Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Update on USTA Junior Competition Calendar for 2014


I was invited to speak with Scott Schultz, the USTA's Managing Director of Youth and Collegiate Tennis, and Lew Brewer, the USTA's Director of National Junior Competition, via conference call today about the final decision on the National Junior Competition Structure made last Thursday by the USTA Board of Directors. The Board approved the latest changes (the full document is available here, and for those of us who are having a hard time keeping up with what's changed, there are helpful strike-throughs to highlight the differences), so the hope that there would be a permanent pause or a complete rebuild is gone and unlikely to be addressed again.

So with that in mind, my questions centered on what I thought was most important now, which is the dates when all these changes will be carved in stone, so that families and coaches can begin to make plans and schedules. Please note these are dates for the NATIONAL portion of the new junior competition schedule, not SECTIONAL qualifiers, which obviously now need closer coordination since there is no other way to enter the Nationals.

Here are the dates I was given by Lew Brewer:

April 16, 2013: Invitations for bids to host sanctioned tournaments sent out
May 19, 2013: Deadline for submitting bids
June 1-2, 2013: Sanctions and Schedule subcommittee meets, makes preliminary recommendations to Junior Competition and Sportsmanship Committee
On or about June 24, 2013: Announcement of awarded bids, complete with TennisLink tournament ID, site, director, etc.

There are two new events--the National Doubles Championships, which is now a gold ball event, and the 2013 Masters--that were part of the original plan and were not paused, and those events are close to being finalized. Brewer assured me the Masters will be in Boca Raton in October, and the doubles event in August of 2013, and that final information on those two tournaments should be available by the beginning of June.

With the sections holding so much power in national entries now, I asked Schultz and Brewer if they would support more uniformity in endorsing players, as there are currently major differences in endorsement requirements from section to section.

"I think sections that have what we call onerous endorsement requirements will pretty much go out the window," said Brewer. "They don't need to be onerous anymore, because the only way to get in (except for wild cards) is through the section."

Brewer said he has be advocating for better alignment of sectional endorsement critera for years.

"We're going to talk with the sections on the 8th of May, getting down into the weeds of these endorsement policies, and if it's possible to have a pretty uniform policy, then that's what we would like to see happen," Brewer said.

Schultz, who has experience as an endorser when he worked in the Midwest section, agrees there is a need for more consistency now.

"I know sections have different thoughts on this, but what I think we should do is try to lead them down a path that makes the most sense. So for instance, when Tracy Austin was playing and she was invited to Wimbledon,  let's hope her section didn't make her play the section's qualifier to play the Nationals. There are reasons that kids ought to be excluded from their section qualifier and still get automatic bids into the Nationals, and not have to rely on a wild card. There are also players who get up to the top part of their section and suddenly have all these injuries, and you've got to try to avoid that as well.  But I do think with the help of Lew and our staff and other section folks, we should be able to come up with something more uniform, and in general do that across the board.

"But as Lew said, at the end of day, the sections do have some autonomy. We would like to be as consistent as possible."

In addition to the actual 29-page document I linked to above, the USTA has also recently released several less detailed announcements on the changes in the past two months, including the proposed 2014 calendar, which does not include sites for any tournaments and may not be completely accurate as to dates and this five-page summary in pdf form of the National Junior Competitive Structure.

The usta.com page for Junior Competition has been providing updates, and I will post or link to any other releases I receive regarding the calendar for 2013 and 2014.

52 comments:

Tennis5 said...

Colette, can you explain what this means?

There are reasons that kids ought to be excluded from their section qualifier and still get automatic bids into the Nationals, and not have to rely on a wild card.

"Some" juniors now don't
1) Have to play their sectional
and
2) Don't have to rely on a wild card to get in?

Is there a 3rd way that the rest of us don't know about it?

I thought the wild cards were going to the
PD kids
who don't live in their sections?

Dan -Ga said...

USTA is so NOT transparent with their wild card process to begin with.....
Now, it will only get worse.
There seems to be two types of juniors who populate American tennis today:
Juniors who have to follow the arbitrary rules of the USTA and the juniors who never have to play in their section and get wild cards.
Just wish the USTA would leave American tennis alone.

Susan said...

Wow! Attended a listening tour meeting.
Show of hands had the whole room against the changes.........
Still it went through.
Goodbye junior tennis in this country.

Colette Lewis said...

There is now a National Championships Selection list and a National Open Qualifiers list that provides entry. Those will not exist for 2014. The selection criteria for last year's 18s in Kalamazoo can be found by choosing the Selection Process tab at this TennisLink site The only method of attaining entry into the Nationals for 2014 will be sectional quotas/champions, wild cards, and, for the 16s/18s Clays and Hard Courts, qualifying. The 5-page summary provides a simple chart of the new method.

Tennis5 said...

"There are reasons that kids ought to be excluded from their section qualifier and still get automatic bids into the Nationals, and not have to rely on a wild card. "

Sorry, still not following this.

What is an "automatic bid"

Colette Lewis said...

@Tennis5:
In this case, automatic bid, means a sectional endorsement from the section's quota.

frmerjuniortennisplayer said...

formerjunrtennisplayer.

I believe these changes are necessary. The rankings no longer reflect who the best player is. I was very young when the points system came out, but I remeber my brothers going through the old star system. Those rankings reflected the best players. Now everyone can get into the nationals. Just like any other sport in the world you should have to compete effectively locally before moving on. Simple concept. There are too many mediocre players in the national events. I understand it is good for opportunity, but there will still be plenty of opportunities locally. Sport is not just for participation. If you are competitive enough to aspire to be a college or pro athlete you should be willing to deal with the changes.

Igor said...

Well known fact that the USTA hired a PR firm to figure out how to deal with thousands of angry junior tennis parents.
Thus, the listening tours.
Too bad, they didn't listen.

watcher said...

It sounds like the Sections will have the ability to give and "automatic bid" to some players and "waive" them from playing the Sectionals. Those players will be part of the Sectional quota and take a spot away from other players at the bottom end of the quota. This is in fact going to create a "direct" entry list into the Nationals because probably the Sections will not push these top players to play qualifiers and be in the quota or they are going to get push back from those players, because - guess what - another expensive week of motels, etc. You don't want to make them mad, right? They are the top players.

So, who gets hurt? The kid fighting for the last spot on the quota who played regionally, played the Sectionals and still doesn't make it. It is going to be interesting when the first list comes out with "automatic" bids. Stay tuned folks.

NO MORE WILDCARDS said...

WHY even have wildcards and make every player qualify through their sections?

That alone would help solve the issues with junior tennis. If you are injured that is tough luck and a part of life.

With no wildcards all the juniors will have to qualify through their sections and have to play their sectional championships which makes sectional play stronger.

Everything should happen in your sections!

NO MORE WILDCARDS PLEASE

Coach Dan - Michigan said...

Colette

How much weight does Player Development have on deciding wildcards to Nationals?

It seems they have most of the weight because heavy treatment is biased towards Player Development players.

I believe wildcards should be decided only by the Head of the Sections and not by National Coaching Staff.

Colette Lewis said...

@ Coach Dan:
Someone has to be the final yes/no on Wild Cards, and I'm sure that's Player Development. With 17 sections and 8 WCs, not sure how the alternative would work.

Chemist said...

One positive change - the Thanksgiving National Selection tournaments have a draw of 64.

HIGH-TECH TENNIS said...

Can someone please explain why wildcards exist? I'm talking about an explanation that is FAIR since it seems by their very nature wildcards are NOT fair. And forcing players to compete endlessly against the same players in their section - particularly if it is not a strong section - is a great reason to explore the brand new National Showcase Series events being offered through TennisRecruiting.net! We have 6 of them on our 2013 calendar...When you're tired of chasing pointless points & jumping thru ridiculous hoops, hope you'll join us there!!

Geoff Grant said...

I think this conversation highlights the absurdity of the situation we are facing going forward. There is currently no clarity on how the various sections are going to populate their endorsement lists - they are free to do it any way they want hence the comment that a player might still get onto his sections endorsement list without playing any sectional events - a section could decide to reserve X number of spots for sectional WC's if they choose - in theory a section could WC its whole list if they chose to. At this point we really have no idea what the competitive strategy should be until we all hear from our individual sections in terms of what the selection process is going to be section by section.

Martyn Collins said...

to frmerjuniortennisplayer: Thank you for your unique player perspective on the concept of "opportunity." Refreshing to read the subtle and thoughtful opinion of these changes.

George said...

Can someone affiliated with the USTA explain why it is beneficial to cut the Super Nats for March for the Boys 18's. Many college coaches were there to look at the players and this is just another opportunity LOST for the our American juniors to play college tennis.
Most kids are not dreaming of the pros, they play for the love of the game and want to continue on in college. Why is this so hard for the USTA to understand that they are taking away our kid's opportunities?

Eric said...

I own a small tennis academy and already have parents calling to cancel or cut back on next year's hours for our 4-6 program. Their perception is that cutbacks in national tournaments make the sport too difficult to spend money in with no chance of D1 scholarships.
I am trying to appeal to them that their children can be rec players, but parents today want to focus on one sport for universities. Sadly, tennis will not be it.

Shaun said...

What a waste of time this has all been in our letter writing, facebook, contacting sectional heads and listening tour meetings. They completely ignored the parents!

Tennis5 said...

Hi Geoff Grant,

Great analysis of what can happen in the sectionals.
Funny how the USTA didn't mention this new wrinkle in any of their proposals or documents.

So, we all knew that the USTA doesn't have enough wildcards for all the kids who don't live in their sections and now we have the answer on how it will be even more unfair and not transparent.

Greg - California said...

George,

They still have an event there in March -
But, here is the kicker - 32 person TEAM event.
GOLD BALL EVENT FOR 32 JUNIORS.
LUCKY JUNIORS!!!!!

if everyone recalls, you don't go home for this team event.
If you lose, you stay.
And get to play with the coaches who are assigned to this event.
Wonder who the coaches will be????

No mention of how many wild cards there will be though.
First proposal I saw ( and the only one that mentioned wild cards for this) had it 40% wild carded in.

tennisfanatic said...


Am I reading this correctly, a 32 team event for a Gold Ball?

Tim said...

2010
2012
2014
Notice how they stacked the cuts so we slowly got use to them?
Imagine going from 2009 to 2014 in terms of cuts?
This was a long term plan.

Tennismom said...

How come we are just hearing now about the "automatic bids". I attended a listening tour ( 4 hour drive and a complete waste of my time and gas), and this was never mentioned.....

Colette Lewis said...

@Tennis Mom
As i wrote earlier, this is a sectional endorsement, part of a section's quota. That has been the linchpin of the restructuring from the start.

Karl said...

Colette,

Thanks for posting this. As a parent, the most upsetting part for me is that now we have to travel within our region. It is actually more expensive ( air flight) to travel within our region. I explained this in great written detail to the USTA providing airfare travel in my region and to other locations. No response.
The USTA actually increased my expenses in an individual sport.....

I am pulling my younger son out of tennis.
Still time for him to excel in something instead of being a 5'8 playing mandatory green ball.

Tennismom said...

Hi Colette,

My understanding was that they were going to pick the top kids from the sectional list. Top 8 or top 9, etc.
It was not my understanding that they were going to circumvent the whole process by saying this kid is injured or this kid is playing in a prestigeous tournament, and therefore they get into the national tournament.. Colette, the way I am reading these comments on your site is that this is taking a spot of the top 8 or top 9, therefore taking away a spot from a kid on the list who might have been #8, but is now pushed out. Injustice. Corrupt. What would you call it?


Tennis Mom

Colette Lewis said...

I'm not sure the new system's quotas are in any way different from the old ones. I was under the impression that the sections have always had the discretion to endorse selectively. Am I wrong?

Ajt said...

A suggestion for Scott Schulz :

I think many sections are completely unaware of how other sections handle endorsements. Endorsement rules vary quite a bit, from just using the most recent sectional standing list to having a separate series of tournaments required to get the endorsement. In some sections, points count down, in others they don't. Etc.

Why dont you put together a survey that shows how each segment handles the endorsement process and circulate that around to the section jcc heads ?

I know you want to give sections some guidance, maybe some bets practices, but what works for a 17 quota section makes no sense for a 4 quota section. There's no one size fits all.

Also, I am sorry but the notion of encouraging sections to basically give "wild card" endorsements to players who don't play in sectional qualifying events really just makes my head spin. This is really the complete opposite of what you guys have been saying all along. What happened to you must play in your section ?? This may be plausible in a section like the midwest or southern where they are dealing with a dozen or more endorsements, but what about a small section that has two or three endorsements ? Do you tell the third place kid they can't go becuase we are giving a wild card to the 5th place kid, becuase he has better connections than you do ?

Also, the changes were very clear that it was up to sections to manage the age up process via the endorsements, but again, that may work in midwest or southern, they can give some endorsements in the higher age back to the top players in the younger age bracket, but how does it work in a small section where you are managing two or three or four endorsements ?

ajt said...

Collette

You are not wrong, sections have a wide degree of latitude about how they put together there endorsement list, but the majority do follow the sectional ranking list.

But before, if you didn't get the endorsement, for whatever reason, there was always the opportunity to get in on off the NSL. Now that is gone becuase we were told that was unfair, it was a back door, you have to play you section.

But now they come out with this and say, well maybe you dont have to lay your section, maybe there there should be some back door onto the endorsement list ?

SMH.

Geoff Grant said...

Sections have complete latitude to create their endorsement lists any way they want to. Introducing this tournament structure without getting commitments from the sections in terms of a consistent endorsement policy is well and truly putting the cart before the horse. I predict there will be very substantial confusion and chaos surrounding the introduction of the changes.

Tennis5 said...

Colette,

Your comment is below. This is a 3rd pathway then. Never discussed that I know of. I haven't seen this done yet, where a section has endorsed "selectively".

It has either been you are
-one of the top players in your section,
-you get off the NSL ( option gone in 2014)
-or you are wildcarded in.

If you are telling me that some junior who
in 2014 isn't the top few players of his section or isn't wild carded in, but just is put in through a selective endorsement,
man, you will see some angry parents.
He effectively took someone's spot.

Also, the second biggest problem that was NEVER RESOLVED is how some sections will let you play up and that counts for the endorsement list points, and others will not.

So, some excellent 14 year old won't be able to play up in their section's 16's because they will be too busy CHASING POINTS in their section 14 and under
to get one of the coveted spots.

Everyone had been commenting at the tournaments that there were not enough wild cards for all the kids who don't live in their section, and now we know how the USTA plans to get around their own rules.


Your comment -
I'm not sure the new system's quotas are in any way different from the old ones. I was under the impression that the sections have always had the discretion to endorse selectively. Am I wrong?

Colette Lewis said...

@tennis5:
I think it highly unlikely that a section would endorse what you call "some" player. Schultz's example was Tracy Austin and Wimbledon. I assume SoCal (and everyone else) would consider her one of the section's top players. Are you advocating denial of a spot in Nationals for someone facing that type of situation?
I agree the USTA needs to work to get the sections on the same page regarding aging up and other endorsement policies.

tennisforlife said...

Colette - i don't know how many times i heard through this process about Jim Courier flying back from the French Open to play in his sectional qualifier for KZoo and what a great thing that was for US tennis. Not sure why any less should be expected of Tracy Austin or today's equivalent. They have cut off all other pathways to the nationals so on what basis do you make the exception - it is a slippery slope - how do you justify that to the kid that did qualify but loses his place to Tracy?

Colette Lewis said...

I understand I come at this from a different perspective than those who have a child in the mix for a spot in the nationals. (I have never heard that Courier story). I would like the best junior players to compete at the Nationals. Period. Which is why I have always been against this new system, which I think provides roadblocks to that end.

jr tennis said...

Colette,

Is it now possible to believe that entry to supernationals will be based on 1. WTA/ATP rankings 2.College Rankings(for those in college under 19) 3. Top 200 National Adult Rankings 4.ITF junior rankings 5.WildCards 6.Other exempt/selected players. Seems there will be no room for the sectionally endorsed player. What a ruse!

Wishful Thinking...... said...

Two things need to happen:

1) EVERYTHING should come out of the sections.

2) ZERO wildcards should be given.

Moral of Story - Every player will have to earn their way into National tournaments through their section.

No excuses...Problem solved

Colette Lewis said...

No. I don't understand where you are getting that impression. Entry for 16s and 18s nationals is by: 1) sectional quota/endorsement 2) wild card 3) qualifying.
There is no other way.

tennisforlife said...

I assume jr tennis is being facetious but the reality is we don't know how the sections are going to populate their quotas/endorsement lists. I think it will become clear in year 1 that the national championships will not comprise the best players in the country because a lot of top players will just go ITF route instead of the sectional route - panic will set in and then the fun will begin. National tennis as we know it i.e. the best competing against each other is over in the US as a result of this. Hopefully the people responsible for this mess will be willing to take responsibility for its failure although history would suggest that's a long shot.

usa tennis said...

Colette,

Thanks for your reply, but with the new "wrinkle" in play for selection purposes it does not seem far fetched to me that other criteria will somehow find its way in the selection process. I know there are girls under 19 in college and they may want to play the hardcourts. How will they? They haven't played in their section, they have been in school. Besides WTA rankings are already in use to seed. The hardcourts in San Diego last year,remember Krista was seeded higher than Taylor (who eventually did not play)

As this process unfolds we see there is deception. And more to come I am sure. As for the kids that get pushed out,oh well, I guess they can meditate on Billy Jean Kings experience on being pushed out of the picture. Welcome to discrimination.

Perhaps the USTA could have just chosen the kids they want and let them play each other over and over again in Boca, Carson or New York. Two systems, one for the kids the USTA believes in and one for the other kids.

To say one thing and try to have people buy into it and then come and say something different, it is disheartening. I don't believe there will be room for sectional kids when all the exempt/chosen/excused/sick/ special/ and otherwise ranked are given berths.

Colette Lewis said...

Just to clarify, the only way a college player gets in now is via a wild card, unless they have somehow had enough points from the previous year to be at the top of the National Standings List, which very few do.

Gomer said...

"Fool me once....shame on you...Fool me twice...shame on me.."

Tennis5 said...

Disingenuous would be the kindest word to describe what just took place in the last comments that the USTA made about the changes.

Colette, the piece you are missing is that over and over again, the USTA said you had to play your section ( no exceptions), and the JIm Courier story I have heard over 3x now....

So, can you imagine the surprise when now there is a NEW pathway for that player who they believe is too special to play in their section, but now they don't have enough wildcards to get him/her in.

So, this new pathway was mentioned after it was PASSED..........,
although everyone at the meeting I attended was 100% against the new changes.Imagine the uproar if this had been mentioned at a meeting. Disingenuous is being kind.

There was a lot of anger in my section recently when a player ( no names) didn't have to play the required number of sectionals for endorsement purposes, got a wild card into an event, and did poorly.
Imagine in the future, when that person takes the 10th spot on the sectional endorsement standing list.

If you review in depth, you will see a lot of ordinary players beating the PD players over the past few months. CROSS PLAY is what the USTA is afraid of because it shows up their player ( and the millions of dollars behind a program and its leaders).

Colette, tennis is an individual sport.
The parents spend big $ themselves, make many financial sacrifices, make many family sacrifices with tournaments over Thanksgiving and Xmas,
and don't like being dictated new rules and regulations
( green ball now in the 12's - are you kidding me????).

The bottom line is without competition from other tennis organizations
(USTA is the only organization in this business),
folks are pulling the little ones out of tennis and putting them into soccer and volleyball.





Fed UP WITH THE USTA said...

To: USA Tennis,

t is a shame that they can get away with this.

Thanks for articulating it best -
"To say one thing and try to have people buy into it and then come and say something different, it is disheartening. I don't believe there will be room for sectional kids when all the exempt/chosen/excused/sick/ special/ and otherwise ranked are given berths."

I will always follow college tennis ( played myself until I had a back injury ), and will always read this site, it's great.

But, for my son, age 9, I am going to put him in another sport. He is tall enough that he can basketball probably ( probably will be 6'4)

I doubt that the USTA cares about my son leaving.. But, my local tennis store and his academy where he trained in their clinics will.

Victor - SC said...

The Courier story was told as an example of how everyone would be playing sectionals. Period. No exceptions.

Martin said...

Question for the USTA -
How does getting rid of the Boy's 18 's Nationals in March help my 17 year old son become a better player?

Why take away competitive opportunities for our American players to be seen by college coaches?

Christian said...

Why isn't it stated what the number of wild cards will be for the Team Event for a Gold Ball? 32 juniors for a Gold Ball? How can that be right?

And sorta of surprised that everyone I spoke to was so against a Team event for a Gold Ball and they went ahead and did it anyway.
What was the point of the Listening Meetings?

Geoff Grant said...

I expect that most sections other than those with very small quotas will reserve one or two spots to be used at their discretion ( in other words a sectional WC). In effect we could have up to 24 de-facto WC's for the national championships. Would be the ultimate kick in the teeth at the end of this process. Colette - perhaps you could ask Lew and/or Sol whether this is something they are concerned about and if they have any plans to control this

Mike Gealer said...

Collette,
Our SoCal rep at USTA board meetings stated that the Jr committee wasnt
concerned that SoCal or Norcal would lose spots in winter nats hardcourts(Socal from 22 down to 13)
in 2014
because after the wild cards and quotas there would be unused quota spots that would then be filled by NSL list.
I looked carefully at 5pg doc which stated so but was omitted in 2pg doc
I also noticed some southern sections
were given many more quotas in 2014 than they had entered in 2012
The Jr committee quota numbers were based on whole year not by tournament which varies. Less southern/florida kids play winters but play Eddie Herr,Evert and Orange Bowl, while less west coast kids play Clays.Most do hardcourts.
I got the feeling that theUSTA felt they had to do something.Too bad that something wasnt apause for further tweaking.
I hope they can remedy the quota inequities
Mike Gealer

Mike Gealer said...

Collete and others,
The 5pg 2014 doc DOES include
a NSL entry pathway to championships AFTER wild cards and unused quotas IF there are any
Yet this information is not in 2pg doc

Im sending this repeated info seperately so as not to be lost in larger comment

jr tennis said...

Hi Mr. Gealer,

Call me a pessimist but I get the feeling that Mr Brewer and company already have plans for any unused spots, and that is why they have come out with this new announcement.

In my opinion,the announcement can work to prevent people from believing there is a hope their child can get in a supernat, and leave tennis, people can begin to spend even more money in tennis trying to attain points for supernat spots that are just not going to be there, or perhaps they
join an RTC.

If Mr Grants speculation is correct, which it makes sense to me. There could be 1.spots gone that the sections have reserved 2.spots gone that the USTA has reserved,(for the sick and special) and 3.wildcards--more spots gone. It does not seem far fetched to me that the supernat will consist mostly of hand-picked kids...sort of a private tournament (like the team event). The kids will be picked from PD, PlayerID and the various RTC's.

So where will there be room for the section players who followed the "rules" and fought their way up the ranks? Will they be forced to play qualifiers? And the NSL list, well you tell me.

Richard - CT said...

Why should we be surprised that the USTA is trying to squeeze in more spots for their players? This is just a new creative way to get rid of the regular players and put in their players.
If my player gets injured, it seems tough luck.
But, if their player gets injured.... special rules now will apply.