Latest Articles

What’s Going on With USTA Junior Comp?

Over the last 15 years USTA junior membership has gone down almost every year, from around 175,000 in 2004 to the current number of approximately 100,000 today. Not only has membership decreased but league and tournament participation numbers are also down, backdraw participation in junior tournaments is dropping at an alarming rate, and college coaches are now relying on ITF rankings and Tennis Recruiting and Universal Tennis ratings instead of USTA rankings for recruiting purposes.  All of these factors lead to the need for an overhaul in our junior training and competition formula.

That said, over the past several weeks, I’ve been getting more and more inquiries about the rumored upcoming changes to USTA’s Junior Competition and Ranking structure. While nothing official has been announced to date, I do believe there are some significant changes coming in the near future, probably as of January 2020.

I have reached out to USTA for confirmation of these changes but have been unable to get a clear answer. I will be meeting with the USTA Director of Junior Play when I’m at the National Training Center at Lake Nona in a few weeks for the NCAA Championships and will report back what I learn.

Until then, I would like to share with you an [edited] email I received recently. The email was sent by a private coach to his/her clients and was forwarded to me indirectly. The purpose of the email was to inform families of the upcoming USTA changes and to set up a meeting (for a fee) wherein the coach would explain them in more detail. It is very important to note this WAS NOT SENT BY USTA. However, the coach seems to be part of the committee working on the junior competition changes. None of the information contained in the email has been confirmed (or denied) by the US governing body as of today:

There will be significant changes in the structure of the tennis ranking system on Jan 1st, 2020. There have been years of work leading up to this shift and the entire country will be shifting to a unified system that is the same across all 17 sections of the USTA. As a result, many adjustments will be made nationally and sectionally that impact all levels of play. It is crucial to understand what is coming in the future and plan accordingly so your children are in the best positions based on their years in school and levels of play.

A full explanation of the new system, grade and level specific handouts for planning, strategies on how best to create opportunities for your players will be shared. A portion of the feedback will be personalized. This meeting will require an extensive amount of preparation and there will be a cost of $75 for an individual attendee and $100 for both parents to attend. 

Space is limited, so it is advised to guarantee a slot as soon as possible. Due to the nature of this meeting, it is not open to the public and please do not forward and invite others. If you feel there is someone you would like to suggest, please send me a separate email and I will handle that on a case by case basis. Lots of topics will be covered and at the end of the meeting you will have a clear perspective on the execution of junior tennis in the coming years. In the coming months, the section and the national office will send out communication regarding these changes, but those documents will be just the skeleton and not the critical application of how to handle the remainder of 2019 in preparation and best practices for 2020. Although the majority of this discussion is for 7th grade through sophomore parents, families with players just outside that range may still benefit greatly from the info, especially those with younger children.

There is a limit on the space in the room and once capacity is reached, there will be an alternate list for the meeting. I highly encourage checking your schedules and following up regarding your availability.

Please do the best you can to be on time for this meeting. Lots to cover and coming in late and possibly missing pieces and wasting the time of others to ask redundant questions will prolong the meeting and challenge finishing in a timely manner and covering all pertinent details.

Lastly, as this is a new system, there will be suggestions and feedback that if given early may help the transformation. As I am on the committees at the CDTA, Midwest and National level, your input at this meeting may have a profound impact on the process.

I will be traveling to Austin, Texas for the last series of meetings this weekend and having the final pieces of new document to share at our session. Looking forward to the meeting in April.

Given what happened back in 2014 when USTA drastically changed the Junior Competition structure without consideration for the unintended consequences of those changes, it seems strange to me they would roll out another series of significant changes without directly informing their consumers (i.e. the junior players and parents) ahead of time. Now, I understand it’s just April and these changes will likely not take effect until January. However, families are already planning their summer tournament schedules and need to know things like which level of tournaments their children should play and whether or not they should start playing up in preparation for the new ranking structure.

I am hopeful USTA will start sharing information very soon rather than waiting until January once the changes have already gone into effect. Since junior and college tennis are so global in nature now, I am also hopeful that USTA has enlisted help from those outside of its committee structure to develop a world-class training, competition, and ranking system that will help our young players compete with their cohorts around the globe. Like I mentioned above, I will be meeting with someone at USTA in a few weeks and will encourage her to be proactive in communicating with players, parents, and junior coaches so everyone is well-prepared come January 1, whatever the new tournament and ranking structure have in store.


Have your say

Parenting Aces

Related Articles

Please consider visiting our partners