Notes from First USTA Town Hall Listening Meeting Nov 17, 2012
The following information was emailed to me by a parent who was in attendance at the Reston, VA, “listening” meeting held by USTA. I am reprinting it exactly as it was sent to me. Please read and share with other tennis parents and coaches so our voices will be heard. Thank you.
USTA Town Hall Meeting
Mid-Atlantic Annual Meeting — Reston, VA
Representing the USTA: Lew Brewer, Director Junior Competition
Scott Schultz, Managing Director, Youth Tennis
Scott Schultz (SS): Introduction
wants to really listen and wants participants to leave feeling like they have listened
This is 1st town hall meeting
This is not about kids going pro. These proposed changes affect critical group of kids: those who devote the most time, energy, and money, and those with lots at stake — college, scholarships, etc.
Lew Brewer (LB): effort is to serve vast majority of players competing
it is NOT about trying to make great players
the tournament structure is there: if it works for you use it, if not, don’t
the junior tennis competition committee was asked to look at changes that would increase player development, increase affordability, and decrease missed school (and missed work for parents)
the vast majority of players are better served by playing locally
only changes that will happen in 2013: new nat’l doubles tournament (to be played at us open series event) and new national grand masters tournament
in 2014 draw sizes for hard courts and clay courts will be reduced (assuming USTA approves committee’s recommendation to postpone this change for 2013)
Q (audience member): why reduce draw size?
LB: it used to be 128
the purpose of these tournaments is to crown a national champion and therefore they need the best players
Coach Chuck Kriese (CK): I agree with the reduction. The field at Kalamazoo has been diluted. Recently, there were 51 defaults in the backdraw. Lots of kids cramp the first day because they are not prepared to win, they are there just to have shown up. But maybe there can be a qualifying tournament.
Q: If there were 51 kids pulling out of the backdraw, the majority was actually those kids who came expecting to win and wanted only to be part of main draw. It was not kids who were so excited just to get in.
Q: There are amazing kids who are between 128 and 192, or even alternates who get in and have phenomenal tournaments.
It is also much better for college coaches to have larger draws.
If a parent doesn’t want to travel, they always have that option.
LB: We could debate this issue all day and would still disagree.
Q: Have you studied the impact of those kids between 128 and 192?
LB: Yes, we studied players who lost 1st round to see how they did in backdraw but I don’t have the results with me. There have been kids who have done very well, even a kid who made it to quarters of Kalamazoo.
But players will now qualify solely based on results in section and this will greatly change the complexion of who makes it.
Q: But mid-atlantic is so strong, it will be impossible for all of the great players to get in. Our number 8 kid could be top 100 in the country and not get in.
LB: they will have to work hard and train hard and win.
Q: There are other very valid reason for tournament besides crowing a national champion. These tournaments give kids an incredible opportunity to learn and grow and improve.
Q: Could you make some change so older kids don’t lose their last chance to play?
SS: maybe we could look at phasing it in with 12s first.
Q: The proposed quota/endorsement system does not work for a section like the mid-atlantic. Why is size relevant? The 8th player in the 14s in the midatlantic is in the top 100 nationally but would not be allowed to play. There are 16 midatlantic players in the 14s in the top 200 nationally. Meanwhile, the top kids on different sections would get spots even though they could be in the 600s nationally.
LB: Many people have argued it should just be the best players but the structure of the USTA demands that every section is represented.
SS: There will never be traction on this issue. Midatlantic has to make a proposal and fight that fight.
Bonnie Vona, mid-atlantic: under the current structure these issues are addressed. Every section gets endorsements, and others can get in off of the NSL.
Q: much better for college coaches to have larger draw sizes.
If player is injured in summer out of luck unless they have Easter Bowl or winter nationals.
Q: at NCAA division 1 tournament, only 22 of 128 players were american.
CK: Very big and serious issue.
Only Americans in top 50 or 60 can easily play — otherwise competing against all international players.
$63 million in scholarships given to foreign players.
Q: So can’t the uSTA address this issue and help US kids play tennis for US colleges?
SS: this issue is incredibly upsetting and we have to do something.
Q: If we are not competing well internationally, how do we improve kids beyond top 50?
LB: Most kids better served by competing locally
CK: kids should play with people of all different ages. See universal tennis.com ratings. Play should not be so age specific.
Q: Keeping kids playing in their sections limits playing styles and chance to play different types of players.
LB: Lots of different playing styles in mid-atlantic.
SS: 88,000 kids play tournaments. 370,000 play in high school. Tournaments don’t work for all kids. It is very impt for kids to compete against different ages.
Q: there are many reasons to compete in a national championship besides crowning the one national champion.
it is very important to college recruiting to have larger draw sizes.
The quotas are horrible.
LB: explains how quotas will work.
Q: in mid-atlantic, the top players don’t play sectionals — only nationals and ITF’s. Won’t the quotas force them back into sectional play?
Q: The quotas are the most disturbing proposal. Will take away a kid’s chance to play and that will squash all enthusiasm.
LB: quotas are good or bad depending on how you look at it.
Q: There needs to be two means of entry: quotas and NSL. ANd no player should get in off of a quota unless they have a minimum ranking on the NSL.
SS: New email address for comments: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are absolutely open to making adjustments. We won’t be going back to the system as it is but we can make the changes better.
The proposed dates for the remaining “listening” meetings are as follows:
November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX
Okay, this is Lisa “talking” again. It is crucial that parents and coaches take the time to educate themselves on the issues and attend these meetings. If you can’t attend a meeting, then please use the new email address, email@example.com, to communicate your concerns. I propose that we identify one or two parents in each USTA section to act as the voices for the section. If you are interested in serving in that capacity, please contact me ASAP so we can get to work on compiling a list of speaking points. Your ideas are welcome in the Comments section below. If we present a united front to the USTA, letting them know that parents and coaches are on the same page and are only interested in what’s best for our junior players, I believe we stand a decent chance of being heard. The onus is on us now. USTA is providing the forum – we must seize the opportunity!