Join Date: Jun 2010
Well Researched By A Parent Who Is Actually There. Hope The Usta Could Listen.
Sean's analysis on USTA
June 26, 2012
As many people know, my main passion in life is politics. I basically eat, breathe and sleep politics. In my private life, one of my main passions is sports. As a kid, I played ice hockey and roller hockey. I was a pitcher in baseball. I played basketball and stickball, both for endless hours. I also developed a love for tennis, which I have to this day.
After a stint as a hockey and snow-skiing dad, I have now become a full-time tennis dad. I have two junior tennis players and I, like so many other sports parents, spend all of my free time watching practices, matches, and driving around to different tournaments.
Tennis mirrors life in so many ways. I love the lessons in sportsmanship that tennis teaches my kids every day. They learn about winning and losing. They learn that the harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed. They learn to play fair. They also learn that sometimes life is not fair and there are those who do not "play by the rules." They are put in situations like being down 2-5, 15-40 in the 3rd set and then find out they can fight their way back. You can’t get that kind of education in a classroom. All of these are GREAT lessons for life.
I am intrigued with every aspect of the game, whether it involves tactics, strategy, conditioning, or technique. My great escape in life is entering the "tennis world” on weekends. My wife and children and I have developed great friendships. We have also had to deal with those few “insane” tennis parents we come across, which, frankly, is rather amusing.
With all of this as backdrop, let me now state up front that my reason for writing this letter is NOT about me or my kids. My top priority for my children is their education. They will not likely be professional tennis players. Our main goal is to keep them busy with tennis (by competing, exercising and having fun) as they develop. If they work hard enough, they will be able to choose whether they want to play tennis in college.
In fact, my reason for writing this letter is as follows: The deeper I have gotten into the tennis world over the last several years, I have come to see that there appears to be a destructive bureaucratic/political elite within the USTA that, frankly, is in the process of hurting junior tennis and, consequently, the future of American tennis.
As a parent of two junior players, I had been hearing rumors for months that the USTA was planning changes in its National Junior Competitive Schedule. Because the USTA had already reduced national opens by 50 percent and eliminated some of the Level 3 events in 2011, I couldn't imagine it would ever reduce opportunities to play national level events even more. But how wrong I was!
As you may or may not know, the USTA Board of Directors approved a proposal at its annual meeting in March to radically change the competitive structure for American junior players, beginning in 2014. Compared to the 2011 schedule, this new structure will reduce the total number of competitive opportunities for junior players at the national level by about 50 percent. The reduction in opportunities for national play outside of one’s region will be over 75 percent. These changes will most radically adversely affect those players ranked below the top 30 or so nationally.
If you are as frustrated as I am that American tennis has been on a steady decline, both professionally and at the college level, with more and more colleges giving scholarships to foreign students because American players are falling behind, as well as, the loss of college teams, the loss of high school teams, and the significant loss of tennis courts in major metropolitan areas, then I hope you will join me in urging the immediate reversal of the USTA’s "new rules" for juniors competition.
Time is short. These “new rules” have been approved by the USTA but not yet implemented. Therefore, this letter is a direct appeal to the members of all USTA sections to work to reverse these changes before it is too late. Using the specifics of the USTA’s own proposal I would now like to discuss how these changes will negatively affect junior tennis.
First off, I believe we can all agree that it is very important that juniors to be exposed to as many different opponents as possible. However, the new national junior schedule will limit players in the 14-18 age groups to a total of 512 opportunities to play outside their region. These 512 opportunities are spread across seven Level 1, Level 1A, and Level 2 event dates. That is an average of about 73 opportunities per event date.
In the existing schedule, there are between 2,304 and 2,432 opportunities for players to compete against opponents from outside their region. These 2,300+ opportunities are spread across twelve Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 event dates. That is an average of at least 192 opportunities per event date.
In the 2014 schedule, however, only two events have as many as 128 opportunities, and they are concentrated in July and August. In the current schedule, the four National Level 1 and four National Level 2 events each have at least 128 opportunities. Three National Level 3 events each have 256 opportunities, and the summer National Level 3 event has 512.