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Old 01-17-2013, 05:07 PM   #68
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,286
Default Atlanta meeting - A lot of heavy hitters there

It was an interesting day yesterday, to say the least!
I had spent the previous several days preparing my talking points for Sunday’s “listening” meeting as well as for my pre-meeting meeting with Lew Brewer and Andrea Norman, the new chair of the Junior Competition Committee
(Andrea was a member of the JCC that created the 2014 changes and is now chairing that same group).
Peter Lebedevs, also a member of the current JCC - and an active USTA volunteer, coach, and tournament director at both the junior and professional level – joined us, too.
From Parenting Aces - Lisa Stone :

The pre-meeting meeting was very informative.
We talked for almost 2 hours about the changes and the impetus for them (I’m still not 100% clear on the “why” behind them other than that USTA is trying to find a better way to develop our junior players), how I would like to see them change, and what USTA can do better. We spoke at length about USTA coming up with some concrete ways of helping tennis families save money, like discounts on hotels and airlines and the like, rather than telling us that these new schedule changes will accomplish that goal. I tried to explain to them how fewer opportunities drives up costs – basic supply and demand – but I’m still not sure Andrea understands what I was saying (more on that in a minute). She told me that the schedule goes from 15 competition blocks to 12, that fewer blocks means families have to spend less money. I took issue with that statement, explaining that fewer blocks means fewer options, and fewer options means potential additional expense, especially if those remaining options require further travel for families.

On the issue of smaller draw sizes at the 2 remaining national tournaments, Peter said that he is in favor of leaving the draws at 192, that going from 192 to 128 isn’t a significant change in the amount of work for tournament directors and that he feels giving more juniors the opportunity to compete at that level is a good thing. I hope he sticks to his guns on that point when the JCC has its next meeting. Andrea brought up the idea of holding a 64-draw qualifier before the Nationals. I asked if the Qualifier would be “one-and-done” or would there be a backdraw? And, would players earn ranking points in the Qualifier or would it be like the ITF qualies where no ranking points are awarded. She said there would be a guarantee of 2 matches in the Qualifier but that a backdraw probably wouldn’t be played out, and, yes, ranking points would be awarded but USTA hasn’t created those point tables yet.

I emphasized how having the opportunity to compete at the national level and to see the country’s top players in action can be a huge motivating force for those players on the bubble. I have to say, Lew was uncharacteristically quiet during the meeting, only getting involved when I started talking about my son’s ITF experience this past Fall. He asked me if competing in our section’s top events wouldn’t provide the same motivating force as traveling to an ITF or Nationals. I explained that, at least in my son’s case, he’s friends with all the boys at the top of our section and that there’s something different about watching your friends play versus watching top kids from the rest of the country (or world, in the case of the ITFs). I think he understood what I was trying to say. One thought I had after leaving the meeting is that if USTA is truly concerned about those players who get “rounded” at the National events, then why not use their resources to provide match-play opportunities and/or coaching to those players in hopes that they’ll be motivated to improve before their next tournament? That way, if the family has had to fly to the tournament, they won’t necessarily have to change their return flight but can stay and receive free coaching for their player(s).

The “big” meeting started at 1:00pm and was led by
Dave Haggerty (USTA President),
Gordon Smith (USTA Executive Director and COO), and Scott Schultz (USTA Managing Director of Youth Tennis).

Also in attendance were current JCC members Andrea Norman (Chair), Peter Lebedevs (Vice-Chair), and Chuck Kriese, as well as previous JCC member Eddie Gonzalez.

The room was filled with some incredible tennis experience, and those folks didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts.
We heard from Walker Sahag, an incredible junior coach from Mandeville, Louisiana; Jerry Baskin, who has over 40 years of experience developing and coaching players at the junior, collegiate, and professional level; Chuck Kriese, former Clemson coach and current Senior Director of Competition and Coaching at USTA’s Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland; Jessica Amick, Junior Competition Coordinator at USTA Southern; Patricia Hy-Boulais, former collegiate and professional player who now coaches in Hilton Head; Amy Johnson, long-time USTA official; Julie Wrege, former Georgia Tech coach and creator of; Robert Sasseville, long-time tournament director; and Johan Kriek, former Australian Open champion and current junior coach. All told, there were over 100 people in the room, including Manny Guillen, who has 40+ years of experience in the tennis world as an endorser and ranker for juniors; Lucy Garvin, past President of USTA; Doug Wrege, co-creator of; Julie Thiets of High-Tech Tennis; J.P. Weber, junior tennis coach and tournament director; Bill Ozaki, USTA Southern’s Director of Programs & Player Development; and Sam Kennedy, junior tennis coach, among others.

I think the simplest way for me to convey the points made is to do a bulleted list, so here goes . . . For those who were there, please pardon me if I’ve put any of the statements in the incorrect order – I was trying to listen and take notes (and keep those notes organized) all at the same time but may not have been successful. And, for the record, the statements below are NOT direct quotes but rather paraphrasing or summaries of what I heard during the meeting. The meeting was recorded by USTA Southern – I will make that recording available to you as soon as I get it.

Dave Haggerty: Welcome and thank you all for coming. [He then introduced those on the stage and the committee members in the audience] I would like to open the floor to anyone who would like to speak.

Walker Sahag: Reducing draws at the national events limits the chance for players to be seen by college coaches. As the system stands now, if players don’t make the cut in the 12′s, they never catch up. Grouping sections into larger regions creates additional sacrifices for those who will have to travel further in order to compete. Particularly in the western part of the Southern Section, including Florida and the Caribbean exacerbates the travel and expense issue and will likely see the best tournaments migrate toward Atlanta. Regarding international players taking college scholarships from American players, we’re being asked to pay for something [via our tax dollars] but are being excluded from it.

Dave Haggerty: College is the rainbow for 99.9% of junior players. We’ve been hearing all of Walker’s points from others, too. I understand that if a player doesn’t have visibility, it’s tough to be seen by the college coaches.

Lisa Stone: My son aspires to play more national events and needs to know that it is a realistic aspiration, that he can achieve it through hard work, that USTA hasn’t set up road-blocks to keep him away from the big events. But the new 2014 schedule is extremely restrictive, decreasing the number of national calendar dates from 12 in 2012 (17-24 in 2010) to 7. Having fewer opportunities for national play is not decreasing the cost of play – it will only make it more expensive.
USTA, why are you doing this?

Scott Schultz asked Andrea Norman to address the rationale behind the changes.

Andrea Norman: We had a charge from our previous president (Jon Vegosen) to create a better pathway. By going from 15 to 12 date blocks, the cost to compete is reduced. Regarding the smaller draws, some kids don’t belong at that higher level; they should be playing Regionals instead. The tournament sites are chosen by an application process and awarded to quality sites. We try to distribute the sites geographically based on the size of the airport, ease of travel, number of courts, etc. We are trying to push play back to the Sections like in the “olden” days – the idea is to get back to Sectional play. At the ITA “listening” meeting, there was concern about going from a 192 draw to 128, and Jon Vegosen brought up the idea of holding a 64 qualifying draw to be held over 2-3 days prior to the National Hardcourts. The coaches there thought that was a good idea.

Last edited by tennis5; 01-17-2013 at 05:15 PM.
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