The following article was written by a Fellow Tennis Parent and shared with me to reprint here. The parent has asked to remain anonymous for fear that “a lot of people will rise up in righteous indignation, calling for the lynching of the xenophobic troglodyte who wrote this one, and I don’t need the headache”! Please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments below.
I read a quote from a recently graduated student-athlete who is going on to try his hand on the pro tour.
Normally that would be cause for celebration, as I am a proponent of the college-to-pro progression that is being discussed more and more. Where I go sideways in this instance is in the revelation by this player that America’s institutions of higher learning are now an active target for foreign players who need free coaching. The quote is as follows:
“It’s tough to find support from sponsors, so [international players] are now seeing [American] college tennis as a good option. I think people are realizing that college tennis is the way forward, whereas before, the guys at the head of my federation thought that college tennis is where good players go to die. I’m glad people are starting to realize that there’s more than one way to make it and that college tennis can be used as a stepping stone towards a professional career.”
It used to be that foreign players would try to go pro first, and if they didn’t succeed, they would default to using that professional experience to leverage a free education in the US as a means of furthering their business career. Now it appears that the ever increasing physical demands of the sport make the junior-to-pro path followed in the past unrealistic, so they need another way to hone their tennis skills and physical strength before trying to hit the pro tour. That there is a concerted effort to funnel foreign players into the US university system specifically for sport training (with the added bonus of a free diploma) is yet another nail in the coffin of American tennis.
This is really disheartening, as the USTA (even if they actually did get their act together) can only provide so many opportunities. College tennis was the last field where any volume of American juniors could have their talent sown. Now that field is being reduced to a single row amongst acres of foreign sprouts.
For full disclosure, my kid already went through junior tennis and is enjoying a full-ride at a D1 SEC school as a student-athlete. We’ve already received our reward for our financial investment and our player’s hard work and are not at risk of losing it to a wave of international athletes. However, I feel for those American players, and their parents who incur the ridiculous cost of US junior tennis, who will have significantly more competition for what is already a shrinking pool of opportunity. Men’s programs are being cut at an alarming rate, and the glut of talented players scrambling for a spot on a team is squeezing out the children of the citizens whose tax dollars are funding those remaining programs.
It will be hard to justify the $100k+ investment in building a tennis player capable of competing for a scholarship if the number of opportunities keeps shrinking. And if there is less educational incentive, there will be fewer parents who will incur the cost when there are lots of less-expensive sports to pursue. If your kid loves tennis, you can still let them play rec league and save a year’s tuition while investing your resources in advancing them in another sport which has more opportunity. There’s not a lot of foreign crew, volleyball, or lacrosse student-athletes, and the cost is 1/3 that of tennis.
I know all the arguments about how foreign players are more motivated, and in many instances, just better. And that coaches have to win to keep their jobs so they recruit players who can advance the program. And how private institutions aren’t using tax dollars so they would have an advantage if state schools were limited in the number of foreigners who could receive scholarships.
I don’t care. There, I said it. I am an American, and believe that we, as Americans, should promote our kids first. Especially if it entails the use of tax-funded facilities and scholarships. I could be wrong, and fully expect to be corrected if so, but I don’t hear about foreign universities offering athletic scholarships for American students. And even if they did, who would go? Arguably, America has the best institutions of higher learning in the world. And apparently the most lax restrictions on foreign athletes receiving public assistance.
I want American tennis to recover, not wither. And I want American kids to have more chances to receive the scholarships that their state schools make available.
If a foreign player wants to play for an American school, let them. But not for free. If they can win a place on the team, and pay full, out of state tuition, then by all means bring them in.
Lisa ran a series a while ago that touched on this issue and mentioned a group that is trying to raise awareness of the disparity of foreign-to-US player ration in college tennis. Perhaps she’ll post a link to that article here as well. [Editor’s note: click here for the referenced article]
For my part, I write my state and federal representatives in an attempt to foster a top-down initiative. To date I’ve sent 34 letters. Want to guess how many replies I’ve received? Yep… zero. Sure, I get the form letter stating how hard they are working for the people they represent, typically followed by a solicitation for a contribution. It seems fundraising is really the only thing they put effort into.
However, maybe, just maybe, if enough people write their representatives, asking that there be some restrictions on how much American tax money is given to foreign athletes in the form of scholarships, they might start thinking that it could mean votes if they do something. Other than money, votes are the only thing that motivates a politician.
So I’m not asking that you engage in the creation of a new group or committee to address the issue. Just take a few minutes to write a heartfelt letter on the issue, and send it to your state and federal senators and representatives. You can find their e-mail addresses online [Editor’s note: Click here to find your senator’s name and email. Click here to find your representative’s name and email.] and only have to change the salutation when you send to a different person.
An avalanche starts with but a single snowflake…. or email.