USTA & College Tennis
Today, USTA announced the members of its 2015 Collegiate National Team (click here to read USTA’s full press release):
Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA, rising Junior
Noah Rubin, Wake Forest, turned pro at completion of Freshman year
Ryan Shane, University of Virginia, rising Senior
Brooke Austin, University of Florida, rising Sophomore
Jennifer Brady, UCLA, turned pro at completion of Sophomore year
Julia Elbaba, University of Virginia, rising Senior
Jamie Loeb, University of North Carolina, rising Junior
Several college coaches will travel with these players over the summer as they compete in the various Pro Circuit events across the US. USTA will also provide grant money and other support to additional top college players not on the Collegiate National Team. I was especially happy to read this quote from new General Manager of Player Development, Martin Blackman: ““It is of vital importance that college tennis remains a strong part of the professional tennis player pathway. Therefore, USTA Player Development will continue to provide America’s top college players with the resources to help them make the transition from college to successful pro careers.”
I have maintained for a while now that if we want US tennis to grow and thrive, college tennis must be a viable option for young players and their families. This USTA Player Development support for a small group of top college players is a step in the right direction.
I would also love to see USTA’s Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee create an arm to provide financial support and guidance to those players who have devoted a decade or more to our sport but who may not qualify for the assistance from Player Development. With less and less money available for tennis scholarships, especially on the men’s side, this is a way that USTA could step in and help families cope with the ever-increasing costs of junior development and a college education.
There are a couple of new USTA Pro Circuit events popping up around the country such as the one at Wake Forest and the one at University of the Pacific. I suspect more universities will be jumping on the Futures bandwagon in the coming months which is a great boon for older juniors and college players who are looking to take their tennis to the next level. But, like junior tournaments, these Pro Circuit events can get expensive when you add in entry fees, travel, hotel, etc.
If USTA could come up with multiple levels of its Collegiate National Team platform so a greater number of young players could have a chance to receive at least some financial support, I believe it would have a quick trickle down effect on drawing more young players into the sport. Maybe with ITA’s recent announcement of its partnership with Oracle, this is an opportunity for USTA and ITA to work together to help grow the sport. Or maybe USTA should take a lesson from ITA and seek out a major sponsor devoted to supporting college players. Thoughts???