Join Date: Jun 2010
8th Listening Meeting - Recap by Parenting Aces
I’m happy to report that I have heard from several folks who attended last night’s meeting in Los Angeles,
and that there was once again overwhelming opposition to the 2014 changes.
There were 61 attendees including several parents, coaches, USTA representatives, and even a tennis journalist.
Some people who had planned to be there didn’t make it because they thought it was at UCLA
(I’m not sure how or why they had incorrect information regarding the meeting location).
School-night traffic on the LA freeways made it impossible for some parents to get there, but, still, 61 people came.
During the meeting, there was a constant barrage of passionate parent after passionate parent
making very poignant statements about how these changes were “ill-conceived”.
People attacked the fact that only one person on the 2011-2012 Junior Competition Committee
(the one that is responsible for the changes) had children currently playing competitive tennis,
and said that no one can understand what goes on in tournament tennis unless they are living it everyday.
The point was made over and over that, at the tournaments, everyone is against these changes.
While there was one parent who said that he thinks a system where kids can play in their backyard is better,
that was quickly refuted by nearly everyone in the room who simply said, “There aren’t enough kids to make that a reality right now.”
Parent after parent kept saying how the experience of these National events and the friendships that kids make are the things that keep them in the sport.
One mother said, “My daughter is a very talented athlete, and every other sport is courting her.
I can write a check for $400 for the year, and volleyball will handle everything else.
She wants to play tennis, and I want to provide that for her.
But it seems like you guys are doing everything in your power to push her out of it.
At every turn, you just make it more and more difficult.
Do you not understand what goes on at these tournaments with every single parent complaining about these changes?
All of your customers do not want any part of these changes.
So why are you continuing to push them?”
That drew a large ovation from the crowd.
UCLA assistant coach Grant Chen was there and said how hard they were trying to recruit local kids.
Apparently, UCLA head coach Billy Martin is strongly against the changes.
Another parent said, “Your entire customer base has been complaining for a year straight,
and right now we are all tired of saying the same things over and over.
What do we have to do to get these changes stopped?”
USTA representative Scott Schultz then gave the most optimistic answer heard at any of the listening meetings when he said,
“The USTA is a political organization.
You guys need to rally all the sections and get the sections to vote this down.
We just implement what they tell us.
So you guys really need to talk to Section Presidents [click here for a list of Section Presidents and their contact information]
and Section Junior Comp Committees and get them to stop them.”
While some in the room were angry and felt that Mr. Schultz’s statement was just a way to shift the blame and responsibility,
others were encouraged and invigorated to have a concrete pathway to pause the 2014 changes that had not ever been disclosed before.
One parent said, “To me, when Mr. Schultz said his thing about getting the sections to overturn this, that made my day.
I have been involved with this for 9 months and have never heard any tangible way to get this fixed.
Now we know there is a way. We just need to get the sections to vote it down.”
One well-spoken, passionate father gave a speech about how all the changes were taking the fun out of tennis and the soul out of the tournaments,
that he drove all the way from Santa Barbara to speak up for the future generations as his kid was only 7 and already losing interest.
At the end of the speech, Lew Brewer’s response was, “We have a plate of cookies back there.
Feel free to take your kid one. Maybe it’ll make him feel better.”
The whole room just sat there with their mouths open, not believing what they had just heard.
I also heard from parent Gordon Bellis (who traveled to LA from Northern California for the meeting)
that Lew Brewer would evade any tough direct question and respond that all of the changes were justified and fully supported.
Brad Sraberg, the parent of two SoCal junior players, said, “I want my kids playing tennis so that they can have a tool to get into college.
If these changes are implemented, it will be an absolute tragedy to so many kids at Adam’s level.
Maybe the Bellamys, Bellises and Gealers will be fine, but so many US kids will be pushed out of college tennis because of a policy change.
I pray that these changes get overturned.”
The bright spot of the night was near the end of the meeting when SoCal President Greg Hickey polled the attendees and said,
“I’m listening and so I get this clear, you guys are against the loss of opportunity?”
A chorus of “YES” rang out.
Then Mr. Hickey brought up the point about entry into tournaments which led to the evening’s most contentious moments as a couple of people, including USTA SoCal Manager of High Performance Darren Potkey, chimed in about “points chasers”.
The whole point-chasing argument was refuted by many who said that, really, there aren’t that many points chasers out there.
One person said that points chasers are actually a net positive for the sport because the wealthy pay for the travel to disperse the talent.
He said, rightfully, “You still have to win the matches.”
In the end, those in the room said that the main focus is on not losing any opportunities and gaining back the Bowls.
They wanted to make it clear to USTA that 99.9% of parents are against these changes.
Dennis Rizza, the father of an ATP player and the Kramer Club Director
(Pete Sampras, Lindsey Davenport, Tracy Austin have all come through his program), said,
“We fought for 5 years to get the 192 draws.
I can’t believe that we are now fighting to hold onto them after we spent so much time fighting for them.
A 128 is simply not fair for kids in SoCal.”