Patrick McEnroe (General Manager of Player Development) – along with both Lew Brewer (Director of Junior Competition) and Kent Kinnear (Director of Player ID & Development) – has been at both the Boys and Girls 12-and-Under National Hardcourt tournaments this week holding Q&A sessions with parents and coaches. The main purpose of these sessions was to discuss the 2014 changes coming to the national junior competition schedule. Click here to listen to the session held in Atlanta recorded by our friends at High-Tech Tennis (Julie & Danny do apologize for the poor audio – the tournament site was bustling with players, parents, and tourney officials!).
I’ve listened to the session, read lots of comments from other parents and coaches, and tried to figure out what’s really going on here. I’m totally confused.
First of all, the fact that the USTA chose the 12-and-under events as their forum for these Q&As underlines the fact that, if your child hasn’t been cherry-picked by USTA by age 12, then your child will continue to go unnoticed by our governing body throughout his/her junior career. Patrick McEnroe even says during the Q&A, “We know at 13 or 14 who the top players are.” Why doesn’t USTA take into account that many children are late bloomers? That they could come into their own as late as 16 or 17? That they are writing off several years’ worth of potentially top players? My own son is a clear example of that. At age 12, he was struggling just to win matches at local tournaments. Now, at age 16, he is finally starting to win not only matches but tournaments, and not just at the local level but also at the sectional and even national level. From last year to this year, he went from being a 2-star player to earning his 4-star status during this current rating period on TennisRecruiting.net. What that means in real terms is that he went from being ranked 527 to being ranked within the top 200 in his high school graduating class. And, there are several boys who train with him who fit a similar profile.
One parent asked where the top American professional players are coming from. Patrick’s response: “Where the top pro players are coming from has nothing to do with Junior Comp in a way.” I thought that was the charge of the Junior Competition committee, to develop top players? Isn’t it relevant to track where and how and with whom the current American pros developed in order for USTA to replicate a winning formula? Patrick’s answer to that question doesn’t make any sense to me.
I haven’t had a chance to reach out to Patrick or Lew or Kent yet, but I plan to. I simply don’t understand what’s going on with USTA and its leadership. I don’t understand the basis for these major decisions being made on behalf of our children, and, even after spending over an hour listening to the Q&A, I don’t understand how Patrick McEnroe and the others think that these changes are in the best interest of developing top American players. They really didn’t explain anything.
So, I will continue reaching out to USTA for clarification. I will continue to support our governing organization in terms of volunteering and entering my kid in USTA tournaments. But, I will also look for alternatives to the status quo, which is why I’m spending the time and the money to take my son up to Maryland later this month to play in an event that will have absolutely no impact on his ranking or star rating but could have a major impact on his development as a tennis player. I encourage the rest of you to consider doing the same.