Open Letter to the US Tennis Industry


Open Letter to the United States Tennis Industry:

As many of you know, significant changes were made to the USTA National Junior Tennis Tournament schedule earlier this year, changes that are scheduled for implementation in the near term.  As you likely know, those changes were not enthusiastically received by many constituencies within the US tennis industry and a large group of people from various sectors of the American tennis world, both USTA and non-USTA, have come together to discuss these changes.

Last month, various industry executives representing this group met with USTA executives on numerous occasions to reexamine the changes.  The USTA and its Junior Competition Committee invested a significant amount of time, money and effort into their plan and were gracious to allow these meetings to take place.  Despite the large investment to get the plan designed and approved, these top USTA Executives were truly concerned with making sure that people from the tennis industry at large were heard and their opinions were vetted.

While these discussions were going on, we asked those in the tennis industry who were frustrated by the changes to hold off on the public negativity that had become commonplace.  That ”pause period” ends today, but, unfortunately, the discussions with the USTA are still not complete.  Both sides have worked in earnest during this time period and although there is nothing to report in terms of a pausing the changes to the national tournament calendar or any amendments to the plan, both sides have agreed to meet again in person in Chicago on October 21st.  That meeting will involve a group of the top executives of the USTA and some of the signatories to this letter, a diverse group of “tennis people” who have been involved for months in these discussions and who are dedicated to doing their best to represent the many opinions that exist.

We believe that the management of the USTA truly wants what’s best for tennis and for kids who play competitively.  We therefore respectfully request that this pause in speaking negatively about the changes, the USTA and the Junior Competition Committee continue.  Of course, we live in a free country, but we truly believe that headway is being made and that it is in the best interests of tennis for everyone to be patient.  We believe that by the beginning of November we will have something to share, whether that may be a “pause” to the changes, an amendment to the approved plan or an effort to reach out to a larger constituency to further discuss the future of junior tennis competition in the United States.

We understand that many of you may feel compelled to take action because this has been such a sensitive matter for so many, for so long.  We thank you in advance for listening and for being patient as we try to help make sure the industry at large is heard in the matter.  If there is anything we have learned during this process, it is that everyone seems to have the best interests of the game in mind; it is just that sincere opinions differ on the best solutions.

Sincerely,

Steve Bellamy

Kevin Kempin

Robert Sasseville

Sean Hannity

Antonio Mora

90 Responses to “Open Letter to the US Tennis Industry”

  1. Girls 18's says:

    I have been playing tennis for about 10 years now and practice about 10 hours a week during the school year and 20 hours per week during the summer. I live in an area with very few players, but have been playing National tournaments for 2 years. I have gained a great pier group of girls who are my best friends and I have won more matches than I have lost.

    I have no interest in playing professional tennis, but I can’t wait to play college tennis. Please explain to me how the USTA can justify changing the rules right as I am entering the 18′s in a way that is going to take away my National Tournaments? Considering my circumstances, I am very proud of what I have accomplished and think it is a tragedy that anyone thinks that this is a good idea. I have read the nonsense about entitlement. Well I do feel entitled. I have been playing them for 2 years, my parents have spent a lot of money and I have a winning record. Why does the USTA feel entitled to change the system right in the middle of kids tennis? Why does the USTA feel entitled to take the jobs away from the tournament directors who are losing their tournaments?

    There is only one group of people who have entitlement issues. They are the ones who are not swinging the rackets.

  2. Mom of top 10 junior says:

    I have one child playing junior tennis who is ranking high enough to not be effected by the changes. But the reality that everyone will be effected. My child goes to these events to see friends which have become our second family.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE USTA do not go forward with these changes! There is NO ONE in tennis who wants them. There was nothing broken or wrong with the system at all.

    Go back and read your mission statement. It doesn’t say anything about producing the next Pete Sampras. And if it did, I think most people would say making the draws bigger will accomplish that goal better than cutting.

  3. Coach K says:

    You really have to wonder how in the world these changes ever got passed. Virtually every single player, parent, coach and tournament director is completely against them.

    No one in tennis was consulted and the entire process was done in secret.

  4. Evan says:

    The funny part is how many people at the USTA sit back and shake their heads about how ridicules these changes are, but the desires of a few can trump the common sense of so many of us that have been doing this for so long. Say what you want about Arlen, but this would have never happened when he was there.

  5. Southern says:

    When we were telling people that this was the craziest thing to ever happen in junior tennis – we got blank stares. Now those same people are finally understanding what has actually been done here. Wholesale massacre of process and common sense. Momma told me to never say “I told you so!”

  6. Thank You says:

    Thank you for speaking out on behalf of the industry. There is NO ONE who wants these changes to go through!

  7. JJ says:

    Seems like they are stringing you guys along until you tire out. Then you will get some company line reason why they couldn’t do what they had promised.

  8. I don’t know the changes the USTA is making with tournaments. I am aware how the USTA is pushing Miniature tennis for 10 and under down every body’s throat. I just DON”T trust the USTA making decisions to make tennis better for kids. They have never before been able to do it and they won’t do it this time. If their Miniature tennis is so great, have it next to regular tennis and let the kids decide what they want. But that is not the USTA. Ram it down their throats.

    And have more tournaments available for kids. The more competition the better. And their training centers should just be places where kids can come and play matches. Just play matches. And if they want help, than help them. ALL kids and not just kids that kiss up to Patrick McEnroe.

  9. I have more to say!! These centers can be all over the U S. You will only need courts and two or three people, who can fill in if needed. You don’t have to pay them, like they pay Higueras, who has never developed anybody. And just have the kids play. If coaches or parents interfere during match play, throw them out. Just let the kids COMPETE. The kids will love it. And that’s what we are after. KIDS WHO LOVE TO PLAY TENNIS.

  10. 10s Coach says:

    The USTA is by far and away most successful when they get out of the way. As soon as their volunteer committees start deciding to prove their worth, the pain on the sport begins.

    If you polled 100 unbiased smart people who knew anything about tennis on these changes, I’ll bet not but a couple would say they make any sense. I have not spoken to a single person who wasn’t anything but confused, angry or both.

    WHY WASN”T THE INDUSTRY CONSULTED BEFORE THESE CHANGES WERE PASSED ?!?!

  11. Florida Stud says:

    Funny thing is that when we in the industry see Robert Lansdorp’s name pop up on anything, we can’t wait to see what it is all about.

    The USTA should as well!

  12. Howard Sands says:

    The USTA’s mission should not be to create the next Andre. Isn’t the USTA a not-for-profit entity? The mission should be to provide opportunity at all levels of play, stimulate interest, and help develop a large pool of talent. Why does it seem like the USTA is reducing opportunity rather than creating it? Reducing the size of the draws at national junior events will not help, and it will hurt many. Nor will managing the national training center programs like an insider’s club serve membership well. Why do USTA traning centers encourage and even demand that kids be home schooled, and use that tacitly or explicitly as a pre-requisite for inclusion and free training? When I was younger and growing up in Southern California, I worked hard and did well in school, I played nationals each summer and sometimes barely qualified from my deep section, yet I usually did well at the nationals. As a result I was recruited by a great College, got a great education, had a great College tennis experience, and went on to play on the ATP tour. Dreams come true! I shudder to think how different everything would have turned out for me if I had not been eligible to play the nationals and if that college coach had not seen and approached me at Kalamazoo. There are other things the USTA can experiment with that will be far less disruptive and potentially more rewarding. For example. How about try a the European approach where players compete based not on age, but rather by level earned? This could be done concurrently and phased in. How about bringing training to where the talent is located (there is no facility serving West L.A., one of the richest talent centers in the country). Frankly, I don’t care whether the next Andre comes from the U.S. or not (and to prove the point ask yourself who is the favorite player of all time to watch and whether people care where he is from) – I’d rather see a really deep pool of talent developed. If the USTA can do this, the industry will continue to flourish. And the cream will still rise to the top regardless.

  13. James says:

    Please do not make these insane changes! This will go down as the dumbest move in the history of tennis if implemented.

  14. Angry says:

    You promised us that on Oct. 5th, we were going to get an answer. We stopped doing what we were doing because of that promise. Now all we get on Oct. 5th is a “wait a little longer?”

    We don’t have time to wait around while you get played by the USTA. Put up or shut up. It is just this simple. Either the USTA is going to put on a Winter Nationals or we are going to put it on. Either the USTA is going to provide ample amount of National opportunities for the kids or we are going to do it.

    We aren’t waiting any longer. Maybe you should form a committee of volunteers to monitor a committee of volunteers to search out and find a committee to screw up tennis worse! We’re done!

  15. Florida Junior says:

    I am an junior tournament player that has been ranked as high as 60 in the US, but then had two injuries that have sidelined me for sometime. As I read the new tournament schedule, I have decided that I am likely going to focus on other things in life now. I love tennis, but there is a real double jeopardy with my situation. I see that there are more wildcards, but I am going to guess that there is not a way for injured players to use them as they will probably be used for 14 year old phenoms to play up in the 18′s.

  16. Junior from Florida. Don’t worry about wild cards. Wild cards are not going to make you great. I know that being out of circulation ,you feel that it is going to be helpful. Just get tough,work hard,get better and win. Forget the wild cards. It is like a candy that the USTA has to entice you and if you kiss up to the USTA junior Development they will give you a wild card . I think the USTA gave 16 wild cards to the boys in the Junior US OPEN and two were left after two rounds . Don’t give up! If you love the game keep fighting kid.Don’t depend on the USTA. They won’t treat you right. KEEP FIGHTING BECAUSE YOU ARE A FIGHTER..You can be the phenom.

  17. radman says:

    These changes need to be reversed and it needs to happen now. They are damaging to all juniors, but especially to those aging up to the 18′s. Many hard working and dedicated juniors will miss the opportunity to play in the nationals this summer between their junior and senior years in high school due to the limitations of the draws. Our kids have been working their butts off trying to do all the things only to be cut off at the knees by the USTA. How ironic and maddening. Please listen to your membership and give the kids an opportunity to play the game they love. They are the future of our sport.

  18. illinibeta says:

    Easy there, Angry… Have some faith in what these guys are trying to do, which is akin to doing a 180 with the Titanic. It cannot happen quickly and is not easy. Take solace and trust in the FACT that you have the most informed, motivated, and capable people in the tennis industry working on this. That they have even gotten to this point with the USTA is remarkable in itself, so if they feel it’s best to let things ferment another few weeks, consider it as sound. They are too smart to allow theirs, ours, and our kids interests to be damaged or sunken. They see the approaching iceberg well in advance and are maneuvering the ship, tide, and waters accordingly.

  19. atennismom says:

    My personal objections to and utter disappointment in the USTA due to the changes they have made to Junior Tennis are echoed by my daughters (11 and 14 yrs.) and EVERY tennis parent I have spoken to on the subject. Our responses are based on personal experience and the effects the changes have had directly on our children (whether they will make the national level tournaments now or not), on common sense, and on our investment in the overall good for the sport of TENNIS.
    It is well recognized by all youth sports organizations that “trying to accurately predict athletes’ future performance levels can be like playing the lottery.” SO many factors impact long-term performance.
    So please, explain how the USTA in hopes of producing a better product and strengthening the organization, believes the pre-selection of players at an early age and the reduction of the size of the pool is the way to go????? How can this be a sound and successful recipe for the American tennis player? How can the USTA not be aware of how much they hurt themselves by crushing the dreams of the pre-pubescent 13 year old??? AND, what about the USTA’s charge to “support a single mission: to promote and develop the growth of tennis.” ? The Green Ball alone will NOT do it.
    My eldest daughter is a perfect example. Her favorite smell is a new can of tennis balls. Every item on her birthday and Christmas wish-lists are to do with tennis. She is an exceptional athlete. But a late bloomer. She has been prone to injury due to her rapid growth spurts. She goes to school, is a very successful student and trains appropriately for her growing body. As we live in So Cal, she meets the girls winning the National level tournaments in the first rounds of our regional events. Here she is one of the “very good” players. If we lived in another region, she would likely benefit from being “the best.” She needs desperately to feel encouraged in her sport, not rejected. She needs to continue to have the opportunities to grow in her game and her love of TENNIS with the kind of continued experiences she has had as a 12 year old on the National Level circuit. (And it was the chance to tag along to these events that helped my younger daughter to fall in love with the sport as well!) She played her first tournament at 10. She is on track to reach her potential closer to 17…not at 14. What she is capable of in practice has yet to fully translate to the match court – but she continues to work every day to see that it will. She knows she will eventually be taller and stronger and faster than MANY of those winning now. But she also knows that in order for her athleticism and talent to eventually give her the edge, she will need to have a comparable level of experience.
    She now applies EVEN MORE pressure on herself to win with the knowledge that if she doesn’t, she will lose opportunities to be a part of the community that matters so much to her…this gets in her way of performing and in the way of her enjoying the competition. If she gives up on tennis it will not be because she started before 10 and Under tennis was implemented. It will be because she sees more opportunities and comradery in the team sports of her friends.
    I have watched her tennis peers benefit from the confidence that comes with being one of the “chosen” by the USTA (my younger daughter has been one of them.) When you are given the boost that comes with someone believing in you and more opportunities to train and compete, you will most certainly improve and win more often. But it is very possible that many of those who ranked the highest and/or chosen by the USTA now, will not ultimately have the right physical, psychological and sociological make-up to be a top-level athlete. And it is also very likely that the USTA will have denied many an opportunity to kids who ultimately will.
    Not to mention the “develop(ment) and grow(th) of the games of tennis” that will be the certain result of MORE kids playing at EVERY level – NOT of LESS. Common Sense.

  20. Sol says:

    Illinibeta- the fact that the USTA would make a unilateral decision to totally change the face of tennis in the country in so many different ways while trying to pass it off as all the sections voted unanimously in support of these ideas is an absolute joke and based on the obvious negative sentiment that these changes have thrust onto the USTA, is obviously a major distortion of reality. Just as they created an ROG mandate for tournament play, this is just the next step in the next let’s throw stuff at the wall an see what sticks approach that the powers that be will attempt. This has been on going for months. Do you honestly think that Steve and the guys are the first that they have heard any of this. In my humble opinion, this is an appeasement attempt on the part of the USTA to shut people up and make it seam like they care. Radical thought? Sure. There have been countless behind the scenes meetings, q and a’s, and interviews in regards to these subjects and more. Any changes? No. Hard truth for all to swallow is that unless the people in the leadership are removed, suck it up and deal with it. You are looking at a government clone that falls under the famous quote that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Ask yourselves, do you know of anyone that counted your vote as to whether you supported these changes in your region? Did anyone ever ask you an opinion on these changes prior to you first finding out that they have occurred? If the USTA membership did not take part in this unanimous decision to pass these rules, then who cast the vote for each of the sections? Who voted yes for you and all of the others? Just my view. Take it for what it is worth.

  21. Mike Kernodle says:

    Thanks for providing the opportunity to weigh in with our opinions and hopefully you will take them with you so the USTA administrators can at least hear what is happening at the “lower levels”. I also appreciate your suggestion that many of us are questioning the dictatorial way that the USTA is approaching massive changes to the game in a negative manner; but historically that is what happens when a powerful entity mandates completely new systems without any substance for everyone involved with no questions asked or answered. The USTA had a great opportunity to integrate a developmentally appropriate learning system with the help of the USPTA, PTR and coaches around the country, but failed to do so. So far it has been ” my way or the highway” and if you do not comply you will be punished. REALLY??????

    With regards to the new tournament system, I find it interesting that they are reducing the number of slots allowed so that fewer players will be involved. This flies in the face of their ROG mandate because the main reason for that change was to get more players involved. In addition, this reduction will result in potentially really good players being eliminated from playing at the national level. Another effect might be that players just move on to other endeavors and we lose really good college players. We all know that some athletes are late bloomers due to genetics, playing multiple sports before specializing, experience, economics etc. I sense that this is just another way the USTA plans to control tennis based upon their expert opinions.

    I sincerely hope that the influence of some of the sport’s best minds the USTA will reconsider the changes and perhaps come up with a better option. However, I doubt this will happen.

    With regards to the ROG program I have mentioned many times that to “mandate” such a massive change in a method of learning without any supporting research is inappropriate at best. Especially when you have so many talented players from Federer to Sampras to Borg to Laver etc. that never were forced to play without normal balls on a normal court until the age of 11 or 12 years. In fact, I doubt that you could find a single top 500 men’s or women’s player at any time in history that was relegated to this system. Not only should development be skill-based and not age-based, this mandate was initiated without checking out the physiological effects of long term play with the low compression balls on young players. In addition, at the initiation of this program there were several different red, orange and green balls with different rebound heights and time from contact to contact. The USTA was not aware of this and had not chosen which ball to use. Just another reason to question why they have made this decision.

    In summary, I agree that for the interest of tennis in the U.S.A all of our entities should work together for what is best for tennis, but that is not what is happening. At this point the USTA is like a giant amoeba trying to absorb everything in its path and making decisions not based upon reliable data. In addition, they are unable and unwilling to admit mistakes. I would love for them to appoint several committees made up of the best and brightest in the industry (those with years of hands on experience in their specific fields of expertise) to brainstorm about what is best for tennis and be willing to admit mistakes and make appropriate and effective changes based upon substantive evidence. Hopefully, someone with your influence can at least get them to listen. Hopefully, but based upon years and years and years of experience I doubt it.

    Again, thanks for all you have done for the game and I wish you well at the meetings.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Kernodle

  22. Yancy Waldow says:

    Hey Mike,
    I am a plain-spoken tournament player/dad of tournament player/ coach and I would like to agree with you whole-heartedly about most everything you have written about today. Thank you for articulating the concerns that I and many of my friends and colleagues have about the USTA stance on the future of tennis. I believe you are right about the concerns you have and I wanted you to know I support you. My son is trying to grow his game and has already been harmed by the USTA shrinking the draws that he would have otherwise gotten into. I sincerely hope that the USTA will reverse course and do what is best for kids who just want to get better.
    Thanks and preach on,
    Yancy Waldow

  23. Tim Mayotte says:

    Guys,

    I have hopes but deep pessimism that significant long term change can occur. It would be great if the new board can make material changes and that would be a nice first step. I think the next hurdle of getting the full time staff on board will be very very difficult. My experience of the culture at the top of the full time staff brings me deep concerns.

    As I said before the USTA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man-hours on “Culture Change” while I was there. We did workshops and had meetings for months. It was deeply upsetting to watch the top brass continue to operate in ways directly opposite to changes we were supposed to embrace. We were told to let go of turf wars, discuss openly and with respect etc. I witnessed a lot of change from so many folks there but not the top brass. The denial in the organization was astonishing to behold.

    Real change will come only if those on the new board then follow up almost daily and become much much more hands on. Real change comes from day to day hard choices, not just from a few edicts from above.

    I am for change in the mandates but hard work will need to be done after those initial moves. I agree with most of Wayne’s observations about PD. But also real change means that those in charge deeply believe they are there to serve. No accountability, part-time jobs, huge salaries, all create a sense of isolation and protection. Significant changes now must be followed up with a long term commitment to change the culture.

    Thanks to all working so hard,

    Tim

  24. Wayne Bryan says:

    Preamble:

    a) The most important aspect of this is to get lots of input and opinions from all over the country – - – from experienced club pros and public park coaches and college coaches and high school coaches and academy coaches and veteran ‘n passionate parents from Florida to New York to Georgia to Texas to Nebraska to North Dakota to California to Oregon and everywhere in between.

    b) Study the history of the National Schedule and Rankings over the past 30 years.

    c) Remember that when the USTA asked my pal and great coach and mega junior champion producer Jack Sharpe how to improve Player Development and the National Tournament Schedule he told them to “Go back to 1987 and just do what worked!! Simple!!”

    Goals of a National Schedule:

    a) Fairness to all.

    b) Simple and understandable.

    c) A clear pathway from bottom to top.

    d) Bringing the best juniors from all over the country together to create friendships and improve their tennis.

    e) Various surfaces, times of the year, and locations.

    f) No meddling by USTA PD.

    Back in the Day:

    a) I never heard one single word of criticism about the Sectional or National Tournament Schedule.

    b) Rankings were so accurate that when our SoCal juniors flew back from Kalamazoo at the end of the Summer, I would give the kids each a piece of paper and I had them write down what they thought the top 20 in the SoCal rankings would be and what the top 50 in the National rankings would be. I was always astonished to see that each ranking list was almost exactly the same and lo and behold when the rankings came out the were the same as the kids had predicted. The rankings were fair and there was unanimity and agreement on the rankings. They were spot on.

    Now:

    a) I have never heard so much rancor across this country about the National Schedule and Rankings and the Green Ball U10 Mandate and USTA Player Development and the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis and not enough doubles tournaments and doubles rankings.

    b) The USTA is seen as heavy handed and top down and non responsive to the membership they are employed to serve.

    c) The USTA is also seen as even attacking clubs and pros and players and the USPTA that do not follow their party line. I have a computer full of e mails complaining about their tactics. There is fear and there is anger everywhere. Witness the harassing letter from the USTA to the great and venerable Little Mo Tournaments and volunteer organization.

    The Way SoCal Tournament Schedules Used to Be:

    a) I walked the junior tennis trails as a coach for decades with thousands of players and even my own two twin sons. I knew those paths like the back of my hand. I believed in playing tournaments each and every weekend of the year. You wanna be a player you play. Players play. Soccer has schedules. Baseball and Football and Basketball have schedules. Players at our club had junior tournament schedules. I have always felt that scheduling is as important as coaching. You can make a player with a great schedule. And you can ruin a player with a bad schedule. It’s like riding a big wave in Hawaii – - – if you get too far out in front on your surfboard you get crushed by the wave, if you get too far behind the wave, you sink down in the dead calm waters – - – but if you get right in the middle of the tube, you get maximum speed and thrills and you can take that baby all the way to shore. Mike ‘n Bob usually played about 100 competitve matches each year in the juniors. Same at Stanford. And, interestingly, they play aobut 100 matches on the tour each year.

    b) Some of our 85 juniors would play our local Ventura County Junior Tennis Assn. (VCJTA) Tournaments. Some would play Southern California (SCTA) Tournaments. Some would play a hybridized schedule of both. Some would play SCTA and National Tournaments. Some would play only National and International Junior Tournaments.

    c) During the school year, tournaments were always two weekends and there was always singles and doubles. Typically, the juniors played two singles and a doubles each day. Perhaps one singles and two doubles. During the three Summer months, most tournaments were week long events.

    d) In SoCal I served on the Junior Tennis Council for many, many years and we would make changes and adjustments very slowly and we had the many of the top pros and parents in our group. We never made knee jerk reactions or massive pendulum swings. Players and coaches and parents could count on and trust the system.

    e) To get a ranking and to qualify for Nationals, players had to play three of the six designated tournaments – - – our largest and best tournaments (including, if memory serves, Santa Barbara, Whittier, Long Beach, Downey, and San Diego) – - – plus two other tournaments and, of course, the Sectional, which was held in June right after school was out. The idea, of course, was to get all the top players together several times during the first six months of the year.

    f) In those days, SoCal was allowed 8 players into the National Tournaments Clays, Indoors, Grass, and The Nationals. and, of course, more into the tournaments on the National Schedule like Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, the Westerns, and the Texas Open. All of those events were 128 draws and all had doubles.

    History of Pedulum Swings as it pertains to the National Schedule and Rankings:

    a) Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, rankings were based on the Star Computer System. It was the quality of your wins and losses that mattered on the computer. If you beat #7 in your Section it was given much more weight than if you beat the #83 player in your Section. If you beat a player that was #4 in the Nation, it was given more weight than if you beat a player that was #63. College Football has a very similar system. The rankings were very, very accurate that way.

    b) There were singles and doubles rankings.

    c) Then, for some reason, there was a massive pendulum swing and they went to points and they offered all kinds of regional and national tournaments all over the place. Regional Tournaments sprang up like weeds. Kids started avoiding their sectional tournaments to go and find weak regional events that they could do well and scoop up points. I could go on and on about this, but it knocked me in the head a few years ago when I learned that of the top twenty U18s players in SoCal, only one played the Sectional!! Back in the day, every single one of the top twenty 18s played our SoCal Sectional.

    d) The rankings became so inaccurate that college coaches no longer relied on them for recruiting. Players that were 60s often were much better than a player that was 30s.

    e) There were tournaments that had only singles and back draw singles and they did not offer doubles.

    f) The USTA removed doubles rankings. Huh? As I say in all my talks: If we had more doubles programming, promotion, and coaching we could quadruple the number of kids playing tennis. Doubles gives our sport more width and breadth. Doubles is fun for juniors and it really rounds out skills and teaches additional life lessons – - – and some youngsters just love the “team thing”. Plus, it gives them a second chance if they lose their singles match at a tournament. And don’t forget Mixed Doubles – - – boys and girls truly love that and there are also great life lessons inherent in Mixed.

    And now the Pendulum Swings Radically Again:

    a) Now in the past few months a small USTA committee takes out the meat cleaver and cuts down many of our old growth Redwood Junior Tournaments along with the too many regional and national events.

    b) They only just a few National Tournaments? Some National Tournaments with just 32 draws?! Lots and lots of WCs to be abused by the USTA PD.

    c) They have only one 64 draw for the National 12s?

    d) Their explanations are many pages long.

    What does Coach B suggest?

    a) Ha. Yeah, go back to the Preamble c) above and do what Jack Sharpe suggested. Good back to 1987 before the system got ruined.

    b) Simple: For each age group from 12-18s, four USTA nationals with 128 draws.

    c) Keep all the great Redwood Junior Tournaments on the so called national schedule. Restore (somehow) those that have been cut down and ruined. Make sure there is a Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Texas Open, Western, Southern Open, Easter Bowl, Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl. And others.

    d) Cut back on some of the Regionals, but keep those that are thriving and doing well and liked by the juniors, coaches and parents.

    e) Immediately return to the Star Computer System that weights the quality of your wins and losses.

    f) Let each Section determine their requirements for Sectional Rankings and who qualifies for nationals. They can specify how many tournaments their juniors have to play in Section to get a ranking and to go to nationals.

    g) Yes, tweak how many players each Section gets into the Nationals. Do not base it on membership, but base it on the quality of the play of the various Sections. If SoCal has four top ten players on average in all their divisions, and nine top twenty players and 36 top 100 players, give them many more spots in the nationals than a Section that has only 3 players in the top 100. This can all be worked out by fair minded people. But, strength of play in a section should lead to more spots in the nationals. And this can be organic and ever changing each season.

    h) Tweak the weight of the various tournaments. For example, in SoCal, weight the regular tournaments a 1, the designated tournaments a 1.1, the Sectional a 1.2, a regional a 1.3, a tournament on the National Schedule a 1.4, and one of the four Surface Nationals a 1.5, and The Nationals and 1.6. I have no pride of authorship here, and this could be worked out by mathematicians and those much smarter than I am. It should be fair and equitable to all – - – and it should lead to accurate Sectional and National Rankings. And it should all be integrated – - – sectinally and nationally.

    Addendums:

    a) Get rid of USTA Player Development altogether. I am all for those folks coaching, but not from the top down. They need to get out in the trenches with the rest of us and coach. National Federations do not create champions. Ask England. Spain. Canada. Switzerland. Sweden. They harm the growth of tennis in their countries. I, and many others, have written extensively on this and I will leave it at that.

    b) Take those $18 million dollars and give it to the Sections to help juniors players as they see fit. Perhaps the money would be spent by the Sections on club memberships; free entry fees; rackets; shoes; balls; string; coaching; trips to national tournaments; trips to watch the US Open for deserving juniors; trips to Davis and FED Cup Matches; trips to college matches’ trips to the NCAAs. Surely local Sections know how to help their juniors much better than White Plains coming to Ventura County to tell us how to do it – - – all the while we have 3 of the 4 Davis Cup Players from our little area and they have zero. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

    c) Give money to our top junior developers and tell them to bring five more kids into their program that are deserving and, perhaps, can’t afford to be in their club or program. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

    d) Put more money into Junior Team Tennis. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

    e) Value our great American Coaches!! If I want to talk tennis I may or may not call Patrick McEnroe. I do write or call or talk in person through the years with Billie Jean King or Jim Courier or Larry Stefanki or Rick Macci or Stan Smith or Vic Braden or Robert Lansdorf or Dick Gould or Brad Gilbert or Paul Annacone or Tom Gullikson or Nick Bolletteiri or Zina Garrison or Larry Mousouris or Jack Sharpe or Jay Berger or Brad Pearce or Martin Blackman or Greg the General Patton or David MacPherson or Billy Pate or Benny Simms or Pankie Salazar or Lori McNeil or Marty Davis or Tim Mayotte or Manny Diaz or Taylor Dent or David Roditi or Dennis Rizza or John Roddick or Doug King or Steve Clark or Bob Hochstadter or Tim Heckler or Steve Stefanki or Mark Bey or Lynne Rolley or Billy Martin or Will Hoag or Scott Kooper or Ron Woods or Luke Jensen or Rodney Harmon or Phil Dent or Nick Saviano or Allen Fox or Peter Smith or Rich Gallien or John Whitlinger or Chuck Kriese or Bobby Bayliss or Mark Weil or BJ Stearns or Mike Kernodle or Bill Tym or Doug Pielet or Brian Giffin or Hank Pfister or Mark Speardog Spearman or Randy Mattingley or Chris Bovett or Billy Stearns or Jeff Tarango or Chuck Waldron or Murphy Jensen or JP Weber or Chuckie Adams or Cici Louie or Mark McCampbell or Cornelius Jordan or Craig Bell or Cheryl Shrum or John McCampbell or Chris Bradley or Susan Evans or Dave McKinney or Steve Loft or Traci Curry or – - – I’ve got several hundred more, but I’m running out of ink and I profusely apologize to those many great coaches I am leaving out.

    f) Take money from those truly outrageous USTA salaries and use $1 million dollars and have the best Junior WEB Site in the world! Pattern it after the ATP WEB Site. Have current National Rankings at the flip of a switch; Sectional Rankings; Tournament Results immediately from the previous weekend; pictures; articles; schedules from each section; national schedules; and each players record. Doubles Rankings for teams and individuals. Watch tennis grow and thrive.

    g) Take a stand on the glut of Foreign Players in American College Tennis. Millions upon millions are going to foreign tennis playing juniors whose parents do not pay dollar one in US educational taxes, while we are in the midst of our toughest economic crisis since the great depression. That is criminal it seems to me.

    h) Get rid of the ludicrous and laughable U10 Green Ball Mandate that most every pro and parent and kid in this country is against. Again I say, have all the Green Ball and Soft Ball and Nerf Ball and Polka Dot Ball tournaments you want, just don’t tear down regular tennis for U10s that want to compete against their peers. Soft balls are a tool and not an end unto itself. Soft balls from age 6 to 10 may be fine for some, but man oh man, certainly not for ALL our best young players.

    i) Stop attacking pros and clubs and parents and players that don’t play ball with USTA PD. Stop threatening and bullying Little Mo and everyone else. Stop it immediately. And, in fact, write letters of apology. Ya know, I have this down here at the bottom, but really this is issue number one for me.

    j) Fire all foreign coaches that are funded by the USTA. Again, we have thousands of incredible US coaches and in these harsh economic times you are going overseas to hire coaches that are not as good as the ones within these borders. Huh?

    And in Conclusion:

    a) Ha. You may use some and probably none of these ideas.

    b) But do build consensus and get everyone under the same tennis tent.

    I wish you good luck, Steve, with your meeting in Chicago. Ha. Send me one of those USTA first class tickets ‘n a limo and buy me a Chicago Pizza and I’ll go with you . . . thanks for all you do for tennis each day and thanks for coming out to support our Tennis Fest at Spanish Hills last Friday Night and thanks for helping promote the event and pack the place to overflowing.

    Best,

    Wayne

  25. Matt Leipzig says:

    First of all, to state what is most important, I not only object to the proposed changes in national junior tournaments, I also oppose the recent round of changes instituted two years ago. Rather than contracting our sport, I believe the objective of the USTA should be to grow the sport, cast a wider net, and develop a broader and more energized participant base. Greater access to national tournaments is critical to this objective.

    One comment to your letter observes that the goal of the USTA is to encourage broad participation in junior tennis, not simply to identify the next Andre Agassi. True enough, but I don’t know that those objectives are mutually exclusive: both are served by a more broad-based approach to junior competition.

    It is true that United States does not have the the same dominance on the professional circuit that it did when Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang were competing. But is that the “fault” of USTA junior development? Looked at another way, were those four players the born-and-bred product of the USTA, of were they the product of the their own families and their own individual efforts, and who also took advantage of the structures that the USTA had put in place? In this most individual of sports, maybe you cannot “program” success. You can provide opportunities, but not determine a result. Instead, the USTA approach appears to be to try to force a result, by providing fewer opportunities. It doesn’t make any sense.

    We Americans are not an inherently “obedient” group. We are highly individualistic, stubborn, sometimes unruly. A more centralized approach may play well in Spain or France, but not work here. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from training approaches embraced by other systems (for example, greater emphasis on fitness and conditioning, cross-training, encouraging young players to use proper techniques and “build points” rather than go for winners, etc.). But it also doesn’t mean that the “top-down” approach is going to function here. Although not a governmental entity, the USTA has an effective monopoly, and with that power comes responsibility. In the conversations I have had with other parents, players, coaches and tournament directors over the past 18 months, I have not encountered one person who supports the contraction in national level play–or even understands why it is being pursued. For my own part, I have spent significant money on tennis (most on lessons, to be sure, but a significant amount on USTA tournament fees as well). I certainly feel that the USTA has taken rather drastic action, both this year and previously, that had a very negative impact on my experience, and I know that no effort was made to consult with me or others in my peer group.

    Let me address why national junior tournaments specifically play such a vital role. For many parents, when we first start getting lessons for our kids, we may be imagining a future U. S. Open or Wimbledon champion. But for almost all of us, by the time our kids are entering high school, we have the more realistic expectation that our son or daughter will play college and challengers. We’ve made an enormous investment of time, money and emotion in our kids’ tennis careers. And our kids have made an even greater investment–if not of money, certainly of time, effort, emotion and ego. WIth the dream of professional success no longer an incentive, how does the young player maintain the focus and motivation. The sport is emotionally brutal, and even for the best players, almost every tournament ultimately ends with a loss. By the time a young player in Southern California is 13 or 14, he has spent countless hours playing the same opponents on the same courts in Lakewood, Los Caballeros, Burbank, Woodbridge, etc. If he’s good enough to qualify for a national competition, that national open provides so many things: the opportunity to see a different location; the opportunity to meet new players, learn from them, and make new friends; the chance to be rewarded for all his effort by being included in a more exclusive and elevated event. Why should we limit these positive experiences to fewer participants. My son has been to several national tournaments, and in almost every case each match has presented challenges. There are enough good players out there to fill a 64 draw.

    Playing tennis requires patience, and developing tennis talent requires patience as well. When my son was coming up, Ray Sarmiento trained nearby at the the same complex of public courts. My son followed Ray’s progress as he progressed, and as Ray advanced to a national level, that provided inspiration and motivation for my son. And, as my son has advanced, his example has provided motivation for younger kids who train nearby. We should want to expand, not contract, this network of relationships based on hard work, inspiration, discipline and dedication. Providing expanded opportunities will eventually produce the next American champion, but along the way it will produce dozens and hundred of college players who choose tennis as their lifelong sport and encourage their own children to play.

    I would be eager to participate in the development of programs that truly encourage enhanced junior competition. There are so many great possibilities–but all begin with expended, not contracted, opportunities.

  26. Chris says:

    Steve,

    Thank you for your hard work, dedication and passion to this endeavor.

    I am optimistic that your meetings will resolve the divisiveness that junior tennis seems to be experiencing right now and restore calm.

    My belief is that the majority of this revolves around three major issues:
    1) Lack of transparency and openness – if one reads the Usta Mission Statement it explicitly states that the Usta must be inclusive and accountable
    2) Communication – the Usta is a monopoly and therefore it believes that it can do whatever it wants and act in whatever way it wants, without ramifications and without any feedback from its constituency. This frustrates and angers many and leads to the belief that the Usta is arrogant and not willing to hear the opinions of anyone except from their own chosen few
    3) accountability – again, reading the Usta’s mission, it is required to be accountable for all ts actions and decisions. But, the problem here is when the Usta has a monopoly and believes that only its own people are right, who will then hold it accountable…?
    Here is the mission statement for those who wish to read it. I believe that if the Usta were to adhere to it, many of these issues would be greatly diminished or go away completely.
    http://www.usta.com/Archive/News/Community-Tennis/Volunteers/95425_USTA_Mission

    lastly, I believe that the national ranking system and tournament schedule need to be fixed by a third party. The Usta has too many ulterior motives on many levels and is not capable of putting forth a viable plan. Therefore my idea, and this is one that I reccoemnded to both kurt and patrick, is to put up a $100k prize to academia to solicit to find solutions from those schools that have big thinkers. This would eliminate any wangling from the Usta cronies and provide an objective solution. The schools that would likely respond (like MIT, Stanford, etc.) would be delighted to compete for the prize and the Usta would benefit greatly because first they would get a slew of top-flight ideas and, second they would look heroic from a pr perspective for reaching out to find the most advanced and contemporary solutions from objective parties.

    Thank you again for all your hard work.

  27. Tennis Pro says:

    Lets face it, these changes were done in secret by people who clearly don’t understand the junior tennis paradigm. Stop focusing on creating the next champion and before you know it you will have one.

    Get as many people to play the game as possible and put up as many chances for kids to play in their section, in their region and Nationally. If you want to pay for a few kids to travel around the world, you could do that too. You want to throw some money at some creative pro’s to get more kids out on the court – great.

    But don’t mess with the Easter Bowl – it is perfect. Kalamazoo is one of the best things we have in tennis – why mess with it? Same goes for all the other events that are on the chopping block. Add don’t subtract and when you make big changes – then reach out to a broader group than an internal committee.

    PLEASE USTA DO NOT GO THROUGH WITH THESE INSANE CHANGES THAT WERE SLIMED THROUGH YOUR VOTING PROCEDURES. AND, DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE KIDS AS OPPOSED TO THE COMMITTEE!

  28. Geoffrey Grant says:

    I will make a couple of observations:

    1. Competitive comparison – Tennis Europe is the governing body of junior tennis across Europe – they run a pre-ITF European junior circuit. For the 12U age group which is un-ranked they are offering 87 tournaments across Europe this year , for the ranked 14U’s the number of tournament opportunities is 175 and for the 16U’s some of who are transitioning to 18U ITF circuit the number is 138. Each tournament has a minimum draw size of 32 – some are 64 draws – each event has a qualifier and hospitality is offered for each event – alternate lists at some sites run to over 100 kids!… The number of comparable USTA national events available to juniors in 2014 will be in the neighborhood of 10 –15 between levels 1 2 3 and 4 ,sweet 16 and team events. OK – the population catchment area in Europe is around 720mm people compared to around 330mm in the USA but you get the picture. If I was running the USTA and concerned about the fact that maybe one American is getting to the second week of the grand slams these numbers would scare the hell out of me! 100 kids on the ALTERNATE list for an un-ranked 12U event in Northern Italy when you have 87 tournaments to choose from. Talk about taking the game in the wrong direction!

    2. National rankings, tournament selection and the effect on the whole national schedule – from 2014 there will be two distinct national pathways without much overlap. Pathway 1 will involve sectional play exclusively and lead to the 2 national championship events in the summer. No junior player will be motivated or incentivized to play any level 2,3 or 4 event outside their section as those tournaments will have no bearing on your progress to the level 1’s. Pathway 2 will involve playing level 2,3 and 4 events with a view to qualifying for the winter level 1 team event and/or the sweet 16. I believe almost all players will focus on pathway 1. For players following this pathway the USTA national rankings will become completely irrelevant as they will have no bearing on the tournaments you can qualify for. We all know that the current USTA national rankings are not particularly accurate as it relates to playing standard outside maybe the top 20 or 30 kids but they do serve a critical purpose in that they determine who gets to play which events.From 2014 this will no longer be the case and I think this will have a profound effect on the whole national junior tennis structure. Imagine if the Grand Slam events announced that selection would be by national quota based on population or popularity of tennis or whatever – the whole guts of the ATP tour would just disintegrate – would any top players play in anything other than national events to qualify for Wimbledon etc. The same thing will happen here. There is a real risk, in fact a high probability, that the core of the national tournament schedule just falls apart. Tournament selection based on ranking is the fundamental building block of competitive tennis everywhere in the world.Kids ranked 400 are trying to get to 300 to qualify for the level 3′s – kids ranked 300 are trying to get to 200 to qualify for the National Open’s and so on and so forth. The same thing applies at the pro level – Daniel Nguyen winning the Irvine future which gets him to the Tiburon Challenger – Stevie Johnson winning a Challenger and getting into an ATP 250 – Ryan Harrison trying to get into the top 30 so he is seeded in the Grand Slams etc. These are the building blocks of competitive tennis everywhere and the new structure destroys it. A tournament structure needs to provide incentives at all levels of the game and not just at the elite level in order for the game to grow and thrive. The end result of 2014 will be to kill off the core of competitive tennis which can’t be good for anyone.

  29. I appreciate that USTA executives are now willing to dialogue with and listen to experts in the tennis community regarding their viewpoints on these senseless ITF and USTA imposed mandates. I am perplexed that such significant mandates are being forced on the national and international tennis communities with little to no evidence-based data. In many cases, bullying tactics and threats are being implemented on those who are vocally against this mandate. In America, we thrive on choices and live in a country where differences are able to be heard without fear of retribution. Regarding the ROG mandate, it is understandable that young beginners would be encouraged to play with low compression balls and shortened courts to learn the proper techniques of the game. But, it is unacceptable to mandate that elite, gifted tennis players who are 10 and under cannot play with yellow balls. Preposterous! These 10 and under superstars are vastly capable of playing with the yellow balls and, in actuality, have been playing with these traditional balls at an early age since tennis began over 100 years ago! My mother, the late great champion Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly, was quoted at age 10 as saying, “Someday I am going to be the best tennis player in the world.” She was ready at a very young age, as were the champions before her and the champions after her, to play with traditional tennis balls, not dead, low compression balls. This ill-conceived ROG mandate illogically focuses on age rather than skill set. The Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation’s “Little Mo” circuit has thousands of high performing kids ages 8, 9 and 10 playing with yellow balls in our sectional, regional, national, and internatinal tournaments. They are extraordinarily talented and are the promising champions of the future. Many Grand Slam winners, national champions and college stars got their start in our “Little Mo” series of tournaments, which use yellow balls for our 8, 9, and 10 year old age divisions, not the ITF and USTA mandated red, orange and green balls. It is foolish to change a format that is so highly successful as ours and so internationally respected. Cookie cutter programs won’t work for the young, elite players. As the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation has proven over its 40 year history, champions have an indefinable something that must be individually developed. Regressing to the red, orange and green ball for these gifted young players would implode the forward movement of junior tennis!

  30. Jack Agers says:

    The quantity and quality of tennis wisdom on this page is impressive to say the least. If the USTA was smart they would be taking all this free knowledge and using it for the best interests of the sport.

    It seems like you have an industry screaming to be heard and respected. I think it is clear that they should be.

  31. Dennis N says:

    I didn’t know that Europe had so many tournaments. I wish I would have played there instead of the US.

    If we want to be as successful as they are, then lets take note and add a lot more National events.

  32. Sean Hannity says:

    I am extremely grateful that there are now people within the USTA that have shown a sincere desire to be responsive to both the USTA mission statement and it’s membership.

    While there is no guarantee of what the outcome will be, it is clear that the outcry from the Junior tennis community has been heard. I would urge as many people as possible to let their voices on forums such as this to speak out and let your opinions be known.

    This is the moment of opportunity that many people thought would never happen. If you do not believe that a 75 percent reduction of Jr national opportunities is a good thing for Jr tennis, NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK OUT.

    If you have any ideas on how to best help provide financial assistance to families that cannot afford to travel, NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK OUT.

    If you have any thoughts on what the draw sizes should be, the point system should be, what kind of assistance the USTA should be offering potential professional players, or any other issue involving Jr tennis NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK OUT.

    This window of opportunity may close quickly, I hope as many people as possible, whether they agree or disagree with proposed changes scheduled for 2014 will now avail themselves of this opportunity to be heard,and seize the moment.

    Best,

    Sean Hannity

  33. Lisa Stone says:

    Oh, Mr. Hannity, if only SPEAKING OUT to the USTA were an effective mechanism leading to change . . .

  34. radman says:

    This letter needs to be more widely dispersed. Almost all tennis families oppose these new rules when they understand them. There is potential for a massive uprising if everyone can be made aware. By the way, the Southern section (by far the largest section) had the guts to vote against these changes. Where we’re the other sections? Cotact your section and make your voice heard!

  35. Adrian says:

    Let’s tennis continue the way that it has been for so long. The focus for the USTA should be in developing players and ETHICAL human beings not to change rules.

  36. Welchman says:

    I have gone through these changes with a fine tooth comb. If actually implemented they are going to destroy tennis for thousands of kids. And the most accomplished of tournament players. I like everyone else have sat and scratched my head for the last couple years at all the nonsensical changes coming out of White Plains. Bu these changes are the tipping point and are going to cause a competitive organization to form. So in reality these changes could end up being the best thing for tennis because they will break up this appalling monopoly.

  37. Antonio Mora says:

    1) The numbers posted by Geoffrey Grant (whom I don’t know) on the tennis tournament structure in Europe are stunning but, at the same time, reflect what common sense would indicate: more is more, not the less is more approach of the 2014 changes.
    2) Grant’s comments on the “dual pathway” are dead on. The 2014 changes, in my opinion, will INCREASE travel for kids who are trying to compete regularly at the highest level because they will need to take both “pathway 1″ and “pathway 2.” That directly contradicts the USTA’s stated goals. The issue is that the USTA has totally confused the issue, creating a series of unintended consequences by mixing up the selection process for national tournaments. In some national tournaments, it’s a player’s sectional ranking that will get him in, and in others it’s the player’s national ranking.
    3) The bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is that the needs of the very few should not outweigh the needs of the many. USTAPD’s mission is narrow: to create the next American champions. But the USTA’s mission is far broader, to promote ALL of American tennis. THE TAIL SHOULD NOT WAG THE DOG. USTAPD needs to figure out a way to work within the broader system to promote the best kids without gutting that broader system.
    4) I am optimistic about our meeting in Chicago on the 21st because I believe the USTA has now heard all the voices from across the country that say there is virtually unanimous parental and player opposition to the changes. I have attended USTA/parent meetings in Daytona, Little Rock and Boca and only one of the hundreds of parents who attended supported the changes and her support was lukewarm (she also has a full-time USTA child). I am convinced USTA leaders are willing to listen and work with all of us. I hope I’m right.

  38. jeffj says:

    Please USTA understand how wrong it is to change the tournaments for juniors. My twin boys have made lifelong friends from playing nationals and have won quite a few of them. The ones that you have cancelled were very popular. The kids really looked forward to such tournaments as the Copper Bowl. What great memories for kids.Kids need to spread their wings and see the country and make friends and have fun competing against their peers. Players will travel anywere to play a match. This is so wrong to pass these changes without truly talking to the parents and kids who devote their lives to this great game. Shrinking is not the answer, growing is the answer. I believe you will do the correct thing. Go Steve. Jeff Johnson

  39. Clayton Burgess says:

    As a parent that lives in a fairly rural area and whose children still attend “regular” school there is no question best tennis experiences for my children have come from traveling to the national tournmenents. We are typically close to the top of the alternate list and once we get in the tournaments have won some matches and lost some. More importantly we had the opportunity to play matches with kids from all over the United States and see different types of play. This fall my youngest asked weekly if she would keep working could she qualify for national tournament like her older sister. I have read the tournament changes and the reality the USTA is taking away the hope we can compete at that level. With fewer tournaments and such limited draws we probably will not get in. Today when I pick them up from tennis practice I am left wondering should we just move over to another sport? Should I explain that now they simply will not be good enough to even get in the tournaments? The USTA is taking away the hope of many kids and their parents. Without hope they will leave to pursue other opportunities.

  40. Rich Neher says:

    I’ve read all these contributions with true amazement. Took me a while to get through Wayne’s comment, though. :-) Not being involved in junior tennis at all made me miss the entire discussion until I saw Steve’s post on Facebook. I am glad Steve and the gang have come forward and try to voice their concerns which seems to be the sentiment throughout the tennis community at large. If I was top brass at the USTA I would listen to them and involve them in a new task force to get this corrected, maybe even add some changes I saw suggested in some of the comments.

    Good luck, folks. Your expertise gives you credibility.

  41. Debbie Robb says:

    Thanks to each and every person who has tried to make headway with the USTA on the junior rules issues. But, there is no time to waste hoping for the best. SIGN THE JR. PETITION. Leave a comment if you like. The more people who sign, the more likely we may be heard.

    The solution is clear. Wayne Bryan articulated it in his response here. Go back to the junior system/schedule in place prior to 1987, including promoting doubles events. Dismantle USTA PD and use that money to assist promising juniors who need financial assistance and provide coaching grants to the coaches who got them to the point of being a promising junior. Stop trying to cookie cutter our jr. tennis players. Tennis is an INDIVIDUAL sport. Allow for each player’s unique set of skills, unique physical anatomy and individual personalities. Start encouraging our best players to play their own game, whether that be baseliner, all court or serve and volley. Most importantly, institute a playing schedule across the nation that is inclusive, casts a wide net and therefore, will “find” those truly great players and will allow for all kids to play and have incentive to move up. Grow the sport now, at all levels, to assure the growth for the next generation as well.

  42. 38yrsn10s says:

    What if Albert Pujols was a tennis player?

    If you don’t know who Albert is, he is the only player in Major League history to bat at least .300 with 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI’s in his first 10 seasons, and first player to hit 500 doubles in his first 12 seasons. He is a 9-time All Star and 3-time MVP.

    Albert attended Fort Osage High School in Independence, MO and Maplewood Community College in Kansas City, MO, where he was drafted in the 13th round after one year of junior college.

    The sport of professional baseball recruits worldwide. They chase every lead, looking in every country where a ball is pitched or base stolen. Millions of dollars are spent each year looking for that special player who will lead their team to the World Series. It is said that recruiters will pursue a left-handed reliever until he’s been dead for five years.

    Who finances the recruiting effort? The major league teams, of course. Who is the beneficiary of recruiting? The major league teams, of course. Will they cut back on their recruiting next year? Are you kidding? Of course not!!!

    Who recruits tennis players? College coaches….yes. ATP or WTA…..Give me a break!!!

    So who really recruits tennis players? Answer: The Players Themselves.

    Tennis players work to develop their skills, spend years working their way through the system, and hopefully, play in a National Championship event where they may be recruited by a college coach, or maybe win a wild card into a professional event.

    Who goes to a school yard, local tournament, high school event, or even a sectional event to recruit a tennis player? Nobody!

    A National event is the only opportunity for tennis players to ‘recruit’ themselves… to put themselves on display for the chance to be recruited by a college or win their way to the ‘next level’.

    Now the USTA wants to reduce National Championships for the 18′s by 54% and reduce other National competition by over 75%.

    Hey, Albert…… Aren’t you glad you picked baseball !!!!

  43. Glad I Am Not Growing Up Now says:

    I am a grandparent watching these changes being proposed, and I am glad that I am not growing up now.

    I remember when I started tennis at 11 years-of-age and I saw my friends going to the Sectionals. I could not wait to get good enough to go also, and my chance came the next year because I worked my “rear” off.

    Then at Sectionals I heard people talking about going to Nationals (back then there were only 3). This gave me another goal to strive for.

    The next year was my first in the 15s, so I did not make either Sectionals or Nationals — but the following year I made both. What an incredible experience to attend these events. That year I did not win a round at Nationals, but I made oodles of friends that I still have today.

    What the USTA is doing (I think things have already passed) is to take experiences like those that I have just related above away from players like me. I was never going to be a professional player, but the experiences that I was afforded from the 128 draws — YES, they were 128s even back then — are ones that I remember both emotionally and fondly.

    From your meeting I would hope that the USTA would decide to expand, not reduce, opportunities. I would hope that the USTA would see that offering national events at many times during the year (not many tournaments on the same weekend) is not only beneficial but less costly. this also feeds into parents being able to decide what is best for their child and their family schedule.

    Steve, our family so appreciates your work in this regard.

  44. Members of the USTA Board/Jr. Comp Committee and Friends of American Tennis…

    First, thank you to SB for being a ‘link’ to the USTA Board/incoming President/Outgoing President…and the thousands of volunteers who make up the USTA and the Staff(s) of the USTA, who are reading/hearing from players/parents/coaches and promoters all across the USA…

    It was/is exciting to see 8,000+ ‘engage’ to ‘protect’ the collegiate game in August…in ONE WEEK that group was assembled. Technology allows that. THIS MOVEMENT/REACTION is bigger than that…the whole country is watching/hoping that we/TENNIS can get our ‘act together’ and do right by American youth interested, and committed to, the game of tennis in the US.

    I believe we share a common bond in two things:

    1 Love of the game
    2. Love of our children…. who have chosen this very ‘challenging’ sport.

    The PRIMARY ISSUE here today is ‘feedback’ on US Jr. Competition and the proposed rule changes, which have created the reaction you are reading/seeing.I will address that shortly. However, there other OTHER important issues for us, as a sport, to address….. such as promotion of events that ‘inspire and motivate’ our juniors…around the country…which if you look at it, are too few and far between…and NOT in enough major media/population markets. Also, how tennis competes, or not, in the MULTI SPORT USA landscape… we ARE competing with golf, soccer, basketball, baseball, football and a host of other great activities available for our children as they grow into adulthood.

    The short, medium and long range goals for AMERICAN TENNIS is the whole picture we want to ‘blend’ so a little/young boy or girl, can go from interest…to as far as their interests and talents can take them.

    I am a 48 year US(L)TA member…:), I fit into FOUR categories: PLAYER: So Cal Jr/Seattle U. collegiate player, US Open participant in ’73, PARENT: father of four tennis playing sons (ATP Pro Travis Parrott) COACH: club pro/owner/academy operator, USPTA PNW President, High School/D-I College…and PROMOTER: USTA/ATP/WTA Tournament Director/ USTA Satellite in the ’70′s in PNW, multiple exhibition promoter, Davis Cup promoter/staging five times: Three Portland ’81, ’84, ’09/Two Atlanta: ’84, ’98

    For 40+ years….I have seen/witnessed JUNIOR DEVELOPMENT through the following prism of experience:

    1. ‘POSITIVE EXPOSURE’ to the sport …’let’m try it…’ it is not for everybody….ROG is a great ‘tool’ for easier entry into a tough sport!

    2. IF interest sparks…a) provide access to solid fundamentals from a coach/mentor they trust…and b) fun for them.

    3. INSPIRATION/MOTIVATION…is the ‘Magic Dust’ that drives the child to want to practice, play and compete.

    4. SUPPORT SYSTEM….that is what I think the USTA is ‘designed’ to be…somewhat similar to the US Golf Association. They don’t try to train the ‘next Tiger’…they support the teaching/coaching/parents to see who comes up through the system.

    Please CONSIDER SERIOUSLY, the ‘shifting’ of the great resources under your control/direction…which we all contribute too in some manner and fashion…from existing Player Development to Event Development…so that every kid in the country wants to try tennis…

    I stand ready to help in the proliferation of one particular format that would be ideal for US Player Development….a ‘mix’ of seven touring pros, seven amateurs/top juniors….and two qualifying spots…that is one of the ‘events’ I know how to help build.

    Finally, I am extremely proud to be ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with men and women, parents and children, around the US that want American Tennis to flourish.

    Thank you for listening/reading…and being ready to adjust with the amazing input presented here…and that will continue to come.

    Regards,

    Brian Sidney Parrott
    http://www.BrianParrott.com
    http://www.AmericasBestUSA.com
    English/Irish/French…but all American :)
    gobonfire@aol.com
    503-936-3203

  45. Blythe says:

    These changes are the most nonsensical thing that the tennis industry has done since I have been involved in it. How in the world can the USTA see the complete uprising against them and not react. Although I guess they are reacting now, I don’t know how it could have gone on this long. It is very sad for tennis and all that we parents have invested in this system for the rug to be so completely pulled out from under us.

  46. Geoffrey Grant says:

    Sign the petition attached – there are 949 signature as of now – lets get it into the thousands…

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/…-jr-rules.html

  47. Geoffrey Grant says:

    search – AMEND 2014 USTA JR. RULES – to get to the petition

  48. Boys16s Player says:

    PLEASE do not go through with the changes. Nothing good will come of it. I have talked to many people and none of them want these changes to go through. I BEG OF YOU TO NOT LET THESE CHANGES GO THROUGH!

  49. Bob Hochstadter says:

    I’ve sat here and read each and every comment made by some people I have known and respected in the tennis community for years. All this furor has been caused by the USTA heirarchy and Player Developemnt making what seem to be some uniformed behind closed doors decisions. I would be interested in knowing how many of the 17 section delegates would have voted unanimously for the “new schedule” had they have known what Americas true coaches feel about it.

    Patrick McEnroe, fantastic player, very enjoyable commentator and obviously a great communicator with already established great players (Davis Cup Coach). Jose Higueras, also fantastic player great competitor, work ethic second to none when on tour, but have those people who head our Player Develpoment program ever really understood what it takes to develope a player. Have they sat at Fullerton, or Long Beach and watched a junior they have worked with since the age of 9 win their first open tournament match. Do they know how many years it takes to build confidence in a junior through support during the highs and lows all kids have. I have had the priveledge of watching someone like Larry Mousouris take two boys from Santa Barbara from little kids to US Open junior champions, I’ve watched Dennis Rizza turn young tennis players not only into great tennis players but great human beings. I was there when Wayne and Kathy Bryan had two 4 year old boys, but started the Ventura County Junior Tennis Association, which was a springboard for dozens of Ventura County juniors to start their tennis careers and go on to get numerous scholarships. Heck I was one of those guys whose kids always seemed to come up against one of those dreaded Lansdorp kids in the quarters or semis or finals. This great country of ours is filled with fantastic coaches whose brains and experience are begging to be tapped.
    I only hope that along with this outcry the administration of the USTA and those in player development will learn to get the opinions of those who have been there and done that before other decisions and mandates are made.

  50. Gerald Lemon says:

    I don’t want to be redundant here, but would agree with basically 100% of what has been written thus far. I would add that the stated goals of the changes are not remotely what was accomplished with their new plan. It is basic economics that by lowering the quantity of choices, you are raising the overarching costs of the individual events that each player will compete in.

    If you want to lower costs, then you need to add choice and you should also do surveys of the lowest cost cities for lodging and airline routes to and from.

    Also, if managed correctly you would send out RFP’s to cities and make them bid for the economic impact of the participants.

    Also cities like Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlantic City and cities where there are airport hubs usually have cheaper airfares.

    I have been told by people on the committee that none of these things were even looked into. The premise was simply that closer to home is cheaper than further from home was employed, which is simply not accurate.

  51. Ajt says:

    Geoff Grant : Great comment. So often, it seems people lose perspective on the scale of the United States. Too often I see comparisons of the US national program to some European Country program. What people need to keep in mind is that each USTA section is roughly equivalent in size to a European country in terms of population. For instance, Southern section has population of France, Eastern has population of England, So. Cal has 4X the population of Serbia, and Texas 3x the population of Switzerland. Our tournament schedule should reflect this.

  52. Tiffany Cacciatore says:

    I can’t tell you how happy I am that we have a group of individuals that are going to represent us (the players, the parents , the coaches, etc) in combatting the horrific changes that USTA is trying to implement. I do suggest that someone on the board also be a non parent of current player. Wayne Bryan for example. He has not only been around as a past player, past parent but also as a coach in one of the toughest sections in the country. Perhaps someone also that could represent the tournament directors might be beneficial. Good luck and please keep us posted. Thank you for all of your hard work.

  53. Mark E says:

    This is tennis’ iceberg that is about ready to hit. I have read a lot of great things here. So as opposed to say the same thing, I will say this. History is very predictable and there are very common results that happen when companies, be them profit or non-profit refuse to listen to their customers. In all my days, I have never seen a business behave the way the USTA does. They operate in complete disregard to their customers, their industry and their mission. You can’t be with a person in tennis these days without them immediately jumping on something that the USTA has done or is doing. The irony is that the least capable people are making the decisions while the most capable people offer their opinions and get shot down as opposed to appreciated. I will guarantee you that this is not a sustainable situation.

  54. Dede Allen says:

    As the former Administrator of the USTA Jr. Competition (15 yrs), we went through several changes. Most of the changes we’re well received by the majority.

    For the life of me, I’m still scratching my head on this one. With the emphasis on the U10′s, just where are we going to put all these new players? 99% of Jr. players will go to college, not turn pro. Separate the “elite” players – add something special to the schedule, don’t take away from the majority of kids.

  55. J.P. Weber says:

    First of all, there are 100′s if not 1000′s of great people who work for the USTA. So before I comment I want to get that straight. But people will act in a group the way in which none of them would act as individuals. And I think that is what happens in this case. Now for my thoughts on the matters that Mr Bellamy has been thoughtful enough to bring to the forefront.

    For me there has simply been too much change for change’s sake. In the past 10-15 years in the Southern section of the USTA alone there have numerous changes made to the systems of tournaments, to the rankings, to the points, to the ways in which you can schedule a tournament–to everything that it means to play junior tennis in the Southern section. I do not believe a kid or his parents can know what they are up against from the time they begin their journey as a player to the time they get to the end of the journey–the game and the rules have been switched time and time again.

    Many of these changes are not needed and take things away from the game rather than adding to the sport. It reminds me of a kid who has a very solid part of his game and when he switches coaches the new coach wants to change the solid part of his/her game just to leave their mark on the player. Inevitably it screws the player up and I feel like that is exactly what happens with the USTA when they get a new idea and want to implement it. The greatest example of this sort of thing to me is the 10 and Under Mandate.

    I find myself wondering if this has this ever happened before in the history of American tennis? But I am also concerned that here we have another meeting and not a single active, successful, developmental coach is a part of the “junta”. From inception setting up the competitive policies and formats for the kids ought to involve the coaches that spend every day getting them prepared. I blame this on the PTR and the USPTA because they cannot make us relevant and the atmosphere both of these organizations create is one where guys like Patrick McEnroe can say the USA has no competent coaches and they all exist in France.

    At these meetings we are going to have in attendance: a merchant, a referee, a commentator, a newscaster and a television broadcast/entrepreneur and I am so incredibly glad they have joined into the fray. But in my humble opinion their focus is very narrow and the reach of the USTA is so insidious and pervasive that many more fronts need to be addressed. This just takes me back to 1987 and when they went about creating Player Development and they ignored the guys in the “trenches”. So here we go again–But I sure to hope all the best for meetings which are unprecedented for the USTA.

  56. Mike M says:

    What a powerful indictment that Dede Allen who ran the committee for 15 years is coming out against her own committee on top of all the other powerful people in tennis. To have Wayne Bryan, Robert Landsdorp, Brian Parrot and so many others who have produced so much talent and are so dialed in, come out so strongly against these changes – speaks volumes.

    Congratulations on what you have inherited Mr. Haggerty!

  57. Dede Allen says:

    To Mike – I need to clear up your comment just a bit. The Jr. Comp Committee that I worked with for 15 years, doesn’t even look like today’s committee. My “gang” was like a big family and we all worked very well together. We truly wanted what was best for the kids/parents and we did ask them about changes that were being considered.

  58. Mr. T says:

    I would just like to say as a person extremely familiar with the committee and what went down on these changes, the current committee did not operate like what Dede describes in her post. This was a “my way or the highway” committee.

  59. Antonio Mora says:

    In response to J.P. Weber, I know I speak for the group in saying that we hope the meeting in Chicago will lead to consultation with a broader and more representative committee of knowledgeable “tennis people.” We have been involved for months in these discussions and will do our best to represent the many opinions we know exist. The meeting should be seen as a step in the right direction and, as you said, we should be grateful and “hope all the best for meetings which are unprecedented for the USTA.”

  60. J.P. Weber says:

    I hope you are right Mr Mora and as I said I am so glad that there is even dialogue because for so long people were afraid to even speak out against any of the problems they saw with the USTA. So you guys are the trail blazers!

  61. Fortune Cookie says:

    measure twice
    cut once

  62. RaybrownDr says:

    National Sports Governing Bodies have proven incapable of self regulation

    Federal Regulation of USTA and other National Sports Governing Bodies may be necessary to curb the abuses in which these organizations are engaged and to assure compliance with federal statutes protecting the rights of minorities.

    The world has changed since the formation of most NSGB’s. Sports are now big business and a significant part of the entertainment industry. As a result, NSGB’s have evolved from a position as facilitator and promoter of sports to youth for health and recreation to gatekeeper to the entrance into lucrative jobs in the sports industry to include professional sports, sports journalism, sports advertising, sports management, sports training, sports nutrition, sports broadcasting, and sports club management either directly or through the medium of sports scholarships in universities, colleges and junior colleges.

    Through the organization of competitions and training program NSGB’s have taken on the same role in sports that public schools have in academics. Competitions are forms of testing for which participants receive a grade that is used to measure their preparedness for school team participation, professional sports and college scholarships.

    Just as public schools are formed to assure that our youth is well prepared academically for a future in subject related employment, NSGB’s are, today unlike in the past, serving the role of assuring that our youth are prepared athletically for a future in sports related employment. In this respect, it is necessary that NSGB’s, just like public schools, offer equal opportunity for all to the benefits of future employment to fulfill the promise of America and the American Constitution.

    However, NSGB’s have evolved without the oversight that public schools have even though today they exercise the same power in controlling future employment in the sports industry as public schools and colleges exercise in controlling non-sports related professional employment. This fact makes it necessary for the Federal Government to review the role of NSGB’s in education, testing and training for future employment in sports related fields and to assure that NSGB’s comply with all federal statutes that call for equal opportunity for equal capability for all youth regardless of race, creed color, sex or national origin.

    Of all NSGB’s that appear to be operating in defiance of federal statures such as the Civil rights Act of 1964 and the court decision of Brown versus the Board of Education, the USTA stands out. For example, The USTA’s avowed mission is to serve the youth of this country as well as growing the game of tennis generally. In this regard, the USTA has dictated changes in traditional protocols, that have served the public in the past, to enforcing protocols that clearly compromise equal opportunity for all. The most conspicuous action is the recent enforcement of the Quickstart Mandate (QSM) that significantly limits equal opportunity for minorities. QSM requires the purchase of expensive new equipment (cost estimates starting at $700/court) as well as the regulation of tournaments that require training with QSM equipment and QSM designated instructors at a significant cost that are prohibitive for low income families and communities which are often composed of a significant number of minorities. Thus QSM has the effect of being a gatekeeper to minorities and low income families to future opportunities in sports related employment. Academic opportunity is provided by tax dollars that fund public schools, but there is no similar provision for young people seeking future employment in the sports industry.

    In conjunction with QSM are reports of intimidation, threats and reprisals to those clubs and teachers who have legitimate objections to QSM. The most prominent case is the USTA memo to Little Mo, an organization that has always provided significant opportunities to minorities. The memo imposes sever sanctions and limitations on Little Mo for resisting the USTA’s Quickstart Mandate which would, among other things, impede Little Mo’s support for minority opportunities in tennis. These threats are a clear abuse of authority.

    QSM is not the only activity that the USTA is engaged in that suggests that oversight is needed. There is the issue of executive compensation. Any not-for-profit organization must respect that the monies received to support the not-for-profit mission must predominately go to the mission, not to executive compensation. This is an IRS legal requirement to obtain not-for-profit status. It is known that Patrick McEnroe receives salary on the order of $900,000.00 plus other incentives for his position in the USTA. This salary should raise red flags at the IRS that would bring into question the legitimacy of the USTA’s not-for-profit status. Here is a quote a from news organization investigating not-for-profit executive compensation of ACT, the college testing organization:

    “In addition, board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Ferguson earns a base salary of at least $508,000, according to the organization’s 2005 tax return. That amount exceeds the vast majority of Ferguson’s peers who run like-sized for-profit testing or education businesses nationally and nearly all nonprofit executive directors around the country, according to ERI Economic Research Institute, a company that collects national data on for-profit and nonprofit compensation.”

    McEnroe’s salary grossly exceeds that of the ACT chairman’s.
    Further still are reports of not-for-profit monies being used as perks for players and coaches: One source cites instances of players staying in expensive hotels with visits to expensive restaurants. These reports suggest the need for an independent audit of the USTA to determine whether they are acting in good faith and according to the best interest of the game of tennis and our youth per their mission statement. In this regard I am reminded of the definition of Corruption. “Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.”– http://www.transparency.org

    Another matter is whether executives at the USTA, as fiduciaries, are acting in the best of the organization in decision making that effect the future opportunities of our youth in sports related employment. QSM and the decision to limit participation in national level junior tournaments without any scientific research or even appropriate analysis that would validate said decision are examples. As fiduciaries, by law, the executives involved in these decisions were obligated to be informed and to be able to judge the quality of the so-called “Scientific” advice they were given about QSM. However, an examination of all relevant QSM supporting data that the USTA has offered in their behalf shows conclusively that no such scientific research or analysis was undertaken. This smacks of a Breach of Fiduciary Duty.

    While some of the issuers raised above need further investigation by an independent watchdog agency for confirmation, the very fact that such issues can be raised by persons knowledgeable in the workings of the USTA demonstrates that the USTA, and perhaps all NSGB’s, are incapable of self regulation and that new strict Federal Regulations are needed to assure that today’s NSGB’s are not gatekeepers to our youth’s future opportunities for employment, but are re-relegated to the role of facilitator (not dictator) as was their original mission.

    Summary:

    The National Sports Governing Bodies (NSGB), which includes the USTA, have proven, in my opinion, that they are incapable of self regulation. I am calling for the development of new Federal Statutes that will bring strict oversight of the NSGB’s and act in the capacity of an Inspector General capable of (1) financial audits; (2) investigation of the use of intimidation, threats and reprisals against anyone that opposes their actions; (3) investigation of abuse of authority; (4) investigation of corruption; (5) investigation of abuse of not-for-profit status.

    When the actions of the National Sports Governing Bodies no longer reflect the moral values of America:

    What are America’s moral values? In simple terms: The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To make these more specific they mean that every citizen has the right to live their own life free from tyranny and to have the opportunity, regardless of race, creed color, sex, national origin, or economic circumstances, to be the best that they can be, to marry and have their children enjoy the opportunities for which this Nation was formed, to enjoy the fruits of freedom such as freedom from fear and bigotry; it includes the right to be safe from crime and exploitation by those who would take advantage one’s your circumstances; to feel secure that our leaders are making the best possible decisions that affect the hopes and dreams of our children; to know that our leaders, whether the President, a Congressman, a Judge, a president of a national service organization or the head of a local community service organization will act responsibly and in the best interests of our children and the nation.

    It means that the leaders of organizations like National Sports Governing Bodies NSGB) must put their personal interests aside when deciding what is best for the members of the organization. It means that the trust we place in our leaders will not be betrayed by the self interest of the leaders of NSGB’s.

    In a real sense, the leadership of organizations that function within the United States must reflect the values of the nation a whole. A failure to do this is a failure to respect the values that have made this country great. When the leaders of NSGB’s resort to arbitrary and capricious actions and enforce these actions dogmatically and tyrannically on the membership, they have de facto disrespected the values of this country.

    Disrespect for our National Morality is a disease that can spread like an aggressive cancer to other organizations and eventually to government. It is for this reason that NSGB’s, because of their influence and visibility, must always uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct. There must be no resort to dogmatic decisions based on personal economic interest that compromise the future of our children. There must be no actions that transmit the message that “self interest is above national interest”. In a Republic such as ours, it is essential that self interest coincide with the interest of the future of the nation. That self interest that betrays the common good and steals the hopes and dreams of our youth must never appear in the form of Mandates and restrictions that limit the future of our children. It must never appear in any form that makes the children of America second class citizens to outsiders who have no stake in the preservation of this nation. And the leaders of NSGB’s must never think it is harmless to skim a little money from the budgets that are earmarked for youth development to give their friends a little bonus, just because they are their friends.

    What we are seeing in the secrecy and bigotry of our institutions can be deadly and foment distrust, pit neighbor against neighbor and replace a community working for the common good with a community divided against self driven by short-term self interest.

    This is not what our forefathers risked their lives for. This is not what so many Americans have died for. When institutions become tyrannical, they can no longer serve the public good in America because America is a country that was born out of rebellion against tyranny. It is the American personality to challenge dogmatic authority; to question those who proclaim they are in possession of the truth motivated more by their personal economic interest rather than science and debate.

    Institutions that bear such traits have only one description: they are at their core Un American and they do not represent American values or the American People.
    When storied institutions stray from the American values on which they were originally founded and instead embrace the personal values of their leaders, it is the right and duty of all Americans to stand against them; to speak out and call for their censure. And in so doing, reaffirm what this country really stands for: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for all.

  63. Tennis Dad says:

    First, I would like to thank Antonio and Sean and Steve and the rest of the group for representing all of us – children, players, coaches, clubs from all over the country in this fight against all the changes USTA is trying to implement.
    As per the situation: I think USTA is deliberately delaying their response. They are not looking to roll back any of the changes. All they are looking for is to silence your group and the rest of the protest against USTA without actually giving up to us. It is typical corporate way of dealing with whistle blowers. They expect you to “play by the rules” and wait for everyone to calm down.
    It also seems to me that there is a deeper and wider problem within the whole system. What we have is the organization that is the self-appointed ruling body of an American tennis, that is run by the group of people that obviously do not have the same ideas about the development of an American tennis as the rest of the country does. Moreover, they actually hijacked the organization and use it for their own advancement and enrichment. By the way, why would Higueras be so patriotic to an American tennis? He is only using USTA to collect obscene amount of money and once the money stops, we will not see or hear from him anymore. And the money will stop when P Mac leaves his job as GM of PD.
    The only remedy to this illness is to break their monopoly. If we will be able to create an alternative organization that will organize its own tournaments, ranking system, etc., then USTA will loose part of their business and therefore part of their income. If this will happen, they will immediately change their style of business. Monopoly is very bad for any business tennis including, and the only solution is a competition. I am sure there are lots of clubs and coaches all over the country that are sick and tired of USTA’s Soviet-style commanding behavior and they will be happy to join the uprising. Before we know, we may have the whole new world in US junior tennis. As of now USTA management has forgot who’s for whom: we are for USTA, or USTA is for us.
    When Billie Jean King started Virginia Slims Tour, she did it in order to protest the way USLTA (now USTA) treated women in pro tennis. As the result, now we have WTA. So we would not be the first in history to uprise against USTA actions.
    Even today tennis is already in disadvantaged position against other sports on both college and profesional levels. If USTA will still be able to go through with all the changes, we may be the last generation of American parents supporting this sport. If the system will further restrict and minimize the development of junior tennis palyers, any parent with half of a brain will send his or her child to other sports where opportunities are much wider and the cost to the parents is much less.

  64. Dede Allen says:

    To Mr. T.- I would like to give my former committees a HUGE pat on the back – they were terrific. Everyone seemed to respect each others talents – those were the good old days !!!

  65. Xiaolin Ge says:

    Why USTA thinks smaller customer base is better?

    All business/sports are working hard to gain customers. USTA’s junior tennis league is based on junior tennis players and their parents.

    If USTA’s move is to produce the next generation of top players, then USTA should let its “selected” top Junior players to compete at WTA/ATP level instead of “creating a junior competition env” for them. It has nothing to do with draw size of junior tournament.

    The examples of Williams sisters and Kei Nishikori showed that one can compete at WTA/ATP level without being developed under a Junior completion env.

    If USTA players can’t win at WTA/ATP level with wild cards, they might not be able to become the next Williams sisters OR next Nishikori.

    Reducing the Junior National tournament size will not produce top WTA/ATP players. It will take the rest of junior tennis hopefuls down together with the USTA selected top juniors.

  66. Matt Wagner says:

    I have been a USPTA professional for nearly 20 years and for the first 10 years of my career focused on developing tournament players. We were running High Performance groups, training centers, tournament teams, and more in the Midwest before all of these became ways for both the USTA and USPTA to make more money off people who loved coaching and working the junior circuit.

    Now I am a Director of Tennis and I avoid tournament players every chance I can get. The attitudes of the parents and players are rough enough but now the USTA and their 10 and under programs go against the grain of everything I used to teach. And everytime I complain I am shut down, shouted down, and left out of the loop because the USTA is all knowing. Unfortunately, all I see are players who are less developed than the kids I worked with 10 years ago.

    10 and under programs are great for my beginners but I have lost countless tournament players through this “new and great” system. Unfortunately, where I work now I seem to be in the minority against these changes but I cannot stand the new programs and truely believe it waters down high level tennis in our industry.

    - a 20 year USPTA P1 teaching professional

  67. Martyn @martennnis says:

    The 10 and under programs have just gotten started so surely you are referring to some other USTA injustice that has lost you countless tournament players.

  68. Doug Browne says:

    To me, it is impressive that so many people have taken the time to voice their opinions. In the past six plus months, a large group of us have been communicating through Facebook and we have all gained valuable information from ‘sharing.’ When I was a young teenager, Brian Parrott was my coach and I am proud to say we have re-connected as adults. It is hard to imagine that anyone has Brian’s tennis resume; great player, great coach, promoter…Through my years of playing, coaching etc..I have surrounded myself with some of the finest tennis minds in our sport. As long as I can recall, the USTA and USPTA have shared one thing in common – Moving up in the organization gives one power and no one will let go. If Tim Mayotte’s letters don’t go anywhere, well, then…is anyone listening? Tim was working in the USTA PD trenches and became so disenchanted he quit and wrote a letter of disgust. My acquaintance-friend Wayne Bryan has offer the Blueprint for success but no one will admit they are wrong, so they ignore him. Again, Tim Mayotte, Brian Parrott and Wayne Bryan has immense credibility but no one will change. I was always taught that the true sign of maturity is admitting when we are wrong. So, what are the odds that the USTA will admit they are wrong? Slim, right? I just viewed Jose again at the USPTA convention and no one can understand him. He does not have fire in his belly. His drills do not inspire but he is always a featured speaker. Go figure. What is the answer? Simple. Follow Wayne’s blueprint and you will see positive results in the very first year,I guarantee it. More people will participate and that is success in a nutshell. We have so much talent in this country and most of this talent is being ignored. Many of us have coached numerous young stars and will continue to do so. Wake up, Blue Blazers, scrap what you have and start all over. Don’t fret, just adopt Wayne’s plan.

  69. Just to show how mixed up, to put it mildly, the USTA Junior Development is . First they want to force this MINIATURE tennis on the kids ,having one of the reasons to get more kids to play the game , then they are making the tournaments smaller. They are so screwed up ,but think that they are so smart. I know people like that . Don’t ask me where they are ,please.

  70. Stephanie London says:

    Thanks to Steve et all for acting on this matter. In reading through all the posts, it is clear this group is united in opposition to the USTA changes. Seems to me, the urgent next step is figuring out how to effect change. You could argue, as many have, that this is a typical corporate delay to calm and quiet the opposition. HOWEVER, if we can get any influencial management to reconsider and learn from the Wayne Bryan’s of the tennis community, it will be worth a wait until October 21. Taking this course will be a long road as the culture within the current USTA needs to change. In the meantime, we can reach out to our sections and get petitions going outside of this forum. There are more divisive alternatives than attempting to work with the USTA, but I’d like to see this effort through and see what can be accomplished. We will know soon.

  71. While admire all of you longtime tennis professionals and lovers of the game, I see many of the letters and missives as scattershot and counterproductive. The main problem being the conflation of the 10 and under tennis with the overall junior competition changes. The two intiatives may be related in motivation but distinct and different in impact. 10 and under was just implemented and was condemned prior, at the start and now during its incipient launch. Nobody has given it a chance or tried to integrate any of their current teaching methodologies within the format. To this I say shame on you. Quitters and complainers.

    As for the competition changes, I do not claim to be an expert, but I do claim to be in favor of regionalization. Maybe because I’m from California. Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to listen with open heart on the competition complaints when I know that 10 and under is getting unfair comdmenation.

    I support 10 and under vehemently because I view (FYI – I’m Kansas City born) our US professionals as unable to teach high quality tennis to non club beginners and learners. I view 10 and under and enabling and enhancing eye, coordination, hand and body movement efficiently without club pros. Old school American teaching worked in the 70s and 80s in the confined conditions of clubs. The world started innovating in the 70s, caught up in the 80s and sprinted past American professional teachers in the 90s and 2000s. The USTA responded late, but nevertheless responded and now old pros claim nobody told them change was coming.

    I’ve tried to hold my tongue out of respect, but I’m out of the closet now and ready to engage as a countervailing voice on these issues. I look forward to the challenge.

  72. O.K. Martyn. Tell me what to do. I have this 6 year old boy ,who can hit really well. Can rally , take 20 at the base line, CORNER TO CORNER , making 1 or 2 errors and has no problem doing that 3 times in a row. Even Sampras was not able to do this. There are hundreds of these kids in the U.S. What should this kid do ? Play the 12 s and under or what? HE WANTS TO PLAY REGULAR TENNIS. Why can’t he, why does he have to play MINIATURE tennis? It can have its place for 3, 4, 5 and even some 6 year olds. Have also regular tennis for the real talented kids. Please Martyn what should I tell this 6 year old to do with his future in tennis. Thank God these guys were not around when Agassi , Sampras ,and every other great players were growing up. I am glad to hear that you finally came out of the closet. Must have been lonely in there!! Please Martyn, again, what do I tell this 6 year old.

  73. At HIGH-TECH TENNIS, we’ve provided video services to help junior tennis players use video to their advantage at approximately 25+ junior tournaments throughout the Southern Section each year for the past 7 years. We first learned of the proposed changes from Tom Walker as he desperately tried to spread the word and begged people to contact their sections and urge them to vote against the coming disaster. Alas, as we all know, the changes were “almost unanimously approved” which is just so misleading in a dishonest, slimy way – it’s only true if you consider that those who voted for the changes are paid employees who were hardly in a position to vote against them.

    Since last March, we’ve been extremely concerned about the developments and we’ve followed this situation very closely – sharing information to the best of our ability so that people wouldn’t be blindsided after it was too late. We’ve talked with junior tennis players, parents, coaches, officials, and directors EVERY SINGLE DAY – that means hundreds and hundreds of people. We’ve met ONE COACH who told us he didn’t agree with their approach but thought he understood some aspects of the USTA’s intent. Other than that ONE COACH, every single person we’ve talked with is either unaware, confused, unhappy, disappointed, disgusted, angry, irate, if not FURIOUS about what is being done to junior tennis in America.

    We’re grateful that a small group has made such a valiant effort to meet with USTA executives on behalf of junior tennis players…but we really don’t expect all their efforts to amount to much in the end, unfortunately. From all indications and all interactions we’ve had, trying to talk with the USTA is as useless as trying to talk with a brick wall—we stopped years ago. We won’t hold our breath but of course we hope for the best possible outcome from next weekend’s meetings and sincerely send GREAT THANKS TO THE GROUP FOR THE GREAT EFFORT!

  74. martennis says:

    Coach Lansdorp,

    It’s an honor and my pleasure to contribute my perspective. Your question highlights one area that is little discussed. 10 and under tennis is not all about mandates, altered court size, rackets and balls. Sections maintain the flexibility to offer programming and tournaments that address the skill level your 6 year old and hundreds of other students possess already. For instance, many people think 10 and under is “miniature” when in fact all USTA sections are programming 10 and under tournament events on the regulation court. Yes the 6o foot court exist, but no mandate exist that an accomplished 6 year old must be on 60 foot court, unlike the LTA and Belgian tennis which require graduating or get a waiver up to regulation courts. What is the US compromise? Parents and coaches choose level of introduction to 10 and under format, including regulation court. Additionally, the ball compression varies for each level of court play. Regulation court 10 and under features a ball with 75% compression of the standard ball. As for the 6 year old you should advice he or she and the parents that 78 ft court 10 and under is the place to be, especially in Southern California. You may still ask why when he or she can play well with the regular ball? 1) the lower bouncing ball will reinforce the principles you already teach with regard to producing a consistent flatter longer stroke. One appropriate for US hard court play and renewed dominance, if not just “more better” US players. Right now you have not hundreds but thousands of hard court playing US kids with horrible more than semi western grips. Kids that started with Western grips, went through puberty and still have ugly western grips. They are not going to move forward. Literally in to the forecourt or in the game itself. Why? Because they won’t own their own hard courts, in their own land. What a shame. 10 and under has the ability to address this built in flaw in our kids, by making eastern or mild semi western easier to maintain from the start of learning due to lower ball bounce. Not all parents, community coaches or even some pros are going to get all the kids to address the ball early after the bounce, but with the 10 and under ball kids must move laterally forward quickly or the ball will bounce twice. Once that are moving naturally in this way you and I both can preach and yell and cajole the kids to get to that ball on the rise even more. 2nd reason all precocious 6 to 10 years olds don’t have a right to their own divsion where they basically treat beginner competitors as cannon fodder. There is scant evidence that 6 to 10 year old lose critical competitive development opportunities, especially when opportunities to compete still exist if we examine the changes more closely and determine if and where these children fit in the structures that exist sectionally today. Moreover novice division exist in the 12s for the 10 and under that are destroying the competition at the level.

    I really do love this game. I’m committed to 10 and under. Not just as a way to get more kids into the game, but also as a gateway to rational high performance hard court play, including the forecourt. If we don’t get our hard court dominance back and soon, we will lose more tournaments stateside which ultimately means even more difficult tennis days ahead for our nation.

    I will go on record as saying I hope no changes occur with regard to the 10 and under format. I favor regionalization also but am open to continued listening to all of you on this issue. Finally, endorsement contained herein are not endorsement of all things USTA or USTA player development related.

  75. We get sit here all night long, Martennis and argue. My opinion about kids not going up to the ball is an eye issue. The better kids have a better connection between what the eyes see and the command to move the feet. A soft ball is not going to change that. Another thing you can explain to me is ,won’t the smart kids just slice the soft balls, so it wont bounce at all. You seem to know very much about it ,so please explain that to me. You can go on my web site if you want to discuss this Miniature tennis more. Go to robert lansdorp. Good talking to you.

  76. martennis says:

    Coach Lansdorp you are very cool and super engaging. That is my suck up. I will stop. I won’t speak too soon on the eyes, movement and coordination. Your knowledge deserves a bit of due consideration. I fundamentally think 10u will address eyes and command to move the feet for greater numbers, then some ratio of that greater number will need to be brought to more refined, sustained and technical coaching development. In the future I will go to your website to talk more “miniature” tennis issues, with a technical bent. Thank you for the invitation. Marty @martennis on twitter

  77. RSal says:

    I have 2 boys 10, and 12 y.o. and live in the Midwest Section. The changes proposed want to promote development within the sections. Our outdoor USTA season goes from mid May to Labor day. The rest of the year all our tourneys are indoors. The indoor game favors harder hitters and leads to shorter points. My older son got a chance to travel to many national tourneys at a young age when the draws were 64 and initially got in as an alternate while he was 9 y.o. We traveled to many tourneys in the south and west through the fall and spring. As a result, he has become a very good outdoor player and ranked top 10 in the section and top 80 nationally with another year left in the age group. Secondly, he has become an excellent doubles player by playing a lot of national tourneys. In our section, we have very few dbls. opportunities. Unfortunately, my younger son will not get the same opportunities as the choices get the same opportunities. He has to play a lot of section tourneys and in the 10 and under, they’re all green dot tourneys. It’s amazing that none of the top 10′s players ever practice with green dot balls during the year as they’re the better players at their local clubs and are playing with older and better players. Also, the better players don’t play 10′s local tourneys and play up to the 12′s tourneys. However, 4 times a year, when he plays the higher level section tourneys which offer the most points, he is forced to play with the green dot balls without any ongoing practice. Often the best players don’t win these tourneys as a lot of dropshot and lob game often wins. So, the USTA doesn’t really understand what their changes lead to. They have definitely delayed the progress of the younger age group kids

  78. Yo So Cal says:

    I coach 3 kids who play in TAUT. I will start by saying my bias. I am completely against the mandate. But to be honest, there are some situations where I see good players playing TAUT and it makes some sense. When you have little rippers drilling the ball, it makes sense. They get to hit a lot more balls in their strike zone and I think there are some benefits. TAUT is fantastic for kids who don’t really have strokes and they are just out there battling. Where TAUT doesn’t work is with real hitters with size. They can’t hit winners with that ball. But as Robert Lansdorp mentioned earlier and with much accuracy, the easiest way to win in TAUT is by hitting drop shots. As soon as kids figure that out, so many matches between two great kids can turn into a battle of who gets the first opportunity to drop. All this controversy around TAUT comes down to the simple fact that they got the age wrong. It should be called SAUT or EAUT at best.

  79. USTA staff - Section Executive Director says:

    As a USTA Executive Director that feels forced into the changes I want to thank Steve Bellamy, Kevin Kempin, Robert Sasseville, Sean Hannity and Antonio Mora.

    I am not posting my name because I work for the USTA and feel there could be a back lash.

    Constructive criticism is a very important piece to success. We at the USTA must avoid the harmful effects of “Group think.” I think an anonymous survey to USTA staff would help USTA leadership to get the real opinions of others.

    First, I know everyone’s intentions are good, as are mine. I also concede that some of the changes are good. I agree in the earn your way philosophy. However I believe the changes to the national schedule are very harmful and in many ways contradict this principle.

    You must allow people the ability to earn their way and cutting down level 3 national events takes away this opportunity. I agree with pushing play to the section. This is great. More local play will improve levels. I agree with limiting national championships to 128, but why not a 64 qualification draw before?

    I feel it is an unfair power grad by player development to take so many wild cards and to create these “special” events for just the top 16 and 32 players in the country.

    I am 100% against getting rid of national championships and putting small “top 16″ or “top 32″ events in their place. I am against this for many reasons.

    Player development attempts at times to separate players from their support system at home and their developmental coaches so they can take credit and persuade them away. The results are not good and in many cases very bad. Coaches and staff at the USTA come and go and do not have the life long bond or personal interest needed to help a child deal with the stress of growing up under the pressure of elite tennis and academic schedules. There are a FEW really good USTA national coaches but all in all, but most of the best coaches start their own academies.

    USTA player development has used wild cards, boca camp, and will now use this special “top 16″ and “top 32″ camps, to take players away from the very environments that made them great.

    It is believed by many that USTA player development staff want these wild cards and special “top 16 camps” to separate players from their developmental coaches and present environments, because they feel USTA Player Development is better, which is not true.

    Player Development should be in the business of training and arming the high performance coaches and academies in this country, not undermining them.

    If you want to scale success and have more of it, train the coaches not the players.

    The best players are developed in partnership with families and coaches locally that care for students like they were their own.

    If you do a special event for “top 16″ players then parents and coaches should be included. Better yet just keep the winter national championships and stop trying to replace coaches and a child’s training environment.

    Further the junior competition committee and player development staff should include the top tennis minds in the USA that have proven track records. Junior competition has many nuances and takes years of experience.

    I suggest using USTA resources to reward the top coaches and academies who historically perform, and other coaches so they can do the same. Use additional resources to train them continually. This will produce countless top players.

    The USTA high performance coaches work shops are very good and our developmental coaches love that support from USTA. These are the types of things player development should be doing, not trying to get into taking children away from their families and co

  80. USTA staff - Section Executive Director says:

    I must add a compliment to USTA player development strategy however. Ten and under tennis balls and equipment is one of the best tools we have ever used.

    I believe players should play on transitional balls for the first two years of their play roughly, regardless of ages between 3 and 13.

    I have seen children love tennis right away starting with this equipment. It is also more motivating for coaches because players can play quicker. The developmental benefits are endless and many of you already know them.

    I also agree with those who say a player who has been playing since 3 and is very good at 9 should not play on quick start balls anymore.

  81. It just drives me nuts to see people endorsing this Miniature tennis with softer balls. Do it for 3, 4, 5 and may be 6 year olds. GREAT, get them involved in the game ,BUT don’t screw up all the talented kids who have a change of becoming great players. Let them get developed the old way. Can you imagine for just a second that the USTA was going to tell Richard Williams,that his girls would have to play Miniature tennis. He probably would have told the USTA to take a one way trip to never land and so would have every parent or coach with talented athletes. Like I said do it for 3 ,4 ,and 5 year olds.I think the people who are all for this Miniature tennis are coaches who don’t have great talented kids. Coaches with talented kids can’t go for this nonsense.I like the comments of this USTA Staff person. Too bad we don’t live in a free country where you can express yourself without the change of getting fired or what ever, for giving your name. Feel sorry for you ,but that’s how the USTA has worked: SCARE PEOPLE .

  82. illinibeta says:

    Thank you and Congrats, Steve, Antonio, Sean, and the team that went to Chicago to meet with the USTA again and which accomplished the delay of changes! You guys have my full support and appreciation on behalf of all kids and parents involved in the game and the USTA.

  83. Joe K says:

    USTA Changes are Right! 10 & Under rules are completely appropriate and necessary! Keeping everything local is Better! Anyone who opposes these changes doesn’t understand how to truly improve in tennis and any professional coach who opposes these rules probably should try another profession! Sadly most advanced players don’t truly understand how or what it takes to get better! or to get to the next level. How is it that we still think because a 14 year old wins a tournament that he’s needs better competition to advance! If you want to live by that then get into ITF juniors and start playing the world. if you want to make it and you know what you are doing you will! Bid you “think” you want to make it and you know what you are doing then you probably won’t make it! If you “think ” you want to make it and don’t know what you’re doing then you won’t make it! And worse to “say” I want to make it and not know what you’re doing….trust most us coaches, you will never make it!

  84. Joe K says:

    One more thing….RUN! from any coach that doesn’t support the 10 & Under red orange and green path. They don’t understand tennis development!

  85. Joe K says:

    And there’s more….as the USTA staff has suggested…kids get better because they have coaches who treat the players as family and care as if they were family. It’s up to the coaches to set up the environment to increase the awareness of how the kids Must! Play to better their chances to get better. You know match goals! Developmental goals! If the kids are hitting drop shots just to win then the situation among players and local coaches isn’t close or good enough to show results anyway! I’m not mentioning any names but I don’t trust Any coaches who “developed” top players. Because top players are top players because they want to be! Do they win because of the coach with the big name or in spite of the coach!

  86. Joe K says:

    It is laughable that all these top juniors and their parents can’t understand this? Have you watched a professional tennis match lately? It’s not rocket science? Who can do what they want to do and do it well more than the other player? Do you realize the mental skill it takes to serve to a spot, and do it at a world class level, then hit a forehand the other way to a small target day in and day out in all types of conditions against all kinda of opponents? What does this have to do with the ball? Or court size? Wake up tennis industry and narrow-minded, uneducated tennis coaches/parents! Get out of your box!

  87. Joe K says:

    To Robert Landsdorp or person who claims to be:

    Wake up! I bet you only have the most athletic kids on your court who could hit a super live racquet ball well if they had too! It’s not about the strokes! Wake up and go outside your little bubble with all those “talented” players who probably seek you out because a “champion” was on your court.

  88. Joe K says:

    Hey mr Landsdorp, when was the last time you did a live ball lesson. 6 year old who can hit the ball well corner to corner? Worthless anyway… It’s only against a feeder or some other little 8 year old…way too young to talk about performance anyway. Probably should split all that energy he has on on the soccer field or basketball or wall ball.

    Cordially,

    Coach who lives in the real world and sees how flawed the us tennis industry is

  89. Ruth Fix says:

    COMPLETELY agree with Mr. Lansdorp! There are very talented kids like ours who was whooping up on 11 year olds at age 7. If you had a kid who could read 5th grade level at age 7, would use him/her wait 3 years and hol them back from “the big scary books” just because they were not old enough?! NO!!! Let the parents decide, USTA! All USTA seems to be concerned about is getting more kids in the game … I.e. $$$. We spent a month in Spain and one of the coaches had worked personally with Andy Murray. He was NOT a fan of this powder puff tennis for a just-turned 8 yr old like our son who has BEAUTIFUL strokes and who beat a girl who had been there in Spain for 1.5 months at their academy. He also won doubles play w/ and against a couple of 11-y.o. Full court (regular ball) gals. If you can’t condone the talented kids going old school and playing full cout when they are more than capable and if you can’t recognize that a child this small could actually have talented strokes that could be ruined/stimyed (sp?) by these stupid shorter courts, then you’re not a true tennis fan. If you were, you would know there would be no Agassi, Williams sisters, etc if they had been pressed up under the thumb of 10U rules! This should not be all or nothing… Lower compression balls have their place like training wheels for kids like our daughter who are better at singing or soccer or whatever else but still want to enjoy tennis as well!

  90. FUSTA says:

    I knew the USTA was slitting it’s own throat when I attended their little clinic a few years back and had some 22 yo try and tell me not to worry about teaching kids proper strokes and technique. It’s true you really don’t need them when you play with decompressed balls but THATS NOT TENNIS!! It’s fine for ages 4-6 after that it’s a waist of time. I’m sure the $ you make on the required tennis balls is needed to fund your national meetings at fine hotels and of course lobster and catered meals are very expensive. After seeing the drunkfest that occurred at the one national meeting I attended I was ashamed to have been a part of it and never returned to your sham. After being involved in running a national tourney for over 20 years I can tell you that every year there is always someone who is outside of the top 64 that makes a deep run. It was the most exciting part of the tournament for many and by far the kids that pulled it off had the best tennis experiences of their life. Farewell to that. If you don’t like the changes… hit em where it hurts, train for a year without a USTA card, organize your own tournaments or matches. If you have the talent then play Usta tourney’s during your senior year, if you can play coaches will find you and scholarships will be there.

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