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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

USTA Getting Out of Academy Business? Duval and Expectations; Thibodeau Comes Out

Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal has been a thorn in the USTA's side since last year's Open, when he broke the story about Taylor Townsend's rift with the USTA over her fitness. Today, Perotta writes about the USTA's national training center in Boca Raton, revealing a change in the organization's developmental strategy.

"Next year, just three players will live in the academy's dormitory, down from a high of 18 in 2009," writes Perotta. "'Maybe they were too young, maybe they weren't ready for being away from home,' said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's player-development program who lobbied for the full-immersion approach. 'We're starting to pull back in that direction a bit.'

The USTA says the budget will remain the same and the academy will offer full-time training to players who live nearby, but the USTA will devote more of its resources to players who visit periodically and then return home to their own coaches."

I've never supported the USTA's venture into the academy business, feeling the money devoted to the select few in this circumstance could be much more effective if spread out over a substantially larger number of players. I do think the USTA needs a place with temporary housing to optimize the time spent there by those in town for weekly camps, but running a full time academy always felt unnecessary to me. Some players have thrived under in USTA's academy setting, but a significant number have not, and I believe the move away from this centralization experiment is a good one. And while they're making changes, I'd love for the USTA to consider reviving the Junior Davis Cup (and Junior Fed Cup). See my Tennis Recruiting Network article from last summer on how that worked in past years.

With rain the major story at the US Open today, much of the tennis world was still focusing on Vicky Duval's huge upset of Samantha Stosur last night.  Jeff Sackmann has a look at just how rare it is for a qualifying wild card to win a match at the Open, let alone beat a seed, in this post at Heavy Topspin.

Howard Bryant of ESPN looks at the consequences of fame and hype, with Donald Young and Duval front and center in the discussion.  There's no question that the dramatic 2009 US Open run of Melanie Oudin figures in all of this, but it's important to remember that each person and each situation is different, and will not, can not, proceed in the same fashion. As usual, Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has a nuanced and sensible exploration of the issue in the lead item of his mailbag today.

My mantra, since starting this blog eight years ago, is to celebrate accomplishment, not potential. I'll stick to that, I guess, in the absence of a better plan.

John Branch of the New York Times filed this story on Simon Thibodeau, the women's tennis coach at UC-Santa Barbara, who came out as gay recently. Thibodeau explains what led him to the decision to make his sexual orientation public, and Branch puts his announcement in context, not just in college sports, but in tennis as well.


Tim Mayotte said...

Good they pulled the plug at PD. it was clear from the start
that Pmac and Jose were not right and up to the job.
Wish Perrota focused more on lack of expertise. The "harshness" grew from the inadequacies of their methods.
Hard work has meaning when progress is made. Also Perrotta could have connected the player turnover and the high coach turnover. When people don't learn and grow they
get bored and angry or leave.

It's about time... said...

Best news ever. The only step in the right direction the USTA has taken concerning junior players in a very long time.

ajt said...

Not clear they "pulled the plug", but it's obviously a dynamic situation at the moment. However, it's clear they are reevaluating their approach, which is progress. I guess. It's more than I gave them credit for, but I still wonder if a Zebra can change its stripes???? Would be great if they could. Ultimately, American tennis will be successful by drawing on our diversity(of players, coaches, playing styles, et al) and depth, not some uniform training of some narrow hand selected elite.

The Dude said...

It was never a good idea to cull future U.S. champions from the 12's and 14's national winners. Those winners primarily win by grinding and attritioon in the super large draws. So much is not known at that age, maturity height and ability to develop weapons. It always appeared to me that USTA PD primarily focused on defensive grinding and physical conditioning. Pat Mac has hardly any success as PD head. He is typical of the USTA heirachy, detached to the development process while they claim righteous knowledge in their approach. Nice guys finish last. Time for a change, for sure. This administration is getting long in the tooth. Rather than a presumptuous arrogance that they can pick future winners, The USTA should trust the process that the cream will rise to the top. They should focus on broadening the players field in junior tournaments and lowering the absurd cost of the sport. I would like to see them reimburse players' families who finish in the quarterfinals of nationals rather than annoint an entitled few.

RV said...

Another story on a former player coming out: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20130819/COLUMNIST/130819605

TB said...


I noticed on twitter that Devin Britton will be a student coach back at Ole Miss. Do you know if he will still be pursuing a pro career? Also, Mallory Cecil is starting back on the pro circuit. What a difference 3 years makes.

Richard - CT said...

Common complaint at tournaments ( except Kalamazoo) is how poorly the tournaments are run and the lack of refs.
When I ask the TD why so few refs, they say they can't afford them.
I understand that the tournament fee is only $100, but after we pay for airline travel, rental cars and hotels, the cost becomes more than $100 for the parents.

Can't the USTA fund the tournaments better?

TennisDad said...


Patrick McEnroe was instrumental in the cuts to the tournament schedule.... Will they go back now that the USTA is admitting that they are clueless about the process....
Can you find out if they are Getting out of the Cutting of the Tournament Schedule too?


Isn't the 2014 Juniors schedule still up for discussion this September? Most troubling aspect of the cuts to the tournament schedule is that you have a lot of great athletes that cross over from baseball and soccer to tennis. The new schedule with all the huge cuts ( and of course increase in WC) hurts the boy who picks up tennis later in life. This is more the demise of junior tennis.

Igor said...

Interesting comments when you read the articles from the parents about how the juniors were treated at the USTA PD academy. On the other hand....... there were many, many complaints from juniors, coaches and parents that the coaches of the PD kids were being openly coached during the tournament. One has to scratch their head at the complete lack of sportsmanship shown by the coaches at the academy.
However, after reading this article , and the incredibly high turnover of coaches and juniors, I guess they felt they had to resort to cheating to stay there.

Martin said...

Wish Jose and PMac would actually visit a tournament once in a while, and see how poorly funded they are....
If you want to build the junior base in this country, you have to tournaments that are well run.

Also, if PMac went to the same 32 draw with the same 32 players over and over and over again in a small section, then he would understand how forcing juniors to play the majority of the tournaments with the same kids leads to boredom, and then quitting.

Wondering said...

Kwiatkowski got injured in Boca this spring. Does anyone know how it happened? I believe he was no longer in the program, just down for a visit. However, he was the top ITF ranked American at the time and missed all the major junior events in Europe and the US this spring/summer. Maybe his injury was going to happen regardless, but this article makes you wonder.