NY Times Article on American Tennis

Discussion in 'Junior League & Tournament Talk' started by tennis5, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. tennis5

    tennis5 Professional

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    Not sure if this was worth the read........
    But, posted it for those bored on a Monday,
    and to let everyone know we might have to wait "15 to 20 years to see what the new U.S.T.A. initiatives produce".


    August 25, 2012

    Developing Top Talent or Hindering Process?

    By HUNTER ATKINS

    The 16th-ranked junior player in the world was rallying at the Sportime tennis center on Randalls Island on a recent afternoon when the owner of the place swaggered onto the court for a peek at one of his pet projects, Noah Rubin.

    Wearing black sweat pants, black shoes, a long chain necklace, a Mets hat and a Rangers T-shirt, the owner looked more like someone standing in line for a beer at Madison Square Garden than a savant shaping the minds of pros dressed in tennis whites.

    But that owner is John McEnroe, revered as one of the sport’s greats, with a style all his own. Even now, as an ambassador to the game and playmaker in developing talent, McEnroe is unconventional in the way he bucks the system and is devoted to working within that system.

    “My brother, he won’t admit it, but I’m sure there has been some influence by me,” McEnroe said of his younger brother Patrick, who heads player development for the United States Tennis Association, which often conflicts with coaches and private centers like Sportime. “I personally think we have a good opportunity to know what buttons to push here better or as well as they do.”

    The U.S.T.A.’s mission has long been to promote and develop tennis nationwide. In 2008, Patrick McEnroe took over and made player development a priority for the U.S.T.A.

    If the U.S.T.A. can expand the base of young players, the thinking goes, it will eventually churn out better talent. To make technique easier to master for children 10 and under, the U.S.T.A. in January mandated smaller equipment and court sizes. And in an effort to make competing more affordable, starting in 2014 fewer national tournaments will be conducted and they will have smaller fields to emphasize regional junior competitions.

    But some critics argue that the U.S.T.A.’s objectives to grow the game and to develop top talent are mutually exclusive. Its methods are hotly debated. Some coaches and parents contend the modified equipment will inhibit development, not enhance it. The U.S.T.A. even found itself exchanging open letters with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who complained that the new junior competition format squeezed out midlevel talent.

    “Each mandate they put out is worse than the last,” said Wayne Bryan, a coach and the father of the doubles stars Mike and Bob Bryan. “To be successful in American junior tennis, you have to know how to negotiate and navigate the U.S.T.A minefield.”

    As the U.S.T.A. continues to invest in establishing a national coaching approach, independent coaches like John McEnroe and Wayne Bryan resist, maintaining that a federation cannot produce a champion. Rafael Nadal’s uncle forced him to play left-handed, and Andre Agassi’s father put him in front of a high-velocity ball machine. Novak Djokovic grew up in Serbia near a tennis court and the Williams sisters grew up in Compton, Calif., without nearby courts. The making of a tennis great is often unconventional and unpredictable.

    “Tennis is as unique a game as any, that you need to be able to know the person you’re dealing with to bring out the best in them,” John McEnroe said. “That doesn’t mean you can go by a set of rules in a book.”

    Questions swirl about the way the nonprofit U.S.T.A. spends money. Its budget comes almost entirely from the $200 million in revenue from the United States Open, which begins Monday. The U.S.T.A. spends 15 percent of its money on player development and 70 percent on community tennis development, said Gordon Smith, its chief operating officer.

    “Let’s be honest,” John McEnroe said. “You think that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are spent on the top 100 in the world for their coaching is necessary? Does Mardy Fish need to have his coach paid for if the guy is making millions of dollars? As opposed to giving us a grant to go find some great athletes in Harlem?”

    Patrick McEnroe said the U.S.T.A. was “in an unwinnable position” in the court of public opinion.

    As concerned as the McEnroes are with winning, it is hard to say for whose affection the U.S.T.A. is competing. Because of recent youth initiatives, junior events will bring in about 100,000 participants this year compared with an estimated 10,000 in 2008, said Kurt Kamperman, the U.S.T.A’s head of community tennis. But when another Grand Slam tournament unfolds without an American champion, wary eyes turn toward the U.S.T.A.

    “It’s a very convenient argument,” Patrick McEnroe said. “It’s like, until we take a player from the cradle to holding up the U.S. Open trophy, I guess we can’t help create players.”

    He suggested that it would probably take 15 to 20 years to see what the new U.S.T.A. initiatives produce.

    The U.S.TA. is teaching American children the basic techniques that top players now employ.

    “We have fallen behind coaching-wise quite a bit with part of the rest of the world,” said Jose Higueras, the U.S.T.A.’s director of coaching.

    Higueras added that Americans tend to master powerful strokes but lack superior movement, saying, “It’s like if you have a good basketball shooter, but you never get open.”

    Tim Mayotte, who used to run player development at the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center in Queens, said the association created problems in all areas because of its rigidity. Mayotte quit after 18 months because of the U.S.T.A.’s approach to children of various ages lacked “attention to detail.”

    “You need options, not restrictions,” Mayotte said.

    Despite all the mandates, convictions and dogma, tennis training centers seem to offer more options.

    At Sportime, the instructor Jason Wass ran a group of 6- and 7-year-olds through drills, using a range of equipment and court sizes. Although the U.S.T.A. has strict rules for 10-and-under tennis, Wass said he used them as recommendations. He is not employed by the U.S.T.A., but he said many pros look to integrate a variety of training techniques.

    “It’s just more tools for us to use,” Wass said.

    Nick Pham, a 7-year old wearing a white headband, said Nadal was his favorite player, and it showed. On the 60-foot court, Nick played long rallies with a low-compression orange ball and covered ground with pinball-like direction changes that resembled the way professionals move

    Were Nick to play with an adult-regulation yellow ball, it would often bounce above his head, resulting in “moon ball,” as it is called, in which the youngsters return looping overhead shots until the ball inevitably bounces out of reach or goes sailing beyond the baseline.

    Wass asked Nick if he had fun, and Nick replied, “I wanted to play longer.”

    An hour later, McEnroe emerged to watch Rubin.

    A 16-year-old from Rockville Centre, N.Y., Rubin is a product of both McEnroe brothers in a way. With the help of John and Sportime instructors, Rubin received personalized training. With wild-card invitations from the U.S.TA., which has trained him part time, Rubin could compete in European tournaments and has earned enough points to play in the junior tournament at the United States Open.

    His father and coach, Eric, said supporting a junior tennis player costs about $100,000 a year more than supporting the average teenager.

    “And the better you are, the more expensive it is,” said Eric Rubin, who spent four months looking for work after losing his job at Citibank last year. But Sportime and the U.S.T.A. made sure his son did not miss a beat with training and competitions.

    Today, tennis is dominated by players 25 or older. No. 43 Bernard Tomic of Australia is the only teenager ranked in the A.T.P.s top 100.

    But American players like Rubin, or perhaps some who are just starting to work on their slice backhands, might one day make their mark as professionals. That would please everyone involved in their development.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
    #1
  2. SoCal10s

    SoCal10s Hall of Fame

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    “We have fallen behind coaching-wise quite a bit with part of the rest of the world,” said Jose Higueras, the U.S.T.A.’s director of coaching.

    this guy is part of the problem... we are not behind in coaching.. most of the best coaches are already here in Florida,California,and even some in the east coast .. the ""new American way"" is looking for an easy way out.. kids here needs to work harder than everyone else .. back to the old days when Americans out-work the rest of the world.. but we are all too spoiled now so this is not going to happen.. I hope there are exceptions ..
     
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  3. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    I have to say I missed the whole blank angle too, unless they are referring to McEnroe dressed like a gangsta...article mostly talks about Ruben and he's...well, he's not black....

    Pretty worthless article, lot of "he thinks", "she thinks" without any kind of analysis, and not a lot of fact checking. They don't spend 15% of 200 million(Gross Open Revs) on PD, they spend closer to 7% of gross revenues or 10% of net open revenues, etc.

    15-20 years, man If I had their salaries I'd be lobbying for that kind of job security too.
     
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  4. MarTennis

    MarTennis Rookie

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    Black athletes have already saved tennis in America. No Williams sisters, no ESPN wall to wall grand slam coverage, much less regular WTA coverage and I assert no Tennis Channel. Tennis was on the edge of being off TV when the sisters were setback by injuries and distractions. When Venus came back to win another Wimbledon and Serena right her ship the ESPN deal happened.

    So, yes there is a push to get a greater number of blacks in high level junior and ITF tennis. Who knows if it will work, but 10 and under is an awesome vehicle to try to make more better tennis players in the public tennis context combined with USTA infrastructure.:)
     
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  5. coaching32yrs

    coaching32yrs Semi-Pro

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    The most promising young American male pros are Sock and Harrison, in my opinion. Funny how neither came from the USTA high performance program, as far as I know. Is that just a coincidence or is USTA high performance ineffective? From my perspective USTA invests in many boys who do not have the combination of size and athletecism to become top pros. Their acceptance by the USTA is based on winning or making the finals of super nationals in the 12's and 14's.
     
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  6. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    Agree, what junior has Higueras developed? He was "hanging out" in the desert, living the easy life. (tennis wise)

    American way, work harder than everybody else.
     
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  7. tball2day

    tball2day Semi-Pro

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    ..................
     
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  8. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    ====================================================
     
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  9. chalkflewup

    chalkflewup Hall of Fame

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    Anyone in the business knows this is just a ridiculous comment. There are different coaches for different steps in a player's development cycle.
     
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  10. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Kind of shows how being a highly WORLD ranked junior can skew the views of the usta.

    Mary Jo pointed out tonight that some players have a window to shine. Sometimes their peak is from 15-18 others from 25-28. It's a blend of physical and mental maturity.

    The usta has a tendency to grasp onto a kid when they are a teen and force itself onto them. Sometimes that is ok, other times you just have to let the player develop on their own terms.

    I can only imagine Isner would've been a disaster if they had forced everything on him at 16.
     
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  11. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    And different coaches for different styles of players, as well as different personalities. Anyone in the business should know. There can be no cookie cutter approach. While there are plenty of wrong ways, there is no one 'right way'. The we-must-all-do-it the-way-they-do-it-in Europe-dogma has failure written allover it. The top American prospects in womens and mens, Stephens and Sock, have both politely kept their distance from the USTA, and have worked with coaches that treated them as individuals.
     
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  12. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    The William's have had a huge effect on the women's side, much more so than the men's, and whether we like it or not, its all about the Benjamins, and that means the men's. A lot of great black women coming up, Stephens is going to be a star, but Keys, Townsend, etc., all inspired by the Williams.
     
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  13. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Thought Victoria Duval showed something against Clijsters last night, too.
     
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  14. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Hey you might actually be right about that and the Williams sisters effect on tennis coverage here.. It seems like hardly anyone plays tennis anymore in the states. We just need greater participation, period. Blacks have never been a dominant force in tennis, other than the Williams sisters so I just think it's a weird angle that John McEnroe always takes. This is hardly the first time I've read or heard him talk about this. And if people think most black women have anywhere the physical talents Serena or Venus possess than they really are living in a dream world. I do not know if "getting kids from Harlem" to paraphrase McEnroe is the answer either. I do not think it is. I think it's the slowing of the surfaces and tennis balls more than anything that have hurt the sport here.
     
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  15. ga tennis

    ga tennis Hall of Fame

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    She seems like such a sweet young lady. I really enjoyed her post match interview.
     
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  16. atatu

    atatu Hall of Fame

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    I'm hoping Sloane Stephens saves American tennis after the Williams sisters retire.
     
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  17. chalkflewup

    chalkflewup Hall of Fame

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    That's not accurate. Sloan Stephens is working some with USTA National Coach David Nainkin. Not sure how much as he's working with Sam Q again.
     
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  18. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    I said politely kept her distance, not had no contact with any of their coaches/programs. Check out her press conference at the French Open. The point is, she can hardly be called a product of the USTA PD system.

    Question[French Press] : Can you tell us something about your set up with the USTA program, you must be very happy with that, you are based on Florida ?

    Sloane : I don't work with the USTA, no, I have a private coach.

    Questioner : Roger Smith ?

    Sloane : Yes

    Questioner : Did you have work with the USTA in the past ?

    Sloane : Yes

    But your'e not planning on going with them ?

    Sloane : No, still the same.
     
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  19. chalkflewup

    chalkflewup Hall of Fame

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    Roger Smith is with Donald Young now which probably won't last too long. Nainkin was on a practice court with Sloan in NY this morning.
     
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  20. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    Sloane spent a lot of time training at USTA/Carson.
     
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  21. Number1Coach

    Number1Coach Banned

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    Venus and Serena owe it to their dad one of the greatest managers in sports , he was wise enough to get them in great shape from early on "he made them athletes" then got them around the great coaches in the US not the inner-city , he was smart enough to realize you need great thinkers to be around the athlete you have built .
     
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  22. TCF

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    ====================================================
     
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