USTA Is Trying

Earlier this month, several higher-ups from USTA met in Atlanta along with many proven junior development coaches from around the US to discuss how USTA can do a better job of utilizing and supporting the talent of local coaches. The specific context of the meeting as stated in the post-meeting notes from USTA was “to create a culture of inclusiveness where personal coaches, USTA Sections, and USTA Player Development work together to be part of a national movement to create the next wave of world-class American players. This structure could include adjustments in the allocation of resources to be aligned with the top personal coaches, top junior developmental programs, and provide more training and developmental opportunities for the top players who are currently hitting benchmarks that are in line with the top 100 pathway. We want to work together with the private sector in an even more systematic, inclusive way and continue to look for ways to do it even better.”

The Stakeholder Groups as defined by USTA were as follows:

 Developmental Coaches
o Mark Bey
o Sly Black
o Sue Burke
o Lawrence Kleger
o Chuck Kriese
o Jack Sharpe
o Brad Stine
o Joe Gilbert
o Facilitator: Fred Allemann

 USTA Section Leadership
o John Callen
o Michael Cooke
o Angela Emery
o Bruce Hunt
o Facilitator: Elizabeth Diaz

 Section Organizers and RTC Coaches
o Steve Cobb
o Robert Gomez
o Dave Licker
o Vesa Ponkka
o Facilitator: Kent Kinnear

 USTA National Leadership (Board)
o Katrina Adams
o Dave Haggerty
o Chanda Rubin
o Brian Vahaly
o Facilitator: Tom Jacobs

 USTA National Leadership (Staff)
o Jose Higueras
o Paul Lubbers
o Patrick McEnroe
o Gordon Smith
o Bill Mountford
o Geoff Russell
o Scott Schultz
o Facilitator: Andrea Hirsch

The group worked to identify the challenges tennis faces in this country, ranging from competition from other youth sports to lack of a clear career path for tennis to the structure of USTA itself. They divided into sub-groups to discuss the various issues and to brainstorm some possible solutions to overcoming them.

The developmental coaches expressed their desire to work with the national coaches in order to provide the best training modalities to juniors, modalities that might not be available at the local level. These local coaches want the chance to network with other coaches around the country and to share best practices. They want access to resources such as tennis-specific strength and conditioning methods that may not be available locally. They want to see the sense of honor among coaches and players that seems to have disappeared in recent years.

Section leaders would like to set clearer outcomes and goals. They want better education, training, and communication (that’s a Big One for me!). And they, too, want to share best practices so everyone can do a better job.

Section organizers and Regional Training Center leaders shared in the desire for collaboration but also pointed out the need to do a better job PR-wise. They would like to have more support from USTA leadership to grow the game.

The Board and National Leadership feel there is currently an “us vs. them” mentality in the tennis community. I think that’s a very accurate assessment and am happy to hear they recognize it as a problem. They would like to see a more cohesive effort in building the USTA brand and building Team USA through increased collaboration, increased transparency, and increased fun in the game. Amen!

Those in attendance do recognize that they will be giving up some control by collaborating with developmental coaches, but they seem to feel it’s worth loosening the reins a bit in order to help grow the sport.

After reading through the meeting notes, I received an email from Wayne Bryan directed to USTA President Dave Haggerty expressing his thoughts and ideas on what was discussed in Atlanta. Those of you who follow tennis have likely read many of Coach Bryan’s “essays” on how to improve tennis in the US, so I won’t repeat all of what he said in this latest iteration. However, a couple of things jumped out at me, and I’d like to get your input on them.

First, Coach Bryan addressed the issue of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoff tournament, an event I’ve enjoyed attending each of the last few years. His point was, if Australia is giving the US a wildcard into the main draw, why shouldn’t it automatically go to the highest-ranked American player who missed the cut off for direct entry? Why should USTA spend presumably tens of thousands of dollars putting on this event when that money could go directly to the players to help fund their travel Down Under?

He also says that USTA should let coaches and parents and players do things their way. USTA should be in the business of vibrant programming and fair and accurate rankings, not coaching. Maybe USTA can take a closer look at junior golf (see my earlier article) and use that as a model?

The final idea that hit home for me was that local developmental coaches should receive financial rewards/stipends from USTA once they have proven their success with young players. Quoting Coach Bryan: “And hey, coach, we see you have 85 kids in your program and you have produced 15 national caliber players and 10 D1 college players and you have two players that are #1 in their age group.  Here’s $10,000: please add 5 deserving little 6 year-olds to your program and take them to the top.  We’ll check back in a few years and see how it’s going.”

What do you think of all this? I’d love your input in the Comments below. To me, this meeting shows that USTA recognizes it needs to make some fundamental changes in order to stay relevant. There is still a long way to go to get US tennis back on track, but we have to start somewhere, and admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

 

 

49 thoughts on “USTA Is Trying

  1. $10,000 lousy little dollars for producing that much talent? And how long will that ten thousand last if those six year olds have an hour of privates a week in addition to group training? Won’t even make it through six months. Useless.

  2. Wow –hopeful discussion — There are so many creative ways to utilize USTA resources through cooperation on the local level if the USTA leadership is willing to take the time and effort to listen. Financial support and collaboration with local coaches and programs is so important! Court fees alone (esp in the colder areas e.g., Northeast) makes tennis cost prohibitive for most! ($60 – $100/hr just to get on the court and usually in a cold bubble).

    USTA’s 2014 New Year’s resolution should be:

    #1 Put together a schedule for 2014 and visit EVERY region/section in US and have these types of discussions! If that were to occur, the leadership/decision-makers would would have the necessary information to put together a world class strategic plan, with clear goals and strategies, factoring in the unique challenges of each section in the country! Only then will we be on our way to developing the next generation of world class players!

    # 2 STOP NOW making far-reaching decisions without input from the players/coaches and parents in the trenches. Each section in the US has different challenges in terms of player development! The disconnected nature of the USTA within and among each section is a barrier to player development. The leadership needs to be aware of these issues in order to develop a comprehensive, inclusive plan.

    #3 Don’t leave junior players and parents out of the discussion!! I did not see a category for junior players/parent in the above mentioned. They should be represented — and not just parents who are coaches!

    This method to strategic planning would be far less expensive and less time-consuming than the current isolationist plan in place!

  3. The USTA has zero chance of producing a top 100 player because its a rare, rare event. They should simply concentrate of supporting tennis. Many, many more refs at tournaments to calm down the cheating, less expensive entry fees, plenty of entry level programs to get more kids into tennis. They have no business being involved with coaching. The next great players will come from random insane tennis parents and private coaches, not any organized effort.

  4. I also think it is very “telling” how the USTA defines it’s stakeholders (see above– “stakeholder group as defined by USTA”) No where is there mention of the PLAYER — (or the PARENTS who have to navigate (and drain their bank accounts) to support this cumbersome, expensive system — or lack thereof) WOW! The leadership should at a MINIMUM know who their stakeholders are!

    It should not be a surprise to anyone that US tennis is on a dead-end road — there is just no defense for this!

    As a parent in the trenches for over a decade, the USTA needs to listen to us too, and not marginalize players/parents, because we know what is happening in the “real” system, and I promise you — it’s just not working at a level to develop world class players! Time to get back to the basics! Start with knowing who your real stakeholders are!

    1. Lisa, I so appreciate your comment – thank you! I think USTA realizes that we parents are an important piece of the puzzle as evidenced by the fact that they shared the notes from the meeting with me knowing I would post them here. They want and need our input. Keep the comments coming!

      1. Your welcome Lisa, but you are much more hopeful than I. I have hard evidence/experience that they are not listening to parents/players. Case in point — for the last five years I have submitted a proposal (on the sectional level to the sectional junior development committee and when they didn’t listen, sent it to the folks at the national level) to change the requirements for a certain, unnecessary, expensive, mandatory tournament (specific only to the particular section) and sent it to the leadership and junior development committee (based on a request from the head of the sectional USTA junior development committee). I had nearly every sectional parent and player supporting the proposal and solutions. Do you know that not ONCE in those five years did anyone within the junior development committee ask to speak to me on the phone, invite me to be present at an open committee meeting (no such thing, I’m afraid), or even bother to let me know my proposal was on the agenda! Each year the committee said they would put it up for review and then never got back to me, even though many were in favor of my proposal and thought it offered concrete solutions to an out-moded mandatory rule — causing players and families to spend at least $1000+ dollars and a week of wasted time that could have been used for better training or just time-off! When pressed, they said they discussed it and were working on solutions that would be implemented through the years — no specifics, no concrete outcomes, nothing… Five years I did this — each year the same thing! I can’t make that up!

  5. That is very upsetting to hear, Lisa. I hope that someone from USTA will see your comment and choose to either respond here or privately to you. Please keep me posted.

  6. I’m way beyond wanting a response, Lisa — I used the very small level example to show how something so very cut and dry (on a sectional level) — which could save players and parents valuable resources — gets bogged down in committee and no one has the backbone to say — It’s just wrong!!
    The leadership has a very narrow perspective of what is really going on in junior tennis and decisions are not made with the best interest of developing players — there are way too many conflicting agendas and egos!

  7. The USTA has already sent us down the rabbit hole on this one. I feel these meetings are for show, by the very people that built the current dysfunctional system. The USTA should do away with centralized training and move forward with total decentralized coach support, so kids can stay with their coaches and develop. This will never happen-because the people charged with making the decision to implement such changes draw paychecks from the current system.

    The point that the “stakeholders” mentioned above do not list player or parents is a glaring example of the thick skulled mentality of the USTA. Parents have more of an impact on child development and junior tennis player development than the USTA ever will. At all of the RTC events I have ever been at, they have ridiculous meetings minimizing parental involvement. The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that you have one– The USTA has no real insight into their shortcomings. They say they do and have fake meetings, but none of them actually buy in. I will believe it when I see it.

    1. Well said! The fact that the USTA does not list players/parents as stakeholders should go viral! They are missing their Raison D’etre — “To promote the growth and development of tennis …and it’s a shame! Get back to the basics

      STEP 1: Go BACK TO YOUR MISSION AND VALUES — and admit you have a problem! Think about these words in your values: (SEE BELOW)

      “Mission Statement and Values” — copied for USTA website!

      FIVE CORE VALUES which constitute the fundamental beliefs of the organization:

      Integrity: The USTA is committed to the highest standards of integrity, honesty and ethics.

      Inclusiveness: The USTA actively seeks all people who play, watch, support, and/or enjoy the game of tennis into its events, programs, membership, leadership, and activities on a non-discriminatory basis.

      Excellence: The USTA continually strives for excellence and is dedicated to providing outstanding service and value.

      Commitment & Teamwork: The USTA is committed to its mission and believes that mission can best be achieved through the efforts of volunteers, staff and strategic partners working as a team.

      Accountability: USTA staff and volunteers accept responsibility for how their actions support the USTA Mission.

      Really….!!!!

      Come on USTA leadership board/staff –be brave — get new and different input/leadership — make a change in your game! That’s what you keep asking our players/parents and local coaches to do — your key stakeholders in promoting your mission, whether you know it or not!

      You need new and different voices to help facilitate change and get out of your “group think” dysfunctional cycle — it just keeps repeating itself!

  8. Like I said, trying to produce a top 100 player is a bad goal because its got very little chance of success. So regarding youth, the USTA to have a very simple mission. Make the sport as affordable and fair as possible. We need the best athletes possible in tennis. I introduce excellent athletes who play other sports to tennis. Their first tournament they see they have to call the lines, deal with cheaters, gamesmanship, etc. They leave tennis.

    The USTA should spend some of its millions it wastes on more refs and adults to help at these tournaments. Tennis is the only sport on earth where the professional game has refs and score keepers yet the kids are expected to do it all on their own. Makes no sense to spend $100 million on junior development yet have tournaments that are like free for alls of cheating and chase the good kids out of the sport.

  9. Quoting Coach Bryan: “And hey, coach, we see you have 85 kids in your program and you have produced 15 national caliber players and 10 D1 college players and you have two players that are #1 in their age group. Here’s $10,000: please add 5 deserving little 6 year-olds to your program and take them to the top. We’ll check back in a few years and see how it’s going.”

    I like Mr. Bryan but he is off base on this one. Producing college players and/or some well ranked national players is nice, but not an indicator of anything in terms of producing a top 100 pro. Tennis played at even national USTAs and D-1 is light years from the top 100. A top 100 player is a fairly random event, a meeting of immense talent, hard work, and opportunity.

    And like another poster said, $10000?? If any human on earth could hand pick a 6 year old and “take them to the top” they would not need the USTA thats for sure!! The parents would be lined up around the block for them! No coach has a clue which 6 or even 12 year old will be a top 100 player.

  10. Well having a Junior that has started playing Level 1 Events who has been coached by one on the list, I only hope the USTA understands that these kids need to be @ their Academy or Coach with friends family and an environment that provides stability needed for success. Currently sitting in Tucson Arizona on my first “Real” road trip to a Level 1 Event all I can say is “THIS IS CRAZY!” The parents, the professional traveling coaches, the apathetic officials, the $$$, the Cheating I could go on and on. Not to mention some of the most disrespectful kids I have seen (ah maybe that’s a sign of the times). All products of the current USTA competitive structure. Yes we have made some friends and met some wonderful folks, but “THIS IS CRAZY!” So as a 20+ year military man never criticize without at least providing a “king for a day” solution.

    #1 USTA, Yes leave the kids alone with their coaches, periodic evaluations and realistic development plans for players should be the cornerstone but leave the coaches alone. The cream will rise.

    #1a USTA, wow Parents do a whole lot, without them NOTHING works. That is pretty clear to me now….. AND with them NOTHING may work I see that side also. Ultimately they are needed so the bad ones are casualties of war. Sorry next family….

    #2 SCRAP the USTA Tournament and Ranking structure. Its flawed and cannot be fixed.

    #3 SCRAP the Quota system, for example Florida has 5 of top 10, 8 of top 50 , 15 of top 150 Nationally ranked kids in one age group so why not 10% of the Quotas for Level 1 events? Quotas if kept should be a sliding scale from event to event based on how kids in your section do. Makes that “Endorsement” mean a bit more ha!!! Your sections kids fall out of main draws or fail to reach the Round 16 or whatever then you lose your quotas. Several sections have kids losing 0,1 0,2 in Level 1 events, and yet they deserve to continue getting main draw acceptance?

    #4 Take all the kids and develop a Jr Circuit with levels (A-B-C-D-E…) Kids play a schedule of events some local some national. Parents can plan travel TD still get revenue. Each level has its own Round Robin events (Local and National) and USTA reps along with Panel of coaches are at these events evaluating kids and using whatever criteria to grade them Up or down after the 6 months (semester). The kids initial Level would be determined by several evaluation events held nation wide in the sections. Look at the Main Draw QF in 12s NATs in Arizona mostly seeded players (A Level) so let them play a round robin amongst themselves, and the ones with lowest # wins fall to Level B and the B Level kids (NE Draw for example) move up for the next circuit event. Bottom line level the field buy ability not some arbitrary formula based on nothing that gets the best against the best. Age up you do it again. So can a 12 that has not made Level A play 14s NO! Stay and Play until you prove you can compete with your age group. # of kids in each level, # of levels, events etc….I’ll leave that to the experts.

    #4a Circuit structure will also allow kids to compete in Multiple sports understanding the need to chase points has been eliminated. Tennis will attract more “True” athletes

    #5 USTA Take some money and get more officials at National Level events. If national points are awarded then ensure fairness, and penalize those that have forgot close calls are IN.

    We have participated in 3 Level 1 events and I ask is this the best USTA Jr can do? Has anyone at the USTA been to a Softball, Soccer, Baseball, Hockey National level event?
    Or do they only like to compare Tennis to these sports when they make their point and ignore the rest? USTAs highest level events need work.

    Yes this is a rant, I may not know what will work but I’m willing to try, and my kid isn’t Level A.

  11. Lisa, thank you for the opportunity extended to all of us to comment on this article.

    It has been said that “if you want to wreck a good idea, just get yourself a well intentioned committee”. Lets concur as a first step that the USTA should exit the sport as a coaching entity. The USTA has for years experienced an investment vs. return deficit. Definitely not a body that commends sound business strategies. Luckily the USTA is a Not for Profit entity and they will continue to afford indulging themselves in their missed objectives without impacting their bottom-line. When you know that you are the only show in town, you can overlook sound policy, disregard tangible projects, mismanage and miss business forecasts. As some of you have articulated, the outsider’s viewpoints do not resonate well at the USTA level, because we do not live nor operate on the same stage. Since the general consensus is that the thing is beyond repair, maybe it is time someone considers launching another tennis governing body to co-exist with the USTA – And if you do, please make it a For Profit – result based entity – we live in a free market , and there is plenty of room for another tennis governing body out there. (food for thought). You would be shocked what a little competition can do toward improving a product.

  12. One thing I think is missing in this discussion of better communication, cooperation between coaches, and Wayne’s proposed financial bonuses for coaches is the daunting financial prospects for many families at the grass roots level. I can provide my own example as a case study, but there are other parents I have talked to who are in the same boat. It is a documented fact that many drop out of junior tennis around 12 – 14 y.o. This is often due to athletes eventually choosing other sports over tennis.

    In my case, I have a 10 year old son ranked around 22 sectionally right now, 3rd in his district, who is positively loves tennis. Right now he might not be elite, but he is certainly competitive enough that he might have a future–never can tell what happens in those teen years. His dream is to be a professional player although I have encouraged the secondary goal of playing college tennis since I know there is little chance of the pros. He only picked up a racket 3 years ago, so he is making fast progress and I definitely want him to get all of those great lessons that come from committing to excellence at something.

    My problem is the financials. My wife is a stay-at-home mom (childcare for the kids would eat her salary) and I am a teacher. Yup, modest means. Yet I have this athletically gifted child for who I think deserve at least an opportunity. I am a high-school tennis coach myself so I have been able to coach him so far, which is good as I can’t afford a private coach. I piece together opportunities best I can at local parks and rec facilities, pay for a few affordable summer clinics and camps, etc. We travel to a few tournaments a month to get that experience and build mental toughness, etc. But what he will really needs to take it to the next level is an academy and/or private coach of some kind, especially as he enters his teen years where it is better for a parent to step aside from coaching. The kids he competes with at tournaments all train at local academies. We can’t even afford indoor court time regularly in the winter so we have to layer up and play in 30 degree temps when its not raining, snowing, or the wind is whipping.

    I’m not saying this to get pity–I do believe a little struggle can be valuable in and of itself, and in the big picture, we are privileged to even have a tennis court to hit on at all. I say all this to provide background for what the real problem is. So he is having this mediocre experience with competitive tennis, but meanwhile, there’s baseball. He is equally talented at baseball (really, he is one of those all-around athletes that keep being talked about in these junior tennis discussions that are lost to other sports). To compete in baseball, we have to pay $75 twice a year for like 50 baseball games and two 3 hour practices every week. He does baseball clinics several times a year–$175 for 12 – 15 semi-private two hours sessions at indoor facilities (coach:player ratio 5:1) with high school and college coaches. Imagine what that many semi-private lessons at indoor facilities would cost in tennis? (Don’t imagine, I can tell you what it is here: $1275 for 15 sessions). If he wants to play elite travel baseball (coaches are frequently recruiting him), this costs more but still is significantly less than tennis. He loves baseball too, and the experience is great and much cheaper than tennis. (And the future prospects are better–college and pro). I have friend who’s son is playing for FREE at an expensive private high school that has produced several NBA players and college scholarships galore. He scoffs at how everything costs so much money with tennis.

    Shouldn’t USTA be addressing this? My son is being actively recruited/offered discounts etc. in the baseball world, whereas the tennis world seems to care less. We live ten minutes away from a USTA Regional Training Center, and I’ve looked into classes etc. there, and the cost is EXTREME. Way beyond what we can afford. (They said they had financial aid, I went through the laborious application process, but then they ran out of money right when I filed the application. Who knows if it would’ve made a difference anyway.)

    I hate to turn my back on tennis for my son because I am not rich enough. Our family loves playing together. But I have been told so many stories by just about everyone who knows about how it is impossible for a kid to be successful in tennis without deep pocketed parents. If this is the case, then is it any wonder so many kids are turning to other sports? Isn’t this at least part of the problem with us being competitive worldwide? I know my son is not the Great American Hope, but how do we know that there aren’t other kids out there now playing baseball or basketball that could’ve been great American tennis players, but have been turned away by the cost? Isn’t this part of USTA’s plan?

    1. Alan as a parent with a player just getting out of junior tennis and playing D1 college tennis on a scholarship, I can confidently say if your child continues to progress, you will not be able to financially afford to support his development, under the current USTA model. Depending on where you live in the country, it will cost at least CONSERVATIVLY 20 to 30 thousand (yes I said thousand!!) dollars a year for your son to get adequate (not exceptional ) training –and certainly not pro track training–and travel to necessary tournaments etc.! I say GET OUT now before you bankrupt yourself. There are very few scholarships and he will have a more well-rounded life in another sport. There are few parents out there –unless they were fortunate to live in a warm, concentrated tennis area–Florida or California or TX (even those area you will spend all your time trying to do it on a budget) that wouldn’t agree with me. The current system is built for the USTA and private academies/clubs to make money on the backs of families and players. Everything is wrong with it — I honestly can’t think of one thing that works. If you and your son choose to stay in it, remember years from now you were fairly warned (kidding) because the USTA is not going to fix the system– they don’t think there is a problem–
      And this is coming from a parent whose player still loves the sport–but agrees with me on all counts!

  13. SeminoleG, I LOVE your rant (we all need to be outraged at what is going on!) — you have only just begun doing “THE CRAZY!” — and in a few years when you are sitting courtside in the 18s, this is what you will see — (experienced parents please add to the list) I’ll start with the positives…

    1. the players will be a little better behaved (most (not all) mature and tend to respect one another),
    2. more, (not all) parents/coaches will realize no matter what they do on the sidelines, during a match, it’s not going to help the outcome (just hurt it)
    3.the USTA refs will continue to be abysmal!
    4.Your wallet and patience will be significantly thinner; (or non-existent)
    5. Your son will scramble to be offered one of the few college scholarships not going to foreign players, and
    6.You will be utterly fed up with the mess known as USTA tennis!

    AND…

    Most importantly, you will continue to RANT and ask– why did I ever allow my child and family (because it will impact your family in ways you have even thought about yet) to get on this train wreck known as the US Tennis? Good Luck! Why more parents aren’t out-raged is lost on me!

    And if you haven’t noticed, but based on your thoughtful reply, I’m guessing you have — there is zero indication that the USTA is moving in a direction that will remotely address the issues you and others have raised!

  14. To address the cost of tennis training issue in our area, three years ago I went out on a limb and leased an indoor/outdoor tennis facility to start a program fully dedicated to youth tennis. We are a six (indoors) hard courts and four (outdoors) clay, no frills tennis sweatshop where for the past three years $375.00 “per month” gets our junior members all the court time they can muster (plus coaching). Twenty four of those weekly hours are supported by proven coaching assistance (mostly college players). By Midwest standards, we are dirt cheap, and that is where we encounter some resistance. Folks associate low cost with inferior quality of training, though we are the only area program with a number of nationally ranked / star rated players, and with players already performing at some big name D-1 colleges. We’ve learned that what people tell you they want, does not really equate into what they intimately believe they need. We may eventually have to rethink the low budget strategy, because we lose a lot of potential participants due to the “too cheap” negative connotation – if you can believe that.

    Just one more point Lisa, if I may quote you here … “The current system is built for the USTA and private academies/clubs to make money on the backs of families and players. Everything is wrong with it” … Now that I have been involved with the club lease for a while, (a personal hobby of course) I can assure you that the bulk of the costs of training indoors are not induced by the USTA. These rates derive from a variety of tangible fixed costs directly impacting indoor tennis facilities. Among them are: high Property taxes, high Insurance rates, High maintenance costs, inflated labor rates, lighting (156 light bulbs per court). Not to be overlooked is the heating and cooling of these sometimes hundred thousand square feet buildings. Are we making money? Clearly not – but we are happy to be narrowly paying the bills, while offering the community potentially the tennis opportunity. To your point, I might add, we have never been able to access USTA funding or subsidies to expand our program. Not to worry, the country club eight miles away always gets the USTA grants and high level tournaments without producing “one” quality player LOL.

    1. Daniel, i don’t really understand your point but probably because I wasn’t clear with mine — I should clarify and say that I honestly don’t see anything working inside the USTA system/framework! And you should be applauded for developing a solution (outside of the system) and one that is a successful answer to a systemic problem! My point is your efforts, along with many local level academies and clubs and coaches who are “getting it right” should be subsidized by the USTA — but instead the USTA is working in competition with you and others! There are so many resources that could be utilized at the local level — namely “retired” college players — who can add so much value/expertise if the USTA was creative with incentives! I think it’s great if local clubs can make a profit and be a viable business, but based on my experience, in many regions of the country, junior development is a loss leader so the clubs are forced to focus on the paying adult programs that are more profitable — can’t blame them and have to ask for astronomical fees from the juniors! I believe the USTA could utilize their resources better by subsidizing local organizations/coaches/clubs who are willing to invest in junior development, but instead they are competing with many of these local venues and selectively helping a few (just as they do with players) — and paying themselves grand salaries in the process! The USTA focuses on the few, not the masses — and it’s by attracting the masses to the sport they will find the next generation of superstars! I so admire your efforts!! Congratulations!

  15. Rant Continued……

    Well I can say that we were able to get back home before the 1st, several families were left and couldn’t pay the outrageous ticket change fees, my Platinum status saved US!. I can’t imagine no Tennis sitting in Tucson waiting for a flight. So yes I am starting to see the family sacrifice. I saved $$ with Points/Miles that allowed breakfast and a room for 4. I CANNOT imagine paying this 3,4,5 times a year! Add to it the USTA is where? I’d expect several PD folks holding round table discussions, advising parents. Sponsors engaging the kids (ADNA did with my daughter) Workshops, Discussion groups at a minimum. At a minimum Tennis Jr 101.

    I do not fault those that have done this BUT WHY? Why hasn’t their been a revolt where all 128 kids JUST DIDN”t Play! Purpose get the USTA to actually engage the customers. Imagine if all 128 kids refused to take the courts, and left a National EVENT. Has this happened, yes in Travel Soccer when they had Trophies for the Boys and only Medals for the Girls the teams walked and refused to play the finals. They COUGHED up Trophies apologized and said it was unfair to treat the girls differently.

    So Yes at some point, things change and from the rumblings I’m hearing in Florida I wouldn’t be shocked if an alternate entity enticed the Top kids to their events.

    Lastly I went thru all 12s-18s NAT past winners lots of lost names here so once again whats the purpose?

    Yes my 11yo got some wins, will be Top 150 and I asked her, Do you want to come back next year? We went to Sabino Canyon, Tombstone and made the best of free time. if her friends go she will, otherwise didn’t see it as a big deal.

  16. thanks for the informative post Lisa. I for one am thankful that the USTA is still committed to world-class tennis player growth from everywhere it can be cultivated. I am also thankful that all the great private coaches and organizations that were at the meeting are interested in working with the USTA too, as I still believe there is still a major role for a player identification and development role at all USTA levels in the way of tracking players by a bit more than win lose and rankings, as well as staying in close communication with private and parent coaches so as to better understand the players and tailor assistance to the players and coaches.

  17. Seminole,

    Thanks for coming out to Tucson. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the event. But please keep in mind that we all don’t live in Florida. For the 12 and 14’s, this is the only L2 event held west of the Mississippi. Folks from the west coast could have similar complaints about the Clay courts, which I am sure is a short drive for you. For many kids playing this event, particularly from small sections, its one of the few times a year they get to break out of the ground hog day competition situation. We do appreciate the players and families from the east coast who do make the trek.

    Also, not every player should feel obligated to play every event. Just because you don’t like an event because it’s not convenient for you doesn’t mean it should be done away with. That’s how we got into this whole schedule mess coming up next year – too many people with too much power not appreciating other players perspectives.

  18. Sorry AJT if you got the impression I didn’t like your event. Having done 3 L1’s I don’t like any of them. This is a USTA problem not a TD issue. I was commenting as a new parent and honestly if any thing is to get better a fresh view is a good thing. Having seen National Level Hockey, Soccer, Gymnastics “THESE” USTA National events need work. Yes compared to the other L1’s Tucson was right on PAR I just feel the current system/format is just wrong.

    My original point was this System is flawed and seeing folks sit in Hotels for 1-2 days waiting on flights to get home is just Crazy.

    I’ll say again if they had workshops for parents, kids, Sponsor demo’s, etc the complexion of the event changes. This was the 12s and LOTs of folks first go round, so I ask again if you had a clean slate would these L1 events look the same?
    Thank god for the Compass draw or nobody would show, and YES at least unlike @ Clays folks stayed around in Tucson. Look @ the Clay Court 12s back draws all the Defaults… that should be a loud siren as to the quality of the event.

    So back to the original rant that the USTA could do a lot to improve these events if left in the current format.

  19. Thanks Seminole,

    Although it’s not my event, I am a little sensitive about it because of their attempt to eliminate it last year, and your note seemed to have a special antipathy towards this particular event, but I guess that comes from sitting in airports and hotel rooms.

    Yes, all the events could be much better, if anybody at USTA national level really cared about them. But they don’t, what interests is in their new special 32 draw team event, 64 Easter event, sweet sixteens, etc.

    They should be focused on increasing the depth of American talent – our top 200 players in 10 years should be as competitive as our top 100 players now – instead of the gastly amount f resources they throw at a select few, reducing playing opportunities, etc.

    1. So very true AJT. And we all know the leadership only cares about those in the top 100. Trouble is they are missing so much talent because their identification system is messed up too, esp the meaningless ranking system — again favoring the select few who can afford to travel and chase points and who have crazy parents willing to do it. There are so many better ways to identify and include the masses and it’s astounding they don’t see it! Through the years I did meet so many well meaning folks tryin to run these tournaments but that doesn’t mean they should continue in the manner they are played. It’s just exhausting tor everyone involved.

  20. The following was posted by Guy on my LinkedIn page:
    Lisa Where I am from high performance training should be more affordable to local players that cannot join a club. It should be year round. Transportation is a big problem because most the kids live to far to get to a club. Also some local players do not have access to an indoor facility.

  21. I would like to know how the USTA is addressing all the scholarships that go to foreign players in our college system. Doesnt seem fair- especially at public universities, funded by our tax dollars- that 50% or more of the team is made up of players from outside the US.

    1. Jon, I hate to say it but that is not a USTA issue – it is an NCAA/ITA issue. That said, I would love to see USTA get more involved in advocating for our American players and limiting the number of scholarships that can go to international players much like the NAIA has done. That as well as fighting for the phase-out of Title IX which limits scholarships on the male side to 4 1/2 (as opposed to 8 on the women’s side) – as the mother of 2 daughters in addition to my tennis-playing son, I think I can safely say that Title IX has done its job in terms of collegiate athletics, leveling the playing field for female athletes. But, that’s a discussion for another post!

  22. I heard about this meeting a few weeks before it happened and requested a media credential to attend so I could report back to y’all. I was told the meeting was “closed” but that USTA would provide me with a summary at the conclusion which they did. While it would’ve been great to be in the room, I do understand that the purpose of this particular meeting was to find a common ground between local developmental coaches and those working for USTA itself – it was not the time for parents to be at the table. I’m hoping, though, that as a result of all the comments here, USTA will host future discussions including us parents as well as some of the older juniors who can provide an up-close-and-personal perspective.

  23. Yes as a former Scholarship Athlete this boils down to ONE thing. Coach’s contracts. Many have financial incentives to “Just Win Baby” and sorry to say our Play Along, Get Along everybody plays culture is the blame for this. American Rec/Travel sports construct is a big issue.

    So based on what I see in the Current USTA system lack of a true rating and ranking system is an issue. I know I am new but I see it as the ROOT cause to a lot of issues. This is one of them.

    If the PAY to PLAY structure (those with $$$ can travel earn points/rankings) does not change, why would you recruit a Top USTA Junior winning AT their age if your W2 depended on it?

    1. the pay to play and travel to earn points element of the system has changed.this year in fact it will be a different system. Many people here do not like that change. This is an illustration of the quandary that the USTA also must manage.moreover the United States has 3 different ranking systems for juniors. One of them or three of them in combination should give any parent an idea of who’s the strongest players in America are.

  24. Let’s start at the beginning. As usual- junior players are not regarded in their entirety. Junior players are people too. They have families that form the basis of their well being. It is very rare that a coach can fulfill this role. The root challenge in creating a professional is that they must be well rounded and self-acutalized. USTA will never be able to substitute for parents and family in this regard.

    If USTA is going to compensate someone, it should compensate parents and the junior players for their tennis achievements. If Parents decide to pass it on to the coaches who legitimately contributed their child’s expertise then that should occur.

    Coaches who are good at what they do are almost always fairly compensated. This profession is not akin to being a teacher or a clergy member.

    In addition, I can tell that USTA and many other tennis professionals seem to have no idea why children and parents choose other sports instead of tennis. I know.

    However, I have encountered many good professionals in the tennis world. I have faith that the powers that be will rely on their hearts to make a fair and sincere competitive structure that benefits all levels of junior tennis but especially appreciates the child who aspires to be a future professional in tennis.

  25. Lisa, it is not a USTA issue…….
    United States Tennis Association can not advocate for American players to play college tennis in America.
    Ok…. enough sarcasm.

    Why does the USTA not care that Division 1 is now 70% foreign?
    The USTA has different goals from that of parents and their juniors.

    Their main goal is to get 1 or 2 players into the QF of the US Open.
    So, they hand picked a dozen or so kids at age 12 as the gifted ones for the past few years, and spent 20 million a year on the chosen few.

    Now, do they want their chosen few to play with the American riff raff or do they want them to play with the foreigners who have an ITF junior rating of top 200?

    What will make their players better?
    Obviously, playing with better players.
    And then perhaps their goal ( their salary is based on this) of getting their chosen few into the US Open will happen instead of someone saying, “What happened to so-so”?

    So, is college tennis the pathway to the pros only?
    If yes, and the trend for foreigners in tennis gets larger and larger each year, how will this help American players ( our players) when they can’t get on the team?

    I am not going to even go into the college coaches who choose their team from their native country and the whole team speaks one language, and it is not English.

    I am not saying no to foreigners. I just think a cap of two a team would make it fair, especially at public universities funded by that state’s taxpayer.

    I have been reading the posts here, and some of the younger parents have to understand ( the parents of boys) that you play tennis for the love of tennis…. There is very little to no $ for American boys in college tennis.

    You will not see a return on your investment, this is not basketball, baseball or football. It is an expensive sport that needs a lot of instruction, equipment ( racquets, strings, and sneakers) and later on a good orthopedist.

    At a certain point though, I think American parents will turn away in droves from paying exorbitant amounts of money for training when their son can not get on a college tennis team in their own state.

  26. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States. As such, I don’t think you can say the issue of foreign scholarships in tennis is not a USTA issue. It may not be there fault, and they may not have a lot of control, but if it’s a tennis issue, it’s a USTA issue.

    They make lip service about is, such as this howler from the “Highlights of the New Junior Structure & Schedule” brochure they published last summer. It says:

    “Increased Focus on Team Competition:
    Because
    nationally-ranked players aspire to play college tennis,
    more team-based competitions at the highest national
    ranking levels have been added to the schedule: USTA
    National Doubles Championship, USTA National Spring
    Team Championships and USTA BG14 Intersectional
    Team Championships”

    So, they added two events that focus on top 50 and top 100 players, because you know, all those blue chips and 5 stars are having such problems getting scholarships.

    So, even when they make lip service about college, they still are only concerned about the top 50-100 players.

    There are over 800 women’s scholarships available every year. The top 100 players have no problem getting one of those. So increasing the number of elite events for them while eliminating playing opportunities for everyone else doesn’t help. It’s the other 700 spots they should be focused on making sure they players are ready for. Need to get to the point where the talent level in all the players increase and they have sufficient playing opportunities.

  27. Actions not Words. Here we are in the first few weeks of a controversial new Junior Tournament structure and the Ranking web page still has 2013 Tables and Tournaments. 1 Jan the roll out should have included a new and improved website with CURRENT information. We are laying out our tournament calendar and would be nice to have valid information. USTA Florida also has old information, and all this does is validate the negative views. I did see SOUTHERN has new tables and Tournaments for 2014 in a nice format.

  28. Funny… I was thinking the same thing. WHERE ARE THE POINT TABLES FOR 2014?

    I know the USTA knows……….. But, shouldn’t the juniors know too?

    This is a disaster. Kids are already fed up with the new ridiculous sectional rules, and not playing. Qualifiers are now gone in our section. Of course, we didn’t find out about it until after January started…Impossible to age up now. I have never seen one organization ruin a sport more than the USTA.

  29. Once again not to re-hash old discussions, but consider we have Level 2, and Level 4 events approaching with deadlines in 10 days. Those that can enter either event need to make travel decisions. I’m assuming the tables don’t change I guess??? Further the changes now drive which events one attends. So back to a lack of communication by USTA with parents, as an issue. Doesn’t help to see Head guy on TV!

    1. Another example of system only concerned with those who are high enough in ranking to be sure they are in without seeing updates–cusp players and the rest be damned! Just basics like reporting ranking updates consistently among and across sections would be such an easy thing to fix, but the basics are overlooked and it’s so detrimental it IS also so very hard to listen to the “head guy” on TV. He just said in response to lack of Americans in Australian Open draw that “it will all be changing in a few years” — sad that there is a portion of the audience out there who believes him. It’s a shame!!

  30. EXCELLENT POINT ABOUT L4 AND L2 .

    So, both happen at the same time, and a lot of juniors are enrolled in both.
    Travel costs go up the closer you get to the date……

  31. 2014 national point tables are wild.
    What a wide difference between the finalist and the QF.

  32. The USTA is like the government. You don’t expect it to produce a great car do you? because it cannot . Why do you expect to produce a great tennis player? It will not happen no matter what anyone says. A great car will be built by an entrepreneur with a vision, who is well financed and who understands the market and its needs. Never by the US government. Maybe they can help with loans guarantees etc. The USTA is no different, why keep expecting it to produce one champion at a multimillion dollar cost. Imagine the poor kid who is the one, the pressure alone would break this kid in a short time. Think of the USTA in terms of the government, we need paved roads, we need tournaments, we need rules, we need levels of support, we need a government, but we need not expect our government to create a great car. If we all start thinking under this paradigm, the solutions will materialize.

  33. If you feel the USTA is like gov’t then you wold agree that Gov’t is inherently inefficient. BUT in most cases gets the JOB done. So I would point out that the Gov’t would build that car it may cost 10x as much but it would get built.

    Now the issue with the USTA is not the USTA its everyone else. Yes I find myself defending them.

    I have attended 2 separate USTA PD Camps. 30 or so boys and girls with all the parents etc…..

    I would say if you gave me $1m and said I would get $10m in 10 years if could pick any kid use whatever resources and get them into the top xxxx. I’d say couldn’t’ be done. Why I DID NOT SEE ONE BOY I would spend a dime on. Sorry to say they were SMALL, SLOW yes not one athlete in the bunch. Some could play tennis not one true athlete.

    The Girls I saw 3-4 and only one of them was a solid tennis player. The others were very good athletes and maybe just maybe.

    Garbage in Garbage out, and that is the problem. I pass several Soccer Fields, Basketball Fields and kids playing flag football on the way to the tennis academy. I argue that is where the USTA needs to be not @ Macci, Everett, IMG etc…..

    Get those kids on the Court and YES the USTA could develop top pros.

  34. Hi Seminole:
    I dont feel the USTA is like the government, i like the USTA and think that it can help enormously in developing great American players. I just don’t expect it to develop the next “great car” (i.e. John Mcenroe).
    Rafa , NOLA, Ferrer, etc, none were developed by any Tennis Federation alone. Why would the USTA develop one under this logic. It can have a major part in developing one, but it cannot develop one. It must work in conjunction with the coaches, parents and players and be a part of the equation. On its own, I simple do not agree with you. If it could, why has the player not been revealed then in all the years under this program?

  35. Disagree with Wayne Bryan re: Australian wildcard. The tournament is the most fair because players no doubt complain about results, favoritism etc. When you have a tournament it’s black and white: either you win it against your peers and win your slot or you don’t. If you don’t you head for the AO qualifying draw. If it’s on ranking you could cheat the system by playing challengers say in Malaysia and up your ranking so that no matter what you’re the top player after the cutoff (also a risky strategy).

    I think the ground-rules are clear for the wildcard playoff. Otherwise they aren’t – and you are splitting hairs in deciding between a player who is 102 or 103 in the rankings ( there’s a bottleneck right now there with Kudla, etc). If you study the wildcard playoff results you see that players like Tennys Sangren benefitted (by making the final and putting his all into it) and players like Kudla didn’t (who despite a much higher ranking than Tennys had to play qualifiers and won his spot fair and square into the Australian).

    Sorry but the “wildcard” without merit is simply without merit. Most U.S. players appreciate the competition and “fair shot” at the spots and the tournament ensures that. The argument isn’t about “MONEY” but “fairness and equity” – and we know the rankings can be gamed. But a tournament? Can’t be gamed – you win or lose it.

    Finally, look what happens in these tournaments – you give more opportunities in the wildcard tournament to players who have huge talent but not as many chances, like Jenkins and Kosakowski. If you haven’t seen them play you should and you see that their ground games are far more mature than a lot of peers (most of them to me) and that, with the right training and opportunities, these guys will find their higher rankings and breakout tournaments. But if you don’t have a wildcard challenge you smash their hope.

    So again, I don’t agree with Wayne Bryan at all on that point.

    On the USTA and fairness, I agree with Wayne Bryan on this – they should be more into the rules of the game and marketing of the game and setting up of the tournaments and rules for allocation of tournament slots rather than picking winners among players. But they SHOULD also be working on things like coaching books and creating materials like videos, guidebooks etc for match play, strategy, etc.

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