Unfortunately, Julie and I don't share the same view of foreigners in college tennis
( I am for a two man cap) and she feels it is great tennis,
but I do wish the question of how the smaller draws will affect kids being recruited to college was raised.
Ok, here is her recap. Also, check it out on Zoo Tennis:
USTA Town Hall Meeting at ITA Convention
I drove across the state and back today to attend the USTA luncheon and Town Hall meeting at the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, FL. I was invited to attend by the USTA's Bill Mountford, who had initially signed on to present to the college coaches about the 10-and-under tennis initiative, but when the October Tennis Industry meeting in Chicago resulted in the scheduling of Town Hall meetings and a listening tour to discuss the upcoming Junior Competition changes, that presentation was truncated, with more time allotted for questions for about junior competition changes.
In attendance for the USTA were Mountford and outgoing president Jon Vegosen, who were on the podium, and Junior Competition committee member and now chairperson Andrea Norman and USTA Junior Competition Director Lew Brewer at a front table, who were available for questions.
Vegosen explained the philosophy behind the changes, emphasizing the need to have more local tennis opportunities for young people when they begin exploring all the youth sports available to them.
The coaches received a one-page "CliffNotes" version of the document, with the 2014 schedule as proposed, but there was definitely a wide range of awareness and understanding of the new structure. Several coaches voiced support of the concept of returning to sectional play, saying the value of those tournaments to them has decreased with some of the best players not playing in them. There was a comment about the size of the four regions for the new regionals and the travel required (Minnesota to Texas in this particular case), but I didn't detect from Norman any sense this might be altered.
As those of you who read zootennis regularly know, I have been studying the changes as they've been presented in the nine-page document the USTA has released for many months, and have followed many of the blogs and forums that have delved into the issue. I don't claim to understand how it will all work, but I do find the notion that every player(save wild cards) who qualify for the two gold ball Nationals remaining--the Clays and Hard Courts--must come from sectional endorsements. There is no other way in. It may result in the best players in the United States playing sectionals again, or it may result in the best players skipping the nationals, playing ITFs instead.
I made only two comments during the meeting, the first to point out that as long as the ITF path exists in the United States (and every other country in the world, more or less) and it potentially leads to the US Open Junior Championships, some players will take that option, rather than the one the USTA provides. As USC coach Peter Smith said about this, "the cat's out of the bag," and no structure the USTA sets up can reverse that change in junior tennis.
David Roditi of TCU, who was a National Coach for the USTA before he returned to coach the men's team at his alma mater, asked if these changes may mean two separate paths: one to the US Open Juniors and one to the USTA Nationals. He mentioned that good players skip the national tournaments in Mexico, opting instead for ITF events, and while there are obviously big differences in the two countries and their federations, it is a point worth considering. Now players can do both, but will the elimination of the national standing list force them to choose one or the other?
This led to a wild card discussion, and 16 wild cards is the number set aside for the 128 draws in the boys and girls 18s. Peter Wright of Cal asked if those might be tied to some sort of qualification system, as the ITA does for its wild cards or at-large selections.
As for the 128 draws themselves, a few coaches were for them, seeing in the 192-draws a number of players not of college quality; a few agreed that a qualifying event prior to the two remaining nationals would be a good solution, and Vegosen said that is being considered.
I've always thought qualifiers a dependable and easy-to-understand part of tennis, so I am hopeful this will happen, but that brings me to my second comment at the luncheon.
It wasn't really a comment, but a question. I wanted to know how the coaches felt about the demise of the Winter Nationals, or rather, the metamorphosis of it to a team event.
I'm not sure how many coaches had absorbed this change prior to the luncheon, but Shelia McInerney of Arizona State said she liked team events, citing the August 18s Team championships and their format. Peter Smith suggested the 64 players involved in the Winter Nationals (with the "waterfalls") were too few to justify the expense of a recruiting trip and suggested more team events in the younger age divisions, saying the 12s zonals always are at the top of his college players' favorite tournaments list.
Mountford made sure that those coaches who didn't speak to the issues raised during the 90-minute meeting (and I just touched on a few) had an option to contact him privately later, and he also encouraged everyone to use the email account firstname.lastname@example.org
for further, private feedback and suggestions. The ITA will be sending links to the USTA's one-page and nine-page documents to its members following the meeting to help raise awareness among the coaches.
It's my perception that he monitors this account himself and will use it to help quantify the support for the tweaks being considered. I do not think the plan, voted and approved in March of this year, will be scrapped. The USTA appears to be committed to its philosophy
and its implementation, and that includes the sections (save Southern, perhaps). But I think if enough people take the time to understand the new structure and comment on what they would like to see changed in it, the USTA will take those emails seriously. If they don't hear from those affected, they will presume agreement with the changes that will be implemented in 2014.
The next Town Hall listening meetings are at the Winter Nationals:
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Please attend if you can.