Competitive tennis in the U.S. is far more splintered now than in a small country like France. The challenges we face in a very splintered U.S. system are different…an independent rating system that is embraced by college coaches, especially one that potentially measures a player’s results from any competitive system (open, high school, college, international, sanctioned or unsanctioned), is the critical first step to making a more robust American competitive pathway available to all serious players, including the thousands of kids we hope will come into the game through 10U efforts.
While it’s never been attempted before, the information age has now made it possible to build a “global” rating system. Because the American college system is unlike anything else in the world, there is growing support among coaches, pros and players for just such an emerging system. Practically speaking, a system that has been tested and trusted by the college coaches (since 99% of junior players hope to play in college), and which exists outside the control of any one organization or committee, will be more readily embraced by any organization (see Consumer Reports, or UL, for instance.), especially if it is not under the control of partisan committees in any one organization (including the USTA). Let’s not forget Sony’s massive (and costly) miscalculation in making Betamax available to consumers only through Sony machines! Consumers chose VHS and left Sony in the dust.
Competition is healthy for everyone, including the USTA. Monopolies reduce the incentive to innovate. As we’ve seen with the blossoming of commerce through new apps for the iPhone, the availability of a global system will allow any proactive group to create more opportunities for efficient level-based competition and training. During the ’70s, many such non-sanctioned events were available, and brought thousands more into the game.
Let’s get real. Despite the unhappiness being expressed daily with the present USTA Player Development system, most of us have neither the time or interest in tearing down everything and starting all over again. An independent metric that is available to be used by any organization, the USTA included, will allow American tennis to flourish in ways it hasn’t since the tennis boom of the ’70’s…and will do so without needing to blow up the system and start again from scratch. If we have something that unifies rather than increases resentment, we’ll consider it a home run for American tennis. An independent system allows for experimentation, including with the 1OU categories.
It’s very American… organizations that evolve their competitions to make the best use of the new system will prosper. Organizations that don’t will find their tournament offerings obsolete.1
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