Since I’m not yet at the 2017 US Open, I thought I would throw things back to my last trip to our Home Slam and my conversation with Tennis Parents Extraordinaire: Wayne Bryan (father of Bob & Mike, the Bryan Brothers), Steve Johnson (father of Stevie who passed away earlier this year), and Melanie Rubin (mom of Noah). These three have so much knowledge and great advice to share to those of us coming up behind them. I hope you enjoy hearing from them.
I plan on releasing another episode later this week directly from the 2017 US Open, so please keep an eye out for it. The US Open Juniors tournament is now underway, and the Collegiate Invitational starts Thursday, both of which will provide lots of great content for another podcast!
If you aren’t following ParentingAces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, you should go ahead and do so before I get to New York! I hope to do some live broadcasts on Facebook and/or YouTube while I’m at the Open, and if you follow us then you’ll get a notification when I’m online. Of course, if you’re at the Open this week, too, I’d love to meet up with you – who knows, maybe we can do a live broadcast together?!?!
Georgia Tech rising senior Chris Eubanks looked cool, calm, and collected in the photo above, taken during his Player Chat with Wayne Bryan on Wednesday afternoon. I’m guessing he was feeling a little less cool during last night’s Round of 16 match versus fellow NextGen’er Jared Donaldson!
Click here for my recent podcast interview with Chris
The 21-year-old Atlanta native stayed calm enough to fight through a one-hour and 46-minute battle with his 20-year-old opponent, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to move into today’s Quarterfinal round where he will face his 3rd American opponent this week, Ryan Harrison, the oldest of the bunch at the ripe ol’ age of 25. So far, Eubanks has defeated two of his young compatriots and hopes to make it three later today. “I really don’t know if I could do this in any place but Atlanta,” Eubanks exclaimed after last night’s victory. With his Georgia Tech coach, Kenny Thorne, in the stands, Chris represented his college and his hometown with grit and grace. We can certainly expect to see more of the same this afternoon.
Chris Eubanks isn’t the only young player in today’s Quarterfinal round. Twenty-year-old Tommy Paul, who won the French Open Juniors in 2015 then turned pro shortly afterward, will face ATP veteran and Wimbledon Quarterfinalist, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, to kick off the day at Atlantic Station.
Tommy spent some time chatting with Wayne Bryan yesterday (click on the Full Screen option below to enable sound):
I haven’t seen today’s schedule of Player Chats, but I will plan to do another Facebook Live session if possible, so be sure you’re following the ParentingAces page here to get notifications.
In addition to all the tennis happening on the grounds, there are also some fun activities OFF the courts. In Atlantic Station’s Central Park, USTA Atlanta and Wilson Tennis have set up the Family Zone where they are holding clinics and opportunities to try the game for young players as part of the NetGeneration initiative. In addition to the official tournament store, several sponsors and vendors have booths inside the tournament venue with samples and prizes for visitors. There is also an Interactive Zone where fans can shoot hoops or track their serve speed. And, of course, there’s the Music Stage where Wayne Bryan is conducting daily Q&As with the pros and where fans can meet them and get autographs. There’s something for everyone at this year’s event. RESULTS – JULY 27, 2017
Men’s Singles – Second Round
 J. Sock (USA) d D. Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-3  R. Harrison (USA) d [PR] J. Millman (AUS) 6-7(2) 7-6(4) 7-5  K. Edmund (GBR) d P. Gojowczyk (GER) 2-6 6-4 7-5 [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) d  J. Donaldson (USA) 6-4 4-6 6-2
Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
[PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) d A. Qureshi (PAK) / So. Ratiwatana (THA) 6-2 6-4 W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL) d A. Molteni (ARG) / A. Shamasdin (CAN) 6-7(7) 7-6(4) 10-7
ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017
STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon
[Q] T. Paul (USA) vs  G. Muller (LUX)
Not Before 2:00 pm
L. Lacko (SVK) vs  J. Isner (USA)  R. Harrison (USA) vs [WC] C. Eubanks (USA)
Not Before 8:00 pm
 J. Sock (USA) vs  K. Edmund (GBR)  B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) vs H. Chung (KOR) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND)
What a week! For those of you who don’t follow ParentingAces on Facebook or Twitter, let me fill you in . . .
When my son and I decided to spend his Fall Break in Southern California, it was really with the intent of taking follow-up visits to the colleges he’s interested in attending next year and getting in some training on the side. What we did in actuality was that and so much more.
The trip started with a great hit with Lucas Bellamy (Steve’s son) in the Pacific Palisades. The boys did some drills then played a set while I caught up on all the tennis news with Steve. After grabbing a quick lunch, we drove up the coast a bit to Malibu where my son had a hitting session with one of the Pepperdine players, Stefan Menichella. The boys hit and Stefan answered a lot of questions from my son about life at Pepperdine and how he came to play there. That night, we joined friend and coach Craig Cignarelli for an Italian dinner in Calabasas and caught up on all things tennis.
On Sunday, we drove back up the coast to Malibu for my son to hit with Stefan again. Afterward, we went to lunch nearby, and some of the other Pepperdine players joined us. It was a great opportunity for my son to gather even more information about the school and tennis program.
The next day, my son had a session with Craig Cignarelli at the Malibu Racquet Club. They did some drills and some talking while I did my radio show with Tim Mayotte – not a bad place to broadcast! We spent the rest of our Monday hanging out around Santa Monica then had dinner with most of the Bellamy clan (sons Robbie and Lincoln were unable to join us, unfortunately). Having no brothers himself, my son was very entertained by Lucas and Roscoe to say the least! I got to visit with Steve and Beth and pick their brains about raising 4 boys and balancing tennis and family obligations. I learned a lot!
Tuesday was another session with Craig alongside one of the pro players he’s training, Kevin Lynch. Afterward, we all went for a late lunch and did lots of talking. Kevin has a great story: he came to tennis pretty late, playing multiple sports in high school. When he was looking at colleges, he wandered over to the tennis facility at Seattle University, saw the team practicing with their coach, and had an AHA! moment. Kevin wound up playing #1 for Seattle by the end of his college tenure and decided to pursue a professional career in tennis. He told me his goal is to see how good he can get, how far up the rankings he can climb. His work ethic is impeccable, and his attitude both on and off the court reflects his desire and drive.
Mid-week, my son worked with Craig again, this time with both Kevin and Stefan. I wound up dropping him off at the Malibu Racquet Club that morning then hung out with my oldest daughter, Emma, for most of the afternoon. My son had a great day! After hitting with the guys, they went to lunch, then my son joined Stefan for an evening class at Pepperdine. It was the first time he had sat in on a college class, and he loved it! Stefan is majoring in Sports Administration – which is what my son is interested in studying – and the class they attended was a seminar on the business of sports taught by Pepperdine’s former Athletic Director. I highly recommend having your son or daughter sit in on a class at the various schools just to see what it’s all about. For my son it was so enlightening to see the difference between high school and college classes – not just in terms of the content but also in terms of the specificity of the subject matter and the way students engage with the professor.
On the first day of our trip, we found out there was going to be a Futures tournament in Irvine with the qualies starting on Friday. Though we had missed the entry deadline, we decided to drive down there on Thursday (it’s only an hour from Santa Monica) so my son could sign in as an on-site alternate just in case someone pulled out last minute. We spent most of Thursday at the Woodbridge Tennis Club so my son could train with our friend, Thomas Shubert, and one of the players he coaches. The boys were on court for about 3 hours, combining fitness, agility, and hitting drills while I watched from the sidelines. After their session, we went for a quick lunch then headed over to the Racquet Club of Irvine for the guys to sign into the tournament. We were so surprised by how many people we saw that we knew, both players and coaches! The tennis world is certainly a small one!
We had an early start on Friday so my son could warm up with some of the Futures players before their 9am matches. When we arrived at the club, we saw our old buddy, Lester Cook, who was there coaching two of the players – Kevin Lynch and Ryoto Tachi. My son hit with the 3 of them then waited to see if a qualies spot would open up for him. Meanwhile, we watched some great tennis with my son warming up yet another player later in the day. He also had the chance to watch one of UCSB’s (another school on my son’s list) players, Teague Hamilton, fight through a tough 3-setter in his first round match. My son sat next to Teague’s parents and had the chance to talk with them about their son’s experience in college. There were several UCSB players cheering on their team-mate, and my son met and chatted with them as well.
After the first round matches had all been played (my son didn’t make it in, unfortunately), Thomas took my son and his player Alec back to Woodbridge for another hitting/fitness session while Alec’s mom and I went for coffee nearby. Alec is also a senior in high school, so we moms had a lot to talk about! That evening, we all went for dinner in Irvine before my son and I made the trek back to Santa Monica.
While we were waiting for dinner, though, I got a text message asking if my son would be available as a hitting partner for Mike Bryan (yes, that Mike Bryan of the Bryan Brothers!) the next morning. Um, YES! So, on Saturday morning, we drove an hour up to Camarillo and the Spanish Hills Country Club for my son to have his very first experience as the hitting partner for a top-ranked professional player. What an incredible day! It all started with a warm-up on court with Mike while his parents, Wayne and Kathy, looked on. Then, Wayne hopped on court with the guys and started running drills. This went on for about 90 minutes followed by a set then some on-court stretching.
During one of their water breaks, my son mentioned his love of the Dave Matthews Band since he knew Mike was also a huge fan and friends with several of the musicians in the group. That led to a discussion of music and the fact that my son played drums from time to time. So, at the end of their tennis practice, Mike invited us back to his house so my son could play some music with him and Wayne. Are you kidding me???? I can’t tell you how excited we both were for my son to have this opportunity! I think my son was more nervous to play drums with Mike and Wayne than he was being on the tennis court with them! But, he took full advantage of the moment and held his own musically as well as tennis-wise.
Wayne invited us to join them for lunch before heading back to Santa Monica. My son took advantage of the opportunity to ask lots of questions of all the Bryans, including questions about UCSB, Wayne’s alma mater. Of course, we got into a discussion of what’s going on in college tennis with the format and scoring changes, but I digress . . .
It was the perfect ending to a perfect week! Each time we’ve gone to SoCal for my son’s tennis, he’s come away with more weapons in his arsenal, both on and off the court. He’s completely focused on his goal of playing college tennis and keeping up his GPA in order to keep his options open. He has signed up (before the deadline this time!) to play his first Futures tournament in a few weeks and has other junior tournaments on his schedule as well. The goal line is getting closer!
Be sure to take a listen to today’s radio show with Wayne Bryan, Steve Johnson, and Melanie Rubin as they discuss their sons’ preparation for the 2014 US Open. They share some great advice and insights on developing young tennis players to the highest level.
Below is most of our home schedule and I would like to invite clubs or anyone who would like to take part in this (they just have to do some organizing on their end) to come watch our match, have the kids be ball kids (and get pizza and free t-shirt) and then have a clinic with the team after the match. Every match we have done it at over the past 3 years it has been a huge hit. What the club director or pro needs to do is teach them how to be ball kids, organize them to come to the match and then we will feed them and my team will hit with them after the match. The kids just love it.
2/1/14 – UCLA vs Florida – 10am – USC vs Georgia 2pm
2/2/14 – UCLA vs Georgia – 10am – USC vs Florida 1pm
3/9/14 – USC vs Baylor 12N – USC vs UC Riverside 4 pm
4/4/14 – USC vs Stanford – 1:30 pm
4/5/14 – USC vs Cal – 1 pm
I didn’t include a couple of matches because I don’t think the fit would be right, but these matches will be an absolute blast.
Thanks! The Dawgs look forward to a “Wild and Crazy Weekend” in SoCal. Let me know if we can do anything to create a better experience for the fans/kids while at the matches! What a fantastic attitude and that’s what makes you and your program such a humungous winner, Manny, and mega thanks! Ya know, when I think of you, here is the first thing that always comes into my mind: “Class is hard to define, but you when you see it you never forget it.” Grantland Rice. See you in SoCal and wishing you and your Dawgs yet another great season – – – and with full stands. Best, WBManny Diaz, Manuel Diaz, Jr., Head Men’s Tennis Coach, University of Georgia
All, We are going out to all of the local high schools to give them wallet sized schedules and also to have each school come out as a team to one match together. We have the team stay after to say hi to the HS team. We also have a local retirement community that loves to come out and get involved. Our university PE classes get credit for attending one match during the season also. Just a few ideas…
Just a quick note here to say one of the best times we have each year is going to take the kids to UGA for matches. Craig Jones of Macon takes advantage of it in an even better way. He charters a bus with a ton of kids to a special match each season! I must say one of the best events we went to was about two years ago and Manny had a pro from the area set up drills for the kids in attendance on the Women’s courts at Georgia. They begin a short 45 minute session of drills for the kids immediately following the doubles matches and those community pros ran the drills for 45 minutes. At the end of the 45 minutes they had pizza and Powerade for the kids and they wandered back over to the match where they were able to pick up the action mostly still in the first set of singles. This was one of the best things and the kids still remember that particular day and format! (BTW–with your new format not so much fun can be had by the spectating kids…) Just thought to drop my 2 cents in on this as I will also make one more comment– Manny and his players are terrific. After the match they wait and sign autographs and posters for the kids down on the stadium court. It ends up being a terrific way to fire up the kids. It is not easy – bandages, fatigue and hunger are there but each of them is willing to help with the kids. Good stuff.
Those who say we need to change the format of college matches in order to fill the stands should take a lesson from the great coaches above – they’ve figured out that if you offer up exciting tennis and engage your local community, the fans will come in droves!
There’s something about hosting a radio show and having access to some of the most well-known names in our sport that absolutely feeds my soul! Over the past year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some incredibly wise people about topics as wide-ranging as a new tennis tracking app for our smart phones to USTA politics to yoga for tennis and pretty much everything in between.
This week, I had the pleasure of hosting Wayne Bryan, dad to Mike and Bob, on the show. I had very high expectations for that hour on the air, and, believe me, Wayne did NOT disappoint! We discussed a variety of topics all having to do with junior tennis and beyond, and Wayne shared his incredible experience and wisdom gained from his own Tennis Parent Adventure.
And, promotional genius that he is, Wayne emailed the podcast link to his extensive list of contacts which, of course, garnered some great comments via return email. Here are just a few:
Amazing that even though your references and points relative to the boys early days… your college years …the funny twilight zone story… Are all dated from over 30 years ago … they are so RELEVANT to both our society as a whole today in all aspects including tennis.. other sports … business … and academics… – Craig M.
I learned few new things that i need to work on. I will definitely use some of your great wisdom with [son’s name] – Alfredo T.
Listened to your radio show. Great job as always. Couldn’t agree more on secondary passion involving left brain. I think that hurts a lot of kids who become solely defined by their athletic endeavors. – Larry M.
Lisa asked good questions and the hour flew by . . . – Wayne B.
Over the next few weeks, I have more incredible guests lined up for you – Nick Saviano, Donna Bailey, Daniel Coyle – who will no doubt educate us all on very different aspects of being a Tennis Parent.
So, if you haven’t had the chance yet to tune in or listen to the podcasts, give yourself a treat and check out the show. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Every few months, it seems, we hear of another proposed tweak to our college tennis format, whether it’s a new scoring system, a recruiting contact rule, or an eligibility change. Lately, these proposals have been met with an outcry via social media, and, luckily, so far, those crying loudest have come out on top. But how long and how loudly can we cry before The Powers That Be become inured to our outrage?
I understand that coaches – and athletic directors (ADs) – are concerned about budgets and having enough money to keep their teams going, but is bastardizing the sport really the solution?
And if we bastardize the sport at the collegiate level, doesn’t that eliminate any chance of college tennis being a stepping stone for the pro tour as it has traditionally been for players like John Isner, Bob & Mike Bryan, Maria Sanchez, or Lisa Raymond?
As former college player and current coach and businessman, Sol Schwartz, says, “The athletic directors and school presidents have no real attachment to these tennis programs. The only parties that do are the players, past and present, and their families. The surrounding communities only in a very few circumstances even remotely care about these teams.”
Therein lies the problem . . . how do we get the surrounding communities and the potential fan-bases they contain interested?
I read Marc Lucero’s article on TennisRecruiting.net regarding this issue and suggested that maybe coaches could network and share information regarding boosting attendance at dual matches. It turns out, as Coach Erica Perkins of University of New Mexico informed me, the ITA already has a system of webinars set up specifically for this purpose. It’s up to the individual coaches to carve time out of their busy schedules in order to take advantage of the learning and sharing opportunities, but the opportunities are there for the taking. And they’re free. Which means they fit into every single coach’s budget.
Photographer Bill Kallenberg, who travels to dozens of college dual matches every year, shares that “many colleges have special promotions to draw crowds. Last year LSU had crawfish boils to draw 800 when UGA came to play. TCU and Texas A&M hosted special ‘get out to the match’ gimmicks. Others did other things as well. The best way to draw a crowd is to offer a great competitive product with high level opposition and rivalry and let the players do their job on court.”
I tend to agree with Bill. There’s nothing quite like a good rivalry battling it out on the tennis court. And, here’s the thing for those who complain about college matches lasting too long: if you don’t want to stay for the entire match, then take a break and come back later. That’s where I think the schools can do a better job – have alternative activities for the fans – like t-shirt giveaways or shot-making contests or mini-tennis courts set up – during dual match play for those needing a break from the action. Have student emcees call the matches and create some excitement over the PA system. Have fraternities and sororities “adopt” a court and be responsible for providing a cheering section for that court for the duration of the match. Tap into the university’s business and marketing programs and use that brain trust to find ways to better market college tennis to the student body and community at large. This isn’t rocket science, people!
One question that gets asked on a regular basis is what role should USTA play in college tennis? For many junior players and their families, college tennis is the end-goal, something to strive for, the thing that keeps them engaged in the sport. So, isn’t it in USTA’s best interest to do whatever it can to preserve as many college tennis programs as possible? To ensure that as many American juniors as possible have the opportunity to play at the collegiate level? And to promote college tennis matches relentlessly? As Coach Wayne Bryan preaches, “Champions take it in through their eyes and not their ears. You have to see it before you can dream it, and you must be passionate about it before you can achieve it. Attending one motivational tennis event – like an exciting and raucous and well-played college match – is better than 30 days of practice. Juniors return to the practice court more fired up for tennis than ever and somehow magically improved.”
As Sol Schwartz reminds us, though, we need to understand that the USTA has absolutely zero power in regards to what the NCAA does. That being said, Sol feels they (USTA) should absolutely have people in the highest positions in the associations screaming at the top of their lungs in protest of the cuts and scoring and format changes. He asks a very pertinent question: Why does the USTA basically ignore NCAA college tennis as a whole in this country? They promote 10 and under initiatives. They promote adult leagues. They promote inner city programs. According to Sol, “They have this fixation with finding the next great American champions. That is great. Out of all the youth tennis players supposedly being brought into the game, how many will likely become that champion? Then you need to ask yourself, how many of them when they hit 18 years old could potentially play college tennis? If they need a roadmap of a place to at least start to help college tennis survive, then how about start by taking some of that US Open money and get behind marketing college tennis as a great long range goal for a junior player to strive towards? How about taking some of that money and teaming up with the university programs and start marketing these programs and their matches in their communities? Make people want to go see these teams play.”
Well, now USTA has gotten involved by creating an advisory panel made up entirely of non-tennis folks. And the panel has proposed some pretty controversial tweaks such as playing all six singles matches first (still 2 out of 3 tiebreak sets) followed immediately by the doubles which would only be played if no decisive winner is determined via the singles and would be decided by 10-point super tiebreakers. The stated purpose of these changes? To decrease the overall time of each dual match to make them more fan- and tv-friendly.
But here’s the thing. USTA has a program – Tennis On Campus – that competes, sort of, with NCAA tennis. TOC is a great program for those players who don’t want the commitment of a full-time college tennis team or who might not be quite good enough to be recruited. It gives those kids a way to keep playing tennis and to play for their school, which is a wonderful thing. However, for every NCAA tennis program eliminated, an opening is created for USTA to start another TOC chapter and for that TOC program to be the only option for students who want to play tennis for their school. Bottom line is that it positively impacts USTA’s bottom line.
Does college tennis really need television in order to survive? Is there some enormous television contract on the horizon that none of us have heard about yet that will save college tennis? I’ve asked that question in the Twitterverse and, so far, the answer is no.
Which brings me back to my initial question: is changing the traditional format of our scoring system going to save college tennis? If not, and if there are other solutions to the attendance “problem”, then let’s explore those first and leave the integrity of our sport intact.