78′ Soapbox

Haggerty and Capitalism

I had the opportunity to finally meet the USTA’s new President–Dave Haggerty–yesterday afternoon at the Atlanta “Listening Session” the USTA held in conjunction with the Southern Annual Meetings.

I had heard so many good things about him. From what everyone had told me his is a very likable person and has been an industry leader. He did not disappoint in that respect. He could have run the meeting like Castro but he did not. He listened and seemed eager in his note-taking. Afterward he was very much willing to speak with everyone a little more and lingered afterward talking with interest. This gives me hope for USA tennis.

You see, I believe our best tennis happens and comes from when our coaches and pro’s around the country are left to build up the players as they see fit. It fuels the competition that fires up the USA tennis engines! I think as long as the USTA keeps pursuing the models of eastern Europe with the a national governing body dictating how things should be done they will see only moderate success–fleeting success at best. It is not the strength of our political and economic system. If the USTA would allow and seek to empower the pro’s and coaches around the country to do what they do best–compete, coach and win–Mr Haggerty will unleash more success than ever before in USA tennis.

The intention of all of the Player Development policies and mandates of the USTA since 1987 has been to create an echelon of tough top-notch players. And this…it has not done. In fact, the opposite is true in my opinion. The intention has been to build players but the results have not been fruitful and fewer a fewer players have been brought forth under this system.

In fact, in every instance where you see a problem in tennis in the USA you can usually trace it back to some sort of failed initiative the USTA has looked to employ or a partnership the USTA has supported in a form of cronyism capitalism.

I hope Mr. Haggerty recognizes this and works to let loose the capitalistic strengths we do have in the USA. Pull the long arm of the USTA back and get out of the way. If the free market and competition were left to work and supported by the USTA I think you would see people of all ages, colors and backgrounds achieving high levels. The free market is competition. The free market will not care whether the balls are red, orange or green. Or a racquet is this size or that size or it costs this or that to play in a tournament in Arizona or Florida. The free market will not care if you have to go to the ends of the earth to play a tournament. The free market and competitive atmosphere it creates only see and rewards results.

As the USTA departed from that in the 1980′s and began dictating all sorts of policies at helping the USA to be a better tennis nation–the USA tennis nation as a whole is worse off. Whether or not one method works over another is best determined not by a USTA sponsored longitudinal study based on experimental and control groups. The best ways to proceed are right in front of us. The optimum way to determine if a coaching practice or method of teaching works in our country to see how it survives in the marketplace of ideas and practical application.

If Mr. Haggerty allows the market to operate more freely in the USA and he puts in place policies that empowers coaches and pros across the country the results will speak for themselves. You will see more success in all sectors of the tennis market than we have ever seen before and no other countries will be able to compete with us. It will be more fair to everyone than any other system.

So that is my take on how Mr Haggerty can get the 800 pound USTA gorilla down to a 400 pound USTA gorilla and adapting to all sorts of changes throughout the world of tennis. The challenge for Mr. Haggerty will be to figure out ways to keep the USTA out of the way and at the same time reward our achievers.

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