From Wayne Bryan to Ray Brown:
Your writing and reasoning is very powerful and persuasive, Ray, and thanks so much. Lansdorp (below) is also right on the nose . . . I also find myself in agreement with the e mails from Cornelius, Larry, Tim, Steve and Chris . . .
Ray Brown (in red)
This letter from Lansdorp (below in purple) provides important points that further reveal why the USTA has failed in the area of player development. I have not edited the letter.
Coach Lansdorp makes important points about understanding how to craft a development program to fit the student’s natural state. In short, one must adapt to the student, not force the student to adapt to a cookie cutter template. Each student is an individual, as we would all agree. But how to make the right decisions about their development requires an agile mind. But none of that is the point. The intangible here is Lansdorp who not only can see the right course of development needed but, through the force of his personality, in some unexplainable manner peculiar to him alone, he can persuade/inspire the student to follow his directions with absolute confidence. Dick Gould had a different approach with the same success. Such is the nature of coaching. It is the intangibles that carry the day and create champions, not hollow “principles” such as Eyes, Feet, Hands.
In my textbook, I had hoped to capture Gould’s insights since they are not written down in his petite text. But, sadly I have failed. The are intangible, like a ghost. I doubt that I could do any justice to Lansdorp as well. That the USTA cannot or did not choose to respect the most important aspect of learning, the intangibles, is a testament to their hubris.
Robert Lansdorp (in purple)
Sorry, but I am just not smart enough to understand what all the USTA is doing to screw up the future of American tennis. You don’t need all this b.s. the USTA is feeding everybody. I can tell you quickly what kid has TALENT and then you develop the talent. Talented kids have great eye hand coordination. Now you look how well they time the ball. Champions have great eye tracking ability. If there is a problem and not caught at a very young age, there will always be a problem. Quickness. Some kids are born quick. Sampras did not need a physical fitness guy to be fast when he was little. HE WAS FAST. Some people are born slow at foot and I don’t care how much you make them run, they will never be as fast as Sampras or Nadal.. However if they are slower ,you develop their game with more accurate power, like Davenport, Sharapova and Isner. Can you imagine these people having been developed by Higueras with a lot of spanish high top spins. NO CHANCE. You don’t need all this USTA crap. You have to DEVELOP, something Patrick Mc Enroe and Higueras don’t know anything about. That is why they are coming up with all these gimmicks. The USTA should be a supporting kind of organization, helping coaches and parents. Instead of eliminating the coaches and parents who got them there. They just take all the credit. When are the people in this country going to wake up and get rid of the USTA Developing Fiasco. The sooner, the better. Don’t really need a bunch of egotistical wanna be’s. Some kids are physically talented, others are mentally talented. Bring these qualities together by DEVELOPING them, like Davenport, Sampras, Sharapova, Austin and every other great champion. The USTA Junior Development has been in business for almost 40 years and have NEVER DEVELOPED ONE ( ONE ) CHAMPION. My God doesn’t that tell you enough!!!!!
Cornelius Jordan (in green)
I’m a director of tennis at a medium size club in South Carolina. I had about 12-15 kids who this effected. My son being one of them. He was aged 10 the first year the 10s mandate started. I told everyone of my parents that there child should play up in the 12s on a regular court with real balls in lower level tournaments. In the begining they got there brains beat out against older, more experienced players, but as the kids aged out and the quickstart kids started playing in the 12s my juniors had great success against those juniors. But at what cost my son did not get to play any 10s in is last year in that age group and get the success he worked hard for. Get your juniors playing with the yellow ball on a full size court as soon as they can. Wayne, thanks for all your support.
Larry Mousouris (in turquoise)
I’m so glad people are weighing in on the “mandate”. It is simply disgusting. Mandate soft balls, mandate healthcare, mandate the size of sodas you are allowed to buy. How wonderful that Patrick and the USTA has the right path if we just go with it the next 3-5 years.
Hey, I have all types of balls in my shed and use them with some small children and even adults for a variety of reasons (including seeing the spin on the ball) Whats next? “Mandate” that 3.0 adults who can’t control shots must use red nerf balls until Patrick deems them good enough to move up.
Also, the PD has forced one of my juniors to “play up” or their support would be withdrawn. The girl was ranked as high as #2 in girls 12’s. Two silvers and a bronze. The last 6 months played 14’s. Ranked #47. Also developed stress fracture in her foot and was unable to play for 8 weeks.
USTA is worse than amateur hour.
Chris Bovett (in orange)
I have a question re: the 10’s. I have received various emails from pros in other Sections. One of their complaints about the 10 Mandate is that it forces their 10’s to play up in 12’s if they want to compete with regular balls. I find this a little confusing because my student Kabeer Kapasi is always refused entry into Sanctioned 12’s Events. His Dad is told by the Tournament Directors that the USTA moves him back to the 10’s when they see his entry. He just turned 8 and is regularly defeating 12- 16 year old opponents in my program and sometimes competes against the top Super Championship Girls 14’s. He doesn’t beat them but he does compete quite well. His improvement recently, as always , has been amazing.
It is such a shame that the USTA, ITF and TTA are restricting his, and other 10 year olds, development by limiting them to playing with green balls. By the way, I understand that the USTA Player Development Program for 9 and 10 year olds uses regular balls. I think they play several hours per day and obviously compete with regular balls. Is that fair that they can do that and yet Kabeer and others in Texas can’t ? I do not understand what is going on.
I am fighting for a little boy who is amazingly talented to have the opportunity to compete at the level he is able to compete. This country is a land of opportunity but it seems the powers that be are trying to limit that ! I have never been one to rock the boat so to speak but I find this situation very frustrating and annoying. I have voiced my opinion to Patrick McEnroe and received no reply. I didn’t expect one. Why should he bother with an unknown teaching professional in Houston,Texas when he is the big boss and decision maker over the USTA Player Development Program.
I know you probably do not have the power to do anything about our situation. I just feel that I owe it to Kabeer and his family to try and help him. I dont want to look back in 4 or 5 years and say to Kabeer and his family, ” I could have done more. I’m so sorry !”
Tim Mayotte (in maroon)
Dr Brown and Others,
Thank you Dr Brown for you thoughtful analysis.
You hit on a critical point in saying that almost no thought was given to the right people for the top jobs. Patrick has no managerial experience and it has shown in astonishing ways. Jose has no managerial skills and very limited analytical skills and has never worked training larger groups of coaches and never trained younger players in a material way.
I need to add that I think Dr Brown’s analysis is more earnest than the program deserves. The ineptitude there is almost beyond comprehension and the arrogance astonishing. Here are a few details.
1. Jose, Ola and Jay Berger never even visited our site for longer than a few hours for the first nine months. Patrick never spend much of any time on site. I was simply left to my own devises. Patrick and Jose were and are part-time, of course.
2. I was never given a mission statement as to who to serve, what ages, number of kids, idea of budget in the coming years. We had 42 kids and two coaches our first summer. Boca by contrast had 22 players and 17 coaches.
My reports that it was impossible to give kids the attention they needed to get them on track to be pros went unheeded.
3. When Jose and Jay finally arrived in 9 to 10 months after we opened they demanded whole sale changes even though we had good success with our players. They never asked questions and simply said the NY should mirror Boca exactly even though we had a totally different age group and a completely different coach/player ration and none of our kids were home schooled.
Jose did not know any of our kids including Robert Levine who had won the Super-National Hardcourts in the 12s and William Blumberg who was the No 1 kid in the nation at the end of that year.
4. The misuse of funds was beyond astonishing. We had 2 coaches for 40 kids and yet we were instructed to send players to Jose’s resort in Palm Springs for weeks of training. One of our girls reported staying in the posh hotel loving eating in the fancy restaurant for 13 days on PD’s tab. Why do this when Jose could with coaches and players at Carson just two hours away for the cost of his hotel bill at the Holiday Inn instead of the tens and thousands and hundreds of thousands charged at the Smoke Tree Ranch was beyond me. I was told by many to not ask these questions.
I could do on and on but that is for another time. Again, the view from the inside is much much worse than the outside.
In the end the blame should go to Gordon Smith and the Board who hired the wrong people, ignored warnings (mine and others) and looked the other way.
Best to all of you,
Dr. Steve Clark (in dark gray)
Thanks for the emails.
I am in total agreement with you and others against the “mandate.” I really am glad guys like you and others with influence are on this.
I remember when it first came out I thought, “great, G is going to get screwed” in this stage in the history of US tennis (pilot study? All it takes is two years of getting hammered to feel frustrated with the game; cause he has this nice game and at 9 but HAS to play all older kids when it would be good to play his own age on a regular court and regular balls. Graham does handle his own against older kids and he is used to it cause he has done it from early on almost need for better play. G loves to compete, even wants to play 3 of 5 setters and I get him highschool kids to play with and he handles that. But it would be also beneficial if he played 10 under yellow ball and 12 under as he can. Why force them to do something “watered down.”
You hit the nail on the head. Our culture is one of watering down, holding the talented back so the masses can join in. We see this in education, public policy, etc. I agree this makes no sense. And,Wayne, as you know…and I am just saying this in case this email is used to help your cause…my having a doctorate, having coached collegiately at a high level, guys who have played on the tour, having directed a club and worked with Juniors, and having taken Graham from age 2 (when he hit his first nerf wilson balls over a net in the backyard) to a little stud (the youtube video I linked to you) this just makes no sense how it has been imposed. Michael Kernodle has expressed research flaws well. I do not have the original text that all these emails are referring to but Wayne, you and others have great influence and I am behind you guys 100%.
Dr. Ray Brown (in red)
USTA PLAYER DEVELOPMENT PART II (Draft)
Every instruction venue has two components, a quantitative component and a qualitative component. Both are necessary. The quantitative part is tied to metrics while the qualitative component is can be further divided into two parts. One part is knowledge based on experience and science on such topics as strategy and tactics, energy systems, psychology, etc. And the second part is the intangibles that are unique to a system or method of training based on a single individual’s approach to tennis instruction.
In order to have a reproducible player development program that has more than one site, the instruction base must be restricted to the quantitative part and the knowledge part only because intangibles are not transferable. However it is the intangibles that distinguish a program and account for the success of certain programs such as the Stanford Tennis Team under the direction of Dick Gould or the program of Robert Lansdorp to name two that are well known.
Player development programs that are reproducible in more than one location necessarily are striped of intangibles as intangibles cannot be either quantified or described in words. In short, a reproducible player development program that is governed by a set of generic principles is inherently suboptimal. This fact was not taken into consideration by the USTA Player Development program design committee.
From its inception, the USTA Player Development was suboptimal; worse still the USTA Principals did not give sufficient thought to the type of leader needed to head up a player development program. As mentioned in the first part of this analysis, I will deal with the issue of leadership in a later post. To be succinct, the leadership chosen for player development needed two qualities. The obvious ingredient needed in a leader is leadership skills; the second ingredient needed was the ability of the leader to lead a systems analysis effort to determine the best possible player development program for the United States. The USTA Principals failed on both counts.
A systems analysis would have parsed the issue of player development into the three parts I have described above: A quantitative part based on metrics (which I have already treated) and qualitative part divided into knowledge and intangibles. This oversight of the appointed leadership of the USTD PD program turns out to be critical, because it is the intangibles in the human personality that make champions, not metrics or even science.
The next stage of the analysis should have been a recognition that establishing a cookie cutter set of two, presumably identical, sites, is not the optimal approach. Rather, what should have taken place was a search for individual sites led by independent coaches who were successful or had the potential to be successful and upon identifying those sites, establish a working relationship whereby the USTA would support those sites, but not interfere with their methods. But that is not quite far enough. Some pilot experimental sites should have also been chosen and supported for a period of two years on the knowledge that championship training comes from places we least expect.
What we have now are two cookie cutter sites neither of which are based on a quantitative framework or a qualitative framework that included both knowledge/science and intangibles; and, what we have is a leadership clearly devoid of sufficient analytical skill to perform even the limited analysis set forth here; and a leadership lacking the intangibles that make great leaders and coaches.
I cannot get past this haunting sentence in Tim’s letter:
MOST TRAGICALLY, WHEN I AND OTHERS SERIOUSLY QUESTIONED “THE PHILOSOPHY,” WERE INFORMED THAT THESE QUESTIONS WERE NOT WELCOME. I WAS FORCED TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY CURIOSITY.
The implications of this one sentence are far reaching and foretell of a character flaw within the USTA PD program of the most egregious and despicable nature. This one sentence damns the PD program on a level that is beyond our imagination. The hubris necessary to require Tim to apologize for seeking the truth staggers the imagination and reveals a thoroughly un American, despotic and self centered view of the world.
I cannot believe that the USTA Directors are willing to tolerate their good name to be dragged through the mud by subordinates having such disrespect for the fundamental values of this country.
Were these foreign nationals? If so, pull their work authorization cards and send them home. We have enough despicable characters that were born here to be inviting more from other countries.
If they are foreign nationals, get me their names.
Tim Mayotte (in maroon)
Thanks to all for your support.
One terribly telling detail; the current head coaches of both the Carson and NY PD cannot understand, speak, read or write fluently in English. I was told by a top person there to stop using big words like “articulate” when I asked him to more fully explain “the Philosophy.” So in some cases, literally, dialogue is not even possible. This issue was raised to no response.
The situation in PD is terribly terribly sad.
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