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Why Tennis?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the demise of American tennis.  We haven’t had a Major champion on the men’s side since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003.  Of course, we’ve seen Venus and Serena Williams win several Majors since then, but Wimbledon 2010 was Serena’s last Major title, and neither she nor Venus has won one since.

USTA is doing its darndest to find the Next Great American Tennis Champion.  In fact, Patrick McEnroe’s mission, plain and simple, as the General Manager of USTA Player Development is to ensure more Americans are in the second week of the US Open.  That’s it.  That’s his job.  And, he says, the best way for him to accomplish that mission is to get more kids playing tennis so there’s a wider pool of potential champions out there.  Hence, the big push with the new 10-and-Under initiative.

Let’s look at this analytically:

1.  We need to find the next American champion on both the men’s and the women’s side.

2.  The average cost of developing a junior tennis player from age 8 through age 18 is $475,776.

3.  The number of Division 1 college tennis scholarships available to men is 4.5 per year, 8 for women.

4.  The cost of breaking even on the professional circuit is approximately $143,000 per year.

5.  The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships and The Honda Classic (golf tournament) were held simultaneously about 10 miles apart last weekend. The Delray winner, Kevin Anderson, won $76k for the week, less than what the 20th place golfer received ($79k). The Honda Classic golf winner, Caroline Wozniaki’s boyfriend, received a little over $1 million for his victory. Unless you are top 10 in the world in tennis, the prize money pales in comparison to golf’s prize money.

Is it any wonder we’re having trouble finding, much less developing, the next American champion?  Tennis is expensive.  Not to play recreationally – in fact, it’s one of the least expensive leisure-time activities to play – but competitively, it’s cost-prohibitive for many families to absorb the expense related to developing a junior player.  And, once that player IS developed, then what?  College tennis scholarships are becoming harder and harder to earn, so to spend money on your junior with the thought that he or she will “earn” back the money in the form of a free college education is not the best plan.  What about going pro?  Well, unless the player is among the top juniors in the world, it’s going to cost him a pretty penny to start out on tour.  According to this article from The Tennis Times, full clothing and equipment sponsorships are only awarded to the top 200 players; add in travel, coaching, tournament fees, and medical expenses, and you can quickly understand how it can easily add up to $143,000.

So, there has to be another reason to choose tennis over, let’s say, golf or football or lacrosse, but what is it?

How about the life lessons that tennis imparts?  Lessons such as independent thinking, strong work ethic, self-sufficiency, mental toughness, self-discipline, honesty, and fairness.  How about the health benefits of playing an individual sport that requires you to run and stretch and swing non-stop for an hour or more?  How about the fact that team sports aren’t for everyone – some kids enjoy the challenge of being alone with themselves and mastering the mental and mechanical aspects of our physically-demanding sport.

Whatever the reason your child has chosen tennis, please try to keep in mind all the priceless benefits he or she is getting from this great sport.  It’s not about winning or losing.  It’s not about ranking points.  It’s not about a college scholarship.  It’s not about earning millions of dollars as a professional.  It’s not about you.  It IS about developing into the best adult he or she can be while having the privilege of playing a game.


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