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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Junior Tennis Podcast; Australia to Study "Hot Spots;" Learning From the French System

Andy Gladstone, Competitive Tennis Coordinator at USTA Florida, launched his new junior tennis podcast, called the G Cast, earlier this month, and he snared an impressive guest for his first episode, Patrick McEnroe. In the 26-minute podcast, which is available on iTunes, Gladstone asks McEnroe about his personal development as a junior, his vision for Player Development, college tennis, and what things he would change if he could just snap his fingers and have it done.

In the college tennis portion of the podcast, McEnroe presents what has been his consistent message--go to college unless it is obvious that you have the physical and mental maturity to succeed on the pro level at age 17 or 18, and are dominating on the international junior circuit. He also admits, for the first time that I'm aware of, that the USTA played a role in steering successful juniors away from college.

As for the finger snapping, he would like the USTA to have control of its own facility, which it does not have at the Evert Academy where the Boca Raton Training center is located, and would like to see changes in the Davis Cup format.

He repeatedly emphasizes the exchange and cooperation that the USTA is seeking with private academies and coaches; it sounds as if he is aware of the perceived arrogance and top-down approach that has caused resentment of the USTA in the past.

As reported in an Sydney Morning Herald article that had me immediately thinking of Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How,researchers at Griffith University in Australia are looking for the Wagga Wagga effect, or why some regions or towns are hot spots for athletic excellence. Coyle discussed this effect in detail in The Talent Code, with Curacao, Russia and South Korea producing inordinate numbers of Little League baseball players, women's tennis players and women's golfers.

"...over the next three years researchers would study factors such as the family support for elite athletes, whether there was a strong club system, socio-cultural factors, psychological factors, how recruiters perceived talent, home-town advantage and whether the hot-spots have strong socio-capital."

Neil Harman of the Times has made no secret of his disdain for the current management of the LTA, and in an article published Sunday, he contrasts that with the French system, which is now being steered by Patrice Hagelauer, who once worked for the LTA.

There are four elements to the Hagelauer philosophy - regional, national, international and coach education. At regional level, he says - "whatever we do as a nation begins in the clubs and the coaching in the clubs, in every department. This is what I was trying to develop in the UK. The imperative aspect is the junior programme, that those who are in charge of the players at 8, 9 at 12. There can be no mistakes at that age. We need the right ideas, but also we need to listen. It is about building a pathway to excellence.

"Then we have the national programme, with 14 centres of excellent across the country and we have to make sure we take care of those with better management systems. Everybody needs to work together. At the international level there are currently 32 players - double last year's number - who are working at Roland Garros. We have seven players in the top 100, 11 in the top 200 and many other junior players working through the rankings (Note to the LTA: we are only talking singles players here, doubles does not figure). It is important that players like Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra, those with great experience, can mix with the younger ones, because they act as points of reference."


Is there enough of that mixing here in the U.S.? I actually believe it happens much more often than we hear about. Andy Roddick frequently invites top juniors to hit with him, not just at big tournaments, but at his home in Austin. Sam Querrey can be seen at Carson, and the mingling of top pros with juniors is common at Bollettieri's and Saddlebrook. With a country this size, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to converge in one spot, like Roland Garros, but I hope that the new National Center in New York can provide "points of reference" for the juniors there.

18 comments:

Tyler said...

Oh no, not Andy Gladestone! USTA Florida TO PROMOTE AND DEVELOP TENNIS or is it TO PROMOTE AND DEVELOP TENNIS FOR THE SELECT FEW? Let’s be honest most tennis parents in Florida feel disenfranchised by Andy Gladestone and the USTA Florida competition committee.

Florida is soon to be the third largest state in the country and is still considered to be the fastest growing state or one of the fastest growing states. However USTA Florida keeps limiting opportunities for Florida players. That’s Florida players with established Florida residences by the way. Fact check – Florida Zonals, was six teams now two. Florida Sectionals were twice a year, 64 player draw, now, twice a year 32 player draw. If you have four age groups, boys and girls, that’s 256 children left out by that decision. Less tennis at a higher cost, that’s USTA Florida. Oh yeah, last year’s sectional line was emphasis on doubles at the sectionals. Last years sectional doubles were two out of three sets, this year’s sectional doubles 8 game pro sets, and the doubles draws barely fill. The new rumor is that designated tournaments will be reduced from 64 players to 32 players. I believe there are eight a year, thus take 256 and multiply it by 8. Andy Gladestone sits on a competition committee loaded with delegates from tennis academies in the state. Take a wild guess which groups or should I say academies benefit most from the decisions that the “reduce the competition” committee makes. They don’t even understand basic demographics!

Also, possibly unique to Florida, International players tracked as Florida players on tennis recruiting benefit as international players when getting into the ITF draws yet get to play Florida tournaments as Florida residents, hmmm?. From Bradenton? You’re in all Florida tournaments! Message to tennis recruiting it takes five minutes to cross reference your information with the ITF junior website; you’re ranking players as Florida Players who just played as international players in an ITF from countries like Venezuela, Russia, Bahamas, Mexico, etc. What a farce, hint EVERT ITF.

The tag line from the competition committee is you need to fill up the locals and super series tournaments. Directors at locals and super series do whatever they want, as do academy coaches at those tournaments – that’s a fun uneven playing field. Who is the competition committee fooling, those tournaments are run the poorest of all, usually one official, changing draws, and once again reduced play, escalating costs, either an 8 game pro set in consolation or a third set tiebreak, or lets start all sets at two games all. All three of the reduced play formats are only supposed to occur when there are not enough courts, however children are sent out countless times to an abundance of empty courts to play an 8 game pro set, a third set tiebreak, or start at 2 – all. Bobby Curtis is great, his departure is feared because Curtis cared about all the tennis players and was known for giving Florida players opportunities to play more, not less.

Patrick McEnroe doesn’t like the USTA sharing Evert’s with IMG or with the Evert’s, here’s a message to you Patrick, “get in line.” Patrick’s worried about one small town in Florida, tennis parents in Florida worry about the whole state.

Amtex said...

The USTA and McEnroe just don't get it at all. Control the tennis training centers?

That is not the best role for the USTA. Private coaches and academies and parent/uncle coaches develop champions.

The USTA should do ONE thing with junior tennis, GROW the game....build and maintain hard and clay courts all over, make the game cool by hiring teen spokespeople...whoever is hot at the time. Had they hired Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake 5 years ago to be the tennis spokesperson they would have TONS of kids all over playing tennis. Thats how you grow the base from which champs will come.

Instead they spent millions on a few select kids and training facilities.

Get 1000000 kids playing tennis and provide inexpensive facilities and equipment for them.

The best players will rise and the private coaches and academies will train them from there. This ego thing that the USTA will find and train a champion player is utter pie in the sky nonsense.

Eric Amend said...

Amtex,

What you are suggesting, letting the "private coaches and tennis academies and parent/uncle coaches develop champions" is EXACTLY the same method/strategy that the USTA has followed for the last 10-15 years and it hasn't produced the results that we are all looking for from a developmental perspective. So, a change in methodology IS indeed necessary because the status quo for the last decade IS NOT working!!

I say this from an insiders perspective because I lived in Key Biscayne and worked for the USTA as a Player Development Coach from 1995-98 and that was the mantra at the time; The USTA wasn't in the business of running academies/training centers. They were only supplementing the academies and providing assistance in any manner deemed necessary (Travel grants to juniors, Coaching/chaperoning at ITF Tournaments in Europe, etc, etc).

Also, the USTA didn't want to be perceived as a bully because they had the potential to put the academies out of business by developing their own training centers. They were apprehensive about possible lawsuits if they did indeed put academies out of business. Again, this strategy hasn't produced much in the quest for more top 10, 20, 50, 100 players so Patrick McEnroe, and others in charge, has decide to take the bull by the horns and become more responsible, and accountable, for want everyone blames the USTA for not being able to do; make champions.

It seems that whatever the USTA decides, whether to be more hands on or less, they get ridiculed for their efforts so why not go ahead and make a bolder move because, as I said before, the status quo hasn't been working to everyones expectations up to this point!!

With the understanding that this will take some time and effort, I'm fully supporting Patrick and the USTA and applaud their intentions. Results will take more time and he's only been at it for two years!

Amtex said...

I don't agree at all Eric. The reason their are no American champs is that the best athletes do not play tennis, and its to expensive for the inner city kids and the masses.

Champions come from the best athletes playing tennis from a young age. It has nothing to do with the USTA running academies or not.

Its a game of odds. The USTA has done a LOUSY job of promoting the game the last 20 years. Name one popular celebrity with kids who promotes tennis???

Your post does not make sense. The best coaches in the world with the best facilities have not produced an American champ. Why? Because there are not enough great athletes playing tennis over other sports.

It has nothing to do with who runs the training centers.

The Williams sisters were champs because they were the best athletes whose dad got them into tennis.

wi tennis said...

Tyler, Obviously, you are familiar and/or have some stake in Florida tennis.

However, I believe you need to prove residency by a permanent residency card (i.e. green card) or passport and Florida residency to play Designateds or Sectionals and of course Nationals. Maybe, I am wrong. International kids can only play Super Series or Locals.

Many kids have dual citizenship or citizenship and a green card. Most people would use their other country citizenship and national ranking to get into ITF's. It's not their fault that they have two passports. It's tough to have a high ranking in the U.S.

I'm not sure that tennisrecruiting.net should or want to be in charge of verifying citizenship. I'm not sure their mission statement is to help only U.S. Passport or Residency Card holders only. It's a business to make money and help tennis players and college coaches get connected.

If one's son or daughter is good, they will be found by a college coach...regardless of their TR.net ranking. I know, at least, a little bit about college recruiting, etc.

I think USTA Florida is trying to encourage players to stay local and save money by playing Super Series and Locals. They want the competition to be good in those tourneys. The internationals definitely make the level of Super Series and Locals much better than they would be with only proven Florida residents.

However, you do have a good point about tourney management and number of officials. Also, I think that designateds should be kept at 64. They are spread out among the state pretty well. And Sectionals, I don't know.

If they are reducing the draws, are they giving more points for super series and locals? Bottom line, though, is that you want to play great competition. Junior rankings aren't the main goal.

FRED said...

Tyler

You are correct.

Whatever the USTA does at the administrative level or training center level is trivial compared to the nonsense they promote every weekend at hundreds of tournament sites around the country (with many many in Florida). They are poor at running their niche programs but most people know that.

Unfortunately the cess pool tournament environment they set up---for profits only -is practically unavoidable if a child wants to compete. Firstly americans won't play matches unless for meaningless ranking points. Then add all the inadequacies you have mentioned and add the horrible referees, cheatng, gamesmanship, pushing, moonballing, and other shortcuts etc and real development of the adult style advanced game is not only inhibited but actually punished.

I could give hundreds of examples. For one, At younger ages the higher ranked players never miss second serves because they push them in. Those trying to develop a kick will never rise in the rankings because any youngster hitting a proper serve towards targets will double fault for several years until the motion is mastered and until he/she physically matures. I know I just confused most USTA coaches , parents, players, umpires and tournament directors with that principle.

More basic , the USTA tournament environment gives early rewards and rankings to young players who are taught first and foremost how to call the ball out then yell "come on" This is winning tennis in the USTA but it is not development.

J said...

Let's face it the USTA is a big joke and we are all laughing. I asked the question: when was the last the the USTA produced a Grand Slam Champion, Man or Woman? They are the biggest joke right now and we should just continue our SNL of them until they get it. THE USTA IS A BIG SHAME!!

get real said...

Tyler,

could not agree with you more. i was a junior playing in florida and know my child is playing also. the usta is a joke at all levels. they need to clean house and get a professional group in there deligating how things should be ran. there is not one pro football team that does not know how to go crop. and get things done. yes it is a much more popular sport than tennis is, but tennis could be up there. florida tennis is ran by the tennis parents of florida and the academies. junior tennis in fl. is a disfuctional sport. to man foreigners lying about residency and age. the usta needs to hire a mangement co. to manage them. it starts from the top.

Amtex said...

Unfortunately you are correct J.

They truly do not understand that their one and only role is to take the money they make from the US Open and tournament fees and GROW the game, especially among younger people. That is all.

It is not to find and develop specific players. They are "government" and that is not the role of government.

tenreal said...

Interesting how so many parents are quick to criticize the USTA Player Development Program! Is it because their children were not identified as elite players or invited to training camps? I guess there will always be detractors..

growing the game said...

AMTEX

Your blog about finding the best athletes and getting them to play tennis at a young age was spot-on. I just read that over 30 million Americans are playing tennis which is higher than it has been over the past two decades.

"With 30.1 million people hitting the courts, tennis participation has grown 12% over 2008 and climbed 25% since 2003"

"Participation in 2009 is up in every major ethnic group, but especially among African Americans (+19%) and Hispanics (+32%)"

I would say that is a positive sign in American tennis, that more people are playing, which hopefully will increase the chance of a champion coming out of that.

"6-11 years at 16.25% of the total (4.9 million players)"

The United States needs more young players playing and now they are getting them.

These stats show that the USTA is doing a great job growing the game.

The United States is all about highlights and instant gratification. No patience for development.

J--you can jab all you want but no one is laughing. Try using your brain and write something constructive, maybe even writing a solution, rather than just stating all the problems. No one wants to hear that garbage.

A Thought..... said...

AMTEX made a great point about the greatest coaches of tennis....

How come THEY haven't produced any players recently?

Which goes to another point...

Why hasn't the greatest academies in the US or the greatest clubs produced any champions recently?

The United States has some amazing coaches in the private sector...

Why haven't THEY produced any Grand Slam Champions?

Eric Amend said...

Amtex,

While you criticize the USTA by saying that “They truly do not understand that their one and only role is to take the money they make from the US Open and tournament fees and GROW the game, especially among younger people. That is all. It is not to find and develop specific players”, there are an equally loud and proportionate group of people criticizing the USTA for not having developed any Top 10 players or Grand Slam Champions because those people believe that IT IS the USTA’s responsibility to produce champions so, once again, the USTA is damned if they do or damned if they don’t!!!

I’m curious as to your expertise allowing you to emphatically know what the “best role” should be for the USTA?? You sound as if you’ve had experience in running a governing body of tennis that has had the success of building Grand Slam Champions (sarcasm intended).

Based on the statistical numbers that Growing the Game stated above, the USTA IS INDEED GROWING THE GAME, without utilizing a celebrity spokesperson like Miley Cyrus or Justin Timberlake; 25% increase in participation since 2003, +19% among African Americans, +32% among Hispanics, and 4.9 million kids ages 6-11 are participating in tennis. (It would be beneficial if growing the game would tell us which publication those numbers where stated in so we could verify them but I'll take them at face value).

Granted, it’s probably still early to see a bump from this decade’s young players that have progressed up through their late teens but, my point is; this alone hasn’t had an impact on producing the elite players that the U.S. public is looking for SO the USTA has stepped up to the plate, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, to be held directly accountable for the development of players from a young age, all the way through their teens and into their twenties, because what they've been doing for the last 15 years, letting the private sector build champions, hasn't been getting the desired results.

Patrick McEnroe has assembled a core of coaches that HE believes will be able to successfully navigate these young players towards the professional ranks with the hope of producing Grand Slam Champions. I feel that one reason for this venture is that since the USTA has been criticized for years about their inability to produce GS Champions, they’ve decided to step into the academy arena so that they can finally attempt what they’ve been falsely criticized for the last 15 years; complete accountability!!

Eric Amend said...

Also, what many of you people are discounting when you ask “Why hasn't the greatest academies in the US or the greatest clubs produced any champions recently?” is that each and every single private academy or private coach at a club MUST MAKE A PROFIT, or at the least break even, in order to operate their facility whereas the USTA is funded from the proceeds of the U.S. Open. The USTA isn’t motivated to make a profit from it’s academies/training facilities while it is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY in the private sector; this IS a benefit that only the USTA can utilize!

Therefore, there are a large group of kids that live and train at academies, like Bollettieri’s, that are living a delusional dream of playing professional tennis because they have limited talent or limited ability yet they come from affluent backgrounds, from both inside and outside the U.S., while serving a purpose of funding the operation. Where do you think the money comes to support the elite scholarship players??? These less than talented players will be non-existent/absent at the USTA‘s academy and profits will never be a worry!

Thusly, the USTA’s academies/training centers will be filled with elite players only, allowing them to be groomed for the professional ranks and surrounded by other elite players, so that they are pushed to a higher level through competition from their elite level peers. If the USTA’s venture into running an academy doesn’t produce the desired results in 5-10 years, then their cynics can criticized them BUT, it will be the for first time that the criticism was warranted because they will have been held fully accountable for the results!!

Eric Amend said...

As a former USTA Player Development Coach, I knew the frustration all to well when it came to coaching players, who turned a deaf ear towards what advice I had to offer them at ITF and Challenger events because I wasn't the player's personal, private, or developmental coach so they had a limited trust in me, as well as other coaches on staff. Private coaches were extremely suspicious of the USTA "stealing" their prized junior player so they falsely counseled their players to be wary of our abilities.

This wall will be broken down with the USTA's academy and, as I said before, allowing the USTA complete accountability. Now, the onus will be on the USTA to produce with this barrier broken down for their coaching staff, which is a good thing!!

Been There said...

Just wondering with all of this USTA, now in the business of developing champions, why they don't have a professional player program for US players that are playing professionally and ranked inside the top 500 in the ATP world rankings? I know that they jump on the bandwagon for those ranked in the top 100 ATP but outside of the top 100 to 500 there is nothing. No money, no traveling coaching, no interest, nothing. Why don't they have interest in helping those players that are ready to be champions now instead of trying to find a 12-16 year old that they can claim as their own. As a person that has first hand knowledge of their lack of support, I find it sad to see their approach to helping the very best that we have right now in the good ole USA.

The Dude said...

Eric, I know that general paricipation has increased in tennis but has junior tournament participants increased also?

Richard said...

Want your questions answered directly regarding the USTA or USTA Florida?

Beginning in December 2009, USTA Florida will debut 'Ask USTA Florida,' a monthly web column answering questions we receive from the USTA Florida membership and other Florida tennis fans regarding how the rankings work, league questions, and inquiries regarding QuickStart Tennis, USTA Jr. Team Tennis, junior and adult tournaments and more.

"We receive a number of questions each month regarding how certain aspects of USTA Florida tennis function, and thought it would be a great idea to open a forum to Florida tennis fans and share their answers with the tennis-playing public," said USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth. "Andy Gladstone, who is in charge of our junior competitive division, just started a monthly junior podcast [the G-Cast], and this is yet another way to reach out to USTA Florida members with information."

Questions can be e-mailed to news@florida.usta.com, and must have a verifiable full name, city and e-mail address. Each month's column will appear at ustaflorida.com.