The Cause of the Weak American Field: USTA Junior Tournaments

TeamOB

Professional
As someone who has gone through the grind of USTA junior tennis, I created this thread to share my (mostly negative) views on how the whole thing is being run. IMO this is the main reason why the American mens field has been so weak in recent years. Here are the main things I have noticed over the years:

1. Junior tennis is too damn expensive. Kids from poor, inner city families have very little chance of making it big. This pretty much denies at least 50% of kids a chance to develop their talents. Going to a tournament can cost up to $300! Entry fees get up to a ridiculous $100, plus gas money and hotel costs, that ends up being a pretty steep price. If junior tennis keeps being so expensive, only a small minority of kids will have a chance to develop. Hence a weaker field.

2. Local tourneys are dying out. The L7s are almost a thing of the past nowadays. 5-6 years ago many L7s had solid 32 or 64 draws and attracted at least a few solid nationally ranked players. Now L7's give so few points that hardly any competitive players consider them worth the effort. One of my local L7s (the Fox Chapel Junior Open) went from 300+ competitors in 2010 to under 100 last year. This is a catastrophe for many kids. As the L7s become smaller (and some of them are discontinued), kids have to travel to larger tournaments for good competition. This means they play less often, have to travel more, and spend more cash. Again, disadvantage to poorer families.

3.Junior tennis is becoming centered around a few big tourneys instead of playing every weekend. This is really a continuation of #2. One of my buddies (a top 100 player in 18s) barely plays a tourney every month. His schedule is to play only the biggest events and ignore smaller tourneys. Since the bigger events give so many ranking points, he can do this and still maintain his ranking. Most good juniors do the same. And it makes sense from their point of view. Why bust your @$$ in a small tourney if it won't give you any points? But this is counter-productive in terms of development. Less play equals less improvement.

4. 10 point tiebreaks to decide matches. It's ridiculous. Kids are here to play and improve their game through playing. 10 point breaker equals less play equals less improvement.


The results of this are:

1. Junior tennis becomes a rich kid sport. I know very few good juniors from a working class background. All of these poorer kids could be winning tourneys or playing professionally. Instead they are unable to develop.

2. Kids play less. All around, juniors are playing less tournament matches. Yes, they are playing "bigger" matches in national tourneys for more points, but development-wise it's bad. A match is a match. Playing in a local L7 is just as good as playing in an L3 when it comes to development.

My suggested improvements are:

1. Encourage local tourneys. The USTA needs to start making L7s and L6s worth more points. That will get juniors playing more often.

2. Eliminate the 10 point tiebreak.

3. Reduce entry fees. The USTA needs to stop concentrating so many funds on the US open and focus on what really matters: the next generation. Sadly, the huge remodeling at Flushing Meadows means this probably won't happen.

4. Start programs to get inner city youth involved in tennis. I volunteer in a program like this through Pittsburgh Citiparks. We offer free weekly clinics to inner city kids and run a JTT team. It's not nearly enough though. We are just a few volunteers doing the best we can to combat a huge national-scale problem. A big, rich organization like the USTA needs to get involved.

IMO if some changes like this aren't instituted soon, American tennis will keep getting weaker and weaker. The junior game has become too commercial and money/points oriented. The game needs to go to a more grassroots, improvement-oriented style if we want something to get better. Sorry for the long OP. Please comment and critique.
 
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Wow, a great thread with an interesting topic of discussion. A rare thing lately. Kudos!

I can't really comment myself because I'm in Canada, but from my point of view you make a lot of good points. To wrap everything you said into one main point: it seems like tennis is getting smaller in the USA (less tournaments, 10 point tiebreak to decide matches, less young people playing because of costs etc.).

I like your point about improving tennis at the grassroots level. If it reaches out to more kids at the most basic level - even something as simple as incorporating it into PE curriculum in elementary schools - then a lot more kids will latch on. It's especially important to do that so that the love of the game sets in and they don't get seduced by the other popular sports. Making the sport more affordable will also help this a ton, as you already mentioned.
 
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President

Legend
Is this really different from other countries though? I don't know, I'm just asking. Do working class kids in France and Spain play tennis more than Americans?
 
Is this really different from other countries though? I don't know, I'm just asking. Do working class kids in France and Spain play tennis more than Americans?
Good question. I'd actually love to know how popular tennis is among all demographics in Spain, especially considering they're the #1 tennis nation in the world right now.
 

President

Legend
Good question. I'd actually love to know how popular tennis is among all demographics in Spain, especially considering they're the #1 tennis nation in the world right now.
Yup, and France is definitely #2 (maybe even #1, when you take into account how many top 200 players they have). I think France is the biggest country where tennis is the most popular, I have heard that it is easily the second biggest sport in France (in terms of participation) after soccer/futbol. That probably has a large component in their success. Serbia is also incredible, with a population that is like 1/50th the size of the US, and far less tennis tradition/history, they have produced six top 20 (or better) players on the mens and women's side combined in this generation, better than the US! Obviously, their best player Djokovic is leagues above the best US player since the 90's generation.
 
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TeamOB

Professional
Is this really different from other countries though? I don't know, I'm just asking. Do working class kids in France and Spain play tennis more than Americans?
I don't know since I've never been to these countries, but I really don't see how it can get more extreme the in the US. I am one of the very few decent, middle class juniors around my area (and I only got do a decent level through the generosity of a coach that agreed to coach me in exchange for me helping him out with the younger groups). The rest of the juniors at my club are very rich. The guys I hang out with live in million-dollar mansions with swimming pools, 4-car garages and parents driving brand-new Porsche convertibles. It really doesn't get more extreme then that.
 

ctoth666

Banned
I think you've identified four very valid problems, and I hadn't really considered 2 or 3 before. But makes sense. From my personal experience, which dates back to the 00's, there were a number of problems. I think that, in my case, there were a number of kids in my peer group who were competitive. At one point, I was somewhere near the top of the NE junior rankings, 12-14's, and I was phased out very quickly by kids that I had been beating just a year ago, and I observed this in a number of other juniors as well. Idk if that is a standard occurrence, but, the issue was that I never found an outlet to get better, whereas other kids, who certainly had money, did find an outlet and rose to the top. As in, I didn't have the resources to get to the next level, and if that is the experience of enough other kids, is it possible that one of the issues is the narrowing of the field too early in junior play? Maybe.

But, and it's been said before, one of the big ones is the diversion of great athletes to other sports. I mean, I can use more anecdotal evidence here. Coaching high school tennis for the first time, and I live in a weak tennis area, my number one player had played behind a kid the year before I took the job who had had no formal tennis training. He was the top athlete at our school, and he had been better than our number one just by virtue of being tenacious, being coordinated, and being fast as heck on the court.
 

SublimeTennis

Professional
As someone who has gone through the grind of USTA junior tennis, I created this thread to share my (mostly negative) views on how the whole thing is being run. IMO this is the main reason why the American mens field has been so weak in recent years. Here are the main things I have noticed over the years:

1. Junior tennis is too damn expensive. Kids from poor, inner city families have very little chance of making it big. This pretty much denies at least 50% of kids a chance to develop their talents. Going to a tournament can cost up to $300! Entry fees get up to a ridiculous $100, plus gas money and hotel costs, that ends up being a pretty steep price. If junior tennis keeps being so expensive, only a small minority of kids will have a chance to develop. Hence a weaker field.

2. Local tourneys are dying out. The L7s are almost a thing of the past nowadays. 5-6 years ago many L7s had solid 32 or 64 draws and attracted at least a few solid nationally ranked players. Now L7's give so few points that hardly any competitive players consider them worth the effort. One of my local L7s (the Fox Chapel Junior Open) went from 300+ competitors in 2010 to under 100 last year. This is a catastrophe for many kids. As the L7s become smaller (and some of them are discontinued), kids have to travel to larger tournaments for good competition. This means they play less often, have to travel more, and spend more cash. Again, disadvantage to poorer families.

3.Junior tennis is becoming centered around a few big tourneys instead of playing every weekend. This is really a continuation of #2. One of my buddies (a top 100 player in 18s) barely plays a tourney every month. His schedule is to play only the biggest events and ignore smaller tourneys. Since the bigger events give so many ranking points, he can do this and still maintain his ranking. Most good juniors do the same. And it makes sense from their point of view. Why bust your @$$ in a small tourney if it won't give you any points? But this is counter-productive in terms of development. Less play equals less improvement.

4. 10 point tiebreaks to decide matches. It's ridiculous. Kids are here to play and improve their game through playing. 10 point breaker equals less play equals less improvement.


The results of this are:

1. Junior tennis becomes a rich kid sport. I know very few good juniors from a working class background. All of these poorer kids could be winning tourneys or playing professionally. Instead they are unable to develop.

2. Kids play less. All around, juniors are playing less tournament matches. Yes, they are playing "bigger" matches in national tourneys for more points, but development-wise it's bad. A match is a match. Playing in a local L7 is just as good as playing in an L3 when it comes to development.

My suggested improvements are:

1. Encourage local tourneys. The USTA needs to start making L7s and L6s worth more points. That will get juniors playing more often.

2. Eliminate the 10 point tiebreak.

3. Reduce entry fees. The USTA needs to stop concentrating so many funds on the US open and focus on what really matters: the next generation. Sadly, the huge remodeling at Flushing Meadows means this probably won't happen.

4. Start programs to get inner city youth involved in tennis. I volunteer in a program like this through Pittsburgh Citiparks. We offer free weekly clinics to inner city kids and run a JTT team. It's not nearly enough though. We are just a few volunteers doing the best we can to combat a huge national-scale problem. A big, rich organization like the USTA needs to get involved.

IMO if some changes like this aren't instituted soon, American tennis will keep getting weaker and weaker. The junior game has become too commercial and money/points oriented. The game needs to go to a more grassroots, improvement-oriented style if we want something to get better. Sorry for the long OP. Please comment and critique.
Interesting. My son is 13 and plays USTA matches, in fact he's playing this weekend.

I'm not arguing with you, just a couple of things I noticed. USTA membership is $25.00 a year, and his tournaments are around $33-$48.00. Not sure how I remember those numbers, but never above $50.00. I would agree with you that they should have some sort of low income program, where poorer kids (Typically the ones that do the best in sports historically)

Another expense is strings. I re-sting my sons racquet every two weeks (Full bed of Poly). Poor kids can't afford that.

Tourney availability; Not sure where you live, but we have too many. My son can and does play almost every week.

One thing that bothers me is there is no real checking on entrants. I've seen kids who have insane records playing in novice tournaments, I mean real killers, I guess just to say they won a tournament, not sure why.

IMO the reason why Americans do horrible in Tennis these days is that we are a fat and lazy country. Historically sports hero's come from places and backgrounds of near poverty, you can go right down the line, Ali, Leonard, they have this almost desperation to make it. Now you have players from poor countries that have that same "Win or die" mentality, I think that's the main factor.

So I do agree with you that only the rich kids get a real chance to play, but I simultaneously think that the best athletes come from poor backgrounds or unusual situations (Agassi's father beating the game into him).

There just seems to be a total lack of hunger in sports. I'm 40, and when I was in school we played sports to WIN, that was the idea and clearly it is the idea of sports, that's why we have winners and LOSERS. Today, give an example, at my sons school the opposing coach told his entire squad, I was standing right next to them, "What's the most important thing", one kid say "Try hard", the coach said "NO, the most important thing is not winning but having fun"!!!!

While some may agree with that, WINNING IS FUN. And with that attitude being forced down our kids throat by liberals, they AREN'T going to win, what do they think is going to happen? Change all of a sudden at 18? In school "Everyone is a winner", everyone gets a trophy, it's the most insane thing I've seen in sports, then we wonder why Americans don't win? Really?

My son is not spoiled, he gets it, but that being said he has a full face tennis bag, like four high quality racquets, his main racquet restrung every two weeks, Nike clothes, Nike Zoom Tennis shoes. He only has it because he's not spoiled, I'm not a bad dad. In contrast when I played junior and high school tennis, I had one racquet and Gut strings that NEVER got restrung, I just made due (We were poor), and never complained. I was starting Varsity singles in the 9th grade, trained like a maniac, would dive for shots, today kids are just sissies, sorry if I offend anyone, but compared to all of my friends at the time they are sissies.
 

TeamOB

Professional
I'm not arguing with you, just a couple of things I noticed. USTA membership is $25.00 a year, and his tournaments are around $33-$48.00. Not sure how I remember those numbers, but never above $50.00. I would agree with you that they should have some sort of low income program, where poorer kids (Typically the ones that do the best in sports historically)
Tourney availability; Not sure where you live, but we have too many. My son can and does play almost every week.

One thing that bothers me is there is no real checking on entrants. I've seen kids who have insane records playing in novice tournaments, I mean real killers, I guess just to say they won a tournament, not sure why.
Seems that you live in an area where L7s and similar local tournaments still have a significant presence. The entry fees you mention seem like L7 entry fees to me. My area used to be similar to yours. Then many of the kids realized that they weren't getting any points from playing DRs so they stopped playing them. Many of the DRs got canceled and the kids switched to L4s and similar tourneys. As for kids being sissies, I agree. I know it's a stereotype but most I think it's a rich kid problem. Most of these rich kids have no toughness or fighting spirit at all. No wonder tanking and crappy mental game is the most common problem at my club. These guys throw in the towel like no other.
 
Interesting. My son is 13 and plays USTA matches, in fact he's playing this weekend.

I'm not arguing with you, just a couple of things I noticed. USTA membership is $25.00 a year, and his tournaments are around $33-$48.00. Not sure how I remember those numbers, but never above $50.00. I would agree with you that they should have some sort of low income program, where poorer kids (Typically the ones that do the best in sports historically)

Another expense is strings. I re-sting my sons racquet every two weeks (Full bed of Poly). Poor kids can't afford that.

Tourney availability; Not sure where you live, but we have too many. My son can and does play almost every week.

One thing that bothers me is there is no real checking on entrants. I've seen kids who have insane records playing in novice tournaments, I mean real killers, I guess just to say they won a tournament, not sure why.

IMO the reason why Americans do horrible in Tennis these days is that we are a fat and lazy country. Historically sports hero's come from places and backgrounds of near poverty, you can go right down the line, Ali, Leonard, they have this almost desperation to make it. Now you have players from poor countries that have that same "Win or die" mentality, I think that's the main factor.

So I do agree with you that only the rich kids get a real chance to play, but I simultaneously think that the best athletes come from poor backgrounds or unusual situations (Agassi's father beating the game into him).

There just seems to be a total lack of hunger in sports. I'm 40, and when I was in school we played sports to WIN, that was the idea and clearly it is the idea of sports, that's why we have winners and LOSERS. Today, give an example, at my sons school the opposing coach told his entire squad, I was standing right next to them, "What's the most important thing", one kid say "Try hard", the coach said "NO, the most important thing is not winning but having fun"!!!!

While some may agree with that, WINNING IS FUN. And with that attitude being forced down our kids throat by liberals, they AREN'T going to win, what do they think is going to happen? Change all of a sudden at 18? In school "Everyone is a winner", everyone gets a trophy, it's the most insane thing I've seen in sports, then we wonder why Americans don't win? Really?

My son is not spoiled, he gets it, but that being said he has a full face tennis bag, like four high quality racquets, his main racquet restrung every two weeks, Nike clothes, Nike Zoom Tennis shoes. He only has it because he's not spoiled, I'm not a bad dad. In contrast when I played junior and high school tennis, I had one racquet and Gut strings that NEVER got restrung, I just made due (We were poor), and never complained. I was starting Varsity singles in the 9th grade, trained like a maniac, would dive for shots, today kids are just sissies, sorry if I offend anyone, but compared to all of my friends at the time they are sissies.
No offense taken here. Everything you've said is true.

I remember in my senior year in high school we didn't have a tennis team. For years there was only a tennis club. I asked the coach of the club about a team and he said basically I would have to encourage others to commit to a team and if I could get enough participants together, he would do his best to register our school into the league. Me and a friend managed to go around and recruit enough interested players to satisfy the requirements and, lo and behold, the coach was able to enter our school into the league for that season.

Long story short, by the end of the season we were in a deadlock with another school for the last spot in the provincial tournament. It literally came down to games won for each school - yes, games. Not matches or sets, games - and we came out on the losing end of that. I remember begging my coach to push for a playoff with that other school for that last spot. Unfortunately there was nothing my coach could do. I was quite upset about it for awhile, it was agonizing. The problem was - and ultimately the point I'm getting at here - that the rest of my teammates didn't even care. In fact, they ridiculed me for making a big deal of it and told me to get over it. No passion. No hunger. Nobody was the least bit bothered that we had been eliminated and that it was that agonizingly close.

It's too bad because they were otherwise a great group of teammates. I guess they were just "having fun".
 

SublimeTennis

Professional
Seems that you live in an area where L7s and similar local tournaments still have a significant presence. The entry fees you mention seem like L7 entry fees to me. My area used to be similar to yours. Then many of the kids realized that they weren't getting any points from playing DRs so they stopped playing them. Many of the DRs got canceled and the kids switched to L4s and similar tourneys. As for kids being sissies, I agree. I know it's a stereotype but most I think it's a rich kid problem. Most of these rich kids have no toughness or fighting spirit at all. No wonder tanking and crappy mental game is the most common problem at my club. These guys throw in the towel like no other.
Yea I don't have the experience you do with USTA, my son has only played for the last two years so I can't speak to all you are saying.

But yea it's definitely a rich kids sport.
 

SublimeTennis

Professional
No offense taken here. Everything you've said is true.

I remember in my senior year in high school we didn't have a tennis team. For years there was only a tennis club. I asked the coach of the club about a team and he said basically I would have to encourage others to commit to a team and if I could get enough participants together, he would do his best to register our school into the league. Me and a friend managed to go around and recruit enough interested players to satisfy the requirements and, lo and behold, the coach was able to enter our school into the league for that season.

Long story short, by the end of the season we were in a deadlock with another school for the last spot in the provincial tournament. It literally came down to games won for each school - yes, games. Not matches or sets, games - and we came out on the losing end of that. I remember begging my coach to push for a playoff with that other school for that last spot. Unfortunately there was nothing my coach could do. I was quite upset about it for awhile, it was agonizing. The problem was - and ultimately the point I'm getting at here - that the rest of my teammates didn't even care. In fact, they ridiculed me for making a big deal of it and told me to get over it. No passion. No hunger. Nobody was the least bit bothered that we had been eliminated and that it was that agonizingly close.

It's too bad because they were otherwise a great group of teammates. I guess they were just "having fun".

Yea it's like a saying gets into the atmosphere or something then everyone believes it. "The main point is to have fun"! I couldn't believe it. Everyone is a winner, what? I mean aside from being a lie it's hurtful to them in the future, thank God my son knows the truth.

I can just see these kids grown up, "What do you mean I'm fired, I'm a winner"! I mean you have a scoring system to determine who what? WINS.

Anyways, yea it's sad, I do think it's the main reason Americans don't win anymore, it certainly isn't for lack of players or talent. You get some hungry kid from a low income background wanting to be like a star tennis player and I'd give him the edge over any pampered player any day.
 

TeamOB

Professional
Other problems I've noticed over the years:

1. Kids withdraw if they get a bad draw. They don't wanna drive 5 hours to get their @$$ kicked first round, so they just drop out if they see they are playing a top seed. This is terrible for the game. Very crappy attitude and robs kids of match time. Kids should be penalized for withdrawing once the draw is already made. Maybe subtract ranking points for this.

2. Kids disregard the backdraw. Once they lose first round, most kids just go home. Robs the other guys of match time. Ranking point should be deducted for this.

3. Terrible ranking system! Way too many points for big tourneys. Rankings should be based on who you beat, not how many tourneys you can afford to sign up for.

Suggest solutions and discuss.
 

cknobman

Legend
Don't agree with your money point.

Fees are not overly excessive and you cannot expect to be given everything for nothing.

If a player cannot afford <=$50 entry fee for a tournament how in the heck can they afford their own strings?

At a competitive level they should be going through 3-6 sets of strings per week which can easily double the cost of one tournament entry fee. Not to mention other equipment, clothing, and training costs.

Fee's for tournaments cover things like facility costs, court costs, umpires, etc.... In fact when you look at the breakdown of tournament fees the majority of those costs go to facility and court time. In my area facilities that run these tournaments charge the same court time fees for a tournament as if a regular person walked in off the street to play some tennis.

Travel time for hotels and food are completely out of the USTAs hands and are completely irrelevant as regardless of anywhere in the world these costs will be incurred.

Where is all this money supposed to come from to support the people who can't afford it?
Are you expecting the USTA to subsidize players and families who are considered poor? If so, who makes that determination? Do you think that making the USTA into a socialist type organization will encourage participation?

I'm willing to bet it would discourage many USTA participants from paying USTA fees if their money was not going to help support leagues, tournaments, and facilities they play in but rather being arbitrarily distributed to people determined to be "poor" and need assistance to travel around and play in tournaments.

I'm all for paying my fees to help USTA programs encouraging the growth of the sport but I am not in to outright subsidize players playing the game.
 

courtking

Semi-Pro
$$ win.. you have $$ you can get good technical coach (which is hard to get now aday for junior), good physical condition training coach and mental coach..

I agree with the op the tournament fee is expensive.. I know one guy who organize 2 big junior tourney in Southern Cal told me, he just needs to open 2-3 of them and make $50K from it..

Kids cheat way way too much in the tourney.. They now learn how to cheat, bad calls, breaks,.. The whole USTA junior is a mess.. !!
 
$$ win.. you have $$ you can get good technical coach (which is hard to get now aday for junior), good physical condition training coach and mental coach..

I agree with the op the tournament fee is expensive.. I know one guy who organize 2 big junior tourney in Southern Cal told me, he just needs to open 2-3 of them and make $50K from it..

Kids cheat way way too much in the tourney.. They now learn how to cheat, bad calls, breaks,.. The whole USTA junior is a mess.. !!
I would hope that kids playing at the grassroots level don't have 3 coaches. I played competitive tennis when I was younger and had to make do with a session a week with one coach.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
Agree...

...it's remarkably similar to what's happening with junior alpine ski racing in the U. S. There's a bunch of other Bad Things going on in ski racing (hint: ask the FIS how they're planning to make ski racing safer...) but all of the above applies. When the Big 4 (Ligety, Miller, Vonn, Mancuso) retire, that leaves only Schiffrin. She's a great racer, but she's not a whole team.

Re "fixing" junior tennis in the U.S....just like ski racing, it ain't gonna happen...
 

heftylefty

Hall of Fame
I have been say this for the longest time: the best athletes don't play tennis in US. Or they are not encourage to play tennis. The USTA is more interested in poaching players than player development. And yes, this falls squarely on the Director of Player Development, Patrick McEnroe. He's better suited for the booth than scouting talent.
 

tennisaddict

Bionic Poster
It is sad that tennis has become a rich kid's sport. Only solution i see is to make the money at the top lesser and pump that for the development of the game.

If even that does not cut it, have players give 10-20% of their endorsements to the ITF. I am sure Sharapova and Federer can do with less.
 

coloskier

Legend
Coming from a background of being a nationally ranked junior in the 70's and helping coach a top 10 junior in the late 2000's, I'd say the biggest problem is that the USTA spends too much money on the very cream of the crop and doesn't spend a dime on anyone else, and half the time it's not how good the player is, but who the family knows, even though you truly don't know if a player is going to be a top pro until AFTER they turn 18. Plus, the players who have rich families get tons of money from the USTA instead of giving money to the kids that need it. Look at some of the new pros.... Sloane Stephens, rich dad, former NFL'er...... Coco Vandeweghe, rich family, uncle former NBA player, the Harrison bros, well off family who got hired as coaches at the big camps. Then they throw tons of money at Donald Young, and still are, when there are a lot of younger players who would do better with proper financing. Most of the top junior players hardly play any USTA tourneys at all except nationals because it is cheaper to play in an ITF tourney and you get more international ranking points. More ITF's in the USA would be a great help. Compared to other countries, the USA has less than half of the ITF's available compared to even a country like Mexico. Europe has an ITF tourney available every week. USTA could increase the required number of USTA tournaments to get a ranking.

What it all comes down to is if you aren't training at one of the top tennis academies you aren't going to go anywhere anyway, except in extreme cases, and they run anywhere from $50K-80K a year on average. If you are a top ranked player, you get sponsored a lot because you will bring in a lot of other lower ranked players who will pay full price just to be able to hit with the top players.
 
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Soianka

Hall of Fame
Don't agree with your money point.

Fees are not overly excessive and you cannot expect to be given everything for nothing.

If a player cannot afford <=$50 entry fee for a tournament how in the heck can they afford their own strings?

At a competitive level they should be going through 3-6 sets of strings per week which can easily double the cost of one tournament entry fee. Not to mention other equipment, clothing, and training costs.

Fee's for tournaments cover things like facility costs, court costs, umpires, etc.... In fact when you look at the breakdown of tournament fees the majority of those costs go to facility and court time. In my area facilities that run these tournaments charge the same court time fees for a tournament as if a regular person walked in off the street to play some tennis.

Travel time for hotels and food are completely out of the USTAs hands and are completely irrelevant as regardless of anywhere in the world these costs will be incurred.

Where is all this money supposed to come from to support the people who can't afford it?
Are you expecting the USTA to subsidize players and families who are considered poor? If so, who makes that determination? Do you think that making the USTA into a socialist type organization will encourage participation?

I'm willing to bet it would discourage many USTA participants from paying USTA fees if their money was not going to help support leagues, tournaments, and facilities they play in but rather being arbitrarily distributed to people determined to be "poor" and need assistance to travel around and play in tournaments.

I'm all for paying my fees to help USTA programs encouraging the growth of the sport but I am not in to outright subsidize players playing the game.

First of all, no junior player is going through 3-6 sets of strings per week.

Secondly, if the USTA really wants future American champions, they will find a way to make the sport accessible to kids other than those whose parents are wealthy.
 

TeamOB

Professional
Don't agree with your money point.

Fees are not overly excessive and you cannot expect to be given everything for nothing.

If a player cannot afford <=$50 entry fee for a tournament how in the heck can they afford their own strings?

At a competitive level they should be going through 3-6 sets of strings per week which can easily double the cost of one tournament entry fee. Not to mention other equipment, clothing, and training costs.

Fee's for tournaments cover things like facility costs, court costs, umpires, etc.... In fact when you look at the breakdown of tournament fees the majority of those costs go to facility and court time. In my area facilities that run these tournaments charge the same court time fees for a tournament as if a regular person walked in off the street to play some tennis.

Travel time for hotels and food are completely out of the USTAs hands and are completely irrelevant as regardless of anywhere in the world these costs will be incurred.

Where is all this money supposed to come from to support the people who can't afford it?
Are you expecting the USTA to subsidize players and families who are considered poor? If so, who makes that determination? Do you think that making the USTA into a socialist type organization will encourage participation?

I'm willing to bet it would discourage many USTA participants from paying USTA fees if their money was not going to help support leagues, tournaments, and facilities they play in but rather being arbitrarily distributed to people determined to be "poor" and need assistance to travel around and play in tournaments.

I'm all for paying my fees to help USTA programs encouraging the growth of the sport but I am not in to outright subsidize players playing the game.
You bring up a valid point. I probably should have explained myself better in the OP. The reason the sport has gotten more expensive is the shift away from many smaller local tournaments to big sectional events. Juniors used to be able to get good matches and a solid ranking from playing almost only $30 DRs. Now that won't get you anywhere. The DRs have died off and the rankings are made so that you can't really get far (by far I mean college level or beyond) without traveling a lot and playing big tourneys. The entry fee for Clay Court Nationals (going on this week) was $140! That's some serious dough! Add in travel expenses and no wonder few families can afford it. I know several qualified kids (ranked high enough) who didn't play simply because of the expense.
 

SublimeTennis

Professional
Don't agree with your money point.

Fees are not overly excessive and you cannot expect to be given everything for nothing.

If a player cannot afford <=$50 entry fee for a tournament how in the heck can they afford their own strings?

At a competitive level they should be going through 3-6 sets of strings per week which can easily double the cost of one tournament entry fee. Not to mention other equipment, clothing, and training costs.

Fee's for tournaments cover things like facility costs, court costs, umpires, etc.... In fact when you look at the breakdown of tournament fees the majority of those costs go to facility and court time. In my area facilities that run these tournaments charge the same court time fees for a tournament as if a regular person walked in off the street to play some tennis.

Travel time for hotels and food are completely out of the USTAs hands and are completely irrelevant as regardless of anywhere in the world these costs will be incurred.

Where is all this money supposed to come from to support the people who can't afford it?
Are you expecting the USTA to subsidize players and families who are considered poor? If so, who makes that determination? Do you think that making the USTA into a socialist type organization will encourage participation?

I'm willing to bet it would discourage many USTA participants from paying USTA fees if their money was not going to help support leagues, tournaments, and facilities they play in but rather being arbitrarily distributed to people determined to be "poor" and need assistance to travel around and play in tournaments.

I'm all for paying my fees to help USTA programs encouraging the growth of the sport but I am not in to outright subsidize players playing the game.
No one is saying to subsidize anything, the point is that playing USTA matches IS expensive for most. I have good money, it's no problem for me, but an extra $200.00 a month, plus $100.00 for strings simply is out of the question for MOST families, especially now.

So while you may not like that answer, it is fact. And to my and others point that historically the best athletes are from poor backgrounds and hungry eliminates them from Tennis. No one is saying USTA should lower prices, we are simply pointing out a fact, big difference.
 

SublimeTennis

Professional
$$ win.. you have $$ you can get good technical coach (which is hard to get now aday for junior), good physical condition training coach and mental coach..

I agree with the op the tournament fee is expensive.. I know one guy who organize 2 big junior tourney in Southern Cal told me, he just needs to open 2-3 of them and make $50K from it..

Kids cheat way way too much in the tourney.. They now learn how to cheat, bad calls, breaks,.. The whole USTA junior is a mess.. !!
Funny they do cheat! My son is playing Friday, we practiced today and I reminded him to have his opponent call out the score before they serve. It typically goes like this, quiet, then serve, quiet then serve, quiet then serve, then "40 LOVE and serve"!! I watch, and in the above scenario my son might have for example won a point or two.

Or they throw the ball in the air to serve, and while the ball is in the air they yell "30-love", then my son has to stop them. I'm actually surprised how much they cheat. Not sure why they can't just bring in an adult, even a parent to keep score and line judge. Most adults don't cheat in my experience.
 

courtking

Semi-Pro
Funny they do cheat! My son is playing Friday, we practiced today and I reminded him to have his opponent call out the score before they serve. It typically goes like this, quiet, then serve, quiet then serve, quiet then serve, then "40 LOVE and serve"!! I watch, and in the above scenario my son might have for example won a point or two.

Or they throw the ball in the air to serve, and while the ball is in the air they yell "30-love", then my son has to stop them. I'm actually surprised how much they cheat. Not sure why they can't just bring in an adult, even a parent to keep score and line judge. Most adults don't cheat in my experience.
+1 .. My 8 year old son was playing a semi against a 12 year old kid in the U12 Open last month, he was up 40-15 but he called 15-40.. so I asked what was the score..?? the parent of the other kid complain with the USTA judge.. so I asked the judge.. if the other kid know the score was wrong and did not correct it, it was cheating.. he said... too bad.. there are matches lost b/c calling the wrong score.. WOOWW... The level of cheating is unbelievable .. What happen if the other guy up 40-0 and my son call 0-40 ?? the judge said.. too bad.. they had to agree on something.. that was one of the most stupid thing I ever heard..
 

cknobman

Legend
No one is saying to subsidize anything, the point is that playing USTA matches IS expensive for most. I have good money, it's no problem for me, but an extra $200.00 a month, plus $100.00 for strings simply is out of the question for MOST families, especially now.

So while you may not like that answer, it is fact. And to my and others point that historically the best athletes are from poor backgrounds and hungry eliminates them from Tennis. No one is saying USTA should lower prices, we are simply pointing out a fact, big difference.
I do see the point of the cost of Tennis but as a father with three teenage boys who all participate in sports (basketball and baseball) I can firmly attest that ANY SPORT is expensive when you play at a competitive level.

People like to single out tennis as expensive and exclusive but that is not entirely true.

For my sons to excel in basketball they needed coaching and to play in competitive tournaments and on select teams. I did not even get my boys involved in the highest level of traveling select/elite teams and it still cost a fortune. Team fees just to join were upwards of $300 per child. Add uniform costs, gym rental time, traveling costs, and depending on the tournament sometimes you would have to pay even more money (if team fees did not amount to enough) at every tournament. This was usually for a 6-8 week season and then the fee cycle started all over again. So for two solid months of quality basketball it cost me upwards of $1000/child after you factor in all the costs.

As for baseball its not cheap either. $45-75 per tournament, $150-200 for uniforms, $150-350 bats (guess what good bats have limited life cylces too so its not a buy once kinda deal), $50 for a 30 minute lesson, $175 for a league fee, $50+ for cleates, etc....

My point is any sport played competitively is expensive. Tennis is not exclusive or excessive.
Yes, you can play those sports without spending a lot of money BUT the same applies to tennis.
To play competitive you have to spend money.

There is no magical structure in basketball or baseball to help poor kids. If you dont have the money you dont play at the highest of competitive levels.

What we do see though is much better support in our school systems for basketball, baseball, and football.
 

Tcbtennis

Hall of Fame
I do see the point of the cost of Tennis but as a father with three teenage boys who all participate in sports (basketball and baseball) I can firmly attest that ANY SPORT is expensive when you play at a competitive level.

People like to single out tennis as expensive and exclusive but that is not entirely true.

For my sons to excel in basketball they needed coaching and to play in competitive tournaments and on select teams. I did not even get my boys involved in the highest level of traveling select/elite teams and it still cost a fortune. Team fees just to join were upwards of $300 per child. Add uniform costs, gym rental time, traveling costs, and depending on the tournament sometimes you would have to pay even more money (if team fees did not amount to enough) at every tournament. This was usually for a 6-8 week season and then the fee cycle started all over again. So for two solid months of quality basketball it cost me upwards of $1000/child after you factor in all the costs.

As for baseball its not cheap either. $45-75 per tournament, $150-200 for uniforms, $150-350 bats (guess what good bats have limited life cylces too so its not a buy once kinda deal), $50 for a 30 minute lesson, $175 for a league fee, $50+ for cleates, etc....

My point is any sport played competitively is expensive. Tennis is not exclusive or excessive.
Yes, you can play those sports without spending a lot of money BUT the same applies to tennis.
To play competitive you have to spend money.

There is no magical structure in basketball or baseball to help poor kids. If you dont have the money you dont play at the highest of competitive levels.

What we do see though is much better support in our school systems for basketball, baseball, and football.[
/QUOTE]

I disagree with the first bolded sentence and fully agree with the second bolded sentence. There is definitely a structure in place to help talented poor kids in basketball (not sure about baseball). How do a good number of these talented poor kids end up in private prep schools? Someone has recognized their abilities and provided scholarship money for them to attend these schools where they can single-handedly take a whole team to a championship.

Your second statement about the better support in school is more important. The high school years when the boys hit puberty and become faster and stronger are the most important developmental years for tennis. The team sports have more financial support where uniforms and equipment, some travel can be subsidized (by corporations like Nike, or fundraising by parents or kids). There is team practice and fitness organized for the team by the coach. For serious tennis players (I'm talking about those who aspire to Div 1 college or professional ranks) the financial costs are borne solely by the parent. So private coaching, private fitness, equipment, tournament fees, travel and lodging all taken care by Mom and/or Dad. High school tennis does not help one iota. It certainly adds up over time.

I have 2 competitive junior tennis players and thankfully I am in a position to allow my kids to play without breaking the bank. But there is no way in heck a talented poor kid would be able to participate in this sport without financial backing. You write about your children's experience with basketball but there is no dearth in basketball talent in the U.S. The talent (?interest) in tennis is certainly lacking.
 

cknobman

Legend
I disagree with the first bolded sentence and fully agree with the second bolded sentence. There is definitely a structure in place to help talented poor kids in basketball (not sure about baseball). How do a good number of these talented poor kids end up in private prep schools? Someone has recognized their abilities and provided scholarship money for them to attend these schools where they can single-handedly take a whole team to a championship.

The talent (?interest) in tennis is certainly lacking.
There are scholarships available for tennis players as well. If you are good enough you can get a scholarship into some of the best tennis academies in the country (bollettieri being first to come to mind).
Are there as many? No.
Why? Because tennis is not a mainstream sport in America. America is big on team sports and those are what get the most financial backing.
 

coloskier

Legend
I do see the point of the cost of Tennis but as a father with three teenage boys who all participate in sports (basketball and baseball) I can firmly attest that ANY SPORT is expensive when you play at a competitive level.

People like to single out tennis as expensive and exclusive but that is not entirely true.

For my sons to excel in basketball they needed coaching and to play in competitive tournaments and on select teams. I did not even get my boys involved in the highest level of traveling select/elite teams and it still cost a fortune. Team fees just to join were upwards of $300 per child. Add uniform costs, gym rental time, traveling costs, and depending on the tournament sometimes you would have to pay even more money (if team fees did not amount to enough) at every tournament. This was usually for a 6-8 week season and then the fee cycle started all over again. So for two solid months of quality basketball it cost me upwards of $1000/child after you factor in all the costs.

As for baseball its not cheap either. $45-75 per tournament, $150-200 for uniforms, $150-350 bats (guess what good bats have limited life cylces too so its not a buy once kinda deal), $50 for a 30 minute lesson, $175 for a league fee, $50+ for cleates, etc....

My point is any sport played competitively is expensive. Tennis is not exclusive or excessive.
Yes, you can play those sports without spending a lot of money BUT the same applies to tennis.
To play competitive you have to spend money.

There is no magical structure in basketball or baseball to help poor kids. If you dont have the money you dont play at the highest of competitive levels.

What we do see though is much better support in our school systems for basketball, baseball, and football.
Hockey is even more expensive.
 

coloskier

Legend
There are scholarships available for tennis players as well. If you are good enough you can get a scholarship into some of the best tennis academies in the country (bollettieri being first to come to mind).
Are there as many? No.
Why? Because tennis is not a mainstream sport in America. America is big on team sports and those are what get the most financial backing.
You might be interested to hear that Wilson sells 10 times as many badminton rackets worldwide as they do tennis rackets. That might tell you where tennis ranks.
 
Because China probably buys about half of those badminton racquets. They don't play much tennis in china by the way. Does that make badminton more popular than tennis worldwide?
 

Z-Man

Professional
Good question. I'd actually love to know how popular tennis is among all demographics in Spain, especially considering they're the #1 tennis nation in the world right now.
I spent 10 days in Spain earlier this year (mostly Andalusia). I was surprised to see very few tennis courts. Maybe there are more courts in Valencia, but southern Spain is like Florida for Europeans. Granted, I was mostly in tourist areas, but we traveled by bus, and I saw a lot of the country. I think there are more tennis courts in the US, and tennis is probably cheaper because there are lots of public courts vs private clubs.

I also didn't see a lot of over weight kids, and not a lot of kids with their noses in iPhones.
 

NaBUru38

Rookie
There just seems to be a total lack of hunger in sports. I'm 40, and when I was in school we played sports to WIN, that was the idea and clearly it is the idea of sports, that's why we have winners and LOSERS.

Today, give an example, at my sons school the opposing coach told his entire squad, I was standing right next to them, "What's the most important thing", one kid say "Try hard", the coach said "NO, the most important thing is not winning but having fun"!!!!
I don see a contradiction. I've always have fun trying hard to win.

I love playing card, even if I'm not good at it. I also have fun at racing videogames, where I'm fairly good. In both cases, I try my best and have fun at it.
 

Oz_Rocket

Professional
Very interesting discussion and by comparison here is the current structure in Australia:

1. Local school, club and pennant competition - No ranking points, a few hours long, minimal cost and travel, played everywhere most of the year. Participation is nowhere what is was when I was a kid playing in the 1970s, maybe a fifth as big. This is where they need to get more kids involved.

2. Super 10s - A new format introduced a few years back where open trials are held in each state for 10/U kids to pick a team of 4 boys and 4 girls to compete in a national tournament during the second week of the Australia Open. They play singles and doubles and the best bit is the coaches assigned to each team are allowed to coach during matches. Aimed at introducing kids to competitive tennis in a controlled and low cost environment. Also great for early talent spotting. A couple of kids from the first year who came from less affluent families are now on scholarships and at the top of the national rankings for their age. They would otherwise have been lost to tennis. My son did the first year and it was a fantastic experience for him.

3. Junior Development Tournaments - No ranking points, 1-2 days long, round robin with no seeding, minimal cost but some travel, odd age based (11/U, 13/U, 15/U, etc), played in most cities and towns (big cities would have at least one per month, smaller cities and town a few per year and smaller towns one per year). Most of these are region based with each region holding finals to pick their best 3 players to go to an end of year state championship.

4. Junior Tour - Ranking points for 12/U and older, 5 different levels from white to platinum, 3-5 days long, best of 3 sets, seeds and consolation draws, moderate cost to enter but travel/hotel costs can be high, 1-2 a month in state capital cities, one every 3 months in bigger regional areas and one a year in smaller country regions.

As for my take on the OPs original points:

1. Money - It certainly helps and once you start chasing national ranking points the costs add up to many thousands per year if you live outside a major capital city. For the average top 100 kid I'd say it costs $4k+ per year in coaching, $1-2k in equipment and $5-7k to do 12-15 ranking tournaments. Scholarships are available for genuinely talented players if they are identified. But if you aren't going to be a national top 10 player for your age then you're on your own. Compared to many team sports the cost of tennis is 5-10 times as much.

2&3. Local tourneys are dying out and junior tennis is becoming centered around a few big tourneys instead of playing every weekend - This is where Tennis Australia have tried hard to use the junior development series to encourage kids to play and it is slowly working. But once you go down the ranking points path it is increasingly becoming an elite sport with less kids competing, particularly in the older age groups. What I'm noticing is that the solid but weaker players in 14+yo won't enter because they will draw a seed and get thrashed. The top players will play up in adult tournaments because as adult tennis isn't as strong as it used to be there are lots of ranking points on offer for talented juniors. Then the moderately talented kids left in the middle don't enter because there is no one left to play. And last year they decided not to do qualifying for some national junior tournaments and go purely off rankings which advantages those with big pockets who can do more tournaments.

4. 10 point tiebreaks to decide matches - Thankfully we don't have this for any main draw singles matches. It is the best of 3 tiebreak sets.

So overall I think we're doing a good job of identifying and nurturing elite players and this is starting to show with some of our current young players. If you show promise from an early age then there are several avenues for you to get talent spotted. Although plenty of our athletically gifted kids are choosing other sports so aren't there to be spotted. Left to his own choices Nick Kyrgios would be playing basketball and following in the footsteps of Patty Mills.

The real issue is the number of kids playing needs to be greater. Thankfully some of the profits from the Australia Open and corporate sponsorship are improving facilities across the country. But unless we have a larger player base at the bottom of the pyramid it makes it harder for those at the top.
 

sunskeeker

New User
put this in another thread but it should probably be here:

I've got some great stories about outragious conduct on the part of those associated with the USTA. And I'll add that I have watched outrageous favoritism and poor conduct (violations of all sorts of rules) allowed by a few highly monied members of the Westchester and NYCity contingency-and outrageous conduct by some tournament directors who certainly were not interested in creating a decent tournament experience for the junior players.

The USTA has spent a decade or so supporting a few kids who play decent tennis by age 10-12. They are usually decent because their parents are monied and hooked into the tennis community so they were handed racquets at age 2 and lessons at age 3. They look pretty darn good 9 years later compared to other kids who chose to pick up a racquet at age 9 or 10, are very athletic and love the game but have been playing for only a year or so. The USTA treats those kids like crap because they are not yet winning and their parents are not wealthy. To use wealthy parent speak, they aren't "the real deal".

The USTA spent the past decade treating athletic kids with potential like sh-t;discouraging the kids who are totally passionate about the game, have great potential but are not winning by 12. The USTA has exactly what they deserve- no players in the grand slams after the first few rounds. And what about the chosen few? They're mostly in the ranks of mediocre D! tennis players who leave the varsity team after a year or so anyway.

And what about all those hundreds of kids who were discouraged-traveled hours to play one match in a single elimination tournament, often without any score cards on the court (oops), with out available refs (oops) and with tournament directors who rush them on the court because they want to get everything done with to go home? Well those kids have lousy recollections of tennis. And, they are the athletic majority. Their kids will play a different sport. But, I'm sure the offspring of the few favored by the USTA will play tennis. They will get a racquet when they are 2 or 3 and…. And the US wonders why American players are not winning. That’s why!
 

sunskeeker

New User
To USTA

And what does the USTA do when the notice the demise of American tennis? Inexplicably they try to adopt the strategy used by Romania and Russia during the height of communism. They develop centers and try to identify kids with good bone structure ha ha..thereby narrowing their pool even more!

See what the USTA fails to get is that this is not Russia or Romania. In the US kids don't have to live in stables. They can choose freedom and basketball. See all those kids in Romania, those kids in the stables and also all the farm hands like Béla Károlyi were all itching to get out of there. They would have rather been playing basketball too then to be identified at age 2 and groomed. See the USTA has it all wrong. They don't get it.

The trick is to widen the pool of players not narrow it! Encourage all kids to play and give kids ample opportunity to compete even if they are not winning. How stupid is it that lower level tournaments are single elimination and higher level ones have back draws or compass draws ??? They have it *** backwards!

The lower level tournaments should have back draws and compass structures because those at lower levels need more competitive opportunities. Don't ya get it at all?

I suppose those running the USTA don't get it because many lack education. We have a bunch of tennis players, some of whom spent very little time in school, making the decisions and it shows.

To those influential in the USTA, this might be a good time to study history (communism), education and come back in a decade once you have some knowledge under your belt. Then you'd be in a better position to restructure American tennis. Your background in hitting tennis balls isn't cutting it!
 

sunskeeker

New User
And it's not the fees for the tournament that is a problem-that is absurd. It is the anti-kid overlay of the USTA. It is the fact that the structure is so bad!

In the Easterns section I knew a ton of players who traveled for hours for Level 1 in juniors. Often tournaments started Friday evening. That meant that parents often had to take time off from work. This is instead of a sensible structure with everyone starting on Saturday-leaving one match for Monday, for example. So, a Friday start-lets say the 12's. In many states, and certainly in NY, the tournaments may be hours away. so that means there will be hotel stays each night. But, it was very usual to reserve the needed hotel room for Friday night and arrive at the tournament to find that the opponent had dropped out (oohh free points ha ha-no my kid actually wanted to play-what a bummer that was again and again). The USTA Eastern refused to do a thing about that so a handful of players did that over and over again. It is easy enough to see a pattern like that but the USTA simply refused to follow its own rules. So, other parents end up spending money for what turns out to be an unnecessary hotel stay. So, a night is spent in the hotel because it was reserved and the cancellation policy requires you to pay for the room-and often you are not notified until you you arrive that the opponent has bailed out. So you are paying for it, might as well stay. But, many times tournaments skip days for some age groups. So the 12s may play on Friday night but not on Saturday or a tournament during the week might begin on Monday night with no matches for the 12s on Tuesday but a match on Wednesday early morning. With the 1st round no show, and no matches the next day, you have the cost of 2 nights. Of course you could wake up on Tuesday morning and go home but not if you have a 9 am match on Wednesday. So, you have spent 2 nights in a hotel before a single ball is hit! Then, it is almost all single elimination so half the kids go home after the first match. So you have a long drive, pay for 2 nights in a hotel so the kid can play for an hour!

Then there were the tournaments with directors who allowed some Eastern players to double book tournaments-meaning that matches were being booked around matches of kids who had double booked tournaments but primarily for the kids with dads in finance and mom's with significant feelings of entitlement. That type of family had a way of ensuring that the matches for two different tournament (say one in New Jersey and one in Manhattan) never conflicted-in some instances matches were delayed so much that the finals for tournaments had to be woven into a subsequent weekend when the kids would be in the same location for another tournament. In one case my own kid had to play a final for one tournament (which he'd have won the previous weekend but it was delayed so his opponent at an earlier match could play a different tournament too ) after losing an early match in the next tournament-all because some entitled NYC mother was breaking the rules but had the financial clout to make it work for her. Although at least 2 of her kids are in college, I think she still has one playing, shall I mention who? ha ha.

Then there were the tounament directors who were itching to get the thing over with. We arrived at one after driving for 4 hours. We were about 30 minutes early. But as soon as my kid entered the bubble the Tournament director said "are you so and so". KId said yes. Director said "you're on" Kid said it is early and my sneakers are still in the car. I need about 10 minutes to use the bathroom and change. Nope! One you are checked in you can be called even if it is early. Wait...I can't play in this.. too bad! And that is classic USTA!
 

sunskeeker

New User
And that is not the half of it. My kids loved the game in spite of the USTA but they would have been far better had the USTA any interest in junior tennis for all players. They throw some money into the city to look like they want tennis to be an inclusive sport but then they reinforce the exclusivity of the sport in every other way. They deserve exactly what they have gotten. It is no surprise to me or anyone else. The US can't be a leader in tennis when they have a few entitled players and have alienated the larger group of athletic passionate players who may have developed into great players but were stymied by the USTA and their absurd tournament structure. It has been a monopoly in competitive junior tennis and monopolies are never a good thing except for the few who control them. Unfortunately for them, they alienate the very players who could eventually rise to the top. And by so doing, they also make it less likely that the current players offspring will choose tennis over other more accessible sports. They have shot themselves in the foot.
 

sunskeeker

New User
And it's not the fees for the tournament that is a problem-that is absurd. It is the anti-kid overlay of the USTA. It is the fact that the structure is so bad!

In the Easterns section I knew a ton of players who traveled for hours for Level 1 in juniors. Often tournaments started Friday evening. That meant that parents often had to take time off from work. This is instead of a sensible structure with everyone starting on Saturday-leaving one match for Monday, for example. So, a Friday start-lets say the 12's. In many states, and certainly in NY, the tournaments may be hours away. so that means there will be hotel stays each night. But, it was very usual to reserve the needed hotel room for Friday night and arrive at the tournament to find that the opponent had dropped out (oohh free points ha ha-no my kid actually wanted to play-what a bummer that was again and again). The USTA Eastern refused to do a thing about that so a handful of players did that over and over again. It is easy enough to see a pattern like that but the USTA simply refused to follow its own rules. So, other parents end up spending money for what turns out to be an unnecessary hotel stay. So, a night is spent in the hotel because it was reserved and the cancellation policy requires you to pay for the room-and often you are not notified until you you arrive that the opponent has bailed out. So you are paying for it, might as well stay. But, many times tournaments skip days for some age groups. So the 12s may play on Friday night but not on Saturday or a tournament during the week might begin on Monday night with no matches for the 12s on Tuesday but a match on Wednesday early morning. With the 1st round no show, and no matches the next day, you have the cost of 2 nights. Of course you could wake up on Tuesday morning and go home but not if you have a 9 am match on Wednesday. So, you have spent 2 nights in a hotel before a single ball is hit! Then, it is almost all single elimination so half the kids go home after the first match. So you have a long drive, pay for 2 nights in a hotel so the kid can play for an hour!

Then there were the tournaments with directors who allowed some Eastern players to double book tournaments-meaning that matches were being booked around matches of kids who had double booked tournaments but primarily for the kids with dads in finance and mom's with significant feelings of entitlement. That type of family had a way of ensuring that the matches for two different tournament (say one in New Jersey and one in Manhattan) never conflicted-in some instances matches were delayed so much that the finals for tournaments had to be woven into a subsequent weekend when the kids would be in the same location for another tournament. In one case my own kid had to play a final for one tournament (which he'd have won the previous weekend but it was delayed so his opponent at an earlier match could play a different tournament too ) after losing an early match in the next tournament-all because some entitled NYC mother was breaking the rules but had the financial clout to make it work for her. Although at least 2 of her kids are in college, I think she still has one playing, shall I mention who? ha ha.

Then there were the tounament directors who were itching to get the thing over with. We arrived at one after driving for 4 hours. We were about 30 minutes early. But as soon as my kid entered the bubble the Tournament director said "are you so and so". KId said yes. Director said "you're on" Kid said it is early and my sneakers are still in the car. I need about 10 minutes to use the bathroom and change. Nope! One you are checked in you can be called even if it is early. Wait...I can't play in this.. too bad! And that is classic USTA!
 

sunskeeker

New User
and then they muck with the game itself. No player wants a 3rd set tie breaker so what does the USTA do? Tells tournament directors that they can substitute a 3rd set tie breaker for a real set for tournaments at just about every level. That means that the player that loses in the 1st round could have spent a fortune in hotels, bears the lion's share of the cost of the tournament (because the fees are the same for one match or for 5 if you reach the final-as they should be) and does not even get to play out a full tennis match. So with 6-4, 4-6 it comes down to the 7 point tie breaker. And there are often no available refs so for young kids, say playing the 12s, it could come down to who hooks well on the tie breaker when the stakes are high. And one player goes home after what....an hour match. And why the tie breaker? To make the games quicker. But isn't the idea to have kids play longer??? so they get better??? WTF? The USTA staff has been smacked with one too many balls!
 

sunskeeker

New User
I would be glad to tell you more stories and more reasons why American tennis is how it is-with the experience I have which is very recent and which includes both boys and girls tennis from age 12s through the 18s. And I've only scratched the surface here. You want to know why there aren't more strong American players coming out of the junior circuit? I think the more puzzling question is why there are any.

And the reason you don't hear the real scut is because there is a political agenda and parents are loath to break the code of polite. I obviously have no such inhibitions.

Do you want to know about the draws? And how some directors turn the wheel/click away until their own players are adjacent to ones ranked lower than them by tennisinformation {which is the only meaningful ranking and which makes monkeying with the draw less obvious since their players may have many fewer USTA points than the ones that the director finagles for them to play-at poor centers you see their players advance one round whereas the same players don't in tournaments at other centers-but they only get one round out of it anyway}.
 

sunskeeker

New User
and yeah the USTA has changed some of these things a bit but not enough. After about 14 years across kids I have a lot to say and feel really good about letting it all out!
 

Zoid

Hall of Fame
As someone who has gone through the grind of USTA junior tennis, I created this thread to share my (mostly negative) views on how the whole thing is being run. IMO this is the main reason why the American mens field has been so weak in recent years. Here are the main things I have noticed over the years:

1. Junior tennis is too damn expensive. Kids from poor, inner city families have very little chance of making it big. This pretty much denies at least 50% of kids a chance to develop their talents. Going to a tournament can cost up to $300! Entry fees get up to a ridiculous $100, plus gas money and hotel costs, that ends up being a pretty steep price. If junior tennis keeps being so expensive, only a small minority of kids will have a chance to develop. Hence a weaker field.

2. Local tourneys are dying out. The L7s are almost a thing of the past nowadays. 5-6 years ago many L7s had solid 32 or 64 draws and attracted at least a few solid nationally ranked players. Now L7's give so few points that hardly any competitive players consider them worth the effort. One of my local L7s (the Fox Chapel Junior Open) went from 300+ competitors in 2010 to under 100 last year. This is a catastrophe for many kids. As the L7s become smaller (and some of them are discontinued), kids have to travel to larger tournaments for good competition. This means they play less often, have to travel more, and spend more cash. Again, disadvantage to poorer families.

3.Junior tennis is becoming centered around a few big tourneys instead of playing every weekend. This is really a continuation of #2. One of my buddies (a top 100 player in 18s) barely plays a tourney every month. His schedule is to play only the biggest events and ignore smaller tourneys. Since the bigger events give so many ranking points, he can do this and still maintain his ranking. Most good juniors do the same. And it makes sense from their point of view. Why bust your @$$ in a small tourney if it won't give you any points? But this is counter-productive in terms of development. Less play equals less improvement.

4. 10 point tiebreaks to decide matches. It's ridiculous. Kids are here to play and improve their game through playing. 10 point breaker equals less play equals less improvement.


The results of this are:

1. Junior tennis becomes a rich kid sport. I know very few good juniors from a working class background. All of these poorer kids could be winning tourneys or playing professionally. Instead they are unable to develop.

2. Kids play less. All around, juniors are playing less tournament matches. Yes, they are playing "bigger" matches in national tourneys for more points, but development-wise it's bad. A match is a match. Playing in a local L7 is just as good as playing in an L3 when it comes to development.

My suggested improvements are:

1. Encourage local tourneys. The USTA needs to start making L7s and L6s worth more points. That will get juniors playing more often.

2. Eliminate the 10 point tiebreak.

3. Reduce entry fees. The USTA needs to stop concentrating so many funds on the US open and focus on what really matters: the next generation. Sadly, the huge remodeling at Flushing Meadows means this probably won't happen.

4. Start programs to get inner city youth involved in tennis. I volunteer in a program like this through Pittsburgh Citiparks. We offer free weekly clinics to inner city kids and run a JTT team. It's not nearly enough though. We are just a few volunteers doing the best we can to combat a huge national-scale problem. A big, rich organization like the USTA needs to get involved.

IMO if some changes like this aren't instituted soon, American tennis will keep getting weaker and weaker. The junior game has become too commercial and money/points oriented. The game needs to go to a more grassroots, improvement-oriented style if we want something to get better. Sorry for the long OP. Please comment and critique.
- Not enough clay courts.
- Too many other sports poaching athletic talent.
- Not hungry to win.

the end
 

coloskier

Legend
One thing that has not been brought up is that the USTA spends TOO MUCH money on only a few kids, instead of funding a wider array of kids. A lot of it has to do with who you know and not how good you are. And most of the money goes to inner city kids. The rich kids fund themselves. Half of the top ranked kids don't even play USTA except for national level tournaments and stick to ITF's because you get more ranking points. The only way this will change is if you require the players to play a certain number of local (5) and sectional (2) tournaments to even qualify for nationals. Failure to play in the back draw means immediately disqualification for any chance at nationals.
 

CurrenFan

Rookie
Don't agree with your money point.

Fees are not overly excessive and you cannot expect to be given everything for nothing.

If a player cannot afford <=$50 entry fee for a tournament how in the heck can they afford their own strings?

At a competitive level they should be going through 3-6 sets of strings per week which can easily double the cost of one tournament entry fee. Not to mention other equipment, clothing, and training costs.


Where is all this money supposed to come from to support the people who can't afford it?

Are you expecting the USTA to subsidize players and families who are considered poor? If so, who makes that determination? Do you think that making the USTA into a socialist type organization will encourage participation?

I'm willing to bet it would discourage many USTA participants from paying USTA fees if their money was not going to help support leagues, tournaments, and facilities they play in but rather being arbitrarily distributed to people determined to be "poor" and need assistance to travel around and play in tournaments.

I'm all for paying my fees to help USTA programs encouraging the growth of the sport but I am not in to outright subsidize players playing the game.

If you want tennis in the U.S. to be competitive with the rest of the world, we cannot rely solely on upper class kids and kids of middle class parents who take out a second mortgage to finance their children's athletics - some assistance must be provided to fund programs to allow a broader range of young athletes to participate in the sport at higher levels.

Unlike more traditional team sports like baseball, football and basketball, where there are nearly unlimited numbers of parents willing to provide coaching at the younger levels on a volunteer basis and organized school teams to provide coaching at the more advanced levels that is funded by the school, tennis does not have such an abundance of free or low cost coaching available. Pretty much every middle school in the country has teams for the traditional team sports, but I don't think I've ever heard of a middle school tennis team at a public school. And more so than those team sports, tennis relies on technique that is not intuitive and such technique must be taught by someone with significant knowledge, i.e. a tennis professional.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that at a minimum, between coaching fees, equipment fees, and tournament costs including travel, we're looking at parents shelling out at least $3,000 a year, maybe more like $5,000, to have their kids involved in tennis in a manner that can lead to them competing on a national level. To a family with a household income in the middle six-figure range, at worst, such an expense means they keep their "old" Mercedes for an extra year and upgrade to a new car every two or three years instead of every one or two years. To a family with an annual income of $30,000 a year, one-eighth of their after-tax income is a huge sum and maybe an impossible financial burden for them.

I'm not advocating giving a free ride to any poor kid who thinks he or she has an interest in tennis - their parents have to contribute to the level they can afford as well. But it bugs me when utterly self-absorbed and greed-centered people whine about how they shouldn't have to spend of nickel of their money on other people, short-sightedly missing the fact that benefits to the sport in general do impact everyone who is a fan or participant of the sport. Trickle-down economics is a fantasy in politics, but get some highly noteworthy success at the highest levels of the sport and there is a genuine benefit that trickles down for everyone involved in the sport (see e.g. Williams sisters with women's tennis, Tiger Woods and golf). In another year or two when Serena retires, I'm not seeing any Americans taking her place and I don't see any American men breaking into the top-10 (maybe Isner will creep back into the 8-10 slots for a few months if he gets hot in a tournament or two, but that's it) in the foreseeable future; hell, I wouldn't be surprised if in the year 2020, there isn't a single American ATP player ranked in the top 40, maybe even the top 50. Unless by pure luck we have another phenom come along, we could be facing a future where we'll have an entire decade without an American, male or female, getting past the second round of any Grand Slam tournament. How will that be good for tennis in America?

So CKnobman, what do YOU propose to grow and strengthen the sport of tennis in the US?

Right now, we have one American player in the top-45 in the ATP rankings. One. There's a guy from freakin' Uruguay - that's right Uruguay!? - ranked ahead of every single American male tennis player who isn't named John Isner. How is that a good situation for tennis in this country? All it will take is one bad tournament for one player and one pretty good tournament for another, and we have Fabio Fognini!?! being ranked higher than every single American male tennis player. Do you really think that's a good thing?
 
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Tcbtennis

Hall of Fame
To Team OB:

I must have missed this thread when you first posted it but I have read some of your other posts and I know that you absolutely get it! You've nailed junior tennis. My 2 kids have been in the junior tennis world for just over 8 years and I agree with everything that you have written.

I may have met one player who's father was a firefighter but that was years ago when my son was in the 10's. Where my kids train some of the professions of the parents are investment banker, hedge fund manager, real estate developer, lawyer, physician, independently wealthy. I don't begrudge the parents anything because I happen to fall into one of those categories and they are some of the nicest people that I've met. But their kids are SOFT!!! They want to win but they don't want to put in the hard work it takes to be the best. They cut corners, they whine and will cheat at a drop of the hat!

It is an expensive sport. I, as a child, would never have been able to afford it. But it's such an awesome sport that if more open to the masses would definitely catch the heart of some more athletic and driven kids.

The 3rd set supertiebreak is awful. It's really a crapshoot as to who could win the match. It allows one point to be instrumental in deciding a match. It could be a net cord, bad call or blatant cheating.

We are guilty in neglecting the L7 tournaments because they have no value in helping their ranking. When my son looks to moving up in age divisions then we look to L7 tournaments to start the process.

Men's tennis is becoming less and less popular in the U.S. and once Serena and/or Venus retire I fear the same will happen in women's tennis. As I mentioned earlier, tennis is an awesome sport and I fear it's demise. The changes (what those changes should be, I'm not completely sure) should start at the junior level. I hope it isn't already too late.
 

tennisaddict

Bionic Poster
What is needed to become GM of USTA player development ? Does the last name have to be a McEnroe ?

I seriously think there are far more better , committed individuals who have excelled on court and also have good coaching / management credentials.
 

Devilito

Hall of Fame
indoor tennis is super expensive making it really only feasible for a lower income family to succeed in a year round warm climate.
 
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