tournament winners and wildcards, will travel to Malibu, California, for the Masters Championships at the Malibu Racquet Club.

Here are the boys and girls who will be playing:

BOYS

Eddie Griesedieck, Mount Pleasant, SC
Mason Beiler, Palm Harbor, FL
Tommy Edwards, Aloha, OR
Garrett Johns, Atlanta, GA
Carlos Hassey, Surprise, AZ
Brady Draheim, Prairie Village, KS
Alec Baskerville, Austin, TX
Ryan Seggerman, Coronado, CA
Cody Lin, Thousand Oaks, CA
Robert Baylon, Buena Park, CA
Eric Hahn, Fullerton, CA
Karapet Vardanyan, Granada Hills, CA
Jacob Bullard, Calabasas, CA
Benjamin Gollin, Solana Beach, CA
Jourdan Kast, Boca Raton, FL
Matthew Terry, Alpharetta, GA

GIRLS

Kiana Rizzolo, Jacksonville, FL
Esther Lovato, Austin, TX
Elizabet Verizova, Suwanee, GA
Anya Lamoreaux, Mesa, AZ
Ellee Dryer, Olathe, KS
Jennifer Kida, Wilmington, CA
Christie Wan, Fullerton, CA
Sydney Van Alphen, Laguna Beach, CA
Anessa Lee, San Marino, CA
Josie Frazier, Scottsdale, AZ
Julia Deming, Fallbrook, CA
Jennifer Richards, San Diego, CA
Gianna Pielet, El Paso, TX
Elizabeth Goldsmith, Chula Vista, CA
Rena Lin, Northridge, CA
Dominique Stone, N. Hollywood, CA

As you can see, there are quite a few players from Southern California who will be competing. I asked about that, since the regional qualifying tournaments were held across the US, and was told that the majority of the Wildcards with the highest UTR happened to be from SoCal.  It’s such a strong section. UTR decided to stick to its policy of selecting the Wildcards with the highest UTR even if it meant an unbalanced sectional representation. It’s yet another way that UTR events differ from those put on by USTA. There are no sectional quotas to fulfill.

I will be covering this event, as well as the College Masters, and am looking so forward to it! If you’re there, please come say hello!