Suggested Resolutions For USTA 2013

Here are my picks for “suggested resolutions” the USTA could adopt going forward into 2013. I read these in this order on the We Coach Tennis radio show on December 30th, 2012. Hope somebody was listening. If not, now I have written them out so they might be better understood.

10. Resolve to change the “USTA Regional Training Centers” to “USTA Regional Competition Centers”. Juniors and Coaches can be there as long as the participate and compete. Coaches run drills in the AM and in the PM matches are played. Room, Board and all is part of the deal if you keep a winning percentage. Lose and you go home to train and come back another day. If these became true places where all were welcomed and afforded an equal opportunity to compete I think you would see all sorts of local coaches support them.

9. There is a third arm to the USTA. We commonly think of the “Player Development Arm” and the “Grow The Game Arm”. But we forget to mention the “Legal Arm”. The “Legal Arm” scares the rest of the admins at all levels of the USTA into all sorts of policies that are killing the game. Much of the concern the “Legal Arm” expresses is about “what if’s” and “might be’s”. Probably couched in a lot of risk management talk the USTA administration needs to resolve to stop allowing legal arm to effect the basic character of the game with needless worry and fear.

8. Resolve to restore legitimate junior doubles rankings and tournaments. The fact that doubles is no longer a staple across the USA landscape falls directly on the USTA. When I played as a kid almost every single tournament had doubles draws along with the singles draws. You knew when you signed up it was part of the game and you had the opportunity to get a legitimate ranking with your partner. Bring back the importance of doubles. It is one of the primary reasons “healthy” people enjoy and play tennis for a lifetime.

7. Resolve to eliminate the phony nationals. About a decade ago the USTA upped the number of tournaments they called “national” tournaments. To my way of thinking this diluted what a true national tournament means and is played for in the USA. Resolve to get back to a schedule that a child can understand and work toward on all levels from an early age. This makes for clear goals going forward for the kids playing and striving over a very long developmental path.

6. Resolve to support those collegiate teams that win and do it with rosters made up of American players. Reward the heck out of those teams that have Americans with checks of $10,000 per year. Let them use it money for whatever purpose the coaches deem necessary. These coaches are choosing a path that in some ways costs the schools and teams in the short-term. But in the long run it is one of the best investments the USTA can make in the future of our young players being able to compete at all levels.

5. Resolve that the USTA coaches need to be be of American origin and these coaches work solely for the USTA. If you go to the USTA Player Development website you will find most of the coaches coaching for the United States are not from the United States. I do not know how this came about but I think it is backward. One or two of the coaches might need to be from other countries but why the majority?

4. Resolve to award coaching positions for junior and professional international competition based on a coach’s record of success. From what I have seen of the USTA over the years it resembles a large “good ol’ boy’s club”. If it is not giving out positions for “cronies” then it is also awarding positions to look good on paper from the stand point of racial appointments. Give the positions to the coaches who over time have shown an ability to coach and have a record of players to show.

3. Resolve to eliminate the USTA Player Development program completely. Sponsor and build up a truly American system. Build up our great system of free enterprising coaches and the capitalist system which makes it truly the fairest and best in the world. If you look at the people who are leading the coaching in other countries you might find Americans in those positions. What you also might find are coaches who came to the USA in the 1980′s and 1990′s and spent a good deal of time over here learning how to coach.

2. Resolve to create a dual path for training and tournaments for 10 and Under children in the USA. It is time the USTA realizes what might work in one country or part of the world is not always going to fit in the USA. The 10 and Under Mandate is one of those things. It is largely an idea which was begun to attract more kids to playing the sport of tennis. After that is was hijacked and has been used for all sorts of other causes. The USTA simply can create a dual path for coaches, players and parents here in the USA and everyone will once again be under their umbrella.

1. Resolve to lessen the changes. Most of the changes are done for the sake of change and not for the right reasons. The changes we see take on an irrational flavor these days in the USA when it comes to tennis. When there is not enough winning the the fingers begin pointing and things are on the chopping block or things are added to the mix. What is happening right now is too much change too quickly. Unfortunately much of the change which is happening now can be described as “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

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  1. Lawrence Roddick

    JP, I applaud your interest and passion to US junior tennis, and I agree with most (but not all) of your USTA 2013 resolutions. I will take them from #10 to #1

    #10 Regional Competition Centers…I like it. I have always looked for models that the USTA might be able to follow and the best I can come up with is US Women’s Gymnastics…I think they have a national training center around Houston, Texas with the Karolyi’s. Both the gymnast and the coach attend the training sessions. I think it is imperative that private coaches have a motivation to want their students to excel. As long as the coaches are prospering as a group the level of animosity will be manageable.

    #9 The legal arm of the USTA is a nightmare. I have met it face to face and ear to ear via phone. Very imposing and I think you understate its power and influence.

    #8 I am going to skip this one and leave it up to the coaches, although I am sure the tournament directors have a lot to say about this as well.

    #7 I agree. There will be a lot of push back by limiting the number of “national tournaments” and limiting draws but it seemed to be much more straight forward before. I am in total disagreement of eliminating winter nationals and from what I am gathering I am not in favor pushing the majority of qualifications for nationals to sections as it seems is the agenda for 2014. I would also like to bring a foreign flavor to US tournaments (except nationals). If foreign players are allowed to play in local tournaments US seeds, rankings etc come out in the wash over a 1 year period of time. The “bad draws” even out. I think the tennis world has changed and the US needs to look in this direction in order to compete for NCAA scholarships and in order to compete on the world stage.

    #6 I don’t support this as I think the US needs to beat the competition instead of eliminating it. Foreign players are a part of the market place and the tennis free enterprise system. This is more of an issue with USTA junior development than the NCAA coaches. I would be in favor of coming up with a points system of rewarding the NCAA coach with the most points for team, singles and doubles competition regarding US kids at the NCAA tournament. Our goals are the same (get more US kids playing NCAA tennis) but I want the US to go heads up against the foreign players and not eliminate them.

    #5 The USTA coaches should be US citizens but based on “earned advancement” isn’t that the legal language the USTA holds out for juniors. Why should it be different for coaches? Give them a 2 year tenure with a nice salary but from the private sector and earned on a national points system. Just a point of reference to start discussions. When I was a national level junior diver this is how the coaches became “national coaches” . It was based on a points system at nationals. This is something the “Legal Arm” could spend time on and come up with something very productive.

    #4 Yep….just said it in #5

    #3 Player development needs to decrease their infrastructure costs! and spend the money on the kids. Spend money for travel. Spend money for tournaments. Spend money for their coaches to go watch them in ITF tournaments, spend money for the private coaches to go to Nationals, sectionals, regionals etc. Can you imagine the progress US tennis could make if we had private coaches traveling with their kids to ITF tournaments, national tournaments etc and watching the kids consistently. US tennis would expand so fast it would be incredible. The USTA has the resources to do this by eliminating its infrastructure costs in regards to player development and putting their legal team on the criteria for this to happen. Again, just a foundation for a starting point of discussion

    #2 The U10 issue is a wreck. A dual path would be great but I just dont get why there needs to be “a path” for under 10s. I like orange balls. I like green balls. I see the value. But nobody can dictate how a child younger than 10 years old is going to progress. Some may be slower and some may be faster but trust me…the free enterprise system of tennis will tell you quickly when you have overreached and need to circle the wagons. Nothing wrong with people experiencing that. I learn 20 times more from losses than wins and there is nothing wrong with pushing the envelope.

    #1 Change…why doesnt the USTA listen to some people that have been in the trenches. It baffles me how the legends of tennis are so alienated from the sport. You look at baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey…dont they embrace the legends of their sport? Listen to what they have to say? I think those 5 sports are fairly successful……I just dont get that sense with US tennis.

    Those are my opinions…I hope something positive comes out of all this

    • Lawrence,

      Thank you so much for taking the time and reading and commenting. It is great to know a few people are reading. I have really enjoyed you and your mom’s emails from Wayne and I am glad you are speaking out on the 10 and Under Stuff. I would love to have you and your mom on the We Coach TENNIS Radio Show I do each week on Sunday evenings. We have had some great guests in the past and it would be nice to hear from some people who are having to deal with the effects of the mandate as it is being applied in Texas. I would love for more people to get a sense of what you guys are going thru and what we might be facing soon here in Georgia.

      Additionally, I feel people need to realize when we speak it out should not necessarily put us in opposition to anything or make us naysayers or negative toward the USTA. They have a job to do and we as parents, players and coaches need to speak up otherwise we will get what they deliver. I am following behind you a little bit with a 6 year old and the USTA’s policies are affecting more than just a small group when they decided to usher in this mandate. There is a guy in Texas named Ray Brown who is actually appealing to the USTA on the basis of restraint of competition in the courts. He is real smart fellow and might do well.

      Your comments below are excellent. I have followed up with a few clarifications on my end on a few of them but other than that you are right on with your stuff!

      #10 I like the comparison you made here with gymnastics.

      #9 You are right 100% and they are getting stronger because they are providing cover for the rest of the USTA officials and other people who want to see the admin side grow. They are growing the game but not half as fast as they are growing themselves. :)

      #7 I would actually like to see the holiday nationals kept. I always seem to go back to Jack Sharpe’s comment where he says things need to go back to pre-1987 status. It was very easy and clear for the kids to understand.

      #6 I am with you in terms of keeping things free. If you notice a lot of people are out there calling for a limitation of foreign players by putting a Visa limit per team. I am not in favor of this at all. I look at it as you have a choice as a coach. You can take one road or the other. I just personally feel and have a great deal of respect for the coaches I have known who have done it by developing players along the way. I have not seen it happen very often where the coaches who are recruiting foreign players are also good developers of talent. I say coaches and schools should be able to recruit where they want to in the world. I just prefer to see the USTA and other USA organizations specially reward those coaches who do a great job with Americans.

      #5 I like this point you bring up! Earned advancement for coaches! Man, some of those guys have been skipping around at a national level for a long time and not producing. They have not had results. In the NFL they would have been demoted or produced. In the USTA they get a job for life cause they were great players or great guys.

      #3 I would like to see it get back to some level where the strength of our system is utilized instead of going against it. Our competitive economic and political system makes it a wonderful place for us to grow champions. I would like to see more of the old mentoring relationships that existed before the academy type 25 kids, a coach, and 4 courts. But your points on changing the spending habits is well taken.

      #2 I agree with you here. I am just proposing at least give a clear path for those who want to do it with the yellow ball. I also agree with you in that our system weeds out that which does not work. I think some of this stuff has been weeded out a long time ago–remember all the stuff from the past we have learned to use like it should be used.

      #1 You are preaching to the choir here. I agree. There are coaches who have been in the trenches doing this work for quite some time and really the system needs to be set up to help bring them to the front of the stage and put the USTA National in the back as a support team for these guys.

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