Here is another super email between Dr. Mike Kernodle (Who, along with guys like Dr. Ray Brown ought to be listened to when it comes to the mandate.)
(Sidebar by J.P. Weber here)
I think parents ought to be free to choose. It is my contention that if a parent wants to have his/her child stay on the 60′ court they should be able to do so for as long as they want. Some parents let their kids stay at home and live with them under their roof until they are 30-40 years of age. The kids are very happy and find it enjoyable and much less stressful for them to be at home sponging off mom and dad instead of joining the real world and getting a real job. Some parents feel delaying the process helps their children/young adults. Why should these parents not be allowed to have their children stay on the 36′ courts and the 60′ courts hitting with nerf balls just as long as they wish? Why should they have to move to a bigger court and yellow balls just because the USTA says they have to? I think if a parent wants to keep a child hitting with nerf balls on a 36′ court until they are 37 years of age they should be allowed to do this. I am for letting parents, kids and their coaches make the decision.
Thanks for the notes from Ron and Ken, both of whom I have always respected. You would think by now that the “powers that be” in the USTA would get their heads out of the clouds and recognize that they need to seriously rethink their approach to the 10 & under “mandate”. If they would be willing to make some changes a lot of pros, parents and kids would be more willing to utilize the system. Unfortunately, I do not think this will happen. Too many enormous egos and too much money on the line. I would suggest that we should seriously consider the development of a totally new junior tournament system that is based upon transparency, a sensible developmental program and what is best for the game. I have spoken with a number of other people from the sport who are in agreement. I will keep in touch.
Mike Kernodle, PhD, USPTA Master Professional
(Wayne back to Mike in blue.)
Thanks for your note below.
In reviewing some of your great writings before sitting on the panel with Craig Jones from the USTA and Steve Bellamy at the Riviera CC on Sunday, I thought your riff on the motor learning developmental literature saying that on average most young children start walking at 12 months and begin to run at 18 months was spot on. You ask if a child was walking at 10 months would the USTA say, slow down kid, keep crawling for two more months? If a kid was running around the back yard at 15 months, would the USTA say stop running until you are ready at 18 months?
*** That insight got me to thinking about the legendary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart touring Europe performing on piano in 1761 at the tender age of 5. Would the USTA say, no he can’t go out and perform at royal courts across the Continent and he must stay home and practice his scales and circles of fifths and his chord formations and play on a small piano?
*** When skinny teens John Lennon and Paul McCartney were performing with their Ska Band at little clubs in Liverpool would the USTA come in there and shut them down and tell them to go home and study music theory because neither of them could ever read music and play from sheets? Would they say “If we allow you to play the way you want, then all the English musicians will want to do the same thing?” Would they say, “We want to keep all our musicians in a harness and to do it our way.” Would they say, “You two will never be good song writers or performers unless you learn music theory and how to read music and do it our way. The national way.”
*** When Mike and Bob Bryan performed with my Band starting at age 6, if the USTA found out would they come and yank them off the drums and piano and say go home and play Mary Had a Little Lamb for their Kindergarten classmates rather than Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour for a huge rockin’ and dancin’ crowd of adults?
*** When Venus and Serena at age 8 and 6 used to drive up from Compton to my club and workout with our top juniors, did I make them hit with soft green or orange or red balls? Or did I let them hit with our best juniors using regular tennis balls?
*** When Andy Roddick used to come in the Summers from time to time to work out with our players and with our Travis Rettenmaier as a little tyke, did we make him hit with soft green balls?
*** When Mike and Bob were winning 10 and Under Singles and Doubles Titles at age 6, did we say, “Hang on a second, you two need to play with orange and red and green balls for four years before you have enough earned advancement to play with regular yellow balls?”
*** Click on this ULR below and watch this 7 year old play piano. Would the USTA say, “He should not be playing advanced classical music like this and that he should spend four more years working on his scales and playing much easier songs?”
Again, I’m all for giving kids the option of playing with red or orange or green balls. Wonderful! Great! Fabulous! They can play with them for one, two, three or four years or for the rest of their lives if they want to. Fine and dandy with me! But I will continue to battle like hell for kids that have the desire or ability to be able to play regular tennis at any age. Passionate prodigies should not be held back by governing bodies or institutions. Talent always breaks the mold. Genius starts early. Greatness does not come from the pack.
Robet Lansdorp does not want his coaching to be hindered by the USTA. Neither does Rick Macci. Or Vic Braden. Or Harold Solomon. Or Tim Mayotte. Or Chuck Kriese. Or Dennis Rizza. Or Bruce Lipka. Or Mark Bey. Or JP Weber. Richard ‘n Oracene Williams did not want obstacles holding back their girls. Blanche ‘n Jerry Roddick did not want the USTA working with Andy as they had done with John. The Roddicks just want their grandson, CJ, to be able to play tennis with regular yellow balls in a tournament. Thousands and thousands of coaches and parents want their kids to be able to play with yellow balls too.
Witness the straw poll we took with over 100 Coaches at our Panel Discussion at the Riviera CC on Sunday. When Steve Bellamy simply asked, “How many think that 10s should never be allowed to play with yellow balls in tournaments?”, only 1 hand went up!! A nice lady to the left of the stage.
Come to think of it, maybe the Beatles woulda been better if they had done it the regular way and learned music theory first, then again they may have just quit and never become two of the greatest composers of the century and the best rock ‘n roll band of all time. Yeah, and maybe Venus and Serena and Andy woulda been better if they had played four years with soft balls. Then again, they may have quit the game altogether rather than being the inspirational stars of American tennis for the past decade . . .
And what is the best way to hit that forehand? Like Rafa, Roger, Andy, Andre, Pete, Delpo, Novak, Maria, Martina, Lindsay, Chris, or Steffi? What if you woulda made those players have earned advancement and do it the USTA’s way? Try telling the late Gloria Connors that Jimmy needed earned advancement at 10. Or Stefano Capriati or Mike Agassi or Linda Courier or Joe ‘n Betty Chang.
The USTA has never understood true greatness and they never will . . .
“The key to junior tennis success in this country is being able to avoid the USTA minefields.” Rick Macci
Best and thanks for your great writing and insights,
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