Social Media In Action

Tom Walker (you’ll recognize his name as the one who wrote the Call to Action on the Junior Competition changes in March 2012) has created a Facebook page entitled USTA – Stop 2014 National Junior Tennis Tournament Changes (click here to see it).  His mission is reprinted in its entirety below.  I encourage you to visit the page, “like” it, then share it with your tennis friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other means you have available.  There is definitely strength in numbers, and Tom’s goal is to show USTA in no uncertain terms that a critical mass of its constituents are opposed to these changes and want to see the Junior Competition Committee go back to the drawing board:

This page is dedicated to spotlighting the insane 2014 changes to the USTA National Junior Tournament Calendar and hopefully to motivate Dave Haggerty, Kurt Kamperman, the new Junior Tournament Competition Committee, the 17 Sections and the new USTA Board of Directors to permanently pause these changes and devise a new plan that is thoroughly vetted, transparent, and agreed upon by the tennis industry at large.

Background:

Last year the USTA sections passed a sweeping new National Junior Tournament Plan that was to take effect in 2013 and 2014. This plan involved shrinking the opportunities to play National tournaments for US juniors by a significant margin.

The goal of the changes as stated by the USTA was to address three major concerns:

• The rising costs of competing at the national level for juniors and their families;
• The desire to reduce the amount of time juniors would be absent from school;
• The creation of a logical progression of earned advancement from local play to sectionals to nationals to ensure that the best players move on to nationals (the best have earned the right to play) – not the players from families with more economic flexibility.

While those stated goals are noble on the surface, many in the industry question if those were the actual goals and anyone with the slightest knowledge of junior tournament tennis quickly realized that the 2014 plan did exactly opposite of these stated goals for the overwhelming majority of players.

Cost – under the 2014 plan, players will have 9 chances to play National tournaments during the course of the year. If a player was going to play 9 national events in the year, they would now be completely wed to this schedule. You could likely poll first graders and realize that if a player had 9 chances to 9 events, it is going to cost more than if they had 30 or 40 chances to play 9 events.

School – school breaks and testing schedules have never been more fragmented. Again when choice is taken away, the homeschooled kids with flexible schedules or the lucky kids whose breaks and test schedules match up with the USTA schedule will be fine while the rest of the kids will be left missing more school and will have more balancing of tests and tournaments.

Earned Advancement – this is nothing more than propaganda to pretend like there are a bunch of rich kids flying around in private jets chasing points and unfairly advantaging themselves against the kids of lesser financial means. There has always been earned advancement. The 2014 plan doesn’t change any of the earned advancement for the rank and file junior tennis player, but it does give the USTA more wild cards so that their own players are not subject to have to play in their sections. So this plan of earned advancement not only doesn’t fix a problem that doesn’t exist, it creates a pathway for a few of the chosen ones to completely avoid earning their advancement.

So on all three stated goals, these changes completely fail any reasonable smell test.

The 2014 plan has been universally panned by an overwhelming majority of parents, coaches, junior players, college players, professional players, famous ex-pro players and virtually every person of significance in the tennis industry.

To the credit of some of the USTA brass in October of 2012, a group: Jon Vegosen (past USTA President,) Kurt Kamperman (USTA CEO of Community Tennis,) Dave Haggerty (USTA President,) Gordon Smith (USTA GM) and Bill Mountford (USTA rep) met with a resistance group of tennis parents and industry figures including: Antonio Mora (father of a junior,) Robert Sasseville (tournament director,) Steve Bellamy (father of 4 juniors and founder of Tennis Channel,) Sean Hannity (father of 2 juniors) and Kevin Kempin (father of 2 juniors and the CEO of Head.) From that meeting, the USTA agreed to “pause” the 2013 changes and have a “listening tour” in various parts of the country.

Right now as stated by the USTA President Dave Haggerty in the Atlanta meeting, “the 2014 changes will not go forward as they are now and there will likely be some sort of a compromise that puts some opportunity back on the table.”

The history of the changes are that Jon Vegosen (former President) enlisted Tim Russell (music professor no longer involved with the junior comp committee) and his committee of 20 (of whom virtually none were parents or coaches of junior players and 1/2 of whom are no longer on the committee) to come up with a new plan. That plan was then given to player development (which is no longer involved in the process) who supposedly were the ones who cut all the opportunity and gave themselves more wildcards.

This plan was then pushed around the USTA sections under the guise of cutting costs, upping school attendance, criminalizing the supposed points chasers and giving the sections back all their talent who were now playing Nationally. Although the plan was passed by a margin of 16 to 1, rampant were reports of anyone speaking out against the changes being ostracized, bullied to get on board and even fired. Many section leaders who voted for the changes now say that they would not have voted the way they did had they understood what they were voting for. Others have said they received substantial political pressure to vote for the changes. Basically an election in a country with a dictator took place to slam the changes through while Vegosen’s administration was in place.

Virtually no parent, coach, college coach or person in tennis was apprised of these changes prior to them being passed and there were specific directives from USTA managers not to let the tennis industry know about the changes until after they had passed.

Additionally, little foresight was given to the impact of the changes to college coaches. The changes will directly push a large portion of college coaches out of using their recruiting travel budgets for USTA events and move them to ITF events, therefore creating even fewer US players getting seen by college coaches which is the driving reason that many US kids play junior tennis.

We believe that these changes are going to be some of the most detrimental in the history of the sport and will basically do the following:

· Make junior tennis cost more

· Significantly detract from some kids’ school

· Overly benefit kids who can get wildcarded in

· Push more foreign players into college tennis by more exposure to college coaches

· Make kids quit tennis because so many kids will be playing the same kids week after week in their same section

There are many other negatives as well.

The goal of this page is to mobilize the tennis industry to push the USTA to get this process permanently paused and a new plan put in place that is transparent, smart and vetted by all the parties impacted in junior tennis.

In lay terms, WE DON’T WANT A COMPROMISE BY ADDING BACK OPPORTUNITY TO AN UNVETTED, BROKEN PLAN. WE WANT A NEW PLAN AND THE ABILITY TO WORK WITH THE USTA TO GET THE PLAN THAT IS BEST FOR U.S. JUNIOR TENNIS.

I again urge everyone to attend one of the remaining “listening” meetings and/or to email LetUsKnow@usta.com with your thoughts regarding the 2014 Junior Competition changes.  If you need a refresher on the exact changes or dates of the meetings, please click on the 2014 Jr Comp Info tab above.

14 thoughts on “Social Media In Action

  1. regarding using the LetUsKnow email address . . . apparently, USTA has only received about 100 emails to date. to me, that indicates one of two things – either we’re not getting the word out to people in an effective manner OR those affected by the changes feel like it’s a “done deal” and don’t want to waste their time sending an email. i urge all of you, even if you do feel like your voice won’t make a difference, to speak out – if you’re in favor of the changes, let USTA know; if you’re opposed, let USTA know.

  2. Well said. Re-working a flawed proposal will just result in another flawed proposal. The USTA needs to start from scratch and work up a proposal that has the backing of its constituency.

  3. I have been following the debate in regards to the “New USTA National Junior Competition Structure” scheduled to begin in 2014 and agree with almost all of the arguments to redo the competition structure for 2014. I am more familiar with the USTA U10 Mandate which is also wreaking havoc throughout junior tennis. While reading through the USTA document outlining the 2014 changes I came across mention that the U10 Mandate is the reason they are making the changes! This is taken straight from the USTA document.

    “Why did the USTA make these changes?
    With the expectation that the new 10 and under initiative will be successful and create a significantly larger pool of junior players from diverse backgrounds, and to prepare an appropriate national tournament structure and rating/ranking system for the future which:
    • is affordable and will ensure that competitive tennis opportunities are available for all American juniors regardless of their economic circumstances and where they reside;
    • supports the importance of a traditional American education and does not require students to short-change their academic careers; and, • creates an environment to generate a base of more and better American junior players to fill the ranks of collegiate programs and for the most outstanding of these become potential future American professional champions.

    The 2 issues are linked by the USTA! and yet I have heard that the USTA does not want to address the U10 Mandate at the listening sessions. There is more to the U10 Mandate but I will not take up more space. Just wanted to point out that the 2014 National Junior Competitive Structure and the U10 Mandate are linked. Interesting.

    1. Lawrence – could you get Andy to weigh in- the best player of the current generation. That would be powerful!!

  4. Yes. Would love to post on Tom Walkers page. Bur again, would rather eat glass than expose myself to the USTA. It’s like living in China, which I have.

  5. The Usta needs to understand that any individual sport is probably not affordable. Is the equestrian community reaching out to less affluent? No way.

    In the attempts to please all, the USTA pleases no one. Instead of MANDATING, and if economic concerns are such a big issue, then get a dedicated junior development director… Not a part timer and announcer to boot.I’m sure his economics are firmly in place.

    If economics are such a concern, then put the money into the players. What a top heavy ineffective organization.

    Sooooooo frustrating

  6. Geoffrey,

    Andy is not going to weigh in on this issue….. I find it tragic that the legends of the sport are not more involved. One of the players I never thought about that has been forgotten is Mary Pierce……2 time Grand Slam winner….not bad….her father Jim Pierce has commented on Tom Walker’s facebook page…….

  7. Here is the deal regarding U10 Tennis…..give me something to read or you get this

    Here we go…..the USTA needs to follow up on this information Why Tennis?

    The choice of tennis training as the venue for this research is as follows: 1) Tennis challenges nearly every part of the body and mind. It challenges both athletic skills, emotions, decision making skills, intellectual skills. Tennis makes demands on the frontal lobe, limbic system, visual processing, Parietal Lobe, Medulla, Cerebellum, and the entire neuromuscular infrastructure of the human body. 2) Tennis is an eye-to-eye combative sport so all aspects of combative competition come into play; 3) Tennis is an individual sport so the subject is isolated and must perform on their own every second of match play and practice. 4) Tennis can be studied in a small area of 150 by 50 feet. In this ares video and observation are easily carried out

    USTA where is the data?

  8. There are so many smart people in US tennis. Just by virtue of college tennis, we have more coaches with more knowledge than anywhere else in the world by a long shot. The problem with US tennis is the governance of the USTA. It is a system where only people with a lot of spare time on their hands would ever want to really get involved. Hence the a large amount of people who end up making decisions are volunteers with no real successful knowledge or track record in tennis.

    The USTA should be reaching out to the Wayne Bryan’s, Chuck Kriese’s & Jack Sharpes of the world and use them for their knowledge. Instead those types of people are largely looked upon as pains in the butt. This junior competition situation is just the last in a long line of awful decisions made by committees of people who for the most part aren’t the A team, the B team, the C team or even the D team in their space here in America. I have sat on committee after committee and it makes me want to scream with the lack of knowledge about what most of the members are making decisions about. I have sat on a committee where a person didn’t know that Pat and John McEnroe were related. Volunteers should NEVER craft policy. Experts should.

    I hope this new President who does have some pedigree is wise enough to tell the volunteers that he is going to use the wisdom of experts to craft policy and will use the volunteers for tasks that they are good at.

    If there is a lawyer who wants to volunteer, then that lawyer should volunteer in legal. If a restauranteur wants to volunteer, then they should work on food at tournaments and fund raising events. But just because someone has enough free time on their hands to sit on one of these committees does not make them expert enough to make decisions.

    This is not the first time that the tennis industry had a complete lack of faith in the USTA. When Alan Schwartz took over, the tennis industry hated the USTA. Alan did a good job of getting them back. Today with U10 mandates, PD and now this, I am afraid the divide is greater than ever.

    Volunteers should not run a $300,000,000 business.

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